Apple trumps the laptop scene, but is the Apple Watch Series 4 the best smartwatch?
The Apple Watch Series 4 represents the first redesign since the smartwatch’s launch three years ago. Now, it comes in two sizes – 40mm and 44mm. For people like me, who have a stash of Apple Watch bands, don’t worry. The old 38mm watch bands will work with 40mm Series 4 and the 42mm watch bands will work with the 44mm Series 4.
In aluminium or stainless steel cases, all Series 4 models is made of black ceramic and sapphire crystal for improved cellular reception. Aluminium models use Ion-X glass to protect the watch face, while the stainless steel models use the more scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Price: From $599
Case material: Anodised aluminium, stainless steel
Connectivity: Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi or Cellular
Weight: 67g (44mm aluminium case with silicone sport band)
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Details on the Apple Watch Series 4
I reviewed the 44mm space grey aluminium cellular version with the black sport band. Immediately, I noticed that the screens of the Apple Watch Series 4 GPS ($599++) and the Apple Watch Series 4 GPS + Cellular ($749++) are about 30 per cent larger than the ones in Series 3. The watch case is slightly taller and wider, but thinner and smaller in volume. This is achieved through thinner bezels and the screen’s curvature, making it match the shape of the watch. The new Apple Watch Series 4 pieces look sleeker than their predecessors, and my review unit felt great on the wrist.
To fit and fully utilise the larger screen, the user interface and apps were re-designed. Even the text was enlarged, making it easier to read. The menu buttons are also bigger for easier clicking, which is great for when you need to call someone through the smartwatch, a device much smaller than a phone. In addition, some native apps like Maps and Photos go all the way to the edge of the screen to show as much as possible.
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Swiping, tapping and starting apps felt much faster thanks to the new S4 64-bit dual-core processor. It is also needed to display new watch faces like the Infograph, which can feature up to eight complications.
The complications in the corners are also optimised for curved edges to show more information than before. For instance, it will not only show the current temperature but also the day’s temperature range using a curved line. Other interesting watch faces include Vapor, which displays dynamic animations when lit up. The downside? Apple still does not support third-party watch faces.
The Digital Crown now comes with haptic feedback for a more mechanical and responsive feel. I felt the incremental clicks as I scrolled with the crown, which is unlike the lifeless scrolling action of previous Apple Watches. The menu interface changed as I clicked the crown – a neat touch.
Speaker volume is now 50 per cent louder and according to friends I called using the watch, crystal clear even when I was talking while walking along the road.
One of the best features in Series 4 has to be the improved heart rate monitor. Apple has added a new electrical heart sensor, made up of electrodes that are built into the Digital Crown and the back’s sapphire crystal, to complement its existing optical heart rate sensor. The enhancements allow the watch to detect atrial fibrillation or irregular heart rhythms. In addition to that, the electrical heart sensor is capable of taking an electrocardiogram (ECG) using the ECG app. Both features will only be available at a later date.
In the meantime, we have the fall detection feature. “Falls can have serious effects, so we designed this feature to automatically connect users to emergency services when Apple Watch detects a hard fall,” Mr Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, told The Straits Times.
It can be enabled through the Watch app on your iPhone, and it is automatically enabled for users over the age of 65. If you are stationary for more than a minute after a fall, the watch will automatically contact emergency services. Putting it to the test, I tried falling back on a bed and diving on a sofa to simulate a fall. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I think the impact was not great enough for it to register my attempts as falls. Guess I’m no Neymar.
With the new watchOS 5 software, there is an automatic workout tracking for all Apple Watches. When I tried this feature with the Series 4, I found that the automatic tracking started a mere 7 seconds after I started running. Commendable, but with this automatic feature turned on, the watch logged an extra 400m more for my usual 5km jogging route. Distance tracking was spot-on when I turned on the outdoor run workout mode before starting my jog, though. In terms of steps tracking, my Series 4’s non calibrated readings were very close to my calibrated Series 2 watch, with a difference of only 2 per cent.
Battery life: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5
Apple states that the watch’s battery life can last a whole day. For me, I paired the watch to my phone all day with notifications turned on and threw in a 5km jog thrown, but I had 60 per cent battery life left when I put it to charge at bed time. The Apple Watch Series 4 cements Apple’s dominance in the smartwatch arena with its sleek design, useful health features and superb performance. It is undoubtedly the best smartwatch in the market.
A version of this article first appeared on www.straitstimes.com