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Apple Watch Series 2 goes for the sport set: GPS, swim-proofing, $369 (hands-on)

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The Apple Watch 2 is official, and it's waterproof. Or swim-proof, at least. And it's aiming right at the sports and fitness market.

The second-generation model, which is officially called Apple Watch Series 2, adds a faster dual-core processor, improved graphics, a much brighter display, and GPS, which can be used to measure pace, distance and speed when running and biking. But the highlight feature will be the added waterproofing. The new model is water resistant up to 50 meters (164 feet) and can be worn while showering and even swimming. In fact, there are new swim modes designed to track swimming on the watch.

Maybe it's called Apple Watch Series 2 (versus "Apple Watch 2") because it feels like a new variant of Apple Watch rather than a complete sequel: call it the Apple Watch Sport, for real this time. It looks exactly like last year's Apple Watch, for instance. Some people may not be thrilled with that, but the improvements are all in performance. We weren't able to test those claims in our brief hands-on with the watch, though. What was missing, still, was any mention of improved battery life -- and while there are new watch faces, there still isn't a third-party watch face store.

A new ceramic version has a slick white look that feels like the old-school iPhone/iBook polycarbonate cases of years ago, but a lot more durable.

Apple has said that the faster processor and the WatchOS 3 software, which arrives on older Apple Watch models on September 13, should improve app performance and navigating through the interface. The display on the new watch has also been updated and is now two times brighter than the original Apple Watch. In fact, Apple said that it is the "brightest display Apple has ever shipped."

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-1-37-23-pm.png
James Martin/CNET

Despite some rumors, Apple decided not to include cellular functionality. That means you must still be connected to an iPhone to use a majority of the watch's features (aside from those that use GPS, of course). This is different from the Samsung Gear S3, which includes LTE and can be used independently of your smartphone.

Oddly enough, Apple chose not to discuss battery life at its event, which was an area of frequent criticism on the original model. But the website lists battery expectancy of "18 hours," which is identical to that of the original Apple Watch. (In real-world usage, the original Apple Watch lasted about a day to a day and a half.)

applewatchnikeplus.jpg
James Martin/CNET

The Apple Watch Series 2 will be available for $369 in aluminum and stainless steel. There's also a slick new ceramic model, which is said to be four times harder than stainless steel. Like its predecessor, the Apple Watch Series 2 will be available in two sizes: 38mm and 42mm.

But that's not it. Apple also announced a partnership with Nike for a special Apple Watch Nike+ edition that is designed for runners. It features an aluminum case and a funky silicon strap that makes the watch feel like a Nike FuelBand and Apple Watch had a little baby. There are some built-in Nike running features, but for the most part it's a normal Series 2 watch. The Nike+ model will be available for $369 in October.

Original Apple Watch gets upgraded, too

The original Apple Watch remains in a revamped Apple Watch Series 1. This is essentially the original Apple Watch, but with the faster processor from the Series 2 model. Apple has said the new processor should make the Series 1 up to 50 percent faster than the original model. The Apple Watch Series 1 will be available alongside Apple Watch Series 2 for $269.

Preorders start on September 9. Both the Series 2 and Series 1 watches will be available on Sept 16.

You can see full pricing below. If you wanted waterproof and GPS features on Apple Watch, this could be a nice upgrade. But it's not clear how much better the watch is across the board at everything else. This seems like an incremental improvement, not necessarily the revamp some might have expected. Is that enough to conquer a smartwatch and fitness tracker market that's very much in flux? Apple seems ready to commit to its square design for at least another year.

Apple Watch pricing

model size US UK AU
Apple Watch S1 38mm Sport $269 £269 AU$399
42mm Sport $299 £299 AU$449
Apple Watch S2 38mm Aluminum $369 £369 AU$529
38mm Steel $549* £549* AU$799*
38mm Ceramic $1,249 £1,249 AU$ 1,799
42mm Aluminum $399 £399 AU$579
42mm Steel $599** £599** AU879**
42mm Ceramic $1,299 £1,299 AU$1,899

*Hermes versions for the 38mm Steel model go up to $1,299, £1,299, AU$2,029

**Hermes versions for the 42mm Steel model go up to $1,399, £1,399, AU$2,189

Updated 1:40 p.m. PT with hands-on video, and 4:25 p.m. PT with battery life info. Check out all of today's Apple news.

Discuss Apple Watch Series 2

Where to Buy

Apple Watch Series 2 (38mm silver aluminium case, white sport band)

Part Number: MNNW2X/A

Typical Price: $529.00

Visit manufacturer site for details.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Size 38 mm
  • Type OLED