Apple Watch Series 4 Review: It Dominates The Market.
, by Nams, 14 min reading time
While other companies are still trying hard to understand the form-factor of a smartwatch, the Apple Watch keeps marching forward and surprises everyone with technological innovations every time.The Apple Watch Series 4 has arrived on the market with features that can even save the life of its users. The Series 4 is a big leap for the Apple Watch with changes that its previous models have not seen since 2014. It is after four years and five watchOS operating systems later that a change in design and features has been introduced to the Apple Watch.The Apple Watch dominates the market now and the Series 4 sets the standard direction for the smartwatches to sail on. With the introduction of cellular, fitness and health features included, it is a device worth knowing and owning.
Apple Watch Series 4: Key features
- 40 and 44mm case sizes
- Edge-to-edge display
- 18 hours battery of life
- Built-in GPS
- Apple Pay
- Compatible only with iPhone
Apple Watch Series 4: Design
The Series 4 has a new screen size and has changed from 38mm and 42mm to 40mm and 44mm. The change in millimeter-scale is a big deal for a watch. The loss of that huge black gap throughout the edge of the watch screen has made the Series 4 look more handsome.The new steep corners give it a less boxy look. The slimmer 44mm case size does not look too large on big wrists. For those with slim wrists, the 40mm option is a wiser choice. But it is unfortunate that the 38mm case is not available anymore. Even though the slimmer build of the 40mm gives it a compact look, the 38mm version was unique to the world of smartwatches. However, it is still available with the Series 3.However, the usability of 40mm is more compared to the cramped 38mm screen. The 40 and 44mm versions have 32 to 35% more screen size with an edge-to-edge screen.
The newly added features in Series 4 can take advantage of this larger screen space. That is, with the introduction of cellular and heart data, the interaction required with the watch is more than before.The new Infograph watch face supports eight complications to provide a variety of information on the screen. The Series 4 is designed to display as much information as possible on that tiny screen space. It is a reminder of how the use case has evolved over time, for the Apple Watch. You can choose from the various watch faces available. If you love the simple design, there are Fire and Water watch faces. If you are looking for a lot of details on the screen like weather, important contacts, activity rings or air quality, then you can choose the Infographic watch face.The Infographic watch face is pretty impressive. The improved speaker is yet another great inclusion; it is louder and clearer so you no longer have to press the watch to your ears to listen.
Apple Watch Series 4: Features
A few functionalities of the previous Apple Watches are packed in Series 4 as well. Features like notifications, sports and fitness tracking, LTE cellular for the LTE model of Series 4 and Apple Pay are carried on to this smartwatch.The LTE experience in Series 3 has been a smooth one ever since the issues it faced initially were resolved. The new operating system, watchOS 5 has brought with it many changes.However, this OS is not exclusive to Series 4 but for all the other Apple Watches irrespective of the model. We have not been able to test the Fall sensor as it is not picking up purposeful trips but what we do know is that it is not too sensitive to pick false positives.
Apple Watch Series 4: Health
The fitness and health features are big positives of the Apple Watch. The fitness tracker will monitor your workouts and other activities. The health tracker will pick up any signs of illness and can even protect you from falling.Heart rate The heart rate sensor is a key part of the experience on the Apple Watch Series 4. The data that the device obtains by monitoring your heart rate 24/7 can be used in multiple ways.You can view three sets of data -- resting heart rate, current heart rate and walking heart rate which are plotted throughout the day. The results provided are accurate when compared with a chest strap. It matches with the manual counting done from pulse count using a stopwatch.
The resting heart rate is one of the most important stats tracked on Series 4. While the Apple Watch offers a decent picture of the data, the Apple Health app offers detailed tracking with a graph of heart rate plotted for the day, week, month and even the year.The resting heart rate is measured by the Apple Watch only when the device is fully convinced that you are at rest and that is done by assessing many variables in the accelerometer.The Watch lacks a built-in sleep monitor. So it is not possible for Series 4 to measure the resting heart rate right away when you wake up in the morning like other devices that come with a built-in sleep monitor. So the bpm on Series 4 is a little higher than the bpm seen on Fitbit devices. Yet, it is useful data that the watch provides and it is presented well.
