Thoughts On The New Apple Watch Series 2 with GPS & Waterproofing

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Heads up – February 2017! Looking for the Apple Watch Series 2 In-Depth Review? Swing on over to that page here!

It’s been almost exactly two years since Apple announced their first version of the Apple Watch.  Today they announced details regarding their second iteration – simply called ‘Apple Watch Series 2’.  You’ll remember that the first iteration of the Apple Watch was more of a general fitness and day to day lifestyle watch than that of an endurance sports watch – at least per the specs.  It lacked true waterproofing or GPS.

In reality though, it actually could hold its own in certain endurance type activities, including on the waterproofing front as I showed in my crazy waterproofing videos.  However the challenge was still the lack of GPS connectivity.  For that it depended on the GPS of your phone for accurate distance in most sports.  Alternatively, it could also estimate running distance using an accelerometer.  But as I found in my review that accuracy tended to be rather variable, which is often the case for wrist-based accelerometers.

In addition, the watch was often criticized for being a bit slow.  While there has been work on that with various software releases, there were still limitations there on just how fast things would load.

What’s Changed:

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The Series 2 aims to solve those previous technology concerns with four new specific features:

– Waterproofing to 50-meters
– Added GPS chip
– New faster GPU (graphics) as well as computing processor
– New brighter display

The waterproofing piece is actually pretty interesting.  In the presentation they detailed a bit of what they’re doing to protect the speaker from water, which can cause issues later on during playback if water clogs it up.  First they showed all of the seals in a breakout image:

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But then they showed how they actually utilize the speaker to clear the water, and the differences between the first generation and second generation:

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Though, far more impressive to me was their waterproof testing chamber.  This thing would swirl around for long periods of time to test waterproofing.  Super cool.  I want one, obviously, to compliment my existing waterproofing test chamber.  If not, it doesn’t seem too difficult to build actually.

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Following that display of waterborne prowess we got to see some fancy photos of their swimming ‘lab’ setup to determine more accurate calories while swimming.  Of course, that in turn depends on more accurate HR sensor data, which we know the Apple Watch isn’t exactly world-class in (no matter how many times TV crews visit that fitness lab, nor have Jony Ive narrate it).  It’s good, but not great compared to other optical sensor options in the market today.  On the flipside (literally), the display is of course market-leading.

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On the GPS front, we don’t have a lot of details yet in terms of battery life (how many hours with GPS-on? – Update: 5 hours is GPS-on time, which is lower than any GPS devices on market) or GPS type (for example, is it GLONASS)?  The original Apple Watch was largely hindered by battery life, getting about 24-36 hours day to day usage (non-GPS) for most people with regular use.  GPS will certainly impact that substantially, as it does on every wearable.  It’s the single biggest battery draw.

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The new unit doubles down on performance specs, including the GPU (Graphics Processor Unit) being twice as fast.  Additionally, the dual core processor is now 50% faster.  Finally, the company is using a new display that’s twice as bright as before, making it what Apple claims is the brightest screen ever on any Apple product.

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With this new waterproofing, unsurprisingly the Apple Watch gains two new sport modes – pool swimming and openwater swimming.

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Meanwhile, with the new GPS you’ll also get GPS track maps within the default Apple fitness apps, such as with running:

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Apple then brought Nike on stage to talk about a new partnership offering that culminates in an an Apple Watch Nike+ Edition that includes additional apps and a different stylized band:

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While the companies did their best to make these new Nike fitness app functionality sound impressive, it’s largely the same stuff we’ve seen by other companies and apps in the fitness space.  Reminders and motivational pieces primarily.  Still, interesting to see that Nike/Apple relationship continues to deepen and integrate.

Pricing & Availability:

The new units will go on pre-order on September 9th, for $369USD.  Then the Apple Watch Series 2 units will start shipping a week later on September 16th.  In between that they’ll release WatchOS 3 on September 13th, which will be available to existing Apple Watches (and it dramatically increases app speed).

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In addition, they’ll be revamping the existing Apple Watches and rebranding them Apple Watch Series 1.  Those units will get the new dual-core processor, and be available at $269.  They won’t be getting waterproofing or GPS though.

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Finally, the Nike+ edition will be available in October, but will also sell for $369 (same as Series 2).

My Final Thoughts:

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So, will this be the end of Garmin or Fitbit?  Well two years ago folks noted that the Apple Watch would kill Garmin and Fitbit.  Yet the opposite happened.  In fact, times have never been better for either company.  It’s done nothing but escalate sales of fitness and smart watches within the industry.  By any and all possible metrics you look at, it’s increased interest and demand in the smartwatch and fitness watch segment

Of course, Apple is no doubt cutting into some portion of both companies’ potential sales. However with Apple having only two offerings in the market, I don’t expect it to have a dramatic impact on either the low-end fitness tracker market, or the high-end endurance GPS market.  Where it may definitely have an impact is that ~$250-$350 mid-range fitness GPS watch market.  An area covered by the (slightly older) Fitbit Surge, Polar M600, and Garmin FR235 (plus the Vivoactive HR)…among others.  All of those units lack the vast ecosystem of Apple Watch OS.  Of course, as with before, you’ll be balancing deeper apps vs longer battery.

And as with purchasing decisions for the last two years since Apple Watch was announced, it’s really going to come down to what you use your watch for.  For day to day business (aka ‘lifestyle’) use, yes, the Apple Watch will continue to expand in that space.  But for the low and high end price ranges, I don’t think we’ll see it impact competitors much. In fact, if history is any indication it’ll just drive demand and interest, as well as competition.  And competition is a good thing for consumers.

As for an in-depth review of the Apple Watch Series 2?  Of course…once I’ve got a final production unit in-hand.

Thanks for reading!

(Note: All imagery in this post from Apple’s event presentation.)


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  1. Dionne

    I got on to the Runkeeper Beta and did a walk this morning with the Apple Watch only. A couple of things missing but a few nice additions:

    – allows you to have a map saved after your activity
    – allows you to choose whether or not to use your phone or watch only
    – shows a GPS strength of signal indicator
    – allows you to navigate between fields on the main screen
    – after updating with RunGap, shows elevation, although not on Runkeeper. Not sure whats up with that..
    – shows current pace fairly accurately, as well as splits
    – only an audible beep and haptic for mile markers (at least thats all I heard so far)
    – shows splits on watch although font is tiny
    – no auto pause (at least I don’t see it)
    – mapping was a little wonky but distance was accurate

    That’s all Ive seen so far. They said that they are looking for more testers, so go sign up!

  2. pete

    Apple watch Nike+ review:

    The Apple Watch Nike is a fantastic smartwatch, but offers a running experience skewed to beginners, in a way that feels out of kilter with the emphasis it places on running. All the basics are covered with accurate GPS and heart rate tracking, and the partnership with Nike Run Club is seamless.

    But we feel that passionate runners will outgrow the Nike Apple Watch quickly. The caveat with the Apple Watch is that new apps will always offer more choice, but at the moment, there are little guarantees. What’s more, an improved Strava won’t offer the deep integration of Nike Run Club.

    If you’re a runner looking at the Apple Watch, the Nike edition is a good buy at a decent price – it offers a decent, accurate experience that you’ll enjoy. But if you’re looking for a real training companion, the likelihood is you’ll feel short-changed.

    link to wareable.com

  3. santharuban

    the best facilitator I ever met

  4. pete

    Runkeeper updated with apple watch 2 GPS support!

    link to 9to5mac.com

  5. Terra72

    I have been using the Apple Watch 2 for over a month now (it’s the Nike version but I use the native exercise app rather than the Nike app). I use it for running, cycling, swimming and strength training – plus daily activity tracking.

    I have not used my Fenix 3 HR since getting the AW2. As a watch during exercise, I find the AW2 more than adequate. I do miss the post-exercise analysis as the iOS app is very basic. But am hopeful that those issues will be resolved by Strava early in the new year.

