Let me give you some context before I begin on this article, I’ve been a huge Apple Watch fan myself. I couldn’t wait for the Apple Watch to be released, I even made a few Leaks & Rumors episodes on the “iWatch”, way before it even got announced.
I then used the original for a year, the Series 2 for two years, the Series 3 for three weeks as I ended up returning it since the improvements weren’t big enough from the Series 2. I then used the Series 4 for a year and now I’ve got the Series 5.
But rather than just doing a usual review of the Series 5, I want to to talk about my entire Apple Watch experience in general
So get those snacks and drinks ready and here are the five main roles of the Apple Watch for me!
So starting off the Apple Watch is essentially a smartphone attached to your wrist. I have the Series 5 with Cellular support which means that it’s always connected even when you’re not on WiFi or close to you iPhone. I can make or receive phone calls, I can navigate maps, I can check my emails and constantly get notified whenever I get any new messages on social media.
Really, aside from a Camera, the Apple Watch is a full fledged smartphone attached to your wrist. Especially now with watchOS 6, we have a the full Apple Watch App store directly on the Apple Watch, so you no longer need your iPhone to download apps to it as you can do it directly from the watch itself.
However, even though it has pretty much all the functionality that a smartphone has, it is not a smartphone replacement, as you do need an iPhone to set it up and it does not work on Android in any way.
In my case, I did end up leaving my iPhone behind quite a few times when I would go out and just take my Apple Watch. I actually felt even more connected with the real world, because I didn’t have a display to constantly check, yet still getting important notifications and the ability to make a phone call, in case of an emergency.
The only thing that I felt I was missing from having my iPhone with me, was the camera, but aside from that, this a smartphone attached to your wrist.
I use the phrase loosely but the Series 5, just like Series 4 before it, features the 2nd generation Heart Rate monitor, which is faster and more reliable than the 1st generation that the first three Apple Watches had.
Your heart rate is measured every few minutes and constantly, whenever you’re doing a workout. On top of this, the Series 4 and 5 can also take your ECG (Electrocardiogram), you know that graph that shows you exactly how your heart beats, yeah that one!
And according to multiple tests and studies the HR monitor and ECG Meter are as accurate as the actual medical devices used in hospitals which is very impressive. Now, there are now some other smartwatches that can do this, some hybrid watches from Withings and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, but the Apple Watch was the first one to have this functionality with the Series 4.
And there are a few more things that the Series 5 can do.
The Series 4 for example had something called ‘Fall Detection’, where if you fell over and didn’t move, it would automatically call the emergency services. This is extremely useful and in some cases it even save some lives. There were quite a few articles of incidents like this happening. The same thing applies to the ECG meter. The Apple Watch can detect Atrial Fibrillation, which is a heart condition that cases an irregular and abnormally fast heart rate. Quite a few users have reported that after the Apple Watch gave them the message that Atrial Fibrillation was detected in their heart they went to the doctor who immediately ran some tests on the patients and found that they needed immediate surgery. And this ended up saving their lives.
So the Apple Watch can actually save lives just on its own, which is something that regular tech devices don’t usually do.
Now, the Series 5 did actually get a big improvement over the Series 4’s life saving capabilities and you can now make SOS calls even outside of the country that you bought it from. With the Series 4, it only had cellular antennas for the country that you bought it from, which meant that if you were using it in a different country roaming wouldn’t work at all. But with the Series 5 is does work for SOS calls only! So now if you’re on holiday in Spain or somewhere and you fall or get injured, your Apple Watch will automatically call the local emergency services!
Something else that was added to the Series 5 was a built-in compass. This is something that we’ve had on smartphones since the iPhone 3Gs came out in 2009 10 years ago, but this is the first time we’ve had it on the Apple Watch. What this does is that it allows you to see the direction that you’re facing, compared to magnetic north. In Maps you can now see the exact direction that you’re facing, which is extremely useful if you do use the Apple Watch to quickly navigate the streets. In addition you can also have the separate compass app, which is again very useful for when you’re outdoors, and let’s say you maybe get lost and you have no cellular signal this can help you get back on your track.
