Finally, The Apple Watch Series 5's Display Is Always On
If there's been one big complaint about the Apple Watch since its launch, it's that you have to lift your wrist to see the time on it. The Apple Watch Series 5 does away with this nonsense with its first always-on display.
Announced at the launch of the new iPhone 11, this Apple Watch Series 5's always-on display does exactly what it says on the tin. So unlike previous models, you'll be able to constantly see the time, your exercise stats and the like at a glance. Instead of trying to sneak a glimpse of how much longer your 11am meeting is going to drag on for.
We got hands-on with the device at its grand unveiling in Cupertino, California today. So here's everything you need to know about the device and whether it's worth upgrading your Apple Watch Series 4.
It's all about the always-on display
In most respects, the Apple Watch Series 5 is an iterative update on last year's predecessor. Much in the same way that Apple's iPhones used to follow the tick-tock cycle of 6 and 6S devices. This means the new Apple Watch has the same great fitness tracking, heart-rate monitoring and stroke detection features as before. Thanks to that new always-on Retina display, they've been bundled up in a more user-friendly package.
If you've used an Apple Watch in the past you'll know that to illuminate its screen you'll have had to actively turn it towards your face. That's not necessarily something you can do when you're gripping the handlebars of a bike, crammed on the London Underground holding a support rail, or just have your hands laid flat on a desk. It isn't the world's greatest annoyance, but it also doesn't feel like a huge ask to be able to look at your Apple Watch and immediately tell the time.
Why didn't Apple make this change ages ago? Well, having a screen that's permanently turned on affects that device's battery life, and no one wants a smartwatch that conks out halfway through the day. So the Apple Watch Series 5's Retina display has been made to deliver all-day battery life around the 18-hour mark. This is mainly because the screen operates at a lower brightness and adjusts its refresh rate to suit the circumstances until you turn it to your face as per usual. Then it works as normal.
It's got a compass
The fact that this is Apple Watch Series 5's second big feature underlines the slower pace of change this time around. Again, it's another useful addition that makes the Apple Watch easier to live with on a day-to-day basis. How so? When you're following directions on the Apple Maps app you'll get an arrow that points in the direction you're facing. You see? Small change, big difference. Especially if you're as 'directionally challenged' as this writer from time to time.
Apple says it expects the Watch Series 5's compass to be incorporated across existing third-party apps as time rolls on, but support is limited at launch right now. One use we've already seen is that the Yelp app will point you towards the nearest restaurant. Generally speaking, if you're big into outdoor pursuits such as hiking and paddle boarding it should come in handy. And if you tend to get lost on your worldly travels it should prove a lifesaver.
You can get it with a titanium or a ceramic case
If you remember back to the halcyon days when the Apple Watch first launched, the likes of Beyonce and Jay Z could be seen sauntering around with its gold edition. This smartwatch was a fashion accessory first and a fitness tracker second. Since then that balance has tipped back in the other direction with the introduction of all manner of wellness-related features, from swim tracking to taking an ECG.
Now those fundamentals are very much in place, Apple is having a second crack at the luxury game. So the Series 5 is now available with ceramic and titanium cases in addition to the usual aluminium variant which is now composed from 100% recycled material. If the creamy ceramic case is showy and something akin to what you could wear as a dress watch, then the titanium case is there to elevates the class of your Apple Watch towards the level of a TAG Heuer or a Omega.
Either way, with a huge selection of Apple Watch bands to chose from – including leather, stainless steel and Hermes-made options – you've got a lot of choice when classing up your Apple Watch.
Apple Watch Series 5 verdict
When Apple launched the iPhone, it did so with pretty much all the features you’d expect of it. Its camera, internals and iOS may have changed a fair bit in the last decade or so, but they’re fundamentally better versions of what came before.
The Apple Watch is different in that it has continually added necessary new features, as well as refining the ones it already has. With the Series 5 and its always-on display, Apple has pretty much laid its final slab of smartwatch groundwork. That means its latest wearable is the most complete it’s ever made, even if it’s not the most revolutionary.
More so than even the iPhone, the Apple Watch is a device that you need to live with in order to appreciate its benefits. So the true impact of the Series 5’s screen, compass and new casing options is something you’re going to have to spend some time with to judge properly. We’re looking forward to strapping one on come it’s launch on 20 September. Prices for the Apple Watch Series 5 start from $490.