    I also hope that a multi-sport mode becomes available before the 2017 racing season starts again so I can use it for actual triathlon events.

    The 3-2-1 countdown is a non-issue. Just tap the screen to override and it starts immediately.

    I have not had any issues with battery life.

    As a smart watch, it is fantastic and for me it is a much better solution than the Garmins, Polars and Suuntos I have owned before. I 100% understand that not everyone will feel that way.

    [If anyone would like to buy my Fenix 3 HR, send me a message :-) ]

    • bh

      I don’t see how you can be ready to sell your Garmin for the apw2. There are no physical buttons to start/stop. You cannot stop your time when your finger is sweating nor if your running in the cold and have gloves on. I think the recreational jogger isn’t too concerned about the very second they stop their run, so this may not be a big deal but if you are trying to PR… well it just doesn’t stop when you want it to. I know the native workout can be stopped by pressing the crown n other button at the same time, but you cannot export that data to any third party source.
      When I was testing out my apw2 I had just finished a Sunday long run and I went to stop my Nike app by giving it the old swipe n stop and it didn’t recocfnize my finger… as I was blowing on my finger to dry it off, I got close enough to my car and it picked up my iPhone and bombarded me with messages and missed called…. after struggling to get thru that I finally stopped my run some 15 seconds later. 15 seconds may or may not seem like a big deal but if you have ever tried to PR a race you’d understand why only a 1/2 second is crucial.

    • Terra72

      Like I said, I use the native AW2 app where you can pause/finish an exercise by pressing the crown and the other button at the same time. Works every time.

      I use my watch all the time. I recognise that as a pure exercise watch the Fenix 3 HR is superior. But as an overall experience, the AW2 wins.

      However, I completely agree on being able to export data to a third party is a major limitation until it is resolved in the next month or so by the likes of Strava.

      I completely respect that you feel differently. I just thought it was important to give a sense of balance. I am not a beginner. I am a fairly high-frequency user and have found the AW2 to be a better option for me. I doubt I am the only one.

    • bh

      I hear ya,
      I do love my aw2. I used to never wear a watch and now I wear it all the time. (Except for runs).
      I think in the near future someone will incorporate a hard button for starts/stops. How awesome would it be if Apple gave you the option to customize how you want the crown to work and give it the ability to start/stop. When that happens, I’ll stop using my garmin. I’m just too competitive with my times to deal with the swipes.
      My wife has been holding out on getting a new watch to see what Apple was going to do (or other 3rd party developers) and decided to get a new garmin 920xt after seeing my struggles. She is a mecca Apple fan but takes her workouts and training very serious so opted with the garmin.
      In the long run (pun) I’ll be wearing the apw2. Just not yet.

    • Frankie

      Have you compared the GPS/HR accuracy with other watches (Garmin, Polar…)?

    • Brian

      Did you sell your fenix 3?

    • Terra72

      I haven’t sold it yet. Let me know if you’re interested but I’m guessing Ray would probably prefer if we didn’t turn the forum into a mini Craig’s list.

  6. Aaron

    I consider myself a serious athlete. I also consider myself a working professional. I’ve been using the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike+ everyday since it’s release date, for runs and work, and I consider it more than adequate; in fact, I consider it nearly perfect. Third party support is where the Apple watch shines (or soon will). Runkeeper has already released their (solid) first attempt at using the watch’s built-in GPS and I suspect other companies will too. I predict that this support from third party companies that will ultimately lead to the undoing of Garmin’s stronghold in this market. I’ve owned older Garmin Forerunners (205, 305) and newer ones (620) and my Nike watch continues to impress me. Sure, the Nike watch doesn’t have everything (customizable workouts and others), but Runkeeper (and soon others) already do. Also, it’s a tool I can use for my morning run and then a smartwatch I can use throughout my day at the office. Unlike my Forerunners in the past, I’m able to use my $400 watch once my run is over. Before, my FR620 sat on the shelf for 90% of the day.
    I’ve turned off every notification except texts. I treat my Nike watch as my running watch first and my smart watch second. I look forward to the future of Apple and Nike’s watch. I anticipate big things in the not too distance future.

