A new type of display allows the just-announced Apple Watch Series 5 to be on all the time. This is also the first version with a compass, and Apple is making its wearable in new materials.
But hardware is only half the story. watchOS 6 brings dramatic improvements, including making Apple’s wrist computer much less tied to an iPhone.
Series 5 is a modest improvement
Last year’s Series 4 included the most significant changes to Apple’s wearable since the launch. The screen got 30% larger, plus there’s an ECG and fall detection. This company isn’t in the habit of making huge hardware changes to its products two years in a row. Think of the Apple Watch Series 5 as sort of a Series 4S — a moderately improved version of its predecessor.
Screen sizes remain at 40mm and 44mm. But the low-temperature polysilicone and oxide display (LTPO) allows the display to remain on for up to 18 hours.
The new compass will tie into an updated version of the Maps app to let users see what direct they are facing on maps. It should help hikers as well.
The standard Apple Watch Series 5 casing will remain aluminum, but stainless steel, titanium and ceramic casings will also be options. These materials are stronger than the standard casing, but cost extra.
More independence with watchOS 6
Although there are only modest hardware changes, users can to look to watchOS 6 for much more significant enhancements.
Apple responded to user requests to free its wearable from its very close ties to the iPhone. The brand-new App Store for Apple Watch allows users to finally install apps and games right from their wrists. Beyond that, developers can build apps just for Watch, without an iPhone component.
In addition, there’s a new app that allows users to listen to audiobooks from their wrist computer.
And, of course, there are plenty of new faces. watchOS 6 adds a gradient face for those who like color and simplicity, a new large digital face for people who just want the numbers, and a new solar face.
A new Taptic Chimes feature gives the wearer a nudge on the hour so they can keep track of the time without looking. An audible tone is also an option.
Almost from the beginning, Apple Watch has been focused on health and fitness, and that continues with new Activity Trends, which gives users an overview of their workout progress over time. Plus, the wearable will react if the ambient noise is too loud. And Apple is adding menstrual cycle tracking.
Naturally, watchOS 6 isn’t restricted to the new Series 5. It will be available to earlier models as well.
Apple Watch Series 5 launching next week
Eager buyers can pre-order Series 5 today. The device will launch September 20.
The base model Apple Watch Series 5, without 4G LTE is $399. Add cellular-wireless connectivity and the cost goes up to $499. Versions with a stainless steel casing start at $699, while a ceramic casing starts at $1,299.
And for those with slimmer budgets, Series 3 is staying in Apple’s lineup. The base version is $199 and Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular is $299.