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Apple Watch Series 5 review New look with always-on display

, by Sugumar, 8 min reading time

With the Apple Watch Series 5, Apples smartwatch has finally hit its stride. Series 4 was a big leap from Series 3 as far as features are concerned. While Apple Watch Series 3 added a cellular connection, Series 4 added an ECG monitor that can literally save your life. This has redefined the role of the smartwatch altogether. Series 5 has added a few features.The always-on display keeps the watch screen always active, and you do not need face-recognition or fingerprint to switch it on every time you want to access the watch. There is a compass to give you direction and a Noise app to check if the noise level in your surroundings is healthy for you. Other than these major features, Series 5 has focussed more on subtle improvements rather than bringing in many new features. We will navigate you through the features of Series 5 based on our testing, experience and comparison with other devices in the market.Design and display Series 5 has not made any changes in its size and display compared to Series 4. It has the same 40mm and 44mm cases. Series 4 and Series 5 cannot be differentiated much as far as the overall design is concerned. The difference comes in the materials and colours to choose from.The titanium finish that comes in black or grey and is lighter than the stainless steel. This is an addition to Series 5. The price of the titanium finish smartwatch is higher and it costs $100 more. Series 5 also has ceramic cases like Series 4 and it costs $1,299. The cheapest Series 5 that you can buy is the GPS-only aluminium case which costs $399. Other than ceramic and titanium options, there are leather bands and Milanese gold bands as well. With every model, you can choose between GPS-only and GPS+cellular variants. The GPS+cellular model will cost more and starts at $499.Apple gives you the option to customize your watch with your choice of band. Apples partnership with Nike and Herms offers bespoke bands and watch faces once again. If you want an Apple Watch but can compromise on some of the latest features, the Series 3 is the cheapest that starts at $199. You will not miss much with Series 3 at hand. That is a smart move from Apple and gives a tough time for its competitors.The new feature in Series 5, always-on screen is made possible by the new technology -- Low Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide display which is abbreviated as LPTO. This display will reduce the loss of battery power by reducing the refresh rate. This display in fact gives a feeling that Series 5 is more like a watch and less like a computer. That is you can see the time on the dial like a real watch, not having to switch it on every time to check the time. When your wrist is down or if the screen is covered with a hand, the display will become dim and certain animations on the screen like second hand will be stopped.According to Apple. This reduces the refresh rate from 60Hz to 1Hz. If an always-on display is not inspiring you enough to upgrade to Series 5 from Series 3 or 4, we recommend you to hold on for Series 6. Apple has improvised its own apps to make use of the always-on screen. In the Workout app, information like seconds disappears for a simpler display. The apps that have nothing to do with an always-on display will fade away to give an overlay of a digital clock. Features and Watch OS6 The new operating system, Watch OS 6 is also out and all the Apple Watch Series, except Series 1 can be updated with Watch OS 6.The Series 5 has an exclusive feature, compass, as a separate app. It can show you the direction your Apple Watch is pointing, your current location, and the elevation. It works even when you do not have Wi-Fi or a cellular connection. It has a red cone that surrounds the compass needle which shows you the accuracy of the reading. A narrow cone indicates better accuracy than a wider cone. But Apple's Leather Loop, Milanese Loop, and earlier Sport Loop watch bands use magnets or magnetic material that interferes with the Apple Watch compass.Read more on that here. Compass is a feature most helpful for trekkers to know the direction. The SOS function of Series 5 has improved which lets you call the emergency services in the specific country you are in. This feature is available in GPS+cellular version and connects you with the appropriate first responders.Apples new noise app monitors the sound in your surroundings and notifies you if the noise level is damaging to your ears. During our testing, it warned us at two instances -- one on the dance floor and the other in the shower where water would have hit the mic directly.WatchOS 6 brings in an app to Apple Watch to track the menstrual cycle. The app is capable of predicting both the period and fertility windows. The details will not be displayed in a complication though. There are many watch faces and an App Store within the watch which are steps taken for the freedom of Apple Watch from iPhone. This means if you have a cellular model you can directly download apps directly into your smartwatch rather than installing it in your iPhone first. Or if you have a GPS only model, when the watch is connected to your phone you can again directly install apps in your watch.You can search for the app using dictation or by scribbling words in one letter at a time. The