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Apple Watch Series 5 review – a great product just got even better

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  • VERDICT

Apple Watch Series 5 is still the smartwatch to beat and the addition of the Always-On display and compass and the new watchOS 6 has made an already great product even better.

Apple Watch already dominates the smartwatch market and the latest version – Apple Watch Series 5 – will not only maintain that dominance but also convince plenty of potential customers to finally take the plunge.

The versatility of Apple Watch has increased significantly since the cellular version was introduced two years ago and gave users the option to leave their iPhones behind and still receive calls and messages and use their apps on the move.

Apple Watch Series 5 looks exactly the same as last year’s model but there are a couple of new finishes – titanium in silver and black and a beautiful white ceramic.

This year Apple Watch has gone one better yet again and added an all-new Always On Retina display.

This means you will always be able to see the watch face and all its complications no matter where your arm happens to be.

Previously, the Apple Watch face would black out a split-second after you put your wrist down.

So, unless you raised your wrist to look at it, Apple Watch spent most of the time as a blank black square on your arm.

The main reason behind that was to conserve battery power so it could run for a day and a half before it needed a charge.

But now that has all changed with Apple Watch Series 5.

It might not sound like much, but the new Always On screen changes the way you can use the device.

Now it’s possible to just a glance down at the watch and see the time even if it hasn’t been turned in your direction.

And then if you do twist your wrist to view it, the screen goes to full brightness.

There are plenty of scenarios with this new feature will come in very handy.

Picture this scene: you’re stuck in a meeting and are counting down the minutes before you can leave but you don’t want to give the others in the room the impression that you’re itching to get out of there.

A dead giveaway would be to lift up your arm and look at your watch – and also risk offending other people in the meeting.

With Apple Watch Series 5, you can just glanced down at your wrist and see exactly what time it is without having to tap on the screen or move your arm.

There are plenty of other occasions where this glance to see the time can come in handy instead of having to completely twist your wrist towards you.

The Always-On display is also a godsend when you’re exercising.

When it’s not turned to face you, the Apple Watch screen dims slightly and, in some instances, gives an alternate view of the watch face or your exercise data.

On a run, for example, you could glance down to see how many minutes you been running for.

But when you turn your wrist to have a proper look, other information like the minutes and seconds and the exact detail of all your stats appear.

Some watch faces are black-and-white in the casual position but then turn full-colour when you twist your wrist to look at it properly.

There have been plenty of times in the past when it took a couple of turns of the wrist to activate the Apple Watch screen but this latest model has now made that a non-issue.

But what about the battery, I hear you ask? Do I now have to charge this twice a day?

No you won’t.

It is all thanks to a new LTPO (low temperature poly silicon and oxide) display technology which can dynamically adjust the screens refresh rate from as high as 60Hz down to as low as 1Hz which makes it really efficient.

To add to this is a new low-power display driver, an ultra-efficient power management integrated circuit and a brand-new ambient light sensor.

These all combine to maintain the same battery life.

We haven’t needed to charge Apple Watch Series 5 more often than the previous iteration – it’s business as usual.

Now, we’re not sure if this is a big enough feature to spur existing Apple Watch owners to upgrade but it will surely be attractive to new customers – especially those who have been on the fence on whether to invest in the product.

Another cool new feature is the built-in compass which cannot only help you find true north and give you an easier way to navigate but also offer information like incline and elevation.

It’s now also possible to add a compass complication to a watch face so you can see at any time which way you are facing.

Naturally, this makes Maps on Apple Watch even more versatile and easy to use.

No more doing the “which way am I going” dance with your iPhone when trying to work out which way you need to go on a map.

Hikers, runners and cyclists will really appreciate this feature that will now show current elevation and elevation gain alongside distance, pace and other key data.

Apple Watch is one of the most accomplished health and fitness devices you can buy with remarkable activity tracking and the ability to see your activity trends to help you towards your health and fitness goals.

On the health side, there are also new features which will be added with watchOS 6 including menstrual cycle tracking and the new Noise app.

And the good news is if you have an older Apple Watch these health features will become available when you update to watchOS6.

The cycle tracking app allows women to visualise their cycle right from their wrist and log various details of their period and their fertility.

And they can also choose to receive a notification when a period is expected or a fertile window is about to begin.

The Noise up uses the microphone on the Apple Watch to literally keep an ear out and detect if decibels could seriously affect your hearing.

Apple Watch also continually monitors your heart rate and can even alert you if it detects unusually high or low heart rates which could indicate a serious condition.

The safety features now include international emergency calling with cellular models able to call local emergency services from anywhere in the world even if your iPhone isn’t with you.

This feature also works with fall detection – a feature that uses the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope to detect if you’ve fallen.

If you are motionless for one minute, Apple watch will automatically place an emergency call and a message with your location will be sent to your emergency contacts.

And of course, with the cellular model of the Apple Watch you can always stay connected to your calls, texts and voicemail as well as stream content from Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Audiobooks even if you have you left your iPhone behind.

watchOS 6 also brings the App Store to Apple Watch so you are able to search through almost 20,000 watchOS apps and download them directly to the device.

The Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $649 for the 40mm and $699 for the 44mm.

The cellular models start from $799 (40mm) and $849 (44mm).

VERDICT

Apple Watch Series 5 is still the smartwatch to beat and the addition of the Always-On display and compass and the new watchOS 6 has made an already great product even better.