Apple Watch Series 5 Review


The Apple Watch was off to a rough start in 2015: it was slow, third-party apps took forever to load, and battery life wasn’t great. But then Apple did what Apple does: it iterated and iterated, and then once again iterated, until it got things right.

The Apple Watch Series 5 is the latest iteration that is all about one key feature: it now features an always-on screen that allows you to inconspicuously take a quick glance at the time.

All else has remained the same: you still need to charge the watch every night, and it looks just like the Apple Watch Series 4. So is this the smartwatch you should buy? I have been using the Series 5 for a week now, and it’s about time for our review. Read on.

Always-on Display, but why now?

Hint: it's about a brand new kind of screen technology


So… how come the Apple Watch Series 5 finally has an always-on screen and is this always-on option coming to older Apple Watches too? No, it’s not, and the reason it’s not is because the Series 5 uses a unique combination of an innovative display, low-power display driver, a new ambient light sensor, and an efficient circuit that the older watches simply don’t have.

The core technology is called a low temperature poly-silicon and oxide display (or LTPO) and it can do one magic trick: it can act like a normal screen, refreshing 60 times per second, or it can switch to a super slow refresh mode and refresh just once a second. This new super slow refresh mode is turned on when you are not looking at the screen and it is extremely battery efficient. Plus, the screen is slightly dimmed with it. This allows the new Apple Watch to be always on and still have the same battery life as earlier models.



So does the new always-on mode also mean that everyone can read your notifications? Apple has thought of this. Notifications remain blurred until you actively take a look at the screen.

We should also mention that the screen on the Series 5 is gorgeous: it is an OLED screen with vivid colors and it gets very bright so it's easy to see outdoors. One interesting fact is that the resolution on the Series 5 (same as on Series 4), at 368 by 448 pixels for the 44mm model, is higher than the resolution on the original iPhone (it had a 320 x 480 pixel resolution).

Battery life and charging

When I didn't work out, I still had about 40% charge at the end of the day


In my experience, I would pick up the watch at around 8am, and by the time I take it off at around 10pm, I would have more than a 40% charge. That's the case on a regular day when I don’t work out. If you are tracking a workout, expect this number to be lower, but even with an hour or two of working out, you should definitely have enough juice for a full day of use.

But this is definitely not a 2-day watch. If you forget to charge it overnight, it will likely die on you the next day.

Charging the watch happens via the same tiny magnetic charger that we’ve had since the original. It gives a 44% charge in 30 minutes, and a full charge takes about an hour and a half.

Other features

A compass to tell north and south


The other new feature on the Series 5 is a compass and it’s a little thing, but we love having it. It helps show the right direction if you are using the tiny maps on the watch, and you also have a new compass complication on watchfaces that show you which way north and south are.

And that’s it! For all else, this feels like the same watch as the Series 4: it certainly looks the same, and while it does have an S5 chip that by name is different than the S4 chip in last year's watch, analysis of the chip has shown that it is basically the same one, running the same CPU at the same speeds. The Series 4 already felt incredibly zippy and you have the same speed on this year's watch.

It’s remarkable that you have 32 gigs of on-board storage and you even have an App Store where you can purchase apps right from your wrist.

One more thing that hasn’t changed: while you do have automatic workout detection, it doesn’t really work well. For example, this morning I was cycling for half an hour, and the watch didn’t even detect I was moving. You may have to go through the tedious task of manually starting a workout every time.

Prices and rivals


The Series 5 prices start from $400 and go all the way up to more than $1,000 for the ceramic Edition model. Here is how prices break down:

  • $400 for a GPS 40mm (aluminum case), +$30 for 44mm model
  • From $500 for GPS+cellular 40mm (aluminum case), +$30 for 44mm model
  • Stainless steel models start from $700
  • Edition titanium starts at $800
  • Edition ceramic starts at $1300

There are a bunch of other smartwatches on the market, and while the Apple Watch definitely feels like the fastest and most capable, it has its shortcomings, the biggest of which is that it does not work with Android devices.

If you are looking for a truly universal smartwatch, the new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a great choice. Its battery lasts nearly double (or even more) that of the Apple Watch, it looks stylish, and it is better at automatically tracking your workouts. Plus, it’s round and might look prettier to you.

If you are a serious athlete, either running, cycling, swimming, or doing triathlons, Garmin’s new watches might be the best fit. The new Fenix 6 series have real buttons that are easier to press in difficult conditions, battery life on them is measured in days, and tracking is on point.



Still, the Series 5 is much faster than all other smartwatches, it detects your heart rate with very good accuracy for what it is, it tracks sports with detailed data and it feels very comfortable to wear. This is not a watch that you will pass to your grandson, but it’s an incredibly fancy toy that will deliver you notifications, and give you some useful health and fitness features.

Pros

  • Has an always-on screen!
  • Fast performance
  • Feels very comfortable to wear
  • Very accurate heart rate measurements for a smartwatch

Cons

  • One day battery life, not more
  • Does not work with Android phones
  • Automatic workout tracking does not detect most short workouts at all
  • No sleep tracking

PhoneArena Rating:

9.0

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58 Comments

73. TheHitman1982

Posts: 98; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

I don't know where this "1 day battery life" comes from. I have a series 3 and wear it every day and when I put it on the charger it still has over half of the battery left.

63. N3bula

Posts: 5; Member since: Sep 04, 2019

One day battery life...

62. drifter77

Posts: 402; Member since: Jun 12, 2015

Quite happy with my Samsung Watch 46mm with 4 days battery life.. and actually looks like a real watch not a child watch.

68. cheetah2k

Posts: 2354; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Agreed! Ive had my GWatch almost a year now and still getting 7 day battery life with minimal notifications and without the always on display.. Just can't be beat for the price and features...

50. Foxgabanna unregistered

Victor is sending all the hunky vibes with those big strong hands and stylish clothes. ❤️

45. pogba

Posts: 114; Member since: Jun 13, 2018

Hey victor, what camera do you use for the review pictures?

38. pt020

Posts: 192; Member since: Apr 08, 2014

No other watch gets such a review .. Ladies watch.

43. Vancetastic

Posts: 1977; Member since: May 17, 2017

"ladies watch"? What year is this for you?

69. cheetah2k

Posts: 2354; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Apple's year is 2017 in 2019. He's right it looks like a ladies watch. Let the LGBTQI community rejoice!

47. ScottsoNJ56

Posts: 175; Member since: Oct 01, 2017

He's talking about the Apple Watch not the Samsung like you are

55. Vancetastic

Posts: 1977; Member since: May 17, 2017

It doesn't matter...the point is..."ladies watch"..whatever.

37. jibraihimi

Posts: 816; Member since: Nov 29, 2011

9.0......

29. zyler

Posts: 8; Member since: Nov 12, 2016

Incorