The Apple Watch Series 2

Still the best version at five years old?

I’ve had the second version of the Apple Watch for approaching five years now. As each new version is released, I wonder whether I will upgrade. So far at least, I’ve resisted.

Five years ago, the appeal was that I would be less tied to my phone. In that respect, it was successful. Notifications can be configured in so many different ways that there is a good chance you can find the perfect arrangement.

I soon realised that the ongoing battle with notifications was about something else, so these days those are mostly off, most of the time.

I had started to get real value from a few features though, and those are the things that I still use and would miss if I didn’t have the watch.

The thing that has surprised me most about the watch is how rugged it is. Mine gets some serious abuse. My dog targets it in our wrestling sessions and still, it has no scratches on the glass. The casing has picked up a few scars, but they don’t bother me at all. I really hadn’t expected it to be this tough.

A few other features have proved useful, but I only use them occasionally. Walking directions in an unfamiliar city, make it easy to get around confidently and quickly, for example.

Other features are plain annoying. Some apps are slow, bordering on unresponsive at times. For me, that doesn’t matter, I don’t use those. If I was more submerged in the ecosystem though, it would annoy me.

Poor battery life has ended up being something that doesn’t affect my experience at all. Limitations around battery life actually helped me figure out how I wanted to use the watch.

Whilst there are things that would make me think about upgrading to a newer model, I’m pretty happy with my current watch. Here is how the device currently fits into my life.

Starting in the late afternoon, I finish work and put the watch on charge. At this point, I switch to my old Casio G Shock. It always felt good to be completely disconnected. There is something very pleasing about wearing a watch that doesn’t do much else besides tell the time.

I go back to the Apple Watch just before bedtime. I have a recurring silent alarm for the next morning. This is the best feature for me. Silent alarms work the same as other alarms, except when I go to bed I put the watch into ‘theatre mode’. This keeps the haptic feedback on but silences the watch and keeps the screen dark.

Silent alarms have woken me up reliably for years. Crucially, it’s just me who gets woken, my wife’s slumber remains undisturbed. The watch also does a decent job of recording my sleep (I use an app called Autosleep for that).

I’ll potentially do a bit of work first thing, and then it’s out for a walk with the dog. The watch tracks this, which leads to the gratifying, but possibly-not-really -all-that-useful closing of the activity rings.

Back home and the watch is back on the charger while I shower and deal with a few domestic things. It is reinstalled on my wrist as I leave the house for work. During the day, I’ll get some useful notifications from the watch, but I’ll rarely do much else with it, save dictating the odd reminder to Siri or setting a timer.

On the way home, I may drop in somewhere to buy something, and that’s where we see another killer feature. Apple Pay on any watch is a dream. About as hassle-free as you can get, and even more so when wearing masks gets in the way of paying for stuff.

There are a few things that the watch does really well, and for me, those things make it worth having. I may be using a tiny proportion of its capabilities, but it’s enough.

Later versions of the watch have brought improvements, of course. Still, it’s not like any of these watches have been aesthetically compelling, so their charms in that department are not difficult to resist.

Improvements to battery life are always welcome, but irrelevant in my use case. I want to avoid wearing it all the time, so charging it a couple of times a day is no big deal. Of course, not having to charge as often, or faster charging would be an improvement.

There are a couple of things that make me think I may upgrade at some point.

First up, if the sleep tracking is better on the later versions, I’d be tempted. I’d love to know more about this (please let me know in the comments if you have experience with this feature). I try to make sleep a priority in my life, and having data that shows me how it’s going is useful. Autosleep does a good job for a third-party app, but I can’t help feeling that if Apple have made a real attempt to do a good job with this feature, it could be almost worth upgrading for.

Second, a switch to a SIM enabled version. It would be handy to be able to leave my iPhone at home every so often. I could lose that weight but still be connected to the world, or listen to something as I walk. That’s appealing.

Buying a Series 7 watch in the required specification would be an outlay of just under £500, hard to justify because I’m pretty happy already. Apple is good at reeling me in though, so who knows what they’ll come up with in subsequent versions, I wouldn’t be surprised if they change things up a fair bit with the next ones.

It’s satisfying that it still works, still does what I need it to do. In that respect, the Apple Watch has been a really solid investment. It feels good to be using tech that is ‘old’. I can be seduced by shiny new things occasionally and, at the same time, I want to consume less. Is it Apple’s lack of innovation with the Watch, or the fact that they made such a good one five years ago, that’s making me feel contented with what I have?

Either way, I’m happy that, for once, I have a device that I’m not itching to upgrade anytime soon.