Apple have just released at their Keynote the new Apple Watch Series 2. This update to their first Watch includes new upgrades to the performance and the screen, but also improves the fitness aspect of the watch. Here, Apple have introduced built-in GPS along with waterproofing allowing you to run without your iPhone as well as use the watch as a swim watch.
There has also been a partnership with Nike where they have released four specific fitness orientated Apple Watch Series 2 models. Each of these four watches come with a Nike+ watch band with an ergonomic design for running and fitness, as well as a Nike+ watch face. This includes connectivity with Nike Run Club (NRC) bringing more motivation for activity.
Failings of the Apple Watch
When Apple first release the Apple Watch 2 years ago, no one knew quite how good or bad this new line of product would be. Due to the fact that it was coming from Apple, people inevitably thought that it would change the world. However, this was not a finished product and the media and those who went out and purchased this watch realised that it was far from a finished product.
The main reason for the Apple Watch to fall short of its high expectations was down to the fact that there had to almost always be a connection to your iPhone to gain the full user experience. This was also the case when it came to running; the watch lacked built-in GPS and had to rely upon your iPhone’s built-in functionality to provide this feature of using the watch as a fitness watch.
Despite this lack of GPS, many still bought the watch and would use it with their iPhone when running, for me not gaining the best user experience when it comes to using the watch for workouts. I also personally feel that Apple would admit this to themselves too, the first Apple Watch just wasn’t a contender when it came to running, swimming, cycling and all other things fitness related, even despite heavily branding the watch in this market.
Since the first release, Apple have been hard at work to change a lot of the internal features. Visibly, nothing externally has changed other than a slight increase in weight and thickness. Then why is there such a fuss over the new Series 2 Watch and why is it potentially the first real test facing the top brands of Garmin and TomTom when it comes to GPS watches.
Apple Watch Series 2 – Built-In GPS
As Apple had been so strongly branding their Watch as a fitness watch as well as a smartwatch, it was very obvious where the updates would come when it came to making changes. The first and main change regarding those who would use their Apple Watch for lots of sport would be the inclusion of Built-In GPS.
This new feature is the first of many which I still believe are to come of taking the watch away from the iPhone. With the GPS built-in, you can now easily move away from the annoyance of having to carry your phone around with you, wearing it in an annoyingly tight armband, and run free.
The best running experience out there – Trevor Edwards (Apple Keynote)
Obviously, this is a feature which almost all fitness watch brands have been offering for many years now and Apple seem to be very late to join in, but they obviously believe that the GPS running watch market is one which has potential and is one that they want to be in. Previously, the initial Apple Watch did very little to dent any confidence of the main players such as Garmin as the price of the high-end smartwatch would be a very good reason not to pry people away from the known fitness brands, especially as these companies already offered great alternatives which included smart notification features and greater metrics and data analysis which wasn’t offered through the Apple Watch.
However, now with the inclusion of the built-in GPS (although this is still just only one feature that doesn’t offer anything new in terms of features that aren’t available anywhere else) it brings Apple strongly into the GPS fitness device market with a very desirable product.
Apple Watch Series 2 – Waterproofing
The addition of GPS was no the only new feature to the Series 2, Apple also announced that they had made the new Apple Watch fully waterproof, all the way down to 50m. To do this, they had to completely redesign the internals of the watch. Water can get through into the watch and the electrics in many different places, but the biggest concern was the speaker. Therefore, Apple totally redesigned the speaker so that water could not get past it and would use the speaker itself to push the water back out.
This now makes every day-to-day activity easier as you can easily shower and bath with the watch still on your wrist, while the touchscreen still remains in use. Although this is just a small help, the main improvements of this feature will be seen by those who swim.
The Apple Watch Series 2 now includes a whole range of swimming capabilities which are seen on lots of triathlon watches and swim watches. Here, Apple have added both pool swimming and open water swimming to their Activities section, allowing you to use the watch as a greater training device when in the pool.
This again is another great feature alongside the GPS which makes the Apple Watch now a more complete and all round fitness watch. Currently, I have yet to have the chance to try out and test the swimming features of the new Series 2 Apple Watch, but it will be interesting to see how the watch copes in open water and in the pool in comparison to Garmin and TomTom’s leading watches.
Apple Watch Series 2 Nike+ Edition
Each of the different versions of the Apple Watch Series 2 will come equipped with the previously talked about features of GPS and waterproofing. However, Apple have also teamed up and joined forces with Nike to create an Apple Watch Nike+ edition.
