Apple Watch Series 1 vs. Series 2
Which Apple Watch Model Should You Buy?
Published Dec 27, 2016
The holiday season is here, which means that many people will be looking at purchasing an Apple Watch -- either as a gift for their loved ones or as a gift for themselves. With the launch of this year’s model, Apple essentially introduced two options for consumers. The Apple Watch Series 2 models are the flagship for the tech giant. Series 2 models are more powerful and more feature-laden, and they run at a higher price. Series 1 models are basically the launch model with the new watchOS 3 operating system and core processor integrated into them.
Which model is really right for you? The feature set of the Series 2 watches tend to be geared towards a specific demographic, both when you look at them individually and when taken as a whole. Either way, you’re going to get a fast and efficient wearable device. Let’s take a closer look at the key feature differences so you can decide where you’re going to put your money.
Screen Brightness: You Won’t Be Left in the Dark
The Series 2 screen is bright. In fact, it’s incredibly bright -- so much so that it’s actually the brightest screen that Apple has ever shipped. Why did they integrate these specs into the Apple Watch first before, say, the iPhone? Consider the Apple Watch’s general usage and placement. As wearable tech on the wrist, it’s going to go in natural light a lot, even if the user isn’t relying on it for, say, trail running or long hikes.
In terms of pure numbers, the Series 2 screen comes in at 1,000 nits (nits are the unit of measure for luminance and technically measure candela per square meter). The original Apple Watch and the Series 1 models had a screen brightness of 450 nits, so the Series 2 is more than twice as bright. What situations would this come handy in? In general, this would be helpful for any instance the watch is in use outside (or by large windows) during the daytime. This brightness makes it much easier to read, and is particularly handy for people who are on the go a lot of the time or who like to exercise outside -- if you’re checking your notifications in these circumstances, a brighter screen will increase legibility.
Of course, you won’t always want the brightness to be set at maximum levels. Particularly for people with sensitive eyes, stark brightness in an otherwise low-light environment can be triggers for headaches or migraines. The Apple Watch does come with an auto-brightness feature to adjust this up and down on its own, though anecdotal feedback on this feature has been mixed since the Apple Watch’s initial launch. Still, it’s easy to set to a happy medium and switch to maximum brightness only when you know you’re going to be in a more extreme situation.
This feature matters if: You spend long stretches of time outside and want to check your notifications or interact with the interface a lot during these moments. This is also a very good feature for long-distance runners, bicyclists, and other people who exercise outside and want to maintain their heart and distance statistics.
GPS: Know Where You’ve Been
Are you a distance runner or biker? Then you probably have already used the Apple Watch in conjunction with your iPhone. By pairing up with your iPhone’s GPS, the original Apple Watch could track distances, allowing you to check your workout statistics and pace just by flipping your wrist rather than pulling out your phone from an armband.
While the Series 1 watch has a similar makeup to the launch version -- that is, no GPS -- the Series 2 watch makes a considerable leap forward by having a built-in GPS. Keep in mind that this isn't a feature that everyone will need. If you're just going about your business day, chances are you'll have your phone with you regardless, or you simply won't have a need for a GPS at the moment.
However, for those that are hitting the trails or open road and want to travel light, the GPS helps minimize having to deal with a paired phone. Instead, all you have to do is put on the Apple Watch, load up your preferred workout app, and go. This convenience will make a big difference to a specific segment of Apple Watch users, and it's one of the main reasons why Apple observers called the Series 2 a shift to accommodating the workout crowd.
This feature matters if: You're doing a workout in any environment where pick-up-and-go is preferred over carrying a paired phone with you.
Water Resistant vs Waterproof: What’s the Difference?
The original Apple Watch and Series 1 models are water resistant, not waterproof. That means that for things like washing hands or taking a shower, they're fine. They are, however, not waterproof, so you can't go swimming with it or submerge it. That changes with the Series 2 models. With Series 2, the Apple Watch is waterproof up to 50 meters. When combined with the Series 2’s internal GPS, swimmers can now track their pace without having to worry about damaging their phone.
Of course, an incidental amount of water will make it into the body, and Apple’s engineers have crafted a brilliant way to handles this. Through the device's speaker holes, water can be ejected using vibrational movement. It's a creative and unique way to a very specific problem, though you can be sure that other wearable designers will emulate that in the future.
This feature matters if: You go swimming a lot. Otherwise, it doesn't serve much purpose.
Price: What are You Paying For?
The Series 1 watches are less loaded than the Series 2 watches, so it’s no surprise that they cost less. Standard retail price for Series 1 watches is $269.99. Apple Watch Series 2 hardware comes in a variety of models, so the starting point is $100 more at $369.99. However, depending on the actual model you buy, the price can go even more than $1,000 for the high-end models (such as the Hermes edition).
Upgrades: What’s The Same?
There are a number of upgrades that are used in both Series 1 and Series 2 watches. Both come pre-loaded with watchOS 3, which is pretty much universally liked move over the previous operating systems. watchOS 3 includes many features that streamline and simplify the Apple Watch user experience -- in some cases, ditching clunky mechanics and in other cases, just making them better. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any Apple fan that dislikes watchOS 3. Similarly, both pieces of hardware feature the new dual-core processor. So when watchOS 3, is doing all of those background updates for faster and easier notifications, it’s putting that dual-core processor to use. The result is quicker displays and load times for apps and notifications, even while all that background activity is happening.
Other standard features remain, such as the body’s one-touch release of Apple Watch bands and the two sizes (38mm and 42mm). The body itself retains the same look and layout from the launch model, so we’ll have to wait at least another year to see if Apple’s engineers want to make a design update beyond screen size.
Which Apple Watch Should I Buy?
The Apple Watch is a useful and streamlined piece of wearable tech, no matter which model you buy. However, there's certainly nothing wrong with sticking with as Series 1, particularly if you're on a budget.
The Series 2 models work for a specific segment of the user base. It's clear that design tradeoffs were made to maximize the outdoor athlete’s use and enjoyment of the Apple Watch. When combined together, the GPS, brightness, and waterproofing features all point to a weekend warrior that will be wearing it in bright daylight hours while tracking workout info. These features are less impactful for day to day usage, so if you only use your Apple Watch to expedite your notifications in the office, the Series 2 isn't necessary.
Both watches run on watchOS 3, which is a significant part of this year's improvement in addition to the new features. So there's certainly no big deal if you're using a Series 1 and you only need it for staying in touch while synced to your phone. However, if you are a runner, swimmer, or cyclist, the Apple Watch Series 2 was designed specifically for your needs, combining the best of several different wearable devices into a single piece that remains uniquely Apple.
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