  7. Greg Hilton

    hi all,

    Last time I checked a month or so back there was no way of getting data from watch only runs or swims into Strava.

    Has anything been released to allow the integration yet? Wanting to pick up a series 2 for my wife and she will run without her phone.



    • Sal

      But Strava has announced: “The next version of Strava for Apple Watch is in the works, and will take advantage of the native GPS. We expect to release it in early 2017.”

      So you won’t have to export any data to Strava soon.

    • Bh

      As of now.. Nike, pear, and runkeeper utilize the gps. I believe if you pay for rungap, you can export your Nike data to strava but of course Nike doesn’t have swimming.

    • pete

      Nike+ Run Club app has been updated:

      Bug fixes and improvements for Apple Watch users:

      Split data available in post-run summary on Apple Watch
      Improved GPS/route syncing with runs started on Apple Watch
      For true stand-alone functionality and to save battery life, runs started with Apple Watch will no longer start the Nike+ Run Club app on iPhone

  8. Rs

    My Apple Watch was charged yesterday morning at 6:30 am and it has 24% left. Two days it looks like now. The software updates seem to be reducing power consumption.

  9. Rs

    My Apple Watch 2 suddenly has massive improvement in battery life. After 24 hours, I have 70% left. After 50 hours, I have 10% left.

    It used to not even do 24 hours.

    This article is correct:

    link to google.com

  10. Joe

    Hey man, first off I want to say a big thank you for your VERY thorough reviews!

    I was hoping that you could possibly give me some insight.

    Being a gym nut and avid mountain biker for years I decided it may finally be time to pick up a wearable. When the series 2 Apple Watch came out I figure it was finally ‘there’ being that it was GPS enabled. I purchased one and quickly realized how useful and NOT useful it is. Some of it is fun to look at. I was hoping there was a GOOD fitness app that I could track/log workouts/sets/reps, but there is not. I was also hoping to utilize Strava and MapMyRide, but Apple doesn’t let 3rd party apps access GPS and the screen defaults to locked which is useless on a bike.

    So, with Black Friday deals that brought me to the Fenix 3HR Bundle. It seems AWESOME, but I guess I miss how seemless the Apple IPhone/Watch combo is, even if the watch is just a glorified second screen for the phone. For some reason I’m having trouble making the Fenix 3HR sync with mapmyride. I also picked up Garmin Speed/Cadence sensors whivh are not being picked up by the phone apps. The styling of the Fenix 3HR is very nice as well.

    This has me looking at the VivoActive, but I figured I’d check in with you before I buy yet another wearable and keep/return others.

    So, for a gym nut and avid mountain biker what do you recommend as a daily wearable?

  11. Tesh

    I have a Garmin Vivoactive HR and I mostly use it for outdoor/indoor Runs and Hikes. And yeah its cool to get the text notification and call coming but mostly its geared towards running hiking.

    The battery life on my vivoactive is awesome. I can have it last 5-7 days on single charge with maybe 2-3 30 min treadmill runs per week. I also use it for long day hikes. Battery in GPS mode on long day hike has lasted me about 9.5hrs. I am considering AW2 but waiting for thorough review or maybe one of you here who has it already can answer for me:

    I am curious what is the battery life for AW2 Nike +? How many hours/days do you get with just regular use daily without any physical activity/runs vs Running.

    • Pete

      >>I am curious what is the battery life for AW2 Nike +? How many hours/days do you get with just regular use daily without any physical activity/runs vs Running.

      The apple watch needs to be recharged daily. I just pop it on the charging puck when I charging my phone while I sleep.

      It will easily last a full day and 1/2 if you do no use the HR monitoring (HR monitoring only happens when you launch and app to do it)

      If you are using the apple watch 2 with the iPhone, it will use the iPhone GPS data (when you launch and app that records gps/HR). This will get you about continuous 7-8 hours of Heart rate monitoring this way.