Heart rate notifications
Your heart rate is continuously monitored using the sensors to find if something is wrong. There are modes to detect high heart rate (came with watchOS 4), and now it can detect low heart rate and the rhythm of the heart. These can be signs of atrial fibrillation(Afib) which is the number one cause for stroke.The lower threshold of your heart rate can be set to 40bpm which is suitable for most people. But since there are a few healthy people having bpm below 40, it is highly probable that 35bpm and 30bpm will soon be added as a threshold for the lower range of heart rate.
The ECG functionality is another health monitor. The titanium electrode on the sapphire with the digital crown makes it easier for your fingers to take ECG readings. The reading that takes 30 seconds long from the ECG app will analyze your heart rate to see if it is normal (Sinus) or Afib. Then an ECG graph is made in the Health app which can be used for consultation with your doctor.This feature is FDA approved and is highly beneficial for people with heart conditions to obtain FDA certified reading of their heart rate. This feature is expected to be launched in the U.S. later this year. The Apple Watch has transformed from a mere smartwatch to a life saving medical device.
The activity tracking functionality is hugely untouched and it still provides a great experience in helping you achieve your daily fitness goals. You need to complete three rings -- Move(calories), Exercise(active minutes) and Stand(the period for which you have stood for over a minute). This is a deviation from the usual step goals which is found in most of the fitness trackers.The ring that closes with the amount of your activity is a quicker way of understanding your progress. The rings can be set as your complication as well which allows you to see the progress of your goals in a tiny space. The move goal adjusts automatically according to your level of activity. It is something that progresses with you as you get fitter. You will be prompted to stand. There are alerts to remind you to use the Breathe app.
This app helps to build a breathing routine that will eventually relieve you from stress. But these reminders can sometimes be annoying and you may want to turn off them off. The Watch complication, the Activity watch app, the regular updates, prompts and the additional Activity watch face are all places to review the progress in your goal. You can also get the data on the progress in health over time from the Activity iPhone app.One of the activity features missing from the Apple Watch is sleep tracking using a native tracker within the watchOS. You still have to depend on third-party apps to monitor your sleep. Even though these apps do a good job, the absence of a sleep tracker is a serious blow to the health package that Apple Watch offers.
Apple Watch Series 4: Sports tracking
The workout app has undergone a considerable upgrade in watchOS 5. This is a good move from Apple to redirect some attention from Garmin watches that focuses on sports. There are many new sports tracking included like indoor and outdoor running, cycling, hiking, yoga, indoor and outdoor walking, rowing, stair stepper, elliptical and HIIT workouts.Series 4 can automatically detect workouts now. This means even if you forget to switch on the tracking, it will automatically track. It will start picking up a supposed exercise about 10 minutes after it started. Once it starts tracking, the missing minutes are nothing to worry about.The results were similar to the Garmin device that was used to test the run and had started tracking from the beginning.
Running has been improved a lot in Series 4. Many new workout features have been added by watchOS 5, including auto-detection of exercise as well as cadence and rolling pace. The cadence in the Workout app is a stat to measure running efficiency.The results were close to the estimates of the Garmin device. The metrics you need should be selected in the Apple Watch app as the Watch supports only one screen of data to be shown during a workout. Duration, heart rate, distance, average pace and rolling pace take up the six slots.
In case you need any other metric, say, cadence, one of those will have to be dropped.This can feel a bit low, especially since you are comparing it with Garmin, which gives you a lot of data during workouts. A second screen with more data would be a great addition, especially when you are running 10 to 20 miles with lots of time to check your performance data.The review that you get for the runs from the Workout app is also not that great. There is no big-picture analysis available in what is shown in the Activity app on the iPhone. If you feel that the native Workout app is not enough, there are a number of third-party apps that will deliver on any of your requirements. This includes Strava, which gives all the big-picture analysis that a runner or cyclist needs.