disadvantage is that Apple has removed the App Store from within the Watch iOS app and therefore the only way to browse is on your wrist. This is a move to build Watch apps that run independently from an iPhone app but with the pain of browsing on a tiny watch screen. For more details on the new software, check out our full watchOS 6 guides. Heart Rate and GPSThe heart rate feature is not too different from Series 4. Simultaneous tests on a chest strap and a Series 5 heart rate monitor proved that the performance of the optical sensor of the Apple Watch was similar to that of a Garmin chest strap. The heart rate tracker does a good job overall and our tests could not find any fault with the results.However, the Apple Watch failed, just like every other optical device, to give accurate results in HIIT sessions where sharp rises in heart rate had to be measured, and especially when arm flexes are involved. However, the heart rate analysis is much better, and you can review workouts in the Activity app on your iPhone. Its not as easy to explore the data as in the Garmin Connect. There is also some cryptic data about heart rate recovery, and it wasnt really clear how to read it.Apple Health app has VO2 Max data which is not new to Series 5. The VO2 Max results in Series 5 gave a lower value, 42ml/kg/min, than expected and in comparison with the values from Garmin Fenix 5S (49ml/kg/min). Garmin Fenix 5S is found to be most accurate against the test. The resting heart rate averaged to 49 which is almost the same as that seen in both Fitbit, Garmin and chest strap readings.Overall, the Apple Watch has a good optical heart rate sensor except for the HIIT sessions where you may need a chest strap for more accurate data. The distance measurement of the Apple Watch Series 5 has good accuracy. The Series 5 connects to the GPS of your iPhone by default, if it is present. If the device is in a location with the poor GPS signal, the results might be inaccurate. To overcome this, the Apple Watch will learn your gait and calculate your pace. But it may take a few runs to build up.So there may be some distancing issues in your first couple of runs, but our Apple Watch Series 5 quickly became a decent GPS and running companion as witnessed in our marathon test. We have completed numerous accredited races, each tracked perfectly. Battery Life Just like Series 4, the battery life of Series 5 is claimed to be 18 hours. Even though Apple claims that the battery life of the watch remains the same with the always-on display turned off or on, our tests proved that there is a ten percent reduction in battery life with the always-on display turned on. It will still last a full day on moderate use and can extend to one and a half days with lesser use.

With the Apple Watch Series 5, Apples smartwatch has finally hit its stride. Series 4 was a big leap from Series 3 as far as features are concerned. While Apple Watch Series 3 added a cellular connection, Series 4 added an ECG monitor that can literally save your life. This has redefined the role of the smartwatch altogether. Series 5 has added a few features.The always-on display keeps the watch screen always active, and you do not need face-recognition or fingerprint to switch it on every time you want to access the watch. There is a compass to give you direction and a Noise app to check if the noise level in your surroundings is healthy for you. Other than these major features, Series 5 has focussed more on subtle improvements rather than bringing in many new features. We will navigate you through the features of Series 5 based on our testing, experience and comparison with other devices in the market.Design and display Series 5 has not made any changes in its size and display compared to Series 4. It has the same 40mm and 44mm cases. Series 4 and Series 5 cannot be differentiated much as far as the overall design is concerned. The difference comes in the materials and colours to choose from.The titanium finish that comes in black or grey and is lighter than the stainless steel. This is an addition to Series 5. The price of the titanium finish smartwatch is higher and it costs $100 more. Series 5 also has ceramic cases like Series 4 and it costs $1,299. The cheapest Series 5 that you can buy is the GPS-only aluminium case which costs $399. Other than ceramic and titanium options, there are leather bands and Milanese gold bands as well. With every model, you can choose between GPS-only and GPS+cellular variants. The GPS+cellular model will cost more and starts at $499.Apple gives you the option to customize your watch with your choice of band. Apples partnership with Nike and Herms offers bespoke bands and watch faces once again. If you want an Apple Watch but can compromise on some of the latest features, the Series 3 is the cheapest that starts at $199. You will not miss much with Series 3 at hand. That is a smart move from Apple and gives a tough time for its competitors.The new feature in Series 5, always-on screen is made possible by the new technology -- Low Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide display which is abbreviated as LPTO. This display will reduce the loss of battery power by reducing the refresh rate. This display in fact gives a feeling that Series 5 is more like a watch and less like a computer. That is you can see the time on the dial like a real watch, not having to switch it on every time to