Apple Watch Series 1 vs. Series 2: Which Apple Watch should grace your wrist?

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While most people tune into Apple’s annual hardware announcement specifically for the latest iPhone news, Apple’s iconic wearable shouldn’t be overlooked. The California-based company announced the Apple Watch Series 2 alongside the iPhone 7, ultimately giving potential customers a choice between the Apple Watch Series 1 and an upgraded version. The first-gen Apple Watch was a solid first effort from Apple — and one of the best smartwatches available, at the time — and eventually went on to become the No. 1 selling smartwatch in the world. Not too shabby for a company that cut its teeth making desktop machines in a garage.

The Series 2 remains a step up in several respects, though, even if Apple upgraded its first Apple Watch with a new chip when it dubbed it the Series 1. The latest iteration of the popular smartwatch comes with plenty of new bells, whistles, and design upgrades. Below, we take a look at both models to help you decide which one to buy.

Comparison

Apple Watch Series 1

Apple Watch Series 2

GPS Enabled No Yes
Processor S1P S2
Operating System watchOS3 watchOS3
Body (Dimensions) Aluminum case

38mm

1.52 x 1.31 x 0.41 inch

42mm

1.67 x 1.43 x 0.41 inch

Aluminum & Stainless Steel case

38mm

1.52 x 1.31 x 0.45 inch

42mm

1.67 x 1.43 x 0.45 inch

White Ceramic case

38mm

1.54 x 1.34 x 0.46 inch

42mm

1.68 x 1.44 x 0.45 inch

Resolution (pixels) 38mm: 272 x 340

42mm: 312 x 390

38mm: 272 x 340

42mm: 312 x 390

Weight Aluminum case

38mm: 25 grams

42mm: 30 grams

Aluminum case

38mm: 28.2 grams

42mm: 34.2 grams

Stainless Steel case

38mm: 41.9 grams

42mm: 52.4 grams

Ceramic Case

38mm: 39.6 grams

42mm: 45.6 grams

CPU Dual Core Dual Core
Screen Ion-X strengthened glass (aluminum cases) Ion-X strengthened glass (aluminum cases)

Sapphire crystal glass (stainless steel and ceramic cases)

Waterproof Splash resistant only Waterproof up to 50 meters
Available Ceramic Casing No Yes
Display OLED Retina display with Force Touch (450 nits) Second-generation OLED Retina display with Force Touch (1,000 nits)
Base Price $190 $289
Review 4 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

In September, 2016, Apple updated the original Apple Watch with a S1P dual-core processor and called it the Series 1. The company also introduced the Series 2 at the same time, which is a significant upgrade over the Series 1. The Series 2 is a more feature-rich device overall, and uses a dual-core processor known as the S2. The S1P and S2 processors are 50-percent faster than the original Apple Watch’s S1 chip, and showcase the ability to run 60 frames per second. The new GPU is also twice as powerful as that in the Series 1, allowing for better performance and overall usability.

Because of this, apps on the both the Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 load faster and interactions are speedier overall. We’re talking about a huge upgrade over the original Apple Watch, which routinely suffered from long load times.

apple watch 2 news nike

The biggest knock against the first Apple Watch was the absence of a standalone GPS. You always needed your phone for GPS tracking, which was a hassle for active types. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. The Apple Watch Series 2 incorporates built-in GPS, so you can map your route and exercise without being tethered to your iPhone. This mean should be able to go out the door with just your Apple Watch Series 2 and get running.

The new Apple Watch also received a battery upgrade. The Apple Watch Series 2 uses a slightly larger battery than its first-gen counterpart. The 38mm model features a base capacity of 273 mAh, which is 32-percent larger than the older model. Apple estimates up to 18 hours of battery life, or the same as the Watch Series 1 — likely thanks to the addition of GPS. We can only hope this improves down the road with the forthcoming Series 3.

Both models currently run WatchOS 3 — which is much easier to use than the first two versions of WatchOS — and will work with WatchOS 4 when it launches in the fall.

Although the spec changes aren’t huge, the Series 2 wins for its standalone GPS.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 2

Design

When it comes to design, the Series 2 doesn’t look any different from the original Apple Watch or the Series 1. It has the same rectangular casing, digital crown, and button on the side. All Apple Watch models come in both the 38mm and 42mm configurations, and support Apple’s proprietary strap system. You can get the Apple Watch in a variety of styles and materials, and Apple has a number of bands to choose from — see our roundup of the best Apple Watch bands, if you’re in need of some suggestions.

The Apple Watch Series 2 is even more customizable than the first-gen Apple Watch, namely because it’s available in three casings. The least expensive option is an aluminum casing, with the next step up being one made of stainless steel. The top-of-the-line model, on the other hand, uses a ceramic exterior, which is supposedly four times harder than stainless steel.

There’s currently an array of new bands to choose from, including Nike’s latest Sneakerheads bands. Hermès has also created a pair of leather straps specifically for the Series 2, and there’s a single-buckle model available for $1,400, as well as a double-buckle design for $689.

This time around, to further tap into the fitness market, Apple  partnered with Nike on a specific Watch Nike+ version of Apple Watch Series 2. This model uses a light, breathable perforated band, and hosts an array of features and applications, which allow you to stay motivated and find nearby fitness events.

The biggest change, however, comes with the display on the Series 2, which received a welcome upgrade. The Apple Watch Series 2 features the brightest screen ever used in an Apple product. The display brightness is 1,000 nits, compared to only 450 nits with the Series 1. Doubling the brightness should make the screen more visible in direct sunlight, which is great news for sports enthusiasts.

Another big boon for fitness enthusiasts is the waterproofing on the Series 2. The first-gen Apple Watch was merely “splash-resistant,” meaning swimmers were left out of the loop, but the latest model is hermetically sealed. This design upgrade makes the Series 2 waterproof in up to 50 meters of water, so you can actually swim with it. That’s a huge plus for swimmers and people who love water sports.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 2

Pricing and availability

The Nike+ edition and the basic aluminum version of the Apple Watch Series 2 start at $289. The original Apple Watch, now known as Series 1, includes the dual-core processor and starts at $190, though prices vary on your exact configuration.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 2

Overall winner: Apple Watch Series 2

The Series 1 is obviously cheaper than the Series 2, but it also lacks GPS, waterproofing, the brighter display, and the faster processor. To that end, we recommend the Series 2 over the Series 1, and it’s the winner of this comparison.

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