      If you do not have your iPhone with you, or you turn off the connect between your Apple watch 2 and iPhone (turn off bluetooth) The apple watch 2 will use its GPS chip to track. This will give you about 5 hours of GPS tracking and continuous heart rate tracking.

      On my apple watch series 0 I used get about 5 hours of heart rate monitoring during a hike. Which sucked since a lot of my hikes are 6+. (I use my iPad and the gaia gps app (amazing app) to track. iPad has amazing battery life 3+ days gps tracking)

      Now with my apple watch series 2 I can make it through the entire day hike (with HR monitoring) with out issue (not using the GPS on the watch) I have a small battery pack the can charge my iPhone and watch that I take with me on multi day hikes.

      Really you need to figure out if you want the other things the watch can do. If not the Garmin Vivoactive HR might be good enough.

  12. Mary Louise

    I have a quick question as I can’t find an answer. Since the Nike AW2 has a focus on fitness, which WIFI weight scale does it work with??
    I have been looking and all I’ve been told is that there is not one, BUT you can download another app to use some of the features on a Wifi weight scale.
    Does anyone have experience with using an AW2 and wifi weight scale?

    • Pete

      >>Does anyone have experience with using an AW2 and wifi weight scale?\

      You would connect the wifi/bluetooh weight scale to your iPhone and the scales app. Then the scales app saves this data to apple health (witch is a hub for all health data on the iPhone) the Apple watch taps into this data to read your weight. Also the Nike+ run app reads this data too.

      I.E. the apple watch does not directly connect to the wifi/bluetooh scale. But some scales have an apple watch app which will talk to its iPhone app and show the data on the watch.

      You CAN connect to a heart rate monitor directly to the apple watch thought.

  13. David

    For me–a slow marathoner–the five hour battery life makes the Apple Series 2 a non-starter. I need 5 1/2 hours minimum! Or, of course, this could be my motivation to pick up the pace!

  14. Terra72

    Sträva preview of new AW2 app coming in early 2017:
    link to strava.com

    If the pictures are credible, it will include support for training goals and swimming. It should also support multi sport but only run/cycle.

    • Mike

      I’d be surprised if it supports recording swims. For recording activities the Strava app has always been run/bike only. You can manually add other types of activities after the fact but only live record run and bike.

    • Terra72

      That’s a fair point and you will likely be proven right.

      My guess was based on the presence of a swim tab which was not there on the previous strava Apple Watch page (from web.archive.org) but you are correct that it could assume manual input. It would also be more consistent the multi-sport only supporting running and cycling.

    • rs

      The screen capture shows swim as one of the three activities. What they did before doesn’t matter as now they have another device that has swim tracking hardware so it makes sense they would add it.

    • Mike

      “The screen capture shows swim as one of the three activities.”

      Notice that the screen capture that shows swim is from the iPhone app, not the AW. The iPhone app has always (or at least as long as I can remember) had a tab for swim. Swim data currently gets into that screen one of two ways – automatically via something like a Garmin and syncing data over or via a manual input into Strava.

      Sure, given the functionality of the AW it’s possible that Strava might include direct recording of swim data via the AW app. What’s I find curious is that they do not give any indication of that in the text or in the AW screen grabs.

    • Marios

      Maybe DCR is waiting for Strava to release their new AW2 App before he publishes a review.

      I know for sure I have no interest in AW2 unless there is a way to directly upload to Strava and have support for structured workouts. Hopefully the both the functionality and review are coming together …

  15. Opie

    The swim tab has always been there. You just have to click Profile. And where they mention fast transition between sports, they only mention bike/run. However, i would love to be able to swim

    • Terra72

      This web.archive.org page from April 2016 does not have the swim tab (link to web.archive.org) but the changes to the iOS app to include swimming appears to be unrelated to the AW2’s expanded capabilities.

