LONDON – The new Apple Watch is here. But you might not be able to tell. The brand new Watch named the Series 2 looks almost exactly the same as the existing one. And beyond a few small changes, you might not be able to notice when it’s turned on: it uses the same software and packs in most of the same features.

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                                                                                                                 Source: YouTube/Apple

Gradually, though, it dawns on you: the screen is a little brighter. Everything runs a little faster. And then you jump in a pool or you run around without your phone in your pocket. And that’s when you realise if you have need for it, this Watch might be entirely different. For people who swim (obviously), this was the most clearly lacking thing in the first watch. It claimed to be a fitness tracker, but it excluded one of the most popular fitness activities in the world. That’s all fixed now – a combination of swimproofing that means the water won’t kill the phone, and new software that can accurately track how you’re doing, makes it into a great all-round fitness tracker. (There are still some things lacking, like tracking for weights, but it’s possible to put those in the “Other” category.)

The software works by watching for when the Watches sensors feel that it’s been moved enough for one stroke. And other sensors watch for when a swimmer has turned around in the pool, meaning that it can know both how frantically a person is swimming and how far they’re actually getting.

The Watch does track speed over distance. But it doesn’t present that information especially helpfully and does nothing with it. It would be incredibly helpful, for instance, to know whether you’re better at swimming in the morning or at night; or if going for a swim before you go to bed helps you sleep better. Apple has all of that information; it can now even track sleep by watching how you use your phone but it still doesn’t feel like it’s making the most out of it.

The other big feature is the addition of GPS. That’s even less obviously there than swimming but it’s perhaps even more important. The key fact is that the Watch will now be able to tell where it is, even when it doesn’t have the phone. That makes it into a genuine running companion on its own something it was regularly advertised as, but which was undermined a little by the fact that it needed the phone to properly track your activity.

And it even works with swimming, grabbing its location from the sky when it’s above the water. At Apple’s event, it showed off that feature with a new app called ViewRanger. That isn’t actually about running, or about fitness in the strict sense that it tends to appear in Apple’s marketing documents instead, it’s about walking (or running) into nature.

ViewRanger shows too that GPS tools aren’t just about running around and tracking that information. The company lets its users download information about particular areas – meaning that they can go out on a walk without their phone, and don’t have to worry about losing contact with it. Because the Watch now has GPS, it can use that local information to find its own way around.

It all adds up to a Watch that might still have its own problems, but finally becomes something that you can rely on for everything. On the face of it, adding relatively small features such as swimming and location might seem small but they finally push the Watch from being something specialised to something that can happily sit on your wrist all the time.

– The Independent

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