Apple Watch Series 5 review: A small upgrade, but still the finest smartwatch you can buy

Apple Watch Series 5 review: A small upgrade, but still the finest smartwatch you can buy

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Apple Watch Series 5 review (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

If you want to invest in a wearable, you’re simply not going to find anything better than the Watch.

Since it was first revealed back in 2015, Apple has continued to improve its Watch with each iteration pushing it further ahead of rivals.

In fact, the Series 4 was so good it’s hard to think what Apple could do to make it any better.

Now, a year after that superb smartwatch was released we have its replacement in the new Series 5. But is this new model any good, and more importantly, does it do enough to make it worth an upgrade?

Apple Watch Series 5 review

The Apple Watch Series 5 has been upgraded to include an always-on display (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Having had the Series 5 strapped to our wrist for the last few weeks, there’s no question this is the most complete Apple Watch the company has ever made — but given how brilliant the Series 4 was, that’s hardly surprising. The biggest change to the new model is an always-on display — a feature we’ve been asking forever since the first device arrived in stores all those years ago.

Although every previous Apple Watch model only needed a twist of the wrist to make its screen come to life, those who’ve owned the smartwatch will know there are times when this simply doesn’t work.

Trying to check the time when your crammed on a busy London tube or just wanting to glance at your wrist to check if you’re running late has been a frustrating flaw of all previous versions of this device.

However, that’s all changed with the Series 5’s Retina Display now constantly showing you exactly what time of day or night it is.

Apple says it has worked hard to still keep battery life as good as what’s gone before it. After all, there’s no point in having a watch that constantly glows but runs out of juice after just a few hours on your wrist.

The always-on experience has been made possible by using a clever new display – hence why this new feature isn’t available on the Series 4 via a software update – and we really like it.

Having the time displayed constantly on the screen is a major improvement. It not only makes it easier to tell the time, but also improving the overall look.

Having a blank black square on your wrist at all times isn’t the most appealing look and this update makes the device feel far more like a fashion accessory than a piece of tech. That’s the good news about this new screen, but it does come with a slight drawback.

Apple Watch Series 5 review

Apple Watch Series 5 review (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Apple Watch Series 5 review

The design hasn’t changed from the Series 4 which is a shame (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

In our first few days of wearing the Series 5, we witnessed some pretty erratic results with battery life. Some days we’d easily get through a full day and beyond, but on other occasions the Watch fell well short of we’ve come to expect from previous models.

One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the device has always lasted a full day and we’ve never been left with a flat battery before it’s time for bed.

But the Watch Series 4 would comfortably last two days without needing a charge – something we’ve not come close to with the Series 5.

That’s the price you pay for having that screen glowing throughout the day. And if you are going away for a weekend and have forgotten your charger, there is a setting that switches the always-on display off so that your brand-new smartwatch behaves exactly like the Series 4.

The new always-on display also might make you rethink the complications that you have on your Watch face — for example, details of your calendar appointments will be glowing on the always-on display for anyone to peer over and clock, something that wasn’t a problem on earlier models when you’d need to lift your wrist to trigger the screen.

Apple Watch Series 5

The Series 5 includes a compass (Image: APPLE)

Alongside the new screen, the other bonus of this new device is the in-built compass, which not only shows which way you’re heading but also your incline, elevation, plus latitude and longitude. Although this may only sound useful to wannabe Christopher Columbus types, it does mean the Watch offers much better directions when using it to navigate around city streets.

As well as those hardware changes, the new Apple Watch Series 5 comes pre-installed with watchOS 6 software which means you’ll get access to a bunch of extras straight out of the box. This includes new customisable watch faces, a cool little calculator and the inclusion of the Noise app which will warn you if your ears might be being damaged by the sound around.

Apple Watch Series 5 review

The Series 5 now monitors hearing health (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

This clever app works with both background audio and the sound being pumped into yours via headphones.

If things are getting too loud your watch will now alert you to the issues giving you the option to do something about it. It’s a really neat feature and could be especially useful to anyone who spends a long time in loud environments.

Along with hearing health, you’ll also get all the other features that we’ve come to expect from this Apple wearable, including tracking your heart and being able to call for help if you’ve had a fall.

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5 (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

During our review, we actually took a nasty tumble down the stairs. As soon as we’d landed (roughly) on the landing, the Watch sprang into action and asked if we were OK and offered to help by calling a friend, family member, or if we hadn’t dismissed the notification, the emergency services. It’s really clever feature that hopefully you’ll never need.

The Series 5 can now also call for help in foreign countries which makes this feature even better.

One of the other attractions of having an Apple Watch strapped to your wrist is checking your daily activity levels. This can be easily reviewed by the clever ring system which shows how well you’re performing each day.

If you’re new to wearables then you’ll find this feature incredibly useful with a glance at the watch face showing if you need to avoid the lift post-lunch and use the stairs instead.

There’s also subtle alerts which encourage you to stand, take a breath to relax and try to close your daily rings. You can also compete with other Watch owners to see who is the most active over a week. It’s addictive stuff and will push you to dust off your gym membership as soon as you start getting pinged with notifications about their calorie-burning exploits.

Apple Watch

One good thing about the design is your old straps will still fit (Image: APPLE)

All of your usual phone notifications can also be beamed to this device and you can reply to messages without ever reaching for your phone.

There’s so much to love about the Apple Watch Series 5 but one thing final to thing to note is that Apple hasn’t changed the overall design of its Watch since the overhaul for the Series 4, which may be disappointing to some. Place the old Series 4 and series 5 next to each other you’ll struggle to spot the difference.

It’s a shame Apple has added some design touches to separate old from new but this decision does mean all of your old straps will still fit the new device which is a bonus.

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5 (Image: APPLE)

VERDICT APPLE WATCH SERIES 5 • From £399

  • FOR – Always-on display is a great addition • Brilliant fitness tracking • Beautiful Watch faces • Old straps still fit
  • AGAINST – Erratic battery life • No big design change for 2019 • No sleep tracking

There’s no question the Series 5 is the best Apple Watch that’s ever been made. The new always-on display makes this feel like the device we’ve always desired and the in-built compass is a nice added extra.

Like its predecessors, it packs a swathe of fitness and health tracking features, plus there’s an option to have a fully connected cellular model which means you can leave your phone at home without fear of missing a message or call.

This is the most complete wearable on the market and Apple’s rivals have a huge amount of catching up to do.

Apple Watch Series 5

watchOS 6 now includes a range of new faces (Image: APPLE)

However, for all of its greatness, we do have some niggles with the Series 5. Not least the battery life and the fact that it doesn’t look any different from the Series 4.

Some small design tweaks would have given this new Apple Watch the edge and things aren’t helped by the fact you can still buy the previous model at stores such as Amazon for a much cheaper price.

If money is no object, and this is your first step into the world of wearables then the Series 5 is a device worth a place on your wrist. But if you’re rocking a Series 3, or Series 4, then there’s probably not enough here to warrant upgrading quite yet, unless you’re really frustrated by the lack of always-on display.

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