This is one perspective of the Apple Watch Series 2 from a particular type of tech guy – one who loves traditional watches and is sympathetic to cool Apple stuff, but who also feels that smartwatches have an up-hill battle trying to convince “watch people” to wear one. People with otherwise naked wrists are far, far easier to convince that an Apple Watch is worth their wrist real estate. But what about me?
Apple has just released version two of their smart watch. Being local in Silicon Valley, and part of the aBlogtoWatch team (which I guess played the more important role), I was once again flattered by Apple’s gracious request that we participate in their impressively well-orchestrated high-production keynote event. Plus, since I gifted my original Apple Watch to a nephew a while back, I wanted to see if Apple had finally come out with something that I want to get in order to fill that “Apple Watch” void in my collection.
Apple press conferences are more Hollywood than business, and sitting in the front row, it is certainly a thrill to see tech celebrities (Tim Cook) mingle with pop culture celebrities, like Sia. There was no guarantee that a sequel to the Apple Watch would even be launched. Apple began by speaking about Apple Watch OS3 software and for a brief moment you could tell people were wondering: “are they even going to release new hardware?” But as you of course already know – they did. Ariel covered the Apple Watch Series 2 release live in tandem with the event here, but I wanted to discuss a bit more about the hands-on experience.
During the hands-on section of the event after the keynote, I had a chance to try and also photograph pretty much all the new Apple Watch Series 2 models. First thing to notice is that the design is pretty much the same – so if you hated or loved the previous design, then nothing changed. It’s the same size, dimensions, and even weight; though the Apple representative could not confirm if the ceramic version was lighter or heavier than the aluminum (I expect the new ceramic version to come in a bit heavier). In any case, I am doubtful any weight difference would be so significant to make me or most buyers change their mind.
For me, I look at the Apple Watch Series 2 as covering three categories. Not clear if Apple is thinking of them that way since, in theory, all of the different versions have the same functionalities and capabilities, save for stylistic elements such as special bands and watch faces. The categories are: 1) the sports models in aluminum or stainless steel, including the Nike model; 2) the new ceramic version; and 3) the Hermes model. I had a chance to look at each, and the one that still fits my lifestyle best is the sports category.
First, let us look at the ceramic and the Hermes models, though. The primary differentiating factor of both is their elevated focus on fashion. Yes, the ceramic should, in theory, have all the technical advantages that any ceramic watches have, meaning that they stay looking perfect over time – i.e., no scratches. Along with that come the same technical disadvantages, meaning that they are prone to shattering upon fierce impact. This is what happens when you use a material that is super hard. Assuming you don’t drop it violently, it should continue to look pretty much as it does now. If you’ve ever looked at a well-worn Apple Watch, there are markings and sign of age. A ceramic version should not have this issue at all. Of course, this particular model only comes in white which generally is associated with female buyers more than male… but I’d assume that black or other colors should come along in time.
The Apple Watch Series 2 Hermes version is perhaps the most fashionable. The leather felt great as it almost always does with Hermes. There is a reason this brand focuses on producing some of the best leather goods on the planet and charges a premium for it. The colors of the leather is what is new here, along with a new style (double buckle loop). Additionally, each of these models will come with a plastic band in the classic orange color of Hermes. Overall, the premium of this version will not deter the fashionistas from getting it. Heck, if I had to wear an Apple Watch, that’s the one I would get. The new brown one would be fine.
Despite my love of fashion, perhaps the model that would best fit my lifestyle is the sports model, including the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike version. It’s not that I care that much it’s from Nike per se – although it has to be said that the styling and use of materials does go genuinely well with Nike’s premium workout and running gear. Remember, runners or triathletes (such as myself) quickly learn to find the brand that works best for the shape of feet and running style rather than look. So for me, I use Asics, and have done so for years. It’s not that I dislike Nike shoes – heck, I used to wear them before. But as I started running and doing triathlons seriously, I realized after the second marathon that I needed a shoe that better fit my style of running, and Asics worked the best for me. On that note, the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike + fits my wrist just fine.
The point here is that for any serious runner or triathlete, the brand of the partnership will matter less. For new runners or folks aspiring to run, perhaps that will work. Not sure. The main advantage from the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike version is the look (and special Nike watch face) and, most importantly, the perforated matching bands. I can see many wanting this sporty look.
Most importantly for runners is the new Apple app that is now creating a global running club coupled with various features to remind one to run or to create reminders, competitions, and other styles of incentives to run. That’s a great thing overall, assuming you agree (as I do) that being active is part of a healthy lifestyle. Surely, while the Nike app works on any of the Apple Watch models, it fits most perfectly with the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike version, whether it be the white or the black and yellow.
The main issue for me with the current Apple Watch is that it tries to be the perfect running and activity watch – and in many ways, it is. However, I don’t know enough to be convinced just yet. The Apple Watch Series 2 does include better activity tracking with GPS, a better screen for outdoors thanks to its improved brightness, longer battery life, and less need to be tethered to the phone. However, as a triathlete, my issue is whether a general purpose watch can truly replace what I use now: Garmin 735xt.
For one, the Garmin has various features to provide very technical information on my run, connects with my bike sensors (power meter, cadence, and even radar), provide a vibrant social network via Garmin Connect and Strava, and has all the swimming features I would want, including efficiency measurements like SWOLF (swim golf) which tells me how efficient I have been in the water. To be fair, maybe the Garmin is a bit overwhelming in functionality for all but the most dedicated triathletes; only when we can fully review the Apple Watch Series 2 as a fitness companion will we know for sure how it compares.
Naturally, with the new Apple Watch Series 2, you not only get a decent activity tracking watch but also a general purpose smartwatch that got better and thus will have a slew of apps to improve it even more. For instance, Apple showed a cool new Pokemon app (likely in an effort to make the Watch appeal more to a younger audience) and – more interesting to us – a hiking app that should get more folks into more healthy lifestyles. So, for beginners or the newbie, this new Apple Watch Series 2 is perhaps the best watch in its category. However, once you start getting serious into your chosen activity, there will be some other options to take into consideration.
That said, I give huge kudos to Apple for continuing to innovate around the watch platform. Like it or not, smartwatches are here to stay. An obvious first goal is to enhance everyday user experience – which we are seeing with the updated WatchOS3 (learn more about that here) and with the minor but notable hardware updates thanks to an up-to-2x-faster processor and brighter screen.
Then, another important step is to try and replace these aforementioned special-purpose activity smart watches, and so this is a step in the right direction. Adding new materials like ceramic is the second step since the Apple Watch (like all watches) is a fashion item and creating new material that is cheaper than a precious metal model is clearly the next step. I would not be surprised if Apple next release one with a forged or 3DTP carbon case, pretty much mimicking the current luxury watch brands. The important next step will be to come up with another design… The current square face is fine and easy for software, but many love a round or oval face.
Personally, I care less about the shape than I care about the functionality of the device. The one thing the Apple Watch Series 2 will do that I am not able to do right now is to allow me to go for a run and play music wirelessly without having to carry a phone or any music device. So, for me, that would be my main use of this watch if I were to get one. The question a lot of consumers such as myself will inevitably ask themselves is if the watch is worth the purchase for just a few cool features or if Apple needs to wow them with a lot more. The iPhone has won that argument a long time ago, but the Apple Watch is still making its argument at the negotiating table for a lot of people who are just like me. apple.com/watch