Apple Watch Series 5 review: The best smartwatch in the market
Nidhi Singal October 16, 2019
Positioned as the ideal health and fitness tracker since day one, the Apple Watch has improvised with every new iteration. Even with subtle updates this year, the Series 5 takes it a notch higher, continuing to be the best smartwatch around. Designed only for Apple iPhones, it always leaves Android users longing for one.
Although the Apple Watch Series 5 looks identical to Series 4, the biggest update to the Series 5 is the always-on display. Unlike regular watches, smartwatches have rechargeable batteries that need to be charged daily or once in a couple of days. To save battery, watch screen goes off when not in use and comes to life with a tap or when the wrist is raised.
With the new always-on display on Series 5, the screen only dims and continues to show the time with other relevant information on the selected watch face. Raising the hand or tap on the watch brings it back to full brightness. This works beautifully. It comes handy in situations such as meetings or social gatherings where tapping on the watch screen could be embarrassing or when you can't raise the wrist for checking the time.
For this, Apple has used advanced technologies such as low-temperature polysilicon and oxide display (LTPO), ultra-low power display driver, efficient power management integrated circuit and new ambient light sensor. Does it take a toll on the battery life?
Well, sort of. With the always-on display turned on, my review unit easily lasted me a day, which included constant notifications, app reminders and work-out with still 20 per cent charge left. If the day was getting unusually longer, I turned off the always-on display, which resulted in a significant jump in the battery backup.
There is a new app Compass that isn't something that I use often. It can be used to see incline, heading, latitude, longitude and current elevation. Even the experience of using the navigation on the watch seems to have enhanced.
Even though life-saving ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notification features were introduced with last year's Apple Watch Series 4, the feature went live in India just a month ago with the watchOS 6. This is a user-initiated process and takes around 30 seconds to record an ECG, which is similar to a single-lead reading. The electrodes built into the back crystal and Digital Crown works together with the ECG app.
To take an ECG recording at any time or following an irregular rhythm notification, one can launch the ECG app on the Apple Watch and hold their finger on the Digital Crown. A touch on the Digital Crown completes the circuit and electrical signals across their heart are measured.
After 30 seconds, the heart rhythm is classified as either AFib, sinus rhythm or inconclusive. A sinus rhythm result means the heart is beating in a uniform pattern between 50 and 100 BPM. An AFib result means the heart is beating in an irregular pattern between 50 and 120 BPM.
It's not just the hardware as the new watchOS 6 also brings in many new features onboard. The biggest for me was the ability to downlowad apps directly on the Apple Watch. Until now, I had to install apps using the iPhone. But now I was able to browse through the App Store on the watch itself or easily search for the apps by scribbling or using dictation. While it worked flawlessly, some apps required me to first login using the iPhone before using it on the watch. It's still not completely independent but works fine.
The addition of Noise app using decibel level measures the noise levels in the environment and sends a notification if the level is high (nine decibels) that could negatively affect hearing. As the sound levels change, the app's decibel meter moves in real-time. The new Cycle Tracking application helped me with logging in important information related to menstrual cycles. It even predicts the timing for the next period and fertile window.
Be it indoor activities or outdoor workout, Apple Watch has been a perfect workout companion. The list of workout activities is rather large - including indoor walk, outdoor walk, elliptical, rower, stair-stepper, high-intensity interval training, hiking, yoga, outdoor swim and more. The workout tracking is rather accurate. I still love the circular activity rings that offer a glance at the number of calories burnt, minutes of exercise and standing time. It regularly motivates me to walk for a few more minutes to close the activity rings for the day. After long sitting sessions, Apple Watch reminded me that it's time to stand.
Third-party watch face
Watch is an extension of one's personality and Apple allows users to customise the look with changeable bands. However, it is still not open to third-party watch faces. With some cool watch faces out there, I was restricted with the ones Apple offered. The only thing I could do was add a photograph as a watch face.
Often ignored but health professionals suggest that our bodies heal when we sleep. The addition of sleep tracking in fitness wearables gives deep insights about sleep cycles, sleep duration and awake time. With so much focus on health, the Series 5 lacks sleep tracking. Although third-party apps are available, these aren't very accurate.
Available in 40mm (Rs 40,900 onwards) and 44mm (Rs 43,900 onwards), the biggest hardware differentiator in Series 5 is the always-on display along with the compass. The ECG feature is now available on Series 4 post watch OS 6 update, so are most of the software-driven features. If having an always-on display is something that you want, the new smartwatch is worth the money. HDFC is offering a cashback of Rs 4,000 on the purchase of the new smartwatch and lucrative cashbacks on Paytm can also make the deal sweeter.