Apple Watch 1st gen vs. Series 2 - Performance

One of the reasons why the 1st generation (Gen 1) Apple Watch felt limited was due to its noticeably slow performance. App performance, especially the 3rd party ones, was sluggish enough that I eventually gave up making much use of them. The watchOS 3 update has implemented a lot of optimizations that alleviate the problem, but it couldn't hide the fact that the CPU simply was underpowered. Apple Watch Series 2 aimed to fix this by putting a CPU twice as powerful. Let's see if it worked out. First up is the boot speed. All tests were done with watchOS 3.0 installed.

Apple Watch Boot Time / Gen 1: 02:04.5s / Series 2: 01:42.0s
Compared to iPhones or modern computers, Apple Watches are notoriously slow to boot up. Gen 1 still takes more than two minutes and while Series 2 is faster, it isn't significantly so. Fortunately, you won't need to reboot it often, so it's a minor annoyance at best. If you want to see the boot speed in real time, here's the boring video.


Once booted, things become better. I could instinctively feel that Series 2 was faster and more responsive than Gen 1, not to mention the animation being slightly more fluid. All this isn't immediately quantifiable, so I decided to see how fast the 3rd party apps load and respond with side-by-side comparison. All apps were force-closed first, because in watchOS 3, previously opened apps usually load back instantly.

Apple Watch App Speed (value in seconds) / Gen 1| Series 2 / PCalc Lite: 4.70|2.87 / Vidgets: 4.13|2.33 / BBC News (Launch): 5.17|3.17 / (View): 1.43|0.73 / CNN News (Launch): 9.83|4.87 / (View): 8.60|1.93 / AroundMe (Launch): 4.77|4.17 / (View): 9.93|8.30
In general, the apps load and work nearly twice as fast in Series 2 compared to Gen 1. The difference is especially big enough that even the slowest apps are now in the "usable" territory and lessening the need for me to see the full-version app on the phone. You may notice that AroundMe's performance didn't improve much, but this may largely be due to the way the app relies on the data coming from the servers based on the GPS coordinates. Here is the video showing the comparative testing in action.


The results more or less explain why Apple decided to discontinue Gen 1 Apple Watches and put out "Series 1" in its place. Series 1 is identical to Gen 1 except for the having the same CPU as the Series 2. It made no sense to subject new customers to the slow Apple Watch experience at this point. If you were holding out until Series 2 came out, good for you.
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