Swim tracking was introduced in the Apple Watch from Series 2. No major changes are made in this feature on Series 4 either but there is nothing to complain about. The swim tracking on the Apple Watch is on par with the tracking found in sports watches like Garmin, Polar and Suunto.This is one of the finest smartwatches which you can use for swimming. The lighter bands available for the Watch ensure extreme comfort during swimming. Even though the absence of an always-on display makes it a little inconvenient, the raise to wake feature is sensitive enough to work well. The visibility of data is clear underwater with the use of the bright colored text of swim data against a black screen.The accuracy of Series 4 is good and the data is comparable to what a Garmin sports watch gives. The core data -- distance, average pace and lap count -- are almost the same as seen in a Garmin Forerunner 935. The data is spot on and nothing to be concerned about. The data lives in the app. Also, there are many swimming apps for Apple Watch available. The swimming experience with the Apple Watch is a comfortable one.
Heart rate during exercise
The accuracy of the heart rate sensor on an Apple Watch has been impressive from the very first generation. Currently, the optical accuracy of the heart rate sensor on an Apple Watch is outstanding compared to any other smartwatch. The readings on the Apple Watch are the same as the ones found in Garmin, Polar or Suunto.The heart rate data tracked by the Apple Watch is the best so far. A test was done with a Garmin chest strap paired to a Fenix 5, for a medium intensity running session and the Apple Watch did not show a variation of more than one bpm.
The exercise that was over 40 minutes with interval sprint finishes, gave similar values of average bpm. The sprint intervals were done by first increasing the heart rate to settle at around 120bpm and then sprinting to raise the heart rate to 185bpm.Most of the sensors fail to pick up the quick rise in heart rate correctly due to the lag in time that arises between the sensor and the watch. Also such sprinting causes a kind of noise that messes with the optical sensors. Though the Apple Watch cannot claim to be perfect as the optical sensor issue persists, the Series 4 followed the chest straps peak HR in the sprint interval tests with a 5-second delay.
The sensor has a tendency to increase in large stages, but the important factor is that it manages to hit the peak while most of its rivals keep climbing up when the heart rate will in fact be falling after the interval. In the Apple Watch, the fall in heart rate is also slower than the chest strap. Nevertheless, this is better than what is found on devices like Suunto 9 and Fitbit Ionic.The data presentation from the workout app is pretty basic -- a criticism raised before -- making it difficult to visually compare the details mentioned above. The final word is that though it is not perfect, Apple is among the most accurate in optical reading, and there is no need to think of getting a Garmin or Fitbit watch/band. However, if youre focused on your heart rate, it might be a good idea to go for a Bluetooth chest strap that is compatible with the Apple Watch Series 4.
Apple Watch Series 4: Siri
The addition of the loudspeaker has made interactions with Siri better. But it is still a mixed bag. Even though Siri is not the best smart assistant, it has improved a lot. Siri on your Apple Watch can set alarms and reminders, run quick internet searches and check the weather -- all these can be accessed with your voice. Even long articles can be read to Siri. The number of searches it can do is also surprising.A few features did not work well as expected with Siri. The Map and direction is not an area Siri can work well. It easily gets confused with the background noise. During the test, it gave many wrong results. The new feature that accompanied watchOS 5 is the wrist-raise.You have to raise the wrist to your mouth and start talking to Siri. The performance of this feature is a hit or miss. Especially when there are many queries to be done one after the other, you have to have to return your hand to the side each time and then raise your wrist.
Apple Watch Series 4: Battery lifeThe major problem with Series 4 is its battery life. Despite a wider screen and slimmer case, the battery life is still 18 hours. By the end of the day, the battery would have drained 50%. So you need to be carefully managing those features to extend the battery life for two days. The battery survives six hours of GPS tracking which is more than enough to complete a marathon.But in this age when we have to put our smartphones to charge every night, the smartwatch that lasts a day is not a big deal. The good thing is that Apple has not compromised on the design and features for the longevity of the battery. And that is the reason why Series 4 stands out among the competition.
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