Apple Watch Series 2 proves that fitness is key to smartwatch survival

If you love fitness, then the Apple Watch Series 2 provides much to get excited about. We finally got built-in GPS (no more awkward runs for you, iPhone 7 Plus) and a waterproof design for tracked swimming workouts. There was even a special Nike+ version of the second generation Apple smartwatch as well.

Apple talked up the Series 2’s sporty credentials more than anything else during its unveiling alongside those new phones. We already know the GPS will track multiple sports and is going to being opened up to third party app developers. The new swim tracking should offer up a bunch of useful metrics when you’re in the pool (or the ocean).

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But there was significantly little less chat about the hundreds of watch strap combinations and various Apple Watch models, and the ridiculous 24K Apple Watch Edition was also quietly axed. This time around, Apple created its smartwatch less like a fashion item and more like a sports watch.

Two years ago when the original Apple Watch was unveiled, sport was just part of the story. The focus back then was on multiple editions, notifications, apps, sending primitive cave drawings via Digital Touch and step tracking. Yet tracked workouts were woefully half-baked. The heart rate sensor served up questionable data, run tracking disappointed and Apple didn’t let third party developers use any of its sensors. And we wrote on the Apple Watch’s first birthday that proper fitness smarts were its biggest missed opportunity.

What’s more significant here though is that fitness remains key to wearable success and there’s the data to back it up. Fitness-focused wearables remain the leading light and Apple is clearly seeing this data too. But it’s not just Apple that’s realised this. Only a week ago Samsung announced two versions of its Gear S3 smartwatch adding built-in GPS in both and a host of sensors to give them more sporty appeal.

Pebble is doing something similar adding optical heart rate sensors to its new smartwatches, making a bigger push with the Pebble Health platform and announcing the Pebble Core, its first non-smartwatch that’s firmly aimed at runners. It’s happening with Android Wear as well with the Moto 360 Sport, the Nixon and the Casio smartwatches.

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I’m sure Apple will have also noticed Garmin’s growing presence as well alongside big wearable sellers like Fitbit and Xiaomi. A company with such rich sports tracking heritage is finally starting to get to grips with what it takes to make a good wearable and the numbers are beginning to back that up.

With the original Watch, it felt like Apple was hedging its bets. Trying to cover all the bases but not successfully delivering in any one department. With the Series 2, there feels like there’s a clearer plan of what it wants to achieve with its smartwatch. It still wants to draw you away from your smartphone, but it’s gunning to be your running or gym companion too. Let’s hope this time it can really deliver.