Apple Watch Series 2 vs. Series 1 (and original)

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New Atlas compares the little-changed Apple Watch Series 2 (left) with its 2015 predecessor

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The Apple Watch Series 2 is far from a major upgrade over its early 2015 predecessor, as the two smartwatches look nearly identical. There are, however, some key internal changes between the two: Dive in as we compare Apple Watch Series 2 vs. 1.

Size

The two variants of the new Apple Watch have the same face sizes as last year's models, though Series 2 does come in at 9 percent thicker.

Weight

The new models are a little heavier too, but this isn't likely to be noticeable on wrist.

Build

The only build difference between Series 2 and the original Apple Watch is that the Apple Watch Edition, which used to be a US$10,000 luxury for the Beyoncés and Drakes of the world, now trades 18k gold for ceramic, and gets a much less hip-hop-idol-worthy $1,249 starting price.

But new "Series 1" Apple Watch, which is slightly different from the original Apple Watch, is only sold with the aluminum casing.

Band materials

Band compatibility is identical for both watches.

Display size

No changes here this year, as the two Apple Watch sizes keep the same screen sizes.

Display resolution

Ditto for resolution. Standing pat.

Display type

Apple also stuck with OLED display panels in the new model.

Display materials

The entry-level Sport watches still have Ion-X glass displays (similar to Gorilla Glass), while steel and Edition models jump up to sapphire.

Display brightness

Apple says the new Apple Watch's display gets twice as bright (1,000 nits max) as the original's. That could help you to better read your latest iMessage or track your Pokémon Go hunt in bright outdoor settings.

Always-on display

One of the big things helping Apple to keep the Watch's size down may be its reluctance to add an always-on display option, something (usually much bigger) Android watches have been doing for years.

Pressure-sensitive display

The Force Touch feature (that later evolved into 3D Touch on the iPhone) is back in Apple Watch 2.

Water resistance

This is one of the big upgrades in the new Apple Watch, as Series 2 is water-resistant up to 50 m depths – and gets some new software to track swims and surfing.

Standalone cellular

Some earlier rumors had suggested Apple would build 3G or LTE data into the Apple Watch, to let you truly leave your iPhone at home, but that didn't make it into the 2016 model.

GPS

You can, however, leave your phone at home while on jogs, and still track your trek with the Series 2 Watch's built-in GPS.

Battery

Apple is quoting the same "up to 18 hours" estimate in Series 2, despite the addition of GPS.

This explains the slightly thicker and heavier builds in the new models: GPS requires a bigger battery to maintain (allegedly) same battery life.

Chip

The Apple Watch 2 switches to a dual-core chip, from the original's single core, to help speed things up.

But this is another category where "Series 1" differs from the original Apple Watch. The latter had a single core chip, while Series 1 goes dual core.

Heart rate sensor

Like most smartwatches, both series have pulse sensors.

iPhone compatibility

Of course the Apple Watch still works exclusively with iPhones.

Android compatibility

Sorry, Android phone owners, you'll need to pick up something like a Gear S3 if you want a smartwatch to go with your handset.

Nike+ variant

Apple is partnering with Nike for a special model of the Series 2 Apple Watch with Nike branding and a special running app (complete with nags to guilt-trip you into slogging out for a jog).

Software

The original Apple Watch will soon be running the new watchOS 3 that Series 2 will ship with.

Release

The new model launches about a year and a half after the first (and two years after the original Apple Watch was announced).

The asterisk there denotes the fact that the Series 1 Apple Watch is, again, technically a different watch from the original. So to be as technically correct as possible, we'd say Series 1 launched in September of 2016, while the original Apple Watch hit store shelves in April of 2015.

Starting price

The Series 1 Apple Watch has seen numerous price drops at retailers for much of the past year, but now a $100 drop below the new model is official.

Stay tuned for our review of the new Apple Watch – and for a refresher you can hit up our Series 1 review from last year and coverage of watchOS 3.

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