Apple Watch Series 2 review: A worthy iPhone companion

The latest Apple Watch is faster, waterproof and is a more useful companion to the iPhone than ever. 

When the first Apple Watch was launched, people needed a lot of convincing to spend another several hundred dollars on something that seemed redundant. But that's all changed - the latest Series 2 model fixes a lot of the pain points and now makes a great companion to the iPhone.

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Let me start by saying that I've worn nearly every single wearable accessory that's launched in the past few years - Android Wear watches, Fitbits, Microsoft Band, Jawbone and more. The Apple Watch is the most useful and thoughtfully designed device of the bunch. Of course, this all assumes you are carrying an iPhone. It doesn't work with smartphones from other manufacturers, or on its own.

First, the basics. Apple Watch Series 2 has a brighter screen, apps load way faster, GPS is built in and it's waterproof. The last two features alone nearly make it the best fitness accessory on the market. You can now run (or swim!) with just the Apple watch and some bluetooth headphones and still get an accurate record of your activities.

The biggest downside? The battery will still need to be charged every night. It does last slightly longer than the first model but if you don't charge it at night you'll only get through a portion of the next day. So it's easiest to just charge it every night. It doesn't monitor your sleep so there is really no point in wearing it to bed anyway.

Three aspects of the Apple Watch are particularly useful - notifications, fitness features and quick access to little bits of information.

The way notifications are handled is perfect - you feel a little vibration on your wrist, then when you lift the watch up to look, only then does it display the notification. You can reply to messages using Siri, automatically generated responses (based on the words in the message) emojis and something Apple calls Scribble. This lets you write on screen. I found the quick responses and Siri to be most useful, although the transcriptions weren't always perfect.

The fitness features are fantastic. Not only does Apple watch do a nice job of keeping track of your daily activity, it goes a step further by urging you to move a bit during the day, and take some time out to breathe for overall wellness. The Breathe app encourages you to take a few minutes to take some deep breaths - gentle vibrations on your wrist let you do this with your eyes closed. At the end of the session, you get a little summary including your heart rate.

Working out with Apple watch is great. You can finally leave your iPhone at home since the watch actually has GPS built in. This means that you will get an accurate record of your activity. You can also load music directly onto Apple watch and listen with bluetooth headphones. The downside to this is that I didn't find any major music services with an Apple watch companion app. Spotify, Pandora don't let you load music onto the Apple watch. The one service that does - Apple Music. However, you can load your own music into the iPhone and have it sync to the Apple watch.

Finally, Apple Watch is great at giving you access to quick little bits of information. Yes, this includes the time. But there is a lot of useful stuff - your next calendar appointment, sunrise and sunset times, current weather and more. The neat thing is that these are connected to the apps you have on your phone - so whatever is important to you can be displayed on the little screen.  For instance, if you have an electric car and want the battery percentage displayed on your watch screen, you could theoretically do that. You are only limited by the functionally created by app developers. However, I didn't really find myself using many "apps" on the watch - usually I would just pull my phone out to accomplish those tasks.

One thing to keep in mind - Apple Watch still requires an iPhone for most functionality. You cannot make calls through the watch without your phone nearby (yet!). There is also a useful "SOS" function where you can hold down the large side button and it will dial emergency services for you no matter where you are in the world.

Bottom line - the new Apple Watch is a solid and useful companion to the iPhone - especially if you take advantage of the fitness functionality. Pricing starts at $369 and I recommend you go with the base "Aluminum" case since this is not a device you will keep for a decade. The upgraded "Stainless Steel" case starts at $550. Apple is also selling a "Series 1" version of the watch for $269 but I do not recommend this model since you do not get the two best new features - GPS and waterproofing.


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