    • Frankie

      Have you tried the Swim.com app? I think it’s an excellent app for swimming, probably the best, I just don’t know if you can export your workouts to Strava.

  16. Mari

    Hi there! Thanks for all the useful reviews you’ve posted on your site!
    I’ve been trying to find the review for the new apple series 2 but only find the 1st gen review, and this article on your thoughts. Have you had the chance to fully review the new series 2? I’ve been looking into getting it but am still a bit on the fence and know you’d give a non biased review.

  17. Manos

    Hi Ray

    Wish the best for you and your loved ones for the next year.
    I have one question. When will we read your review regarding Apple Watch 2?

  18. Shawn

    Does anyone know if the Strava app has bee updated to fully support AW2?

  19. Mathew

    Just wondering if you followed up with the Apple Watch 2. The issue I am having is finding a useful app that can log runs, swims, bike and link to TrainingPeaks. So many of the apps I have found still require a phone to be used along with the watch? It appears as if the watches GPS is not being utilized by companies like mapmyrun. If You use Apples activity tracker the data is useless as it cannot be uploaded to TrainingPeaks. Any insight? Thanks for the help! Love your sight by the way!

  20. Joe Holmes

    I am still waiting for Apple to make the AW with ANT+ compatibility. Then it might interest me.

    • pete

      Apple will not sport ANT+ but it does support Bluetooth LE. There an API for it so Its just a mater of the manufacture coding it.

      Cyclemeter GPS app has support for all the wahoo tracking Bluetooth devices
      link to abvio.com

      And has a good apple watch app link to abvio.com
      But I still think you need your iphone to talk to the sensor .

  21. Bowon

    In-depth review of the Apple Watch Series 2 PLEASE…

  22. use New HERE WeGo App (Offline Maps & GPS) on your Samsung Gear S3

    >First you can download and install the Gear Manager app in your Smartphone.
    >First time you have to open the app pick ‘Connect New Gear and select the Gear S3 from the list of devices. Confirm to the pairing codes to proceed continue..
    >After that you’ll be able to use your Smartphone to search for HERE WeGo in the Samsung app store.
    N>ow Tap to download the app and it’ll automatically download and install on your Gear S3.
    New HERE WeGo App

    >After a Download The app will automatically open first time on your Gear S3
    >After the HERE WeGo app has to open then scrolling the application using control bezel on your Samsung Gear.
    >Now once you can open HERE WeGo app Gear S3 on you can see a circular map and navigation location to highlights.

  23. Goncalo

    I already read here that you cannot broadcast HR through the AW to another device. However, assuming that such device has bluetooth smart sensor support, would it be possible using the AW’s zwift app (or other?) to broadcast HR to other devices (not only to Zwift)? (I don’t have an AW to test :/ ) Thanks!

  24. Strava User

    Can anyone confirm that they used their apple watch 2 with the recent update (2/7/16) and recorded your run using the GPS in AW2?

  25. Sal

    @ Strava User

    Yesterday support wrote on its forum:
    “To answer many of the recent questions, we have not released the Strava app version that supports standalone GPS recording. A new Apple Watch landing page with some misleading statements was released prematurely, our apologies for the confusion.

    We are just as excited as you are to release support for the Apple Watch 2.0 GPS. We also cannot wait. But we also want to release something great, and that is going to require just a few more weeks. Thanks everyone for your patience.”

  26. sharon

    Great comments from eveyone. I currently have both watches here. AW 2 and garmin vivosmart hr. I want to love the AW, small sleek, nice colorful display but I don’t like the app for the phone and how info is displayed. the vivosmart it too big for my wrist, but easy to use and the app for the phone is what I am looking for, I want to track sleep too.

    suggestions on which one to keep? I cant decide.

  27. Hey Folks-

    With the Apple Watch Series 2 In-Depth Review now published, I’m going to close this preview post to new comments. I usually do that to keep things tidy moving forward. Fear not though – you can swing over to the full in-depth review and continue discussion there.

    Review here: link to dcrainmaker.com