The Apple Watch Series 2 is the ideal gift for the athlete or fitness-enthusiast who enjoys cutting-edge technology
Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to test the Apple Watch Series 2 with the aluminum case and woven nylon band, and it became a welcome addition to my workouts and daily life. I believe this product can help anyone achieve their fitness goals.
Design and Features
The Apple Watch Series 2, in 42mm and 38mm sizes, features the same familiar design as the original Apple Watch. The face is dominated by a square screen covered by ion-strengthened glass, which is resistant to scratching and shattering. (The stainless steel and ceramic versions have sapphire glass.)
The watch is extremely comfortable to wear. It's not incredibly bulky, but I imagine Apple is working to make future versions thinner.
Without getting too deep into the tech specs, the Apple Watch Series 2 has a faster processor and brighter screen than its predecessor. Its battery life is the rated at a day of normal use, so you should plan to recharge it every night with the included magnetic charger. However, I've been able to get two days of use on a regular basis.
The watch is now water resistant up to 50 meters. But the water-resistance feature must be activated by swiping up to raise the control center and tapping the water droplet icon. To turn off water-resistance mode, simply press the Digital Crown—the dial on the side (oddly satisfying to spin). The watch makes a few loud beeps while ejecting water from its speakers and microphones.
It's a bit disconcerting to put an electronic device in water. But the Apple Watch Series 2 handles H2O like a champ.
Overall, I was impressed by the watch's durability. The first time I wore it during a workout, I accidentally hit it against a barbell. I panicked for a moment, but the glass was perfectly fine. Since then, I accidentally hit it against a number of other solid objects. In specific lighting conditions, I can see a few micro-scratches, but they're negligible.
The included nylon band is softer and more comfortable than I expected. However, the loop slides off rather easily, causing the tip of the band to hang off the back of my wrist. It also absorbs sweat, so I prefer to wear Apple's rubber sport band during workouts . . . which leads me to one of the coolest features of the Apple Watch.
You can remove the band in a matter of seconds by clicking two small buttons on the underside and sliding the ends of the band off the body. You can then swap in another Apple band or any aftermarket option for a customized look to fit your style or activity.
The Apple Watch Series 2 prioritizes fitness and performance. I created two watch faces with complications (small icons) that allow quick access to my daily activity and workouts.
The Workout app includes the types of workouts the Apple Watch is designed to track, mostly endurance-focused. Each one can be performed for a total number of calories burned, time or an open goal. There's also an Other category for strength training, yoga and sports.
Starting a workout is a breeze. Open the workout app and tap on your desired workout. Odds are your workout will be at the top of the display, since the watch remembers your activity.
The Apple Watch Series 2 excels with endurance workouts. Apple has touted its heart rate sensor as the most accurate wrist heart rate monitor in the industry.
Run, cycling and new swimming tracking algorithms are based on thousands of hours of research in Apple's labs. The watch learns with use and more accurately tracks your stride, steps taken, swimming stroke and distance covered during a workout.
This year's model features GPS connectivity. After outdoor activity, you can review your workout metrics and path in the Activity app on your iPhone. The image below shows an overview of a brutally tough hike outside of Zion National Park in Utah.
Most importantly, you don't need to carry your phone with you to have GPS data or even listen to music, since the watch is able to store 2GB of music, which can be played over Bluetooth headphones.
Lifting weights is not the ideal form of exercise to take advantage of the Apple Watch. As Apple acknowledges, the heart rate sensor has difficulty reading your pulse when you squeeze a weight with your hands or bend your wrist. This problem affects all wrist-worn heart rate monitors.
I was able to pair the Apple Watch over Bluetooth to a chest strap heart rate monitor. The data from the chest strap overrides the Apple Watch's sensor and provides an accurate reading during strength exercises. The software takes that information and approximates how many calories are burned from activity.
I appreciate the clear display, which highlights key metrics of my workouts, including time, active calories burned, total calories burned and heart rate. The screen automatically turns off to save battery, but it can easily be awakened by raising your forearm and tilting the display toward your face—the natural motion you would use when looking at a watch.
Available apps for the Apple Watch on the App Store make the watch more than just a timer and heart rate sensor. I'm particular fond of the Intervals app. You can create custom interval timers for Tabata workout and other work-to-rest ratios. The watch vibrates as each interval begins and ends so you can focus on the performing the exercises and not watching a timer.
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Many fitness trackers rely solely on steps to track activity. Working towards a step goal is a great way to make sure you have an adequate baseline of activity throughout the day.
Will it improve your fitness? Probably not. Achieving a step goal might actually give you a false sense of security and make you think you're doing enough physical activity. In reality, you might not be challenging your body and causing fitness improvements, besides maybe burning a few extra calories throughout the day.
That's why Apple takes a more holistic approach to tracking daily activity. The Activity app features three rings that you're encouraged to complete each day:
Stand: You get credit for standing once in an hour. The watch reminds you to stand if you've been sitting for too long.
Exercise: The watch encourages you to get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day.
Move: The watch tracks active calories burned and gives you a target to reach each day.
Steps are recorded but deemphasized. You have to scroll to the bottom of the Activity app to find them.
The result is a more comprehensive view of daily activity, which should theoretically help to improve your fitness and health by encouraging you to stand, walk and exercise.
I've found the ring system highly motivating. I do my best to complete each ring every day and I get slightly irritated if I fall short. The Exercise ring is typically the easiest for me to complete. The watch reminds me to stand a few times throughout the day if I've been sitting too long.
Adhering to the Apple Watch's fitness recommendations should make an impact on anyone who is looking to lose weight and improve their health. The three rings combat sedentary behavior, encouraging you to get out of your chair or off the couch and move and exercise. These are helpful reminders for a fit individual. For someone lacking fitness, completing the three rings is the first step toward getting back into shape.
RELATED: Why Step Counters Don't Work
The Apple Watch Series 2 is replete with features that make it worthy of wearing on your wrist.
Messages, Mail and Other Notifications
You can customize the notifications that are sent to your Apple Watch, which alerts you with a slight vibration. Raise your watch to look at the face and the notification will appear. You can respond to text messages quickly with text, emojis, drawings—or use the scribble feature to slowly write out a response. You can also take phone calls, review emails and keep track of your daily schedule with the calendar.
WatchOS 3 includes many of the same basic apps as iOS, such as an alarm, timer, weather, photos and maps. Ten of your favorite apps can be stored in the Dock for quick access by pressing the side button. The remaining apps can be accessed by pressing the Digital Crown. The display of the apps is compelling, but it can be difficult to find an app on this screen. Also, apps that aren't stored in the Dock sometimes take several seconds to load.
Siri is accessed by pressing and holding the Digital Crown. You can ask many of the same questions you would on your iPhone—with some exceptions—and the response is displayed on the screen, not spoken. I frequently activated Siri by accident during exercises, when my wrist bent backwards or I was using lifting straps. It's not a huge issue, but it's something to be aware of.
Quickly pay for items at stores that accept Apple Pay by double clicking the side button and holding the watch near the payment terminal—all without even needing your iPhone
Apple includes an app called Breathe that reminds you to take a few minutes each day to relax and just breathe. The app can be set to different breath intervals, and the watch vibrates to signal when you should inhale and exhale.
For more information on the Apple Watch Series 2, visit Apple.com.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock