Apple’s latest smartwatch remains one of the best on the market
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4
DESIGN AND FEEL
Instead of 38mm and 42mm heights, you have 40mm and 44mm versions, with bigger screens that nearly reach the edges (it’s very iPhone XS, just without the notch).
The Series 4 is also a tad thinner, meaning that the overall volume of the Watch has decreased. We have the 44mm version, which does feel a little different on the wrist compared to the 42mm Series 3.
The extra width and height is noticeable on a device you’re used to looking at day after day. On thinner wrists, it can tip it over into feeling maybe even too chunky. Given that the screen on the smaller 40mm model is actually larger than the one on the old bigger 42mm model, we think some people who previously went for the extra readability of the bigger screen might prefer to stick to the smaller model this time.
The change in thinness is only a tiny amount (not even a millimetre), but the new Watch does feel less hefty when you bend your wrist. We think Apple may have changed the curve of the Watch’s rear at the same time as thinning it, giving your skin a little more room to manouevre before it hits the case. The difference is subtle, but noticeable – this is good for sports.
As part of the changes to the back, the entire underside is now ceramic, instead of just the heart-rate sensor. This is great in terms of making it as hypoallergenic as possible, and with the new extremely sci-fi-styled heart sensor, looks pretty badass. Not that you’ll ever really see it. It feels the same as before – very comfortable.
Unlike the majority of other wearables on the market, the Apple Watch 4 retains the square display that debuted on the first-gen model. While not to everyone’s taste, we like it, and often find that circular smartwatches try too hard to mimic traditional mechanical watches and end up looking a bit odd. Nevertheless, while it’s not exactly edge-to-edge as some have claimed, it’s definitely more rounded than previous iterations, giving the impression of a more curved timepiece without losing the benefit of the square display.
Best of all, though, is that the Apple Watch 4’s OLED screen now comes in two new slightly larger sizes of 40mm and 44mm versus the 42mm and 38mm offerings of the third-gen device, making it more than 30 per cent larger, while still shrinking in thickness.
Strap and fit
We’ve been reviewing the 44mm Apple Watch with the standard silicon strap in space grey, which wraps around the wrist with a button clasp. It’s super smooth and comfortable, and above all else, it’s the same strap size as previous models, meaning those upgrading to the Series 4 won’t need to buy all new straps.
Setting up the Apple Watch is incredibly easy, as long as you have an iPhone 6S (or newer) running iOS 12 (or later). Switch Bluetooth on, open the app, scan the face of the Apple Watch using your iPhone’s camera, and you’re pretty much done.
Your iPhone will then ask for a few details – such as your Apple ID, whether you’ll be wearing the Apple Watch on your left or right wrist, which apps you want to install on your smartwatch, and whether you want to set up a passcode – which you definitely should do.
After this, the two devices will sync – a process that took around two minutes during our attempt.
Software and new features
One of the biggest features Apple touted when it unveiled the Apple Watch Series 4 was the electrocardiogram feature (ECG), so you can regularly check on your ticker with the press of a button, without a visit to the hospital.
However, the feature isn’t even enabled in the US yet and it’ll be a while before it reaches the rest of the world, so we aren’t able to test it just yet.
The Series 4 also has some new sensor tech. Boasting a new gyroscope and accelerometer, these give the watch more sensitivity to track your activities precisely. An advantage of this means Apple has been able to introduce fall detection, which is enabled automatically if you’re aged 65 or older and will alert authorities if it detects you’ve fallen and haven’t moved since.
While we couldn’t really fully test most of the brand new features yet, we were able to put the watch through its paces when working out. A new fitness feature is the tracking of hiking and yoga in addition to the run, swim, bike, walk and the rest of them.
We gave the new yoga tracking a test at a class, and found it super simple to operate before and after exercise, being discreet during the workout so as not to disturb anyone else around us and also offering vital health data like heart rate and minutes elapsed. At the end of the workout, it’s really easy to select finish and you immediately get a rundown of how you performed, or in this case, how many calories were burnt during the elapsed workout time.
Performance and battery life
Under the hood, the Watch 4 comes with Apple’s new S4 chipset that sports a dual-core 64-bit processor and new GPU to be two times faster than the old S3 chip. So that means more effective data collection, including sucking up an accelerometer and gyroscopic info.
We’ve noticed no issues in terms of swiping through screens or firing open apps, as you’d expect from an Apple device. Everything is super fast and fluid. It’s really a delight to use.
However, while the feature-set on the watch has been vastly improved over the years, battery life is one thing that’s remained the same: at two days and a bit. After a day of using it perhaps far too much, the Apple Watch has used around half of its battery. One the days that we don’t use its features as much, we able to squeeze another half a day out of the watch.
- Larger display, slimmer chassis, gorgeous design, lightweight, smooth performance and navigation
- Pricey, battery life still only 2 days, won’t track sleep natively, no always-on display option
All in all, the Apple Watch Series 4 is a very impressive bit of kit. Not only is it able to accurately track a host of workouts – being intuitive and a pleasure to use throughout – but it is also a beautiful and super premium lifestyle device. More and more popular iPhone apps are becoming available on the Watch, and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
All the negatives highlighted, such as the no always-on display option, the lack of sleep tracking and the high price-tag, aren’t huge negatives, and are more like little niggles.
It’d be hard to see how Apple improve on the Series 4, but we’re sure they will, somehow. For now though, it remains one of the best smartwatches on the market.