Which Apple Watch should grace your wrist? Apple Watch Series 1 vs. the Apple Watch Series 2

Dallon Adams

While most people tuned into Apple’s annual hardware announcement specifically for the iPhone 7 unveiling, the Apple Watch Series 2 was not to be overlooked. The first generation of the Apple Watch was a solid first effort from Apple. It was, after all, the No. 1 selling smartwatch in the world, and second most sold watch in general behind Rolex. Not too shabby.

Related: How to use the old headphones you love with the new iPhone 7

Now, Apple has upgraded its first Apple Watch with a new chip and called it the Series 1. The company also introduced a Series 2 model that comes with plenty of new bells, whistles, and overall design upgrades. Below, we take a look at both of the new models to help you decide which one to buy.

Specs

Apple Watch Series 1
Apple Watch Series 2
GPS Enabled No Yes
Processor S1P S2
Operating System watchOS3 watchOS3
Body (Dimensions) 1.65 x 1.41 x 0.41 inch 1.65 x 1.41 x 0.41 inch
Resolution (pixels) 272 x 340

390 x 312

272 x 340

390 x 312

Weight 50 grams 70 grams
CPU 520 MHz Dual Core
Screen Sapphire crystal glass Ion-X strengthened glass (aluminum cases)

Sapphire crystal glass (stainless steel and ceramic cases)

Waterproof Splash resistant only Waterproof up to 50 meters
Available Ceramic Casing No Yes
Display OLED Retina display with Force Touch (450 nits) Second-generation OLED Retina display with Force Touch (1,000 nits)
Base Price $270 $370
Review 4 out of 5 stars Coming soon

Apple updated the original Apple Watch with a new processor and called it the Series 1. The company also introduced the Series 2, which is the real upgrade for 2016. The Apple Watch Series 2 is a more powerful device overall, and uses a new dual-core processor known as the S2. The S2 is 50 percent faster than the original Apple Watch’s S1 chip, with the ability to run 60 frames per second. The new GPU is also twice as powerful as the Series 1, allowing for better performance and overall usability.

Related: Which Apple Watch is right for you? The ultimate buying guide

As such, apps on the Series 2 should load faster and interactions should be speedier overall. It’s set to be a huge upgrade over the original Apple Watch, which routinely suffered from long load times. Of course, the Series 1 should run a bit smoother than the original Apple Watch with its upgraded chipset. Regardless, the Series 2 will be faster.

The biggest knock against the first Apple Watch was the absence of a standalone GPS. You always needed your phone for GPS tracking, which was a hassle for active types. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. The Apple Watch Series 2 incorporates built-in GPS, so you can map your route and exercise without being tethered to your iPhone. You should be able to go out the door with just your Apple Watch Series 2 and get running.

Unfortunately, the new watch didn’t receive a battery upgrade. The Apple Watch Series 2 still uses the same battery as the first generation, with an approximate battery life of up to 18 hours. We can only hope this changes down the road with the Series 3. Both models will run WatchOS 3, which is much easier to use than the first two versions of WatchOS.

Although the spec changes aren’t huge, the Series 2 wins for its better processor and standalone GPS.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 2

Design

When it comes to design, the Series 2 doesn’t look any different from the original Apple Watch or the Series 1. It has the same rectangular casing, digital crown, and button on the side. All Apple Watch models come in both the 38-millimeter and 42-millimeter sizes, and support Apple’s proprietary strap system. You can get the Apple Watch in a variety of styles and materials. Apple also has a number of bands to choose from and third-party watch bands are becoming more commonplace with each passing day.

The new Apple Watch Series 2 is even more customizable than the first generation with three casings. The least expensive option is an aluminum casing, with the next step up being one made of stainless steel. The top-of-the-line model, on the other hand, uses a white ceramic exterior. Apple claims this ceramic casing is four times harder than stainless steel.

Related: The 11 best Apple Watch straps you can buy right now

There are also an array of new bands to choose from. Hermès has created a pair of leather straps specifically for the Series 2., and there’s a single silver buckle model available for $1,400 as well as a double buckle design for $690.

To further tap into the fitness market, Apple partnered with Nike on a specific Watch Nike+ version of Apple Watch Series 2 this time around. This model uses a light, breathable perforated band. The Watch Nike+ hosts an array of features and applications, which allows you to stay motivated and find nearby fitness events.

You can check out our full Apple Watch buying guide here to see which casing and strap combination you’d like to buy. We also have a list of the best third-party Apple Watch bands you can peruse for cheaper alternatives.

The biggest change comes with the display on the Series 2, which received a much-appreciated upgrade. The Apple Watch Series 2 features the brightest screen ever used in an Apple product. The display brightness is 1,000 nits, compared to only 450 nits with the Series 1. Doubling the brightness should make the screen more readable in direct sunlight, which is great news for sports enthusiasts.

Another big boon for fitness enthusiasts is the waterproofing on the Series 2. The first-gen Apple Watch was merely “splash-resistant,” meaning swimmers were left out of the loop, but the latest model is hermetically sealed. This design upgrade makes the Series 2 waterproof in up to 50 meters of water, so you can actually swim with it. That’s a huge plus for swimmers and people who love water sports.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 2

Pricing and availability

The Nike+ edition and the basic aluminum version of the Apple Watch Series 2 will start out at $370. The original Apple Watch, now known as Series 1, will include the new dual-core processor starting at $270. The top-tier ceramic option will set individuals back a cool $1,250. Pre-orders began on September 9, and orders began to ship on September 13. The Watch Series 2 will be available in stores on September 16. The Apple Watch Nike+ model will not be available until later in October.

The Series 1 is obviously cheaper than the Series 2, but it also lacks GPS, waterproofing, the brighter display, and the faster processor. To that end, we recommend the Series 2 over the Series 1, and it’s our winner in this versus.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 2