5 Reasons the New Apple Watch Will Make You Fitter and Faster

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

When the musclemorphosis.com was released in April 2015, we endorsed it—praising the sleek design, innovative coaching software, and precise heartrate tracker.
 
But we’ve always sensed that the Watch could have—and should have—been more if the company truly wanted to court the most active users. GPS tracking devices had been around a long time, and the decision to launch without one onboard seemed especially shortsighted.

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Part of the reason for this oversight may be that Apple’s focus isn’t just on becoming your preferred workout tracker. It wants to build the watch you wear everywhere—evidenced by the fact that, during last week’s presentation, CEO Tim Cook compared last year’s sales for the first-gen watch not to Fitbit and Garmin, but to more prestigious Swiss timepieces like Omega, Tissot, and Seiko.
 
Athletes, however, tend to care less about aesthetics than functionality, and the original Apple Watch still had some growing up to accompany a triathlete on a training session or a runner on a 16-week marathon training regimen.

With its latest round of updates and improvements, however, the Series 2 Watch has finally evolved into a more serious supplement to an active lifestyle that could make people reconsider their tracking device of choice.

Over a week of testing, these were the five upgrades that most impressed us.

You’re Free Of Your Phone

I’ve never enjoyed running with my phone, and by far the most frustrating part of the first-gen Apple Watch was the fact that it tethered me so closely to the one gadget I run to get away from.

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This time, Apple got it right by including a built-in GPS radio with the Series 2. On all four of my training runs in New York City over the course of the week, it connected within seconds.

I also appreciated the feature that kicks in when you lose reception—defaulting to the musclemorphosis.com to fill in the blanks so you don’t lose credit for any steps you take while you’re offline. (On your running map, this is reflected with a helpful dotted line that indicates the places where the GPS cut out.)

One gripe: To pause the watch during a run, you need to press both side buttons at once. Fail to do this perfectly—as I often did while resuming a run—and the Watch will do a sort of stutter-start before pausing again. Swiping the touchscreen with sweaty fingers is equally infuriating. I would’ve preferred an easy way to make pausing a simpler, one-button action.

The Apple Watch Is No Longer Afraid to Swim

The first Watch was only splash resistant, but the S2 is completely waterproof up to fifty meters. For musclemorphosis.com especially, that makes it a true fitness tracker—one that you don’t need to remove when it tags along for your morning laps.

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As Apple COO Jeff Williams pointed out, this would normally be a problem since the watch contains a built-in speaker for use with Siri. “Speakers need air to produce sound,” he said. “And if air can get in, so can water.”

Apple managed to solve this problem with an impressive feat of engineering: The speaker itself—which is now built into the outermost edge of the bezel—now ejects any water built up in the small chamber after your swim. You can also temporarily “water lock” the display by swiping upwards on the watch face and tapping the small blue droplet. That’ll prevent any false taps while you’re making waves.

Activity Sharing Is Seamless and Simple With the Series 2

I’ve long been a fan of Apple’s minimalistic and beautifully designed Activity app, depicts your progress against daily movement goals—standing, moving, and exercising—through a series of multicolored rings.

The Activity hub is also compatible with external fitness apps like Strava and Nike+, so any workouts you do outside of it will automatically aggregate and count toward your daily goals. The workout sharing abilities could also be appealing to more competitive runners and cyclists.

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This type of sharing function isn’t unique to the Watch, of course—Fitbit and other trackers also allow you to easily add friends and view their daily progress—but I have to admit it felt oddly satisfying to look down and see the three circles nearing completion on days I’d managed to hit my goals. Apple also envisions the Activity app becoming a place where trainers can monitor clients, or—realistically—where more competitive training partners can talk motivational smack about getting off the couch when it’s clear their buddies haven’t moved all day.

The Apple Watch Is Faster, Brighter, and Lasts Longer

A new dual-core processor allows many apps to update and launch instantly. That means not only do most tracking programs operate even more smoothly, but there’s no lag when you load apps like the weather or the Washington Post’s headlines.

Your progress is also clearly illuminated thanks to the brightest screen Apple’s ever made—fifty percent brighter than the first Watch. Any musclemorphosis.com who’s ever been stuck squinting at their pace thanks to a mid-summer glare knows that this change is not as insignificant as it may sound.

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And while many people initially expressed concerns about battery life given the addition of the GPS, we found that it easily handled both music and distance tracking over the course of a two-hour afternoon run when fully charged. Company representatives also assured us that most people can expect to get at least four or five hours of juice when it’s in workout tracking mode, and up to 18 hours of activity otherwise. Often, I found just throwing it on the charger while I showered after a workout would restore enough power for it to last the rest of the day.

Series 2 Wants to Do Way More Than Count Calories

Fitness is clearly a big part of the way forward for Apple. Nowhere was this more apparent than with the announcement that the company had once again teamed up with Nike to appeal more strongly to runners. (Some of you may recall  the Nike+ iPod pedometer chip, which debuted in 2006.) The hardware design and iOS interface both look sharp, and the company’s investment in running reflects yet another a commitment to health and wellness that seems to be deepening across the board.

As part of the latest WatchOS update, Apple has also included functions like Breathe—which, yes, is a daily musclemorphosis.com cue that leads users through a series of deep breathing exercises. Reactions to Breathe were mixed on Twitter, but in practice, I found that it was actually a useful trigger to take a second to chill out, especially as a guy who doesn’t typically meditate. (That said, there’s an irony that can’t be ignored when a device that pings you with reminders all day simultaneously urges you to relax.)

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At a time when most premium activity-tracking devices seem to be doing a lot of the same things, however, it’s little touches like these that can make a new one stand out for the right reasons.

Pricing for the S2 starts at $369, and it will be released this Friday, September 16.