The Apple Watch Series 5 is nothing special, but it still deserves all the attention in the world
While it's obviously too soon to know if this apparent lack of excitement will translate into shrinking sales numbers during the always important holiday season, it might be worth highlighting why Apple made the right call in playing things safe this year and why you can't find a better smartwatch... to use alongside an iPhone.
No real pressure from the competition, no reason to take big risks
Just like in the handset market all those years ago, it took Apple a little while to find its footing and focus in the fledgling wearable industry. As such, the first couple of Apple Watch generations were far from perfect. A third edition followed that also got a few things wrong but at the same time implemented a game-changing cellular feature better than all other smartwatches that previously dared to go there.
Then the Apple Watch Series 4 blew us all away with its life-saving skills, making the competition scramble for a response that has yet to come. While more and more devices with built-in ECG monitors and fall detection functionality are announced, their actual rollouts in major Western markets are either delayed or nonexistent. No wonder Apple is taking its time preparing a feature that comes standard on many other smartwatches.
Make no mistake, sleep tracking is coming... eventually, but adding that the same year always-on display functionality was introduced could have been greatly detrimental to the battery life and overall user experience. Instead of rushing half-baked technologies to the market, Apple's comfortable lead allows the company to refine everything behind closed doors. That was most likely the case for LTE support and ECG monitoring, which probably could have been implemented a year earlier but their execution would have undoubtedly been deeply flawed.
Ironically, the fact Google still doesn't know exactly what it wants to do in this space (if anything) and Samsung's way too many experiments over the years have helped the world's most popular smartwatch reach a very mature stage of development relatively early after its decidedly hesitant debut.
The design doesn't matter (yet)
While brands like Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Montblanc, or Tag Heuer seem to think buying a smartwatch comes down to making a fashion statement, Apple knows full well functionality beats style any day of the week as far as the masses are concerned. So, no, the Apple Watch Series 5 is definitely not the handsomest or prettiest smartwatch in the world, but its straightforward and familiar design still works. Not to mention it's probably far easier to manufacture in large numbers than most of its circular rivals.
Will Apple ever give up the square and embrace the circle to answer the pleas of fashionistas everywhere? Perhaps, but only if it absolutely has to, pressured by the competition or in lack
Besides, the design so many people love to hate has become such a staple of the thriving industry that tech giants like Xiaomi are starting to shamelessly copy it. That has to mean it's really not as bad as some hardcore Android fans insist it is, right?
Should you buy it or wait for the Apple Watch Series 6?
That, my friends, is the million-dollar question and the honest answer is... I have absolutely no idea what anyone else but me should do. What you definitely shouldn't do, though, is ignore or chastise the Apple Watch Series 5 because it's not "special" or "original" enough. Since it's slightly better than its forerunners, with an always-on screen that surprisingly does not impact battery life in a big way, as well as a compass and a few other small tweaks, it's without a doubt the best smartwatch money can buy this holiday season. And if that's not special, I really don't know what is.
As for the Series 6, no one knows what it could bring to the table. Sleep tracking might be in the cards or Apple might do the unthinkable and release a perfectly circular smartwatch with both Android and iOS support in 2020.
But it's generally not wise to chase some distant pipe dream when a product as well-balanced, mature, and polished as the Series 5 is sitting right in front of you. And if it's not completely flawless or it doesn't quite look as the smartwatch of your dreams, you may want to blame Google and Samsung for not challenging Apple to speed up its pace of innovation.