Diving into the Apple Watch Series 2’s best new features

The maturation of the second-gen Apple Watch makes it more versatile than ever

If the word on the removal of the headphone jack is “courage”, then the one for the Watch should be “freedom”. 

Apple’s wearable has grown up quite a bit since the first Apple Watch appeared on stage, and gained a healthy independence in that time. Given that health is such an important subject to Apple, it comes as no surprise that the Apple Watch has gotten more athletic and capable of staying away from the iPhone for longer stretches of time.

Despite the addition of certain features, it still maintains its good looks; getting lean and toned with core upgrades intead of being bulked up on spec steroids like some of its meathead competitors. 

Having never been athletic enough to justify the purchase of a sports-anything, I like that this new Apple Watch allows me the freedom of choosing to be active once in awhile. Here's how. 

Splishy splashy

One of the most exciting features to hit the new Apple Watch is that it's now waterproof. You can set distance, calorie or time goals like with other workout. But I opted for the Pool Swim with the open goal just to let me know how many calories I’ve burned with my casual splashing around.

Upon starting the workout, you'll find that the display gets automatically locked, an action that's indicated by a water droplet icon. Why? It's because water might accidentally activate your Watch's screen and stop tracking your workout when you're just about to hit your 50-lap target.

It’s pretty neat how Apple has achieved waterproofing without including any eyesore port covers. The speaker which posed a problem for the Watch's waterproofing has been transformed into an outlet for the accumulated water instead. Instead, Apple has harnessed its natural capabilities with some help from the Digital Crown.

Once you're done with your swim, all you need to do is turn the Digital Crown until your Watch starts blaring, then swipe right to end the workout. That engaged-call sound is just the Watch using vibrations to force the water out. It's not the most pleasant of sounds, but I guess the gentle cooing of doves isn't going to cut it when it comes to blasting water from your Watch. 

You'll get a nice little summary of the distance you've covered, your heart rate, and calories you've burned. And it will count towards the completion of those activity circles. The display showed up well even under the glare of the midday sun and I didn't have to shield my Watch to read the results like I normally would have. 

You don’t have to be a serious swimmer to appreciate the Apple Watch Series 2’s new depth of abilities. It tracked my swimming just fine and identified the dominant style during my session in the water. According to Apple, the Watch can identify four styles of swimming: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. No doggy paddle, unfortunately. The workout experience would be even better if it could start detecting the type of workout automatically without having me manually start it. 

Plus, I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of heading straight for the shower after without removing the Watch. In case you were wondering, it can also take a dip in seawater without choking on the salt; there's an Open Water Swim workout option if you prefer to hit the wide open seas. However, you can't take it scuba diving or wakeboarding, as it can't handle that depth or velocity. 

Finding direction

Alongside waterproofing, the addition of GPS has transformed the experience of the Apple Watch. It’s what sets a If you’re a regular runner, you’ll appreciate being able to track your runs in real time and get more accurate readings of everything that’s important to you: speed, distance covered, and pace.

Let's keep things real. I only run occasionally , and by occasionally, I really mean never unless it’s for the bus, to catch a rare Pokemon, or when I feel like I'm piling on the pounds. To that effect, I’m glad that the Watch hasn’t dismissed my lack of regular athleticism and instead, encourages it with apps like the soon-to-come Pokemon Go app (that will count my walking towards my activity) and other more leisurely workout options. The Outdoor Walk option showed me my colour-coded route even though I was really just out on a Subway sandwich run and picked out the parts when I picked up the pace. 

If you're into hiking, the Watch doesn't take into account elevation unless you have your iPhone with you. A feature for the next-gen Apple Watch perhaps?

Third time lucky

WatchOS 3 is the wristy OS we've been waiting for. While the too-fiddly app screen still exists, the new app dock lets you bypass that. Press the button below the Digital Crown to take you into the dock where you can pin up to 10 of your most used apps on it. That's right, you no longer have to go through the frustration of tapping on the wrong one with your fat fingertips.

Plus everything is faster thanks to the S2 chip making operation more seamless. No longer will you have to stare at that loading icon when you tap on an app. 

Another refreshing change that watchOS 3 has brought to the watch is the addition of the Breathe app. While not all of us have the time to run 10km every week, we can certainly afford the time to avert our eyes from the monitor, trigger Breathe, and follow its gentle tappy instructions for at least a minute. Because of its hypnotic haptic feedback, you can rest your eyes and just deep breathe. It's so easy, I just did it a few times while writing this story. The only downside to this is you might have to explain to your boss that you're not sleeping when he catches you in the middle of mindfulness.

Time to say good buy

The word "freedom" has been running through my head after my experience with the new Apple products. The wireless AirPods don’t get me tangled up with some stranger on the MRT. I won’t get anxiety attacks from being caught in the rain with the iPhone 7. Siri is friendlier towards third party apps. That sentiment is the most apparent in the Apple Watch Series 2. You can leave the iPhone behind when working out. You can use Apple Pay on your Watch without your iPhone around. You're free from the anxiety of your expensive Watch suffering an accidental dunking.

Sure, you still have to return to your iPhone eventually, but the Watch is more equipped than ever to accomplish certain tasks without the iPhone's help. You won't need specialised fitness trackers because the new Watch covers most of it with GPS and swim-capabilities, and looks great while doing it. 

If you've been holding off on the purchase of an Apple Watch for awhile because it hasn't proven to be more than a glorifed notification centre, there's no better time than now with the Apple Watch Series 2. Especially if you'd like bona fide sports smarts in a dressier smartwatch.

So go on, take the plunge.