Apple Watch Series 5 Review: The Best Smartwatch Is Now A Better Watch

It’s been more than five years since we saw Apple debut the first Apple Watch and since then the smartwatch recognized as the world’s best has gained features and even saved lives, but the one thing it didn’t always do – show the time. Well, that’s until now.

The Apple Watch Series 5 is the first Apple Watch to always show the time. But the problem is that if you were to put last year’s Series 4 next to this year’s Series 5, you’d hardly notice any differences. The only thing you will notice is that, when the Series 4’s screen goes to sleep after 15 seconds, the Series 5’s screen transitions to a dimmed version of whichever watch face you’re using.

But because the new Series 5 is only marginally better than last year’s Series 4, it does become a hard sell for anyone who doesn’t really care about having to do an exaggerated flick of the wrist everytime they want to see the time. Hence the entire point of this review is to answer two burning questions about the Series 5: Does the new always-on display live up to the hype and is it worth upgrading from an older version.

SEE ALSO: Mi Band 4 Review: A Great Fitness Tracker For You & Your Wallet

Design and Build: Not a lot has changed

The Apple Watch Series 5 is visually unchanged compared to the Series 4. It comes in two case sizes just like the Series 4: 40mm case size or a slightly larger 44mm for those who have larger wrists. The 40mm case which I’m wearing weighs only 30.6 grams (without a strap) and is barely 10.7mm thick. It never gets caught under a shirt cuff, and the case is quite ergonomic, just like it has been since the Series 3.

 

The watch itself comes in an elongated box which once opened, reveals the case and a set of separate Sport Band straps (depends on which one you’ve bought, of course) in long and medium size options. As far as build goes, the case feel delicate but durable, and even the aluminum model, which is the cheapest, feels just as premium as an iPhone would feel. The matte finish silver case, paired here with the white Sport Band, is simple and sleek, but again, that’s something that holds true for the Series 4 as well.

You can go ahead and splash the cash for a stainless steel, titanium or ceramic build, for better brag value, but they will set you back by quite a bit.

Now, if you’re wondering how I’m fine with Apple sticking to this design and not try something drastically is simply because there’s no reason to. Yes, the whole idea of a round Apple Watch is definitely intriguing but that would mean that Apple would have to design WatchOS in a way that doesn’t look odd on older versions. That’s very difficult to do. In fact, the only meaningful way to go from here would be to try and make the case even slimmer and the bezels smaller. Regardless, it’s still the best looking smartwatch other there.

Display: Yes, Always-on-display on a smartwatch does make sense

For what didn’t seem like a big deal otherwise, the always-on display (AOD) on the Series 5 has pretty much changed the way I interact with the Apple Watch throughout most of my day. The screen does more than constantly show the time; it also shows me all my watch face complications. For me, that means I can glance down and see if I have any unread notifications or get a rain update without any effort.

SEE ALSO: Fossil Sport Smartwatch Review: Feels Great, Runs Great, But Is Still Wear OS

If you’ve ever owned an Apple Watch before (or any smartwatch at all actually) you surely know the unwieldy practice of raising your wrist to look at the watch, only for it not to light up. Instead, you lower your wrist and raise it again, and yet nothing happens. Eventually, you tap on the screen or press a button to wake the watch. Well, that changes completely with the Series 5.

 

This is thanks to three fundamental changes Apple has made under the hood: a new LTPO display (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide), a new light sensor, and new display driver. These three components on the Series 5 combine to achieve a dynamically-shifting refresh rate that adapts to the situation.

When the wrist is raised, the watch updates the screen 60 times per second like every previous generation of the Apple Watch. When it’s lowered, the LTPO display shifts to update just once every second — ideal for telling the time. The new ambient light sensor along with the power management circuit and the new driver accordingly adjust the brightness of the display.

Now, Apple claims that despite the fact that the display here stays always on, battery life doesn’t take a hit. While that does theoretically make sense considering the smartwatch is capable of dialing down the refresh rate to 1Hz, I did notice a minor battery tradeoff coming from the Series 4 (more on that later).

