Apple Watch Series 2 – a running review

Apple watch Series 2 – a running review

The first version of the apple watch was great is you’re an apple disciple, taking all those everyday functions and placing them at wrist level made life a lot simpler but the technology wasn’t new for a lot of runners. Smart watches have been around a relatively long time and as runners, we’re probably more accustomed to them than most. This left many disappointed as the apple watch fell short of its counterparts when it came to delivering an accurate and useful running experience.

GPS

The new version is thankfully up to scratch. The watch now has independent, built-in GPS so you can leave your phone behind. This immediately frees the wearer to use it as you would any other running watch and it behaves as such. In fact, it trumps a few brands on things like satellite pick up. We’ve all stood waiting whilst ‘locating satellites’ but due to the fact that the watch is linked to your phone for the majority of the time (and even when not it’s sending out pings for wifi), it’s far more aware of where you are when you want to start running.

This means that while some watches search, the apple watch is ready to go after only a few seconds. Literally three seconds. It’s quite alarming how quickly it’s ready to go and with no ‘GPS found’ message you just set off believing all is in hand, which it thankfully is. The watch also uses Glonass, the Russian version of GPS, so satellite coverage is as extensive as any other watch. I am yet to have an issue with satellite connection after a few weeks of use, even in central London. 

Data

The four default metrics on run mode are all you really need too: time, distance, current pace and average pace. In the watch app, you can add a fifth metric if you want, or just switch out one of the others for heart rate, active calories or total calories. If you want more detailed running metrics like cadence, ground contact time etc then the watch might leave you slightly disappointed, but then it depends on how much you really need and use these.

For the sake of comparison I also took the Garmin 735XT out on a few of the same runs (the double watch look is not great) as it’s a similar price point, has optical HR, multi sport functionality and some other similarities. On the runs, there was very little discrepancy between the two – pace was within 10 seconds or less of each other per mile, HR was within a beat or two, the distance was the same and both followed the same path when looked at on a map. This isn’t conclusive proof that either was better or worse than the other, but it was interesting to see that the apple watch compared in basic function to what is considered a high-end running watch. There’s auto-pause if you want it or you can pause the run at any point by pushing both side buttons, plus if you’re down the track doing intervals, a double tap on the screen marks each lap or segment, so it’s very easy to use, regardless of your session.

The activity app lists all your runs accordingly and you can check out all the metrics from each run, plus there’s a map that highlights changes in pace, which is a nice touch. 

Battery

The other downside for runners with the first version was the battery life. This has been addressed too: the whole watch is 0.9mm thicker, which might not sound like a lot, but the extra room has allowed for more tech to be packed inside and that includes a better battery. In run mode, the watch is reportedly good for about 5h 15m of use. Why so specific? Well, apple knew they needed to up their game so using the average finish time for Chicago marathon for the last few years, they worked on providing a watch that could fulfil this finish time average and have enough juice left for you to be able to buy a few drinks using apple pay. This will apparently last even longer in power saving mode, which switches off the built-in HR monitor. Certainly after an hour and a half run the watch was fully capable of a full days use, plus a gym session with music later on that day. 

Other tech

The swimming metrics are worth a mention, just in case you find yourself near a pool and fancy a swim. The watch is now water resistant to 50m and can count laps, track average lap pace, and auto-detect stroke type to accurately measure active calorie burn. This is gauged on some swim strokes being more taxing than others, plus the efficiency of the swimmer also makes a big difference to calorie burn. It’s not quite a precise science but apple claim it’s pretty close after extensive research. I tried this out in an outdoor lido and the watch was pretty good at tracking my swim, it was a 50m pool and though a few metres short of the distance, I could have stipulated the pool length for a more accurate read. 

The other useful bit of tech is the ability to store music on the watch, up to 2GB, and listen via Bluetooth headphones. Music on the move without your phone is a big plus for those who like to run with some motivational beats, plus it makes those gym sessions more interesting.

Apps

Aside from the built in workout app, there currently aren’t any apps that utilise the GPS of the watch for running (though viewRanger does a decent job for hiking), but we’d place money on the likes of Strava and Runtastic updating their apps soon to work on the watch.

It’s quite easy at this point to forget that the apple watch isn’t a running watch; it’s the smart watch it always was but it now does running well and that’s the important distinction to make. There are many running watches that are also smart watches, some better than others, but they never quite bridge the gap between the two functions. This latest version of the apple watch is certainly amongst the better ones and that’s an important achievement for the series 2. 

You can now save money on the Apple Watch series 2 running watch in the sale here