The Apple Watch 2 (or Apple Watch Series 2 to give it its official title) is the second version of the most successful smartwatch around. It’s since been replaced by the Apple Watch Series 3 but is still widely on sale.
The original Apple Watch was Apple’s first draft at a wearable, and plenty bought into the promise of a phone on your wrist. At Trusted Reviews we liked the look of it, but struggled to understand its purpose: It had health and fitness elements, but they were limited, and it didn’t offer water-resistance. In addition, the watchOS software was tricky to use, glitchy, and just didn’t do much. Interesting third-party apps were lacking at the time, too.
There are clear parallels to be drawn between the Apple Watch and the very first iPhone that was released almost a decade ago, which evolved into a superb product.
While the iPhone 7 didn’t meet our high expectations of it, the Apple Watch 2 has. All our concerns about the original have been addressed: watchOS is now intuitive and useful having had a number of updates; there are plenty of compatible apps; and the Apple Watch 2 is now properly water-resistant.
Apple recently released the watchOS 4 operating system update for the Apple Watch 2. This brought with it a number of refinements and improvements, including a new Siri watch face, which uses Siri’s artificial intelligence to proactively bring useful information to your attention. There are also new Toy Story-themed watch faces, joining Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Then there are improvements to the Activity app, including monthly goals and the ability to add additional exercises to the same workout, which is useful for triathletes and circuit trainers. There’s also new support for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Apple announced support for a raft of new activities and sports at its September 12th announcement, where it also unveiled the Apple Watch Series 3, including activities such as baseball, bowling and functional strength training.
A new Heart Rate app is also designed to make even more use of the optical heart rate monitor on the back of the Apple Watch. The new dedicated app will let you see your recovery and resting heart rate, and the Apple Watch will now also keep an eye on your heart rhythm, as well as letting you know of an escalated heart rates when not exercising. This is all part of a new Apple Heart Study, which could make strides in gaining better understanding of heart conditions.
There’s also going to be support for person to person Apple Pay payments, allowing you to use your Apple Watch 2 to send money to friends and family directly, with the money being held in an Apple Pay Cash wallet ready to be used just like a standard Apple Pay payment.
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Apple Watch 2 – Design
The Apple Watch Series 2 looks almost identical to the original, and I don’t mind that at all. This remains my favourite smartwatch when it comes to looks, particularly since it isn’t as chunky as rival watches. It helps that I prefer square watches; those who prefer round ones might not be as kind.
The Watch 2 is a fraction thicker than the previous Watch, but not enough that you’d notice without seeing the two next to each other. The square screen with rounded glass edges make it simple to swipe up, down, left and right from the edge to provide additional shortcuts, and the rotating Digital Crown still works well as a method of zooming in and out, and general navigation.
The button just beneath the Digital Crown has been re-appropriated from a useless shortcut to contacts and on/off switch to a much more engaging way to scroll through the new apps dock (more details to follow).
You can opt for either the stainless steel or, slightly cheaper, aluminium chassis, and one of two sizes: 38mm and 42mm. The Series 2 is available in a range of colours: Gold, Rose Gold, Space Grey and Silver. This time there’s no expensive gold-plated model.
Instead, Apple has created a beautiful white ceramic smartwatch. The ceramic cast is treated at length at high temperature before it’s polished smooth. Not only does it look super-attractive, it’s four times tougher than the stainless steel model.
Standing out from the crowd does come at a price, though. The ceramic Apple Watch Edition costs more than three times as much as the standard versions – the 38mm one setting you back a cool £1,249.
Suffice to say, it isn’t necessary to spend such an amount for an Apple Watch that’s “tough”. I’ve dropped my aluminium Apple Watch on several occasions and regularly whack it against door frames; it doesn’t have a single scratch on the screen or body.
The headline feature for the Apple Watch 2 is water-resistance. Not only will it survive a brief dunk in the bath, it’s now fit for the sea. Apple claims it can withstand up to 50m of water – although we wouldn’t advise that you go scuba-diving with it just yet. It’s meant to survive the rigours of arms swinging through water, as opposed to being plunged into the depths.
An Apple representative explained to TrustedReviews that the Apple Watch 2 is fit for swimming in a pool for as long as you want, but can also deal with seawater. It was tested on hundreds of swimmers before release, and it provides accurate exercise readings as well as surviving the wet stuff without any bother.
The screen locks when under water and so won’t be usable, but it will continue to track activity. Once out of the water, the Apple Watch Series 2 performs a little party piece to rid the water from its speaker grilles: it plays sound at various volumes and frequencies to expel liquid like a clam.
There’s a wide range of straps available for the Series 2, both from Apple and third parties – with an even bigger selection on offer than before – and they’re the best way of making an Apple Watch “yours”. As well as the relationship with luxury brand Hermès, Apple has also joined forces with Nike to launch the Apple Watch Nike+. This comes with a special strap, with compression-moulded perforations to make it more breathable – ideal for athletes – along with some exclusive Nike watch faces and apps pre-installed.
Related: Apple Watch tips and tricks
For those who intend to swim regularly with the Apple Watch 2 I’d recommend a silicone strap, rather than the metal or nylon options. The Sports strap doesn’t retain any water, so you won’t be left with a damp wrist all day after a brief plunge and are more comfortable as a result.