The third main role of the Apple Watch is being your personal Gym Coach.
You have the famous activity ring, where the Blue ring represents the time you stood up, the red ring represents how much movement you did during the day, while the yellow ring represents the actual workouts and heavy duty exercises that you’ve done during the day. The idea is that you fill all three, every day, in order to stay in shape and be healthy. You do get achievements for completing these, so the Apple Watch always tries to keep you motivated.
Then when you do go to the gym, you do have a built-in dedicated workouts app that has a ton of different workouts to choose from, from running, to walking, cycling, and then you can even add some more specific ones such as Tennis or American Football. The Apple Watch will even sync up with some gym equipment in order to save the data from those running speeds and distances, for example, onto the Watch. Once you’re in a workout it will constantly track your HR, the amount of calories you’ve burnt and you can easily go to your favourite songs by swiping left and right to play some music.
Speaking of music, the Apple Watch will connect to your Bluetooth headphones, no matter which ones you have, so you don’t need to have AirPods by the way. Although the AirPods with this is fire!
Also even if you do not have the cellular model of the Apple Watch, you can in fact download music directly onto your Apple Watch for offline playback. You can easily do this from the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, and the Series 5 also has 32GB of internal storage up from 16GB on the Series 4, so now you can store twice the number of songs.
Something else which is useful when it comes to exercise and the Apple Watches is that starting from the Series 2, all Apple Watches are now water resistant up to 50M of depth. This means you can easily take them swimming, even diving. I’ve had them in sea water and they were absolutely fine! Before you go into the water you activate the water mode or the swimming workout in the workouts app, and then when you get out of the water you rotate the crown and the Apple Watch will make a noise and eject the water that got inside, really cool stuff!
So the Apple Watch is perfect for swimming and doing any outdoor or indoor activities. But with the built-in GPS and cellular, this is also the perfect device to carry around you for when you’re running.
Now one of my favourite features of the Apple Watch is that you can really make it your own. Which funnily enough is quite the opposite of what Apple stands for. Apple has usually been the company that offered one All-In-One Desktop design, one laptop design, one phone design and one tablet design.
But recently they’ve started becoming more accepting to the fact that everyone wants a slightly different thing. So we now have three iMac models to choose from, two sizes for the regular one and the iMac Pro which unfortunately, aside from the colour, the design is identical. There are also two laptop choices now the MacBook Pro and the Air, each in multiple colours, and two different sizes for the Pro. We now have four iPhones to choose from, again each in multiple colour options, and even multiple sizes in the case of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 11 Pro. And finally we also have four different iPads to choose from now, each in multiple colours and even 2 sizes for the iPad Pro.
So Apple’s finally offering us more and more choice. But really, there is no other Apple product that offers more choice than the Apple Watch does.
First off you choose the size, 40mm or 44mm case. Then you choose the material that that case is made from, and here you have four materials; Aluminium, Stainless Steel, Titanium and Ceramic. And the first 3 even come in multiple colours to chose from. Aluminium comes in Silver, Space Grey and Gold. Stainless Steel comes in Silver, Space Black and Gold and Titanium comes in Regular and Space Black.
The Titanium is the brand new casing material now and it’s a bit of an odd one because it’s more expensive than the Stainless Steel models are but it sits right in between the Aluminium and the Stainless Steel model, when it comes to looks and feels. It is lighter than the Stainless Steel model is, but slightly heavier than the Aluminium. For example, for the 44mm model, the Aluminium weighs 36.5g, the Titanium is 41.7g and the Stainless Steel is 47.8g. Personally I couldn’t really tell that much of a different between the two in terms of weight. Even when it comes to the texture, the Titanium one looks closer to the Aluminium than to the Stainless Steel. The Stainlesss Steel has this glossy and in my opinion more premium look to it, so the black stainless steel is my favourite Apple Watch case.