Nike have previously joined forces with Apple (a partnership founded over a decade ago) and most notably brought out a Footpod designed to slot into Nike trainers and then connect to your Apple iPhone to track your running. This was in the early days before GPS running watches took off, but Nike then moved onto creating their own GPS watches in partnership with TomTom which were quite successful, but never seemed to gain the same sort of traction that the more prominent fitness watches from Garmin gained, most likely due to the lack of synergy formed when the two companies joined.
However we are now seeing Nike being the second player in the GPS watch industry, making a few of their own special edition watches from other companies, and this is exactly what they have done here with the Apple Watch Series 2. They first did it with the new Garmin Forerunner 235 making a specific Nike colour way.
With the help of Nike once more, Apple have created a special Nike+ edition of the Apple Watch Series 2. The watch is exactly the same internally as any other of the Apple Watch Series 2 editions, this one having an aluminium case in either Space Gray or silver.
Your perfect running partner – Trevor Edwards (Apple Keynote)
The difference is a Nike+ sports band which has been made specifically with fitness and sports in mind. The band has cut out holes within its main body which allow it to be light, flexible and breathable whilst remaining very comfy like the previous Apple Watch band, also being made from fluoroelastomer. These new bands personally are my favourite addition to the new Apple Watch, making it look considerably more like a sports watch than previously, whilst also standing out with the Black/Volt Nike Sport Band.
As well as the new bands, Apple have also added an exclusive new watch face of a Nike design to make it stand out even more.
Designed specifically for Apple Watch, these faces feature Nike’s iconic Volt color and boldly display the time in both digital and analog styles. (Apple)
Another great addition is the Nike Run Club (NRC) app which is available on the App Store. This is available on all Apple Watch editions but is best used with the Nike+ edition for running. The app tracks all of your running and activities, taking advantage of the new built-in GPS.
This app was introduced at the Apple Keynote by Nike’s President of the Nike Brand, Trevor Edwards. Here he explained how the NRC app was a great way to stay motivated to run as it would prompt you to run on Sundays or get going again after a break. As well as this, it there is a great social aspect to the app where you can compete with friends, although again, this is nothing new as Strava and Garmin Connect have been doing this for a while.
Are Apple now genuine fitness watch competitors?
In terms of looks, functionality and smartwatch connectivity features, the Apple Watch Series 2 stands out from any other GPS watch competitors. Garmin are one of the only other brands to offer this high-end looks with their new fenix Chronos watch, but still has nothing on the Apple Watch from a smartwatch perspective. This smartwatch aspect for some is a massive selling point and takes Apple well above the rest in this sense, however it is now a question of wait and see to find out whether the introduction of GPS capabilities will make the Apple Watch Series 2 a game changer in the fitness sector, causing users to move from their current, more data specific watches, to the slick, more expensive Apple Watch.
Personally, I don’t think that time has come just yet. Apple have definitely stepped up their game and become a greater contender, but for me, most consumers in the fitness market still want more numbers and a better way of viewing their workouts than just on an app on their iPhone. As said by Trevor Edwards at the Apple Keynote, the Apple Watch:
Focuses on you and your life
For me, this is exactly true for the Apple Watch. It is a very immersive and personal experience that aims to give you the best user experience. This is definitely done with the connectivity and app store advantages, allowing you to use 3rd party apps to a much greater extent than other companies equivalents – Garmin’s Connect IQ for example is still very basic and small, not even touching the surface to what Apple have been able to achieve.
Therefore, it is going to be very interesting to test all of these full features to their full extent, pushing the watch in many different circumstances such as interval workouts. But for me, this watch is still only going to attract the more recreational runners who are more concerned with style and usability rather than data and a continuous stream of numbers and various metrics.
Another thing to note is the price tag which lies at £369 for the Nike+ edition. This is the same for the other Series 2 Apple Watch models but £100 more than the first edition of the Apple Watch. For me, given the extensive set of features, touch screen and high quality manufacture this is quite a competitive price point. Other high end GPS watches such as the Garmin fenix 3 HR which is £469.99 (this does come with a sapphire screen) are even more expensive and lack many of the smirch connectivity features. But despite saying this, it is certainly quite a large investment for most for a GPS watch which is lacking many features and will be quickly outdated.
The Apple Watch as a running watch still only offers the basics of distance, pace and time. The optical heart rate sensor never lived up to anything and will certainly need improvements for me to consider getting one myself, but the waterproofing and the addition of swimming features is also a step in the right direction. With the help of third-party apps and correct application of the accelerometers the future versions of the Apple Watch could certainly challenge all fitness watches as the most superior in all areas from smart watch features to a greater range of metrics.