check the time. When your wrist is down or if the screen is covered with a hand, the display will become dim and certain animations on the screen like second hand will be stopped.According to Apple. This reduces the refresh rate from 60Hz to 1Hz. If an always-on display is not inspiring you enough to upgrade to Series 5 from Series 3 or 4, we recommend you to hold on for Series 6. Apple has improvised its own apps to make use of the always-on screen. In the Workout app, information like seconds disappears for a simpler display. The apps that have nothing to do with an always-on display will fade away to give an overlay of a digital clock. Features and Watch OS6 The new operating system, Watch OS 6 is also out and all the Apple Watch Series, except Series 1 can be updated with Watch OS 6.The Series 5 has an exclusive feature, compass, as a separate app. It can show you the direction your Apple Watch is pointing, your current location, and the elevation. It works even when you do not have Wi-Fi or a cellular connection. It has a red cone that surrounds the compass needle which shows you the accuracy of the reading. A narrow cone indicates better accuracy than a wider cone. But Apple's Leather Loop, Milanese Loop, and earlier Sport Loop watch bands use magnets or magnetic material that interferes with the Apple Watch compass.Read more on that here. Compass is a feature most helpful for trekkers to know the direction. The SOS function of Series 5 has improved which lets you call the emergency services in the specific country you are in. This feature is available in GPS+cellular version and connects you with the appropriate first responders.Apples new noise app monitors the sound in your surroundings and notifies you if the noise level is damaging to your ears. During our testing, it warned us at two instances -- one on the dance floor and the other in the shower where water would have hit the mic directly.WatchOS 6 brings in an app to Apple Watch to track the menstrual cycle. The app is capable of predicting both the period and fertility windows. The details will not be displayed in a complication though. There are many watch faces and an App Store within the watch which are steps taken for the freedom of Apple Watch from iPhone. This means if you have a cellular model you can directly download apps directly into your smartwatch rather than installing it in your iPhone first. Or if you have a GPS only model, when the watch is connected to your phone you can again directly install apps in your watch.You can search for the app using dictation or by scribbling words in one letter at a time. The disadvantage is that Apple has removed the App Store from within the Watch iOS app and therefore the only way to browse is on your wrist. This is a move to build Watch apps that run independently from an iPhone app but with the pain of browsing on a tiny watch screen. For more details on the new software, check out our full watchOS 6 guides. Heart Rate and GPSThe heart rate feature is not too different from Series 4. Simultaneous tests on a chest strap and a Series 5 heart rate monitor proved that the performance of the optical sensor of the Apple Watch was similar to that of a Garmin chest strap. The heart rate tracker does a good job overall and our tests could not find any fault with the results.However, the Apple Watch failed, just like every other optical device, to give accurate results in HIIT sessions where sharp rises in heart rate had to be measured, and especially when arm flexes are involved. However, the heart rate analysis is much better, and you can review workouts in the Activity app on your iPhone. Its not as easy to explore the data as in the Garmin Connect. There is also some cryptic data about heart rate recovery, and it wasnt really clear how to read it.Apple Health app has VO2 Max data which is not new to Series 5. The VO2 Max results in Series 5 gave a lower value, 42ml/kg/min, than expected and in comparison with the values from Garmin Fenix 5S (49ml/kg/min). Garmin Fenix 5S is found to be most accurate against the test. The resting heart rate averaged to 49 which is almost the same as that seen in both Fitbit, Garmin and chest strap readings.Overall, the Apple Watch has a good optical heart rate sensor except for the HIIT sessions where you may need a chest strap for more accurate data. The distance measurement of the Apple Watch Series 5 has good accuracy. The Series 5 connects to the GPS of your iPhone by default, if it is present. If the device is in a location with the poor GPS signal, the results might be inaccurate. To overcome this, the Apple Watch will learn your gait and calculate your pace. But it may take a few runs to build up.So there may be some distancing issues in your first couple of runs, but our Apple Watch Series 5 quickly became a decent GPS and running companion as witnessed in our marathon test. We have completed numerous accredited races, each tracked perfectly. Battery Life Just like Series 4, the battery life of Series 5 is claimed to be 18 hours. Even though Apple claims that the battery life of the watch remains the same with the always-on display turned off or on, our tests proved that there is a ten percent reduction in battery life with the always-on display turned on. It will still last a full day on moderate use and can extend to one and a half days with lesser use.


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