But like I said, you do have nine different case colours and materials to chose from, so you get plenty of choice.
And then you have the bands. So not only are the bands fully compatible with every generation of the Apple Watch ever released but Apple offers eight different bands to choose from, each with multiple colour options which Apple also refreshes every few months or so. But even if you don’t like Apple’s selection that’s fine, you don’t even have to stick with Apple’s own bands. There are many other 3rd party options that not only offer better quality that Apple’s own bands, but also an even larger selection, such as BandWerk.
And finally the 5th big feature for me, when it comes to the Apple Watch is that it’s the a very good time keeper. You get thirty one Watch Faces to choose from, with more and more being added in every watchOS update, which is in September every year. Not only that, but whenever you select a watch face, you can customise it even more. You can change the style of it, the size of the actual clock on some of them, the colour of the second hand, there is just a ton you can do with them
On top of this you can even add complications, which are basically widgets onto the watch faces themselves, to get not just quicker access to things such as workouts or music, but also have more information displayed on the watch face. Other things you can get are things like when it is going to rain, the UV Index, Podcasts, pretty much anything you want. And yes, you can even add complications for the 3rd party apps that you have installed, so the selection here is just massive!
Now the Series 5 did finally add something quite big in terms of keeping time, and that is an Always On Display. Now, there is a lot of fuss about this, however Android smartwatches have had this for many years now so it’s nothing new for a smartwatch, but it Is definitely new for the Apple Watch. The way it works is that when you’re putting the Apple Watch to sleep manually or it just goes to sleep by itself the display won’t turn off anymore, instead it will still show you the watch-face, just with a lower brightness. Also, if you have a bright watch face, with lots of colour and white accents, your watch face will slightly change and the animations will be turned off, in the Always-On Display. Apple did include an LTPO display or a low power display in this Apple Watch to make the Always-On Display possible, but what Apple didn’t mention is that the Series 4 also had this very same display technology.
So then why don’t we have an Always-On-Display in the Apple Watch Series 4?
Well the Series 4 lacks the new display controller that allows the Series 5 to dynamically adjust the refresh rate from 60Hz down to just 1Hz. This means that when you’re not using it, in Always-On mode, the Apple Watch will refresh its display every second, rather than 60 time a second, like it normally does, and this does help conserve batter life.
Speaking of the battery life, at the end of the day with my Series 4 I had about 60% battery life left which was nuts! This meant that in quite a few cases, I even used my Apple Watch for two days straight without charging it. With the Series 5 however, with the Always-On Display on, in my first few days I only had about 15% left at the end of the day which was quite bad. That was without me even going to workout, because if I did that, especially with GPS and cellular turned on, it would’ve died on me mid-day.
However, after about 1-2 weeks of use the battery life started improving considerably. So now, I actually end up the day with about 50% batter left. Still not as good as my Series 4 was, but much much better than my Series 5 was in the first few days.
So if you’re experiencing issues with the battery life, just use it for a few days until all the files get indexed, and it will improve.
Ok, so in the end…should you get an Apple Watch Series 5?
Well, if you already have a Series 4 – absolutely not. You’re just getting an always on display and a compass which you’ll probably never use, so it’s just not worth it for that.
But if you have a Series 3 or earlier – the Series 5 is a very VERY good upgrade.
Not only are you getting a brand new design, a larger display, but you also get the ECG meter, an improved HR monitor, fall detection, a much faster processor which the Series 5 also has btw – yes the Series 4 and 5 have the exact same processor.
And you’re also getting the always on display.
Now if you don’t have an Apple Watch at all, again the Series 5 is a very strong choice since now we finally have that always on display that many android smartphones have had.
But if you don’t need one right away, the Series 6 will very likely come with a brand new design, next September.