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Apple Watch Series 2 is an expensive way to track fitness, but then again, it's so cool

Mala Bhargava
posted on 2nd November 2016
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Frankly, people are still looking for a good reason to spend a big asking price on a smartwatch. Other than the fact that they look cool, which may be enough for those with disposable incomes, it is not a justification for someone who will spend a limited sum on gadgets. Cheap fitness trackers do the basic measurements - so why would one need an expensive smartwatch?

Why, indeed. There really is no clear answer to that one. True, not all cheap trackers will be able to test heart rate and GPS, but the masses need to track neither after the novelty has worn off.

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Perhaps this is part of the reason shipments of wearables declined 72 percent year-on-year, according to data from IDC. The Apple Watch was leading the pack, globally, but the fall could also be because new watches were imminent and those who knew they were coming might have held off buying. All the same, they aren't doing as well as one would have hoped.

New Apple watches are here now, so we will soon see whether they'll rejuvenate the market. Apple recently launched the Apple Watch Series 2 and, more recently, a spinoff special watch called Apple Watch Nike+ meant specially for runners. The Apple Watch Series 2 looks much like the original Apple Watch -- a square display with rounded edges, a crown and button on one side, and different casings such as aluminium, rose gold or ceramic. It is an ideal size but fairly thick so it sticks out over the wrist quite a bit, leading to it knocking against things and picking up scratches. The straps that go with it are a sheer joy, though a sheer drain on the wallet as well. There's a huge variety of them made by Apple as well as third-party companies. One of the most remarkable things about the Apple Watch is the easy way one can swap a strap -- with the mere press of a button that releases the strap and then sliding it into place. There are leather straps in every colour and silicone straps that don't get ruined when you take the watch for a shower, which you can because it's waterproof. Double-tour straps from Hermes and others are so fashionable, they are part of the watch's attraction.

The Apple Watch is an overall smartwatch but the focus is primarily on health and fitness. The Nike+ watch is more finely targeted at runners and has a perforated rubbery strap and bright display with large quickly-visible text, but the Series 2 is a more general product. Other than getting your notifications from the iPhone (because it's really a companion to that phone) and information about your agenda, reminders, weather, and news, you'll almost certainly find you use the watch for tracking your steps, calories burnt and heart rate etc. A doctor friend asked me what it is I really do with data about my heart rate and he had me stumped because I had to say -- nothing. It's just nice to know. But it's useful if you're very serious about your workouts and want to know if you manage to keep your rate up in an active zone for an adequate time and eventually bring it down to a healthy low rate over time.

When wanting to workout, you can quickly pick from a number of workout modes such as an outdoor walk, an indoor walk, a run, cycling, cardio, yoga, and so on. The watch will give you a minimum necessary time or other parameter such as calories and then allow you to set your goal for the session. A number of third-party fitness apps fit right into the Apple Watch, so you can download those if you prefer. You can also take both the Nike+ and Apple Watch Series 2 for a swim. If water gets into the watch, Apple has devised a neat trick to get it out. It lets the watch's little speaker beep thrice to push the water out with sound.

The watch doesn't have a sleep tracking app of its own so you'll need to download one, if you find you can actually manage to sleep with the watch on. I found that impossible for two reasons. First, although the watch is comfortable, it's not so comfortable and slight as to make me want to wear it while asleep. Secondly, it does need charging once a day and the most natural time is to do that along with the phone, at night when you don't need it for much else. If not, you would have to take it off during the day and give it two hours to charge, which is possible but an additional chore. One interesting new thing the watch does now is to invite you for a little time-out from life and to breathe deeply. The breathing app reminds you to do so and guides you through inhales and exhales through its taptic engine, using a sort of buzzing sensation. Visually, a lotus blooms and recedes to help pace your breathing.

For the number of apps usable on the Apple Watch, it's probably the watch faces themselves that are most popular. There are a bunch to choose from and others to be got from watchface apps. Watchfaces, both on Android and the Apple ecosystem, are attention-grabbing and fun to use.

All the tracked data collects on the iPhone in Apple's health kit app from where you can see long-term stats.

Series 2 starts out at Rs 23,900 and goes up to over Rs 50,000 depending on what you need.

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