Update: With the Apple Watch Series 3 now official, Apple is lowering the price of Apple Watch 2 to $249 (no official price for the UK or Australia yet). While it lacks LTE, this is a solid deal for a good smartwatch.
You want to know two things about the Apple Watch 2 (or Apple Watch Series 2 if we're being picky): is it a big enough upgrade to beat the first Watch, and has Apple done enough to make a smartwatch a necessity, rather than just a novel luxury?
Well, Apple's brought a lot of the tech upgrades we wanted: with the Watch 2 you're getting a new water-resistant design, a GPS chip on board for tracking your runs, a swim tracker and a much faster processor.
There's a new white ceramic finish too – which takes the place of the extortionately expensive gold Apple Watch Edition – to add an element of 'luxury' to proceedings, with the Hermes band making an appearance again to keep the top cost of the Watch 2 higher.
The second Apple Watch is also the poster child for WatchOS 3, which radically improves the functionality of the device – so has Apple solved the issues that prevented the original Watch becoming the must-have gadget of the year?
Apple Watch price and release date
- Apple Watch 2 is now $249 (no official price for the UK or Australia yet)
- Launched on September 16
The Apple Watch Series 2 is available from September 16, and in terms of pricing it unsurprisingly arrives at a variety of levels, with the cheapest model, the 38mm version, coming in at $369 in the US, £369 in the UK and AU$529 in Australia. [Update: Apple Watch 3 has been announced, and with it Apple is lowering the starting price of Watch 2 to $249.]
What's surprising is the Nike+ variant of this watch - which comes with the improved sports band and instant access to the app, along with subtle Nike branding - isn't subject to the same brand levies that we're used to seeing, costing the same as the base model of the Apple Watch 2. It doesn't add in any new functionality, but we still expected to pay a premium for the branded model.
Check out our Apple Watch Series 2 video review
That's going to make the new Apple Watch a hard sell to anyone who isn't a fitness diehard and obsessed with getting that GPS chip in their watch.
The cost then rises steeply, with the 42mm base model costing $399 / £399 / AU$579. This continues all the way up to the highest-priced ceramic Edition model, which comes in at $1,299 / £1,299 / AU$1,799.
The good news is that Apple will continue to sell the original Apple Watch, upgraded with the same faster processor that's in the Series 2, for a cheaper price. Dubbed the Apple Watch Series 1, it'll cost $269 (£269, AU$399) for the entry-level Sport Edition.
The Apple Watch Series 2 is a little more expensive than the first Watch was when it launched in 2015 – but it's a lot more expensive than the upgraded Watch Series 1, which now features the same faster processor as used in the Series 2.
- Water-resistant chassis allows for swimming
- 1mm thicker than previous model, which isn't noticeable
- Aluminum, stainless steel and ceramic models now available
The design of the Apple Watch Series 2 is simple: it's the same as the previous version. Unless you're someone who loves a round shape on their wrist, that's no bad thing, as Apple makes a very handsome-looking device no matter what it's creating.
The curved edges, the formed glass, the quality of the spinning digital crown on the side of the Watch all feel premium, and while they don't necessarily excuse the high price, they do go a long way towards qualifying it.
The weight isn't too light or too heavy – the right heft for the mix of metal and glass you're strapping to your wrist.
Talking of straps, I still wish Apple had a more elegant solution to the issue of changing the bands on your Apple Watch. The little strap release buttons are just too hard to push easily, and I've spent too long trying to move between the polymer sport and nylon bands, yanking them from the slots.
On the underside of the Watch 2 is the heart rate monitor, a collection of four LEDs that pulse light below your skin to work out how fast your heart is pumping. The LED array on the back of the watch looks bulbous, but once strapped to the wrist isn't noticeable, and supports useful features throughout the Watch.
Apple has thankfully done away with the hyper-expensive gold Edition Watch, but has replaced it with the ceramic version, which is still three times the cost of the base model at $1,299 / £1,299 at the cheapest point.
It's nice, and does feel a little more premium (plus it's four times stronger, according to Apple) but the white case looks a bit too... well, Apple. But the finish is nice.
The Apple Watch Series 2 is a high-end device – and now that it's water-resistant, and has GPS and a bigger battery, it's hard to believe it's not thicker. Throughout our review there was never a suspicion that you'd be scratching this thing up, despite repeatedly picking it up and putting it down during activity.
- New brighter screen is easy to read in any conditions
- Water-resistant mode is smart
- Sharpness is excellent for all tasks
Apple hasn't changed much with the screen dimensions – actually, nothing at all. The same 1.65-inch display is on offer, with the 390 x 312 OLED display rolling attractively into the side of the Watch's frame.
The key thing is the brightness though: the Watch Series 2 can now pump things up to 1000 nits. That's just a number to most people, but my word, it's bright – and brighter than the previous model too.
Thankfully, the OLED element of the display of means the black backgrounds are turned off when not in use, both saving battery life and improving the brightness of the white element.
As the Watch 2 is now water-resistant as well, the display has been augmented with a 'wet mode', which locks the display and disables touch functionality when activated.
What does that mean? Well, as water can conduct electricity, the screen could sense the water as an input and order an Uber when you're in the swimming pool. With this mode on, the screen is safe – and will automatically activate when you turn on swimming tracking.
The way it unlocks is cool too: you spin the digital crown, and when it's fully clear the speaker emits a pulse to shove out the water, should any be left in there.
The screen on the Apple Watch Series 2 is one of the very best things about the device – it's not as high-resolution as some of the best phones on the market, but it doesn't need to be - it's more than sharp enough, as well as being bright and colorful enough to be easily seen in any scenario.