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The Apple Watch Series 2

The new Apple Watch, announced last week and available starting September 16, arrived at Runner’s World HQ in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, this week. The new watch puts a greater emphasis on fitness than earlier models. Here are some brief thoughts after unboxing the watch and taking it for its first run. We’ll have a more complete review of the watch in the coming days.



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Apple Watch synching with iPhoneApple Watch synching with iPhonePhotograph by Derek Call
The first step is synching the Watch with an iPhone.

Pain-free setup: Before you unbox your new Watch Series 2, make sure your iPhone is running iOS 10; it’s required for setup. Once that’s installed, the pairing and setup process is as simple as ever: turn on the Watch, open the Watch app on your phone, and point your camera at the Watch’s face. From there you’re walked through a few quick steps to get up and running. That’s literally all we did before darting downstairs just in time to meet our usual lunch-run crew.

GPS: New to this watch is built-in GPS. That means you don’t have to carry your phone while you run. That’s exactly how we tested it. The Watch was paired to my iPhone left behind in the locker room, but Editor-in-Chief David Willey wore the Watch for its first workout—an easy 3.5-mile jog around town. He didn’t stand around waiting for a satellite signal (unlike the rest of us, even if briefly). Apparently satellite acquisition is swift, because when a few beeps first sounded from our Garmins a few minutes into our run, he looked at the Watch to see 1.01 miles for elapsed distance. An impressive start, indeed. We look forward to testing that in more challenging conditions like New York City in the coming days.

GO!: Mentioned above, this version of the Watch makes it easier to work out. In its default state, the clock face features a little running stick-figure in the top-right corner. A single tap brings up the Workout app. (Other Watch faces can be configured to include music controls or your to-do list.) From there you can choose from a dozen different activities. A 3-2-1 countdown sends you on your way.

Related: See reviews and more on GPS watches

Displays: Touted at the media unveiling was the fact this watch has the brightest screen of any Apple device, making it easy to see in intense sunlight. The Watch was on the default settings for our run, and the face was very easy to read on the bright, cloud-free day. (We later learned the brightness slider was set at halfway.)

Data shown on an Apple WatchData shown on an Apple WatchPhotograph by Derek Call
Users can choose how to display running data on the Watch.

The workout screen showed four metrics—distance, time elapsed, current pace, and heart rate—but can be configured to show anywhere from one to five lines of data. (If you opt for the single-metric layout, know that the digits are just slightly larger; there’s far more blank space on the display.) These views are only configurable from within the Watch app on your iPhone—we learned the hard way, exploring every setting we could find while waiting to run. The remaining metrics for an outdoor run are average pace, active calories, and total calories. We’d like to see others, like lap time, lap pace, and elevation.

Auto-Laps: In the first run, Willey missed the first two “mile splits.” Most modern GPS watches beep/vibrate at a pre-set interval—typically every mile. He said he heard and felt it when passing mile 3. More testing is needed.

Apple Watch showing musicApple Watch showing musicPhotograph by Derek Call
The Watch holds audio, for those who like to listen to music or podcasts while running.

Music: We happily discovered a feature we didn’t expect: the ability to store music on the Watch itself. That means, if you’re a music or podcast lover, you just have to pair a set of Bluetooth headphones to the Watch and rock out, leaving your phone behind when you hit the road. Within the Watch app on iPhone, you can select which playlists or podcasts you want to sync—up to 2GB or 250 songs. (This feature is also available on the original Apple Watch, though most people were likely listening to audio from their phone since they were already carrying the phone to get GPS.)

Apps: At this point, only Apple’s Workouts app supports phone-free runs. You get an error message if you try to launch Strava or MapMyRun without your phone connected to the Watch. And, those phone-free workouts are trapped within the Workouts app; currently it appears there’s no way to export or sync those activities to another service like Strava. In short, if you want your workout to show up on Strava or MapMyRun, you still have to run wth your phone.

In general, after one run, we were impressed by the Watch. We’ll take it through several more runs and update this article with our findings.

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 Jeff Dengate is the shoes and gear editor at Runner’s World.