Apple unveiled the new Apple Watch Series 2 on Wednesday, which boasts useful new features like GPS and water-resistance.
Both are great features to have. GPS will let you track your speed and distance of a workout without tethering the Series 2 to your iPhone, and water-resistance gives you peace of mind that you won’t ruin your expensive new smartwatch at the mere sight of water, which is great for swimmers who want to track their swim.
It’s clear that Apple wants you to think the Series 2 is a veritable fitness device, but it’s missing a key feature: No data connectivity to a cellular network.
The lack of data connectivity leaves a gaping hole in the Apple Watch Series 2’s feature list, especially when you compare it to Samsung’s new Gear S3 Frontier smartwatch, which has LTE connectivity.
- Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
No music streaming
It’s anecdotal, but I very rarely see runners in Central Park without headphones on, and it’s pretty safe to say that music and fitness go hand-in-hand.
Without data connectivity on a smartwatch, you can’t stream music from services like Spotify, which means you’ll still need to bring your relatively bulky iPhone on your workout for music-playing duties.
In fact, you could say the omission of data connectivity in the Series 2 nullifies pretty much any reason for GPS to feature in Apple’s new smartwatches, because fitness folk will still need to tether the Series 2 to their iPhones if they want to listen to music on their workouts. At that point, the Apple Watch Series 2 might as well use your iPhone’s GPS.
Since you’ll probably be tethering the Series 2 to your iPhone anyway, Apple may as well have kept the Series 2’s GPS duties on your iPhone, which would probably give the Series 2 a well-needed boost in battery life considering it has the same poor battery life of the original Apple Watch.
Apple didn’t mention it specifically, but I’m assuming you’ll be able to load music from iTunes onto the Series 2’s storage like you could with the original Apple Watch. Still, there are a lot of people who have fully converted to streaming music over downloading physical music files from iTunes.
Apple Pay also needs a cellular data connection, and the the Series 2 can’t be used for Apple Pay unless you bring your phone.
Apple also doesn’t offer a way to use Apple Pay without a data connection like Samsung does with the non-LTE model of the Gear S3, called the Classic. Samsung lets you make up to five payments with Samsung Pay (which works with more payment terminals than Apple Pay, by the way) on the Gear S3 Classic without an LTE connection. Those payments will sync once you tether the Gear S3 Classic back to your smartphones.
Samsung’s solution means you can leave your wallet behind for your workout, too, as you can buy a drink or anything else you need with any Gear S3 model.
(Apple doesn’t list Apple Pay as a feature you can use with the Apple Watch when your iPhone is not nearby, although some users have confirmed that it is possible. We’ve reached out to Apple for clarification and will update as soon as we hear back).
Apps aren’t that big a deal, as a smartwatch’s tiny screen isn’t really conducive to using apps. But an LTE connection could let you use certain features from an app or service from a smartwatch.
One of the biggest examples of app usage on smartwatches is calling an Uber car to your location with a press of a button, which can be useful, but it’s not a deal-maker.
Essentially, the Apple Watch Series 2 still requires you to bring your smartphone and your wallet on your workout while the Samsung Gear S3 doesn’t. And Samsung is boasting that the Gear S3 smartwatches will support iOS devices, but it’s still unclear when.
At the same time, data connectivity on a smartwatch will require you open a new line with your wireless carrier, which can add an extra $10 per month to your phone depending on your carrier.
Unfortunately, without data connectivity the Apple Watch Series 2 is just a pretty thing you wear on your wrist to get notifications rather than a true smartwatch that lets you actually do things without your smartphone.