USA TODAY US Edition

Got an Ap­ple Watch? Ditch the iPhone,

It has GPS, it can get wet, and the watchOS 3 soft­ware up­date makes both Series 1 and 2 eas­ier to use and nav­i­gate

- Ed Baig ebaig@usatoday.com USA TO­DAY

The new Ap­ple Watch is tick­ing closer to be­ing the techie time­piece it was al­ways clocked up to be.

You can swim with it now. It has built-in GPS. You can get more done with­out your phone.

I’ve been wear­ing the lat­est model, Ap­ple Watch Series 2, for a week, and like it a lot, though the vastly im­proved watchOS 3 soft­ware also comes to the orig­i­nal Ap­ple Watch.

I’m not sug­gest­ing Series 2 is per­fect, or for ev­ery­body. For one thing, there’s the not-so-slim start­ing price of $369 for a 38mm case or $399 for 42mm.

The good news is that you now can get a more pow­er­ful ver­sion of the first gen­er­a­tion Ap­ple Watch for $269 or $299 (for 38mm or 42mm sizes), a vi­able op­tion if you don’t need a phone to swim with. Now dubbed Series 1, the first-gen mod­els gain the same dual-core pro­ces­sor that’s in its more ex­pen­sive sib­ling.

Most im­por­tantly, both Series 1 and Series 2 watches ben­e­fit from the watchOS 3 soft­ware up­date, which makes the watch eas­ier to use and nav­i­gate.

Still, the lat­est watch is es­pe­cially ap­peal­ing to run­ners or cy­clists who want to leave their iPhones be­hind while still re­ly­ing on GPS to map their routes.

Here are my ob­ser­va­tions:

Stuck on squares. The new watches are dead ringers for their pre­de­ces­sors. Both the old and new mod­els have iden­ti­cal dig­i­tal crown and side but­tons. The re­mov­able watch bands for the orig­i­nal Ap­ple Watch fit on Series 2 and vice versa, mak­ing it easy to dress up or dress down.

Series 2 watches boast a display Ap­ple claims is two times brighter than be­fore. I had to squint but was able to make out the display in di­rect sun.

It’s still about glances. Us­ing the orig­i­nal watch, I came to ap­pre­ci­ate no­ti­fi­ca­tions (mes­sages, head­lines, etc.) that ar­rive on my wrist so I can de­ter­mine right then whether they re­quire my at­ten­tion. Ditto on Series 2.

Swim­ming. As the first Ap­ple mod­els you can swim with, to a depth of 50 me­ters, I swam a few laps in a friend’s pool. I show­ered with it, too. It kept func­tion­ing as ad­ver­tised.

Ap­ple says you’re good to go in salt or chlo­ri­nated wa­ter, and there are two types of work­outs in­side the Watch’s Work­out app.

Ap­ple sug­gests you could wear the watch kayak­ing or surfing but not while en­gag­ing in high-speed

ac­tiv­i­ties such as jet ski­ing or wa­ter ski­ing).

Calling Dick Tracy. Mak­ing or re­ceiv­ing calls (via the iPhone in your pocket) on the first watch was not a great ex­pe­ri­ence. But now the speaker phone is louder, per­mit­ting a more palat­able con­ver­sa­tion.

Bat­tery life. The bat­tery on Series 2 lasts about a day-and-a-half, same as be­fore. While I’ve got­ten into the habit of charg­ing the watch on a daily ba­sis, I wish Ap­ple had man­aged a longer-lasting bat­tery. For­tu­nately, charge time is zippy: up to about 80% in 90 min­utes.

Ap­ple Pay. Ap­ple Pay was a breeze on the first time­piece and is a breeze on the lat­est model. You dou­ble-tap the side but­ton on the watch to display a replica of your stored credit card and hold the watch near the mer­chant’s reader to com­plete the trans­ac­tion.

Most im­prove­ments via watchOS 3. The lat­est soft­ware is the real star of the show.

You have more ways to re­spond to mes­sages, from canned replies to scrib­bling let­ters on the screen and watch­ing the watch con­vert them into text.

A few new watch face op­tions ar­rive with watchOS 3 — Min­nie Mouse joins Mickey, for ex­am­ple, with an­other face show­ing off the col­or­ful “ac­tiv­ity” rings that rep­re­sent your lev­els of ex­er­cise.

It’s now much sim­pler to change watch faces too; all you do is swipe from one to the next. Too bad Ap­ple hasn’t let third-party de­vel­op­ers pro­duce their own watch faces.

One of my fa­vorite nav­i­ga­tional fea­tures comes with the new dock. You can park fa­vorite apps there, mak­ing them eas­ier to find and faster to launch.

The first Ap­ple Watch pe­ri­od­i­cally re­minds you to get off your fanny. Now, there’s a Breathe app that prompts you to do deep­breath­ing ex­er­cises from time to time — fol­low a sim­ple an­i­ma­tion while in­hal­ing and ex­hal­ing.

If de­spite all this well­ness ac­tiv­ity you find your­self ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a health emer­gency, you might take ad­van­tage of an­other new fea­ture, maybe the most crit­i­cal of all. Press and hold the side but­ton on the watch and you can sum­mon lo­cal help via SOS.

I’m not sug­gest­ing Series 2 is per­fect, or for ev­ery­body. For one thing, there’s the not-so-slim start­ing price of $369 for a 38mm case or $399 for 42mm.

 ?? AP­PLE ??
AP­PLE
 ?? AP­PLE ?? Ap­ple Watch Series 2 has more fea­tures for fit­ness buffs.
AP­PLE Ap­ple Watch Series 2 has more fea­tures for fit­ness buffs.
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