Apple Watch Series 1 vs. Series 2: Which Should You Buy?

Even though I’m a huge Apple fanatic (my own views don’t necessarily represent the views of the rest of the Guiding Tech team), I still don’t own an Apple Watch yet. It was announced two years ago and I’ve been patiently waiting for second-generation. My first iPhone was the iPhone 3G and my first iPad was the iPad 2. I guess I just like to think I’m getting my money’s worth.

Should you save money and get the Series 1 Apple Watch or are the new features of Series 2 worth the extra cash? | Photo: Shutterstock
Should you save money and get the Series 1 Apple Watch or are the new features of Series 2 worth the extra cash? | Photo: Shutterstock

This past Wednesday, Sept. 7, the day I’d been waiting for finally arrived. Apple announced Apple Watch Series 2 complete with several new features. Notably, Series 2 comes with GPS, decent water resistance, new Nike models, a new ceramic Apple Watch edition, a brighter display and a new dual-core processor.

To my surprise, these new features come at a cost. The Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369 for the 38 mm model and $399 for the 42 mm model. That’s more expensive than when the first Apple Watch debuted, only to later receive a price cut. To alleviate concerns about price, Apple is keeping the Series 1 around.

If, like me, you were/are perplexed over which Apple Watch to splurge on, it’s time to weigh the benefits of each series.

Processor and GPS

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Apple Watch Series 2 includes a new S2 dual-core processor that should come with significant performance gains over the first-generation Apple Watch. It also includes a built-in GPS tracker so you can track runs and workouts on your Watch without borrowing from your iPhone’s location information.

I can’t imagine a situation in which I’d travel anywhere with an Apple Watch and leave my iPhone at home.

However, Apple did something very atypical: it added the same dual-core processor to the new Series 1 Apple Watch. Series 1 doesn’t have GPS but the new dual-core processor in combination with watchOS 3 should make the first-generation just as fast as the second.

The only remaining differentiator in this category is the GPS. If you’re athletic and often go out for runs without a phone, consider spending the extra money on Series 2 for this feature. Personally, I can’t imagine a situation in which I’d travel anywhere with an Apple Watch and leave my iPhone at home, so GPS isn’t a necessary built-in feature for me.

Outside Improvements

Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

If you’re someone who spends a lot of time outside, in a pool, or just frequently active, the Series 2 is probably vastly more appealing. It’s water-resistant up to 50 meters, which Apple cleverly markets as swim-proof. You can easily go swimming in shallow waters with your Apple Watch Series 2 on, whereas Series 1 can handle light splashes of water at most.

Additionally, the display in Series 2 is twice as bright than an Series 1 which comes in handy in direct sunlight. One of the complaints of the first Apple Watch was that it could be a little difficult to see in bright conditions and Series 2’s brighter display should fix that.

The display in Series 2 is twice as bright than an Series 1 which comes in handy in direct sunlight.

Coming in late October is the final perk for athletes: a special Nike+ edition of Apple Watch. These special sport bands have stylistic perforations, exclusive Nike watch faces and the Nike+ Run Club app. The Nike+ flavor is only available as a Series 2 watch and will start at $369 once available.

Price

The less athletic you are, the less likely you need Series 2.

Apple Watch Series 2 complete with GPS, water resistance, Nike+ options and a brighter display starts at $369. Apple Watch Series 1 with the new dual-core processor also found in Series 2 starts at just $269.

After evaluating the different features, I decided to order a Series 1 Apple Watch. I love that Apple chose to throw in the dual-core chip, but I don’t really need anything in Series 2. I can use my iPhone’s GPS, I don’t swim and I don’t personally care for the Nike+ designs. The brighter display would have been useful, but I couldn’t justify spending an extra $100 for it.

The Apple Watch is a highly personal and customizable product, so go through the features of Series 2 to determine whether you really need them in your own context. Generally speaking, the less athletic you are, the less likely you need Series 2.

George Tinari

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