A watch is deeply personal in a way that smartphones generally are not. A smartphone goes into your pocket, while a watch is always visible on your wrist. Because of this, smartwatches end up being closer to clothing and jewelery than technology from a design perspective, and this makes getting the design right absolutely essential. That being said, smartwatches are not just digital watches that do some extra things, and simply copying the design of traditional watches can end up missing the opportunity to re-think how watches are made when designing a smartwatch.

The rectangular design of the Apple Watch will definitely be a point of contention for some people. Generally traditional analog watches have used a circular face because the clock is made up of vertical poles that are fixed at one point and rotate around it. While mimicking this would be a great way to make the Apple Watch look exactly like a traditional watch, it would also cripple the information density on a canvas where space is already severely limited. On a round display, any application that displays text is effectively limited to the space of a rectangle drawn within the circle, which means approximately 30% of the area is wasted in the best case. Round displays also preclude the use of table view interfaces, which are of immense importance when designing apps for space-constrained devices. Given these issues, it’s not surprising that Apple went forward with a rectangular design for the Apple Watch and its display, even if it puts the Apple Watch out of sync with many regular watches.

The one other area where the Apple Watch departs from the standards of traditional watches is its thickness. To be honest, this hasn’t posed an issue for me in general use, but several people I know have commented on the watch being significantly thicker than their regular watches. In the case of Apple Watch Series 2, the thickness has actually increased from that of the first generation, but I haven’t been able to notice this in practice despite moving from the first generation model to Series 2. As someone who wasn’t used to wearing a watch, getting used to having something on my wrist required a great deal of adjustment on its own, and at some point I simply got used to it being there and didn’t have to concern myself with its mass or thickness.

While there are some physical changes like the increased thickness, the overall aesthetics of the Apple Watch Series 2 are the same as the first generation. Although Apple has changed the functionality of the controls in watchOS 3, the watch retains the Digital Crown and action button on its right side. The Digital Crown is Apple’s solution to the problem of touch input on a smartwatch covering up all the content on the screen. It can be used to scroll vertically or horizontally through screens and individual menus, as well as to zoom when contextually relevant. In the context of a rectangular watch this is definitely the best solution I’ve seen so far, but Samsung’s Gear S3 definitely deserves a mention for applying a similar concept to their round watch where the bezel around the screen can be rotated to navigate through the UI. For users who have never had a chance to interact with the Apple Watch, it’s worth mentioning that the Digital Crown isn’t controlled like a knob by pinching it with two fingers and rotating. It has just the right amount of friction to allow rotation by rolling your finger across the top of it, without also running into problems with it being accidentally triggered.

The left side of the chassis has a pair of vertical slits, as well as two drilled holes. Like the first Apple Watch, the slits are for the watch’s internal speaker, which provides much better audio quality than you’d expect from such a tiny device. As for the two drilled holes, the second hole did not exist on the original Apple Watch and was something of a mystery when Series 2 first launched. The original Apple Watch generally did a good job of capturing the user’s voice, but there’s always room for improvement and so I originally assumed that it was for a second noise-cancelling microphone. However, the hole is actually a barometric vent to allow accurate measurements of altitude even with the Series 2’s more waterproof design. Apple does not explicitly advertise that the Series 2 comes with a barometer, but teardowns of the watch have confirmed that it includes one.

Like the original Apple Watch, the casing of the Apple Watch Series 2 comes in three different materials. Unlike the original, these are only segmented into two product lines rather than three. With the first Apple Watch, the aluminum models were the Apple Watch Sport, the steel model were just called Apple Watch, and the gold models were Apple Watch Edition. For Series 2, Apple has consolidated the aluminum and steel models under the Apple Watch title, and the Apple Watch Edition is now a white ceramic model priced at $1249 for 38mm and $1299 for 42mm. $1249 is still quite a bit more than the entry-level aluminum Series 2 model which is $369, but it’s substantially less than the $10,000 starting price of the gold Edition model.

From left to right: Sport, Classic Buckle, Milanese Loop, Woven Nylon, Leather Loop

While the case provides one half of the Apple Watch’s design, the watch bands provide the other. The Apple Watch launched with a large selection of bands, and that selection has grown over time. Our original Apple Watch review was based on the 42mm steel Apple Watch with the silver Milanese Loop band. For this review the watch I was given came with the black Woven Nylon band, which is a newer band that didn’t exist at the time the original model was launched.

