Almost 2 years ago I wrote about my month with the original Apple Watch; I had purchased it in the US, before it came to South Africa. Fast forward to 2017, and the second-generation Apple Watch Series 2 is available locally. Most people held back, understandably, because it doesn’t make sense to buy first-gen, and truth be told, that would be my advice to you anyway: stay away from first-gen products. I bought the original because I love new gadgets and yes, I’m an early adopter. I’ve not regretted my decision.
I am not going to delve into the ‘how the Apple Watch works’ because as I said in my original post, which I recommend you read if you haven’t yet, there’s no point explaining how it works as it won’t make any sense to the reader. This write-up is going to be a follow-up to my original review.
So Apple Watch Series 2 design-wise is the same as first-gen. If you look at both side by side, you can’t tell them apart. It has the same square form-factor which I think works great for a smartwatch (if I had to wear an analogue watch today, I’d prefer it to be round). On the right of the face is the digital crown and single button, and there is a very slight difference in weight – 50g on the original vs 70g on Series 2. It comes in the same two variants of 38mm and the slightly larger 42mm. If you know your hands are really large, I’d suggest you get the 42mm. Each strap comes in a M and L size anyway, available on both face sizes. Additionally, the outside casing is another factor that determines price, and usually purchasing decisions. In my case, I went for the cheapest aluminium face; then there’s stainless steel; and the high-end ceramic one. The gold and rose gold variants (S2 only) fall under aluminium, which are also much lighter than the others.
It is a given that any new Apple hardware has a brand new chip inside, and in this case, there is an S2 dual-core processor with built-in GPS. While the first-gen is splash resistant, version 2 is water resistant up to 50m deep. Nothing new with the rest of what’s packed in, which is WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor. The display however, has been increased in brightness, and is very noticeable. It’s now twice as bright (450 nits vs 1000 nits). The screen resolution on both sizes have not changed, but there is an Ion-X glass screen on the cheaper aluminium face, and sapphire crystal on the stainless steel and ceramic watches. Battery life is claimed to be 18 hours on both. Battery life on my own original watch has deteriorated and I get about 1.5 days or less on it. However, on Series 2 I am getting 2 full days comfortably. Despite the watch being water resistant, I’ve not attempted to shower with it. It’s just habit that I remove it. I don’t [read: can’t] swim, so didn’t test that.
So for the main part, I don’t care much for the OS and each new update. I was initially very happy with the OS, and after a few updates, I noticed my battery life deteriorating. I also think it’s because my watch is now “old”. So whenever there is a new update, I don’t really rush to download it. I reply to messages on my wrist only if my phone is not with me and if the message warrants a reply immediately. I like the third party app support like Whatsapp. You can even scribble your replies with your finger as a stylus and it will be sent like a normal text reply. There are shortcut messages on iMessage and extra bit like drawing, sending your heartbeat, sending audio, or having the audio get translated to text. It also has its own watch emojis, which are downright creepy (some of them). The Dock is sort of like the shortcut menu were you add apps that you want to appear here, via the Watch app. It is accessible through the main button at the bottom. Tap it and you have a quick glance of your Dock items, and scroll to get into any of them. The bedside dock mode is nice, it shows you the time in larger font (pic down below).
Initial setup of the Apple Watch requires the app. It is where you tweak everything watch related. It also has a notification privacy setting so that your messages are not immediately visible on the watch face unless you tap it. You can edit the app layout screen here, too. You can also choose what appears in the Dock, sort of like shortcuts on the watch. Other settings include password, sounds & haptics, brightness and text size – though some of these can be adjusted on the watch directly. Whatever custom faces you create on the watch itself will be visible here. I must admit I’m not that into apps. I used to look out for them initially when I first got my own watch, but now almost 21 months later, I don’t care about watch apps. The screen is too tiny. I find it useful for quick reading of emails or tweets. I then reply on my phone.
I still use my watch primarily for notifications, thereby controlling how much I take my phone out of my pocket or bag and access it. So essentially only using it to determine if I need to access anything urgent. Multiple Whatsapp messages in succession are not likely going to make me take my phone out of my bag, however, I can reply to a single message directly from the watch. Love the third-party support. If I scribble a reply, individual letters, it will compose the reply. I don’t actually use a lot of watch apps, or bother too much with what I’m installing on it. I get my Tweetbot notifications, which is what I’ve selected to get. I do not get banner notifications for Facebook or Instagram – but these have been disabled on my phone for years now. I usually get my boarding passes on my phone, which sits inside Wallet, and it shows up on the watch. Kulula said I can use it but the funny part was that my wrist didn’t fit under the scanner at the boarding gates. So while they are open to it, it’s just not practical. I prefer the size of my phone for boarding passes anyway.
I have multiple email accounts and due to my phone settings, only a few of them get push notifications, which I’ve allowed on the watch. I’m not meeting my activity targets like I used to in the beginning because when I had to wipe and reinstall, despite backing up, it didn’t carry my data over, so I felt like there was no incentive to keep going. I’ve had to do it again when I changed phones and the data got lost, just my personal settings carried over. I have tested the Nike+ Run Club app on Series 2 though, I went for walk around the neighbourhood without my phone to test the GPS that’s built in, and it wasn’t as accurate as I thought it would be (the blue line is what I drew to show my actual route):
As you are probably aware, the Apple Watch Series 2 is not cheap. The entry-level Series 2 Sport 38mm with aluminium face is R6 599. You can get the same one in rose gold, with pink straps for the same price (if anyone is looking to match their pink handset). The entry-level 42mm one in the same configuration is R7 199. Price-wise, the next one up is a stainless steel face with a 38mm one starting at R9 699; and the 42mm is R10 699 – both with sport bands. Watch straps are expensive, if you want the ‘modern buckle’, it goes up to R13 299 (stainless steel face; 38mm). The nylon bands that came out last year are also entry-level (R6 599 for 38mm aluminium), but I found them to be itchy on my hand; I couldn’t wear it for more than a few hours. The Nike+ edition is R6 599 for 38mm and R7 199 for 42mm. They have custom watch faces. All prices are official iStore ones.
I’m using the Apple Watch far less than it was intended to be used. I’ve gotten accustomed to my minimal settings and they work great for me right now. If you’ve held out for a watch this long, then get Series 2 because hardware wise, it’s better; including battery life. It’s also waterproof, if that’s important to you. It can be used to track your workouts with the Nike fitness apps (or go for the Series 2 Nike+ edition watch), and all round a good smartwatch, but at a price.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org