Kif LeswingThe new Apple Watch models go on sale on Friday.
It’s the first major redesign of the product since Apple first released it in 2015. It’s got a bigger screen, new health sensors, and it’s thinner, too.
But specs don’t really matter in day-to-day usage. What matters is how it worked — especially considering these watches start at $400, a steep price for a watch or an iPhone accessory.
Apple loaned out Apple Watch units to a bunch of bloggers and publications ahead of Friday’s launch, including TechRadar, CNBC, Hodinkee, New York Times, USA Today, Sydney Morning Herald, Women’s Health, Buzzfeed, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
In conclusion: It’s a great gadget for fitness fans, but people with older models may not need to upgrade.
Here’s what they had to say:
TechRadar: “If you’re going to notice something about this watch though, it’s that it looks bloomin’ different … While it’s nowhere near edge-to-edge as some are suggesting it is, it’s certainly a lot larger and more rounded, giving the impression of a rounder timepiece without losing the benefit of a square display.”
Hodinkee: “At first glance, the Series 4 looks like…an Apple Watch. Any rumors that Apple was going to massively change the form factor were dispelled the moment the first image of this watch appeared on screen, and I think it’s highly unlikely that Apple abandons this general form any time soon.”
New York Times: “A less obvious, though still useful, change is the watch’s speed. Apple emphasized that the device was two times faster than the third-generation model, which was already zippy.
The speed difference was most noticeable when using Siri, Apple’s voice assistant.”
Women’s Health: “The speaker is louder, the design is sleeker. Everything runs zippier, and the crown now includes a cool haptic (vibrating) feature. The watch is also thinner, so despite the increase in screen size, the watch feels more subtle (in a good way) on my wrist.”
Hodinkee: “The display isn’t actually any brighter or more pixel dense, but the size of it plays tricks on your eyes and make everything look at little, well, more.”
USA Today: “Aside from the new health features, one reason I’m seriously thinking about an upgrade comes with an edge-to-edge display that provides more than 30 percent extra screen real estate, whether you opt for the bigger 44mm case or the 40mm version. On a modest size screen, 30 percent is a lot, and the payoff for consumers comes with larger text and bigger buttons (again, a potential boon for older people).”
Apple Watch Series 4 on the left. Apple Watch Series 3 on the right.Kif Leswing
CNBC: “The battery life is good, too. Apple advertises 18 hours of use. I took the Apple Watch Series 4 off of the charger on Friday morning. I drove to the beach that evening and realized I’d forgotten my charger. I turned it off Saturday night and still had 16 percent left on Sunday at 3 p.m. I’d worn the Apple Watch all day each day, and even used it to track workouts and make sure I closed all of my rings. That’s good enough for me.”
USA Today: “During my regular mixed usage, I got about a day and a half of battery life, same as on my Series 2 watch. I’d love more, but I am used to the routine of pretty much charging a watch every night.”
Buzzfeed: “Battery life — 18 hours, all-day, according to Apple — was sufficient, but a year of the beastly Garmin had spoiled me and made me grumpy about charging it every night. For that reason, dedicated distance runners, backpackers, and long-day hikers will likely find more utilitarian fitness trackers (with multi-day GPS battery life) better suited to their extreme demands.
CNBC: “I love the new Apple Watch faces that are in watchOS 5, and many were designed to take advantage of the larger display on the new edition. There’s one mode that looks like the Apple Watch face is burning, which just looks cool. But my favorite one lets me set 8 different complications, so I can quickly do things like access the exercise app, the weather and check my heart rate.”
The Verge: “any of watchOS 5’s best features will work fine on more recent Apple Watches, too. Yes, there are exclusive watchfaces on the Series 4, but that’s also a silly thing to drop so much money for.”
Style and feel
The rear case of the Apple Watch has been redesigned.Kif Leswing
Hodinkee: “The most apparent size difference is actually the thickness – the 0.7mm shaved off the back (mostly from the sensor array) makes a huge difference in terms of comfort and you feel it the moment you put one of these new models on.”
The Verge: “The two new sizes are 40mm and 44mm, but they really don’t feel that much bigger on your wrist than the old sizes. I was using the 42mm Series 3 and the 44mm size is only subtly bigger, but it’s also subtly thinner. To me, it feels about the same, but I think the trade-off of size for thinness is worth it.”
New York Times: “People with heart problems can easily use the EKG app to take electrocardiograms whenever they sense something abnormal, without the rigmarole I went through. And the data can be shared immediately with their doctor, which could open a conversation about next steps, like going in for a visit or modifying treatment … ‘I’m not recommending it for most people as anything other than just a novelty,’ said Dr. Ethan Weiss, the cardiologist who took my EKG.”
Buzzfeed: “And some of its health features (the electrocardiogram, fall detection, and heart rate monitoring) are legitimately exciting for users who may find comfort in extra-vigilant monitoring. Still, the watch didn’t detect a fall (or much of anything) when I fainted in a doctor’s office after sitting up too fast during an outpatient procedure.”
Women’s Health: “As a runner, I’m also loving the new metrics you can track during jogs.
Cadence (how many strides you take per minute) is helping me hone in on my most efficient stride. Rolling mile pace allows me to see exactly how fast I ran the last mile of my run, no matter how far along I am. And the battery lasts up to six hours on outdoor runs, so you’re good to go if you’re training for a long race like a half-marathon or triathlon.”
CNBC: “It has automatic workout tracking, for example, but it can take a bit to kick in. After about a third of a mile it asked if I was running and if I wanted to record my workout. I confirmed I was jogging indoors, and it gave me back credit for the distance I had already run, which was really neat.”
Price and conclusion
CNBC: “The Apple Watch Series 4 is super expensive, especially if you want the larger screen and cellular … If you want the better-looking stainless steel case and sapphire display, which is more resistant to scratching, you’ll pay at least $699.”
TechCrunch: “The Series 4 isn’t the kind of refresh that justifies upgrading from the last generation, especially given the $399 and $499 starting prices for the standard and LTE models, respectively. But there’s certainly enough here to keep the Apple Watch at the top of the smartwatch heap. The addition of serious health features like ECG and fall detection further lay the groundwork for a what the device — and category — will become, going forward.”
The Verge: “This Watch is not especially cheap. The smallest, least expensive model comes with GPS and Wi-Fi and costs $399. But if you start piling on the upgrades, you can quickly jack up the price to something that feels exorbitant, especially if you’re upgrading from a Series 2 or Series 3. It’s $29 more for the larger size, $100 for LTE compatibility (plus $10 per month or so from your carrier), and the stainless steel models are $200 more (and only come with LTE). Add in Apple Care, and you can end up spending a lot — though it’s nothing like the wild “Edition” prices of yore. (Don’t even get me started on the Hermès model.)”