To be quite honest, I’m not a huge fan of the Woven Nylon band for the Apple Watch. My original Apple Watch that I bought for investigating app development and familiarizing myself with the operating system was a first generation Apple Watch Sport with a black Sport Band. At a visual level, there’s nothing that’s really wrong with the nylon band, and it’s not uncomfortable to wear. What I dislike about it is the fact that it doesn’t go well with Apple Watch Series 2’s improved waterproofing, because it absorbs water, which makes it unsuitable for activities where the watch will be submerged as the band will be unpleasantly damp for a long period afterward. The sport band didn’t absorb water, and in fact, any water on its surface would drop off within a matter of seconds.

The Woven Nylon band also isn’t holding up as well as my Sport Band did, with the stitching becoming worn at the edges as well as where the plastic pin passes through the holes in the band to complete the loop. I would suggest opting for the model with the Sport Band when purchasing the Apple Watch, and if you’re looking into additional bands, I think the Classic Buckle, Leather Loop, and Milanese Loop bands are nice steps up from the Sport Band without breaking the bank. Series 2 is also completely compatible with existing bands, so if you’re upgrading from the previous model you don’t need to buy new bands unless you're also changing the size of the case.

Smartwatches are not compatible with winter clothing

Apple Watch Series 2 carries on the same design as the original model. If you’re not a fan of wearing a watch, or you didn’t like the original Apple Watch’s design, Apple Watch Series 2 isn’t going to do anything to change your mind. If you’re a fan of Apple’s design direction with the Apple Watch, then Series 2 will keep you happy. Based on Apple’s history I don’t think it will be surprising to see them aggressively drive down the thickness of the case in a later version, but right now the battery life constraints of a smartwatch mean that this sort of form-factor and case size won’t be going away in the near future.

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  • Alexey291 - Friday, December 30, 2016 - link

    But most of them wore a watch.

    That's the thing. The world IS changing. Constantly. The watches are on the way out. Have been for a long time.
  • sorten - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - link

    BTW, they only sold 1.6M in the second quarter.
  • name99 - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - link

    AKA the quarter when everyone was waiting for the next release...
    Not very interesting. ESPECIALLY for the early adopter phase of the lifecycle, when EVERYONE who bought an Apple watch is keenly following when the next one will come out.

    Compare with iPhone 1 first year:
  • fanofanand - Wednesday, December 21, 2016 - link

    I don't know how much Apple is paying you to troll (I suppose iSheep do it for free) but watches and phones are VERY different markets.
  • name99 - Wednesday, December 21, 2016 - link

    Christ you are blind.
    A "phone" is a pocket computer. A "watch" is a wrist computer. An Airpod is an in-ear computer.
    They're all damn computers, they'll gain functionality (and desirability) with the inevitable march of time.

    You guys like to ha-ha about stupid Thomas Watson and his "market for five computers" or stupid Ken Olson and his "no reason anyone would want a computer in their home" but you think in EXACTLY the same way --- and with 70/40 more years experience you have a hell of a lot less of an excuse.
  • goatfajitas - Thursday, December 22, 2016 - link

    Shave that neck son.
  • fanofanand - Thursday, December 22, 2016 - link

    When you cannot provide logic I guess you resort to name-calling. Either he is the most die-hard dyed in the wool Apple supporter or he's receiving checks out of Cupertino.
  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, December 22, 2016 - link

    -- They're all damn computers, they'll gain functionality (and desirability) with the inevitable march of time.

    sure. if they plug into a wall socket and have big screens. wearables, of any kind, fail on both counts. batteries have not had, and have no foreseeable, order of magnitude increase in power density in many decades. as SEC filings say, past performance is no indication of future results.
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - link

    I generally agree with the consensus that wearable tech devices don't have much momentum left at this point. Three of my coworkers purchased fitness bands and smart watches. Two of them quit wearing them after a couple of months. The third is planning keep this smart watch for the time being, but isn't certain a replacement is worth the trouble. Outside of my one remaining holdout coworker, I don't even know anyone that wears a watch of any sort and I haven't seen a smart watch in the wild outside of one of my coworkers.
  • Ikepuska - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - link

    I would say that certain industries tend to wear watches more than others nowadays, outside of the high end or collector market. I can tell you that where I currently work, everyone I know wears watches. But we also work outside a lot, work long hours and need to keep track of time the whole way through. I also have a few co-workers who collect watches. Of the two that I know how much they've spent, one has about 30k, another almost 100k invested in watches. Admittedly these are collections built over 10+ years. So I suspect that watches are a bit like physical books. Certain industries buy them more than others, and there are a few people who spend the vast majority of the money.

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