With the release of Apple’s new flagship phone, iPhone 7, we also got new smartwatches — Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2. While not much has changed from the original Apple Watch that was announced in 2014 and then released in early 2015, the Series 1 and Series 2 did add some necessary upgrades.
First, let’s break it down and simplify things. If you were a fan of the original Apple Watch, the 2016 Series 1 has all the same features with the addition of a new dual-core S1P processor. It remains splash resistant with a rating of IPX7. Basically, don’t swim with it as it is not made for this.
When it comes to the Series 2 though, this is where you will get all the necessary upgrades that should have been on the Apple Watch from the initial release last year. Series 2 now packs the new dual-core S2 processor alongside built-in GPS, water resistance up to 50 meters, and a 2x brighter display.
I picked up the new Apple Watch Series 2 Space Black Stainless Steel Case version with Black Milanese Loop band and have to say, this combo looks dope! The smartwatch comes with a Space Black stainless steel casing, sapphire crystal display, and ceramic back. It definitely looks and feels premium. If you are more into the stylish look, I’d recommend this option as it screams fancy with the reflective stainless steel casing alongside the Black Milanese Loop band that will attract the eye. The stainless steel model does have some weight to it, but it isn’t much heavier if you are comparing it to the aluminum Apple Watch whether it is the original from last year, Series 1 or Series 2 model.
Even the packaging the stainless steel model sits in feels premium. It is covered in a hard plastic carrying case that has a soft lining inside to prevent scratching the chassis. It also comes packed with a USB power adapter and magnetic charging cable that has a metal back, giving it a more premium look and feel compared to the all-plastic one that comes with Apple Watch aluminum models.
When putting the original Apple Watch or Series 1 next to the Series 2, it appears thicker. Both the 38mm and 42mm enclosures of the Series 2 have a depth of 11.4mm – roughly a millimeter more than the 10.5mm on the original or Series 1. You can physically see the difference in thickness when looking at the glass display and bezel. The cause for this thickness is the new additions in the Series 2 such as the built-in GPS chip, the S2 chip, brighter display, and a slightly larger battery.
The new 2nd-generation OLED Retina display on the Series 2 is 2x brighter at 1000 nits. I was able to notice the difference when comparing the original and Series 1 to the Series 2. This definitely helps when viewing the display outside.
With the addition of built-in GPS in the Series 2, it is now able to record distance, speed, and pace more precisely while you’re walking, running, or cycling outdoors. Oh and no iPhone is required while you’re at it. The GPS will pick up a signal right away so you don’t have to wait to get moving. Once you are done with a run, you can check your iPhone to see a map for your route and where you ran your fastest.
Series 2 also gets full protection when it comes to swimming with its new water resistance “swim-proof” feature. It is able to withstand up to 50 meters of water while the original and Series 1 Apple Watch only have splash resistance. So, with an Apple Watch Series 2, you are safe to shower or swim with it on, worry-free. An additional feature is that if you do swim or shower with the watch on, you can release any water that might have made it inside the watch using the Digital Crown. For example, after you’re done with a swim workout – another new feature for the workout app in Series 2 – you can turn the Digital Crown and it’ll use vibrations to eject the water out of the speaker. You can also activate this by swiping up on the watch face to bring up Control Center and tapping on the water icon. When doing so, rotate your Digital Crown fully and you will hear a beep notifying you the water is being released.
I’ve been using the stainless steel Series 2 model for about a week, and it definitely feels like a more premium device compared to the aluminum model because of its build quality. Apart from the SS base, it has a glossy exterior finish compared to the aluminum models with matte finish. Also, the stainless steel has a ceramic back where the heart rate sensor sits opposed to the composite back on the aluminum model. Now, do note that the stainless steel model will show fingerprints, smudges and scratches. Within the first few hours of using the watch, I could already see very small scratches from regular use. This is something that is normal for stainless steel as I’ve owned other stainless steel watches in the past. If you don’t want to have to worry about scratches around your smartwatch, I’d say don’t go with the stainless steel model.
If you want to accessorize, you’ll be happy to know that all Apple Watches (original, Series 1 and Series 2) still use the same bands and accessories, so if you are an original Apple Watch owner, you are set.
All in all, coming in from the original Apple Watch Sport (aluminum) model from last year, I am impressed with Apple Watch Series 2. Due to new chips in Series 1 and Series 2, loading apps and navigating through the interface is indeed noticeably smoother and faster when compared to the original Apple Watch from 2015. Software wise though, Series 1, Series 2, and the original Apple Watch all run watchOS 3 with almost same features across the board. The Series 2 has built-in GPS so great for those who workout a lot outside. Also, being able to swim with the new “swim-proof” feature is another great addition for swimmers or those who don’t want to worry about taking off their watch getting in a pool or hitting the shower. The 2x brighter display is great to have as well because in my experience with the previous model, there were times I could not see the time or notifications due to direct sunight.
Price-wise, the Series 1 starts at $269 and only comes in the aluminum finish. Series 2 starts at $369 and you will have more choices such as the Aluminum, Stainless Steel, or the new $1,000+ Ceramic Edition version.
If you are in the market for an Apple Watch and can’t decide which version to go with, this is my opinion after testing the original Apple Watch and Series 2: if you are into fitness tracking, the Series 2 is definitely something to consider as it has all the essentials such as built-in GPS and 50 meters of water resistance. If not, and price is a factor, I say jump on the Series 1, but for the $100 base price difference, you do get some solid upgrades.
Below, you can find my full video review of the new Apple Watch Series 2 and comparison with the original Apple Watch from 2015.