Software: Android has nothing on WearOS, but it does need polishing

The Series 5 runs on the newly-released watchOS 6, which is also coming to every other Apple Watch barring the very first version. It brings with it a new Noise app as well as a Cycle Tracking app for women. Apple points out this shouldn’t be used as a benchmark for contraception or fertility, but it is helpful for female wearers wanting to track their period.

The Noise app, meanwhile, turns out, is quite a useful addition from Apple. It will warn you when you’re in a loud environment, and how continued exposure to the sound could damage your hearing.

 

Other new apps include Voice Memos, Calculator and a dedicated app for Audiobooks. For the first time, you can access the Apple Watch app store directly from the device itself. I didn’t find myself using it that often but it’s nice that you no longer have to go through the iPhone if you want to add some functionality.

Despite the vast gulf Apple has been able to create between itself and other smartwatch makers, the Apple Watch Series 5 is not a perfect device. As mentioned, there’s a claimed 18-hour battery life on the Apple Watch and I found that it didn’t even make it this far. But, to be fair, I’m a heavy user.

SEE ALSO: Apple Watch Series 4 Review: So Much More Than A Smartwatch!

Less industrious smartwatches will last you longer simply because they don’t do as much. If you just want to measure your health information and get a few notifications, you can pick up something like a Mi Band 4 or a Fitbit Versa 2 which both have longer batteries.

Battery: AOD does have a bearing on battery but you can turn it off

Since the screen never turns off, it’s understandable that a lot of potential Series 5 buyers will have a concern about battery life. When the Series 5 was announced, Apple stated that it kept the same 18-hour battery life as previous models, and over the past two weeks, I’d say that I did manage to get through a day with roughly 8-14% juice left.

That’s in line with what I’ve experienced on the Series 4 model for the past year, though I’d typically end up with 10% more battery on it.

 

However, I’ve had fellow colleagues complain that battery life is worse, and that getting through a full day of use isn’t possible with AOD turned on. In the end, there are a lot of variables at play here, and let’s be honest, iOS 13 and WatchOS 6 have their fair share of bugs and issues at the moment and I’ve come across a number of them as well.

Hopefully, Apple can figure out what’s causing others to see decreased battery life and fix it in a future update. For me, I appear to fall into the lot who charges their smartwatch overnight but the smartwatch typically does take just about an hour to go from 0-100%.

I do have one issue though and that’s Apple’s continued reliance on a magnetic charging disc to charge the watch. This means that you’ll always need to lug around the additional cable when you travel. Asking for USB-C is a stretch but why not have the same lightning cable that I have for my iPhone charge the Apple Watch?

Pricing and Verdict

It has been around two weeks now, I’ve used the Apple Watch Series 5 in place of my Series 4. Before I started testing, I didn’t expect to notice much of a difference between the two, and for the most part, that’s been the case.

But what I did grossly underestimate though was the impact that the always-on display would have on the overall Apple Watch experience. In fact, as someone who’s quite used to Series 5 now, I’m not sure I can go back.

 

In India, you can buy an entry-level Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS,40mm) for INR 40,900. A larger 44mm size will set you back by INR 43,900. For a Cellular + GPS variant, the price rises to INR 49,900 for a 40mm Series 5 and INR 52,900 for a 44mm Series 5. These prices apply only if you get the smartwatch with a standard Sports Band. You can also now head over to Apple Watch Studio to create your own color combo.

That said, if you’ve been using an Apple Watch Series 4, I don’t see any sense in upgrading, unless you absolutely need the Always-on-display. If you own the Series 3 or older, or if you’re an iPhone user considering your first smartwatch, the Series 5 is an easy recommendation.

On the flipside, if you belong to the Android world though, you will have to switch to an iPhone, else buying an Apple Watch is still downright useless.

Original Source: https://in.mashable.com/tech/7551/apple-watch-series-5-review-the-best-smartwatch-is-now-a-better-watch

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