TEST / Apple Watch Series 2: This Time Is The Good?

It took Apple 18 months to propose a new iteration of its connected watch. Without really changing the pace, with guts reviews and corrected and 2 or 3 inputs welcome – a bit like an iPhone, in short – the Watch Series 2, like many second versions of a new type of product of the California firm, looks exactly like what the Watch should have been right from the start. If there are still gaps, they are better compensated by undeniable qualities.

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Was it really expected a second Apple Watch, despite sales estimates high in the stratosphere compared to the competition connected – soon 15 million watches against less than 1.5 million for the only Samsung in one year? Not necessarily, especially when, after being disappointing at its release, the first Watch has corrected many problems of fluidity, autonomy, and even ergonomics through successive updates to watchOS 2 and watchOS 3. Especially in front of a Watch Series 2 which, from outside, is rigorously identical.

Nevertheless, Apple can still surprise, and here the Californian firm will do it in a good way … simply by giving what the first Watch (or Series 1, as it should be called now) desperately needed: a bigger battery, a much higher maximum brightness, more power, a GPS autonomous and finally the certified waterproofness (W50M)! With these new cards in hand, Apple will try even more to make its new Watch a bridge between the beginner or moderate sportsman and smartphone user who wants to add an accessory to his wrist without having to address a brand of sport. The Series 2 also inaugurates a mobile home chip, the S2 (S1 on the first Watch), announced 50% more powerful and an Oled touchscreen at 1000 cd / m² brightness. Side size and definition, no change, we stay on 1.5 inches in 272 x 340 pixels on the 38 mm and 1.7 inches in 312 x 390 px on the 42 mm. Apple has also reviewed its speakers and microphone, which we will not fail to test below.

The connected watch Apple Watch is priced at 419 € in 38 mm model and 449 € in 42 mm version (silicone bracelets), for the simple anodized aluminum finish. The version tested here is the 42mm model with a steel case finish and is positioned at 799 €. A declination with a ceramic body, more resistant, is trading at more than 1200 euros. In addition, Apple requires, there are a growing number of bracelets (silicone, leather, nylon, mesh …), but also the designer and luxury collections, such as that of Hermes, with starting prices of at least 800 €. Another world.

Note that the Apple Watch is only compatible with iOS and so with an iPhone, from 5s, is paired with Bluetooth and can use Wi-Fi for better communication between the two devices.

This Watch Series 2, well … physically it’s an Apple Watch. At least, we must call it Watch Series 1 now (the concepts Sport, Standard, and Edition disappear). Of course, the case of the new watch of Californian is absolutely identical to that of its elder, that one is in 38 or 42 mm. The only difference, a thickness (1 mm, which is noticeable especially by placing the two generations side by side) and a weight revised upward on each model. On the wrist, this is not noticed too much. The Watch Series 1 is not already an example of finesse – normal with all that it carries – the deal will not change for this version, therefore.

Note the presence of a second microphone input that significantly improves communication when we take/make a phone call, but also when talking with the Siri voice assistant, whether for a search, the dictation d ‘an SMS … No need to shout, a volume of conversation classic with a human being within a meter of himself enough to engage the operation and exchange with Siri with a precision that is perfectible but never frustrating. A system more and more natural and pleasant, in short.

The new generation Watch is also an opportunity for Apple to refresh its display technique. Still in Oled, with therefore an infinite contrast, the screen also benefits from a noticeable leap in brightness, at least in theory, since the brand claims to pass a little over 400 cd / m² (200 cd / m², already satisfactory for the Oled, measured actually in our labs last year) to about 1000 cd / m² on the Series 2. At first glance, it is true that the screen of the Series 2 is expressed with more vigorous than that of the Series 1, with a black of course always so abysmal, but especially colors and whites much more energetic. At the probe, if the Watch does not reach 1000 cd / m² maximum brightness, it still caps at 600 cd / m² (more than double the Watch Series 1) at its last intensity level via the brightness sensor, a little less than a smartphone Galaxy S6 edge, which was then a small event in itself for the Oled / Amoled mobile, but the Watch, it can propose that on the surface of its slab.

As for the general ergonomics and use, if we touch a few more specific words in the next part, it should be noted the efforts made by Apple since the first watch, it comes primarily from watchOS 3 and is therefore observable on Series 1. The accelerometer is much better managed on the hour consultation, with a small wrist movement that can display the dial, without pronounced movement, therefore; navigation in the device takes a little more sense. Certainly, the digital crown still refuses to validate a selection when we press it – it’s still a step back, and still as absurd from our point of view – but the main button finally makes sense by displaying the shortcuts features and apps.

And because this is the main novelty, at least the most conspicuous and that we will develop also lower, what is worth so this so-called waterproof watch up to 50 meters? An implacable logic that had escaped Apple’s first version, which was only resistant to splashing. Whether at sea, in the shower, at the pool, the Watch Series 2 has never shown reluctance to take the drop or the wide. The latter then unlocks and the communication loudspeaker automatically resonates with 5 pulses to expel any liquid residue from the structure. Simple, clever and it avoids the fear of soaking a system of this kind in the water just as much as it guarantees Apple the integrity of the product.

For charging, Apple still offers the same induction system, with a long cable ended by a magnetic circle on which comes naturally the watch. Uncompromising at first glance, this system can now be accompanied by a million amenity accessories (for bedside tables, welcoming iPhone and Watch, suspended …) via the always prolific props turning around. Apple.

If there is no fundamental change in the actual operation of the watch or the OS, Apple operates here and there some small changes that make all the difference. For the Boeotians, remember that the Watch can receive notifications of any kind from the iOS smartphone linked to send and respond to e-mails, SMS, Facebook Messenger conversations, Twitter mentions, etc., but also to receive and make calls, play games studied for its screen – why not … -, display the time – yes, yes – with dials offering the possibility of placing “complications”, these small dynamic annotations related to the activity, the date, the battery level, the number of notifications of a particular social network or news published on the news site that we follow the most. It is also possible to listen to synchronized music on the watch via headphones or wireless headphones (Bluetooth) or to remotely control the music emitted from the iPhone.

Last addition and not least on its management potential, Home application, appeared with iOS 10 this fall and so on watchOS 3, allows to deport on the wrist management of connected objects Home Kit compatible home. And they will be many in the weeks and months to come.

For the user interface, Apple retains its iPhone / Watch pair. The deep management of notifications and downloads of apps and dials is always done from the Watch application on a smartphone. The interface of the watch offers for its part the choice of dynamic dials recorded from the mobile, a menu like a cloud of icons of mobile applications in the form of pellets, various direct access for communication (direct link between owners of Watch for private messages, for example), watch management (water lock, airplane mode, volume …) or a function to find his phone via the emission of a sound. Everything is handled in a dance between the touch screen, the crown and the main button, which can now open a menu grouping all uses that you want to access quickly (set also on the iPhone). The screen, by the way, still has its 3D Touch interaction. In the notifications pane, by sliding your finger from the top to the bottom of the watch’s display, you can always delete notifications at once by “pushing” your finger in the screen.

If the Watch Series 1 can also take advantage of various software and ergonomic inputs, it can not access the level of responsiveness offered by the Series 2. The chip S2 is talking powder. The cloud of apps runs without latency, transitions between uses do not take more than 3 or 4 seconds or more and the opening of an app sees his time divided by two. We thus spend a maximum of 1 or 2 seconds to activate a use, which may still seem very much in the age of concrete smartphones, but this greatly erases the frustration of the first Watch and its sometimes long time, even to access the settings menu.

Finally, the contribution of GPS and sealing generates new functions. It is now possible to get out of business without bothering with an iPhone to track down a race, a walk, a bike ride or even a swim in open water or in the pool (clear distinction between the two). The GPS locates the wearer of the watch and helps in parallel with the public Wi-Fi to triangulate the position more quickly. So there is no need to wait for any first hitch. We can go out, start the exercise and start without warning, the watch will offer a very precise starting point. Once back to a connection with the iPhone, the Watch instantly sends the session data, geolocation included and all displayed in the Activity section of iOS apps. The accuracy is a few meters and can sometimes seem a little crooked at the sight of the report, but the way is always good.

The Activity section now also offers a more detailed management of the exercises, with trackings of speed and altitude and a relevant observation of a fractional exercise in running, for example. Color codes on the established intermediate times, but also on the map thanks to the GPS, expose this in a more graphic way. Practical for swimming, the GPS coupled to the accelerometer and the gyroscope of the Watch can identify and therefore count the number of lengths (we can inform the watch on the length of the pool) via changes in swimming orientation. On the other hand, we managed to trap the watch, but not always, by changing direction midway. What a little cheat on the lengths … Another good idea, all the same, the direct and fast access to a type of activity, rather than reprogramming each time his session. Useful for repeating exercises of a single manipulation; it was not available, it is now.

The Watch Series 2 can suddenly, with all these software and hardware contributions, to replace a very good sports watch? Let’s say that Sunday sportsmen who wish to cross a few stages of activity will find their account, just like those wishing to mix effective sports watch and connected accessory more city for the everyday. The latter still lacks depth for advanced exercise, but the border between this product and Garmin, Fitbit or TomTom watches / wristbands is only software and Apple seems to learn more and faster, as evidenced by the upcoming release of a Nike + Watch model all the more based on the sport, but also the accessibility of tools and a graphic work that allows understanding and consultation of data instantly.

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