The Apple Watch has been updated for the fourth time in as many years, bringing with it a number of new features, and for those likely to be looking to upgrade from the first-generation model, there's a tweaked design which features a bigger screen and other cool new tech.
But is that enough to take it to the next level? We got to play with the new Apple Watch Series 4 at the Gather Round launch event in Cupertino.
A new design
- Larger OLED screen than before
- New 40 and 44mm sizes
- Tweaked design
Although Apple has focused in previous years on enhancing the insides of the Apple Watch – adding features like GPS, Cellular, and other sensors – this year the company has refined the design, giving it a much larger screen.
The new design still features the same rectangular design, as is staple for the Apple Watch, but the fourth-gen display is 35 per cent larger than its smallest predecessor (32 per cent if you're looking at the larger model). Much of that comes from the company pushing the screen to the edge, making for a much more immersive viewing experience on your wrist.
This new screen has had an affect on the overall size. The fourth-gen watch comes in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm, instead of the 38mm and 42mm of the third-gen. Despite the upsizing the straps stay the same, thankfully, so any existing straps you might have amassed will still fit the new Watch. Phew.
Having worn the Watch, it looks noticeably bigger on the wrist, yet its thinner design means that it's not as bulky as previous models. It really doesn't feel too large.
The Watch will come in a range of colours: the aluminium models remain the same as before, but for the stainless steel offering there's a new shiny gold finish.
Also tweaked is the Digital Crown. It's now haptic feedback enabled – the same tech found on other Apple devices like the iPhone XR and the MacBook – and that means it doesn't protrude as much feedback from the edge of the watch. It's not going to change how you feel about the device overall, as it's subtle, but it's something we noticed nonetheless.
The back of the watch has been changed on the entry-level aluminium models too. It now features ceramic and sapphire glass for better cellular connectivity, although the changes in materials on the rear aren't noticeable when wearing it.
- New S4 processor, 64-bit dual core
- Accelerometer gyroscope can track falls
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It's not just about a new screen. The Apple Watch Series 4 offers a hefty spec upgrade, too. The speaker location has moved and is now 50 per cent louder than previous models – designed to help with phone calls. The mic has also been relocated, so you don't get pick up from the speaker. However, the event in Cupertino was loud that we can't fully report back on this performance at this time, sadly.
The Apple Watch Series 4 also has a new accelerometer gyroscope for better recording of data. That, combined with new processing power, will mean the new watch will be able to detect when you fall over, and can then initiate an alert to help you send a message to emergency services if needed. If you don't react to the alert, it will automatically call for help on your behalf. We can see this being an amazing feature for some people, although, likewise, it could easily get you in to trouble if you've merely passed out drunk in the living room.
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To power all these new features, the watch gets a processor boost, too. Called S4, it's a 64-bit dual core processor that promises double the performance of previous models, which will hopefully help when it comes to opening apps faster. In our brief play, opening apps did seem quicker, which we'll test more fully when reviewing the device proper.
Electrocardiogram support and better heart heath features
- Capture electrocardiogram data
- New Low Heart Rate monitor feature
The watch gets WatchOS 5 software, and, specifically, for the Series 4 model, new heart-rate monitor options. The new software will let you check for Low Heart Rate as well as an Irregular Heart Rate Rhythm and can alert you accordingly.
Those two options should be enough for most. However, Apple has taken things a step further and will also offer the ability to take an electrocardiogram (ECG) to help you diagnose certain heart conditions. Coming as an update later in the year, the back of the watch includes electros in the glass. All recordings will then be stored in the Health App and kept private, or allow you to share as a PDF with your doctor. In the US, the feature has been approved by the FDA – a big sign that it produces valuable data.
New watch faces
- More 'complications' support
- Fire, Wind, Vapour screens
With a new screen and a new operating system comes new watch faces. There's an all-encompassing circular face that will allow you to use the corners of the display to feature more shortcuts and 'complications' of your favourite apps. It's a really functional design that utilises the new bigger display.
You can have up to eight complications in total, which might be a bit of an overload for some, but we'll wait to see how we cope when it's on our wrist. Those who already use the modular design on the current Apple Watch will love the amount of data and shortcuts this new Watch can deliver.
There will also be new modular, non-circular designs, as well as a new Breath watch face that gives you a quick shortcut to the Apple Breath mediation app.
Rather than adding more Disney characters or butterflies, there are also new Fire, Water, and Vapour screens. These are fun, but nothing to write home about.
From our quick time with the Apple Watch Series 4 it's clear this is a far bigger and bolder experience than ever before. Sure, the forthcoming electrocardiogram (ECG) feature might be a bit much for most people, but it's really the bigger screen that makes all the difference.
If you bought the first Apple Watch then this fourth-gen upgrade is a noticeable step up. Plus, Apple has confirmed that the original watch won't be getting the latest WatchOS 5 update.
Even if you're a Series 3 user, you'll likely find yourself jealous of those who sport the newer device. The bigger screen is lovely without being overly large, while the better speaker and mic should hopefully mean you can clearly hear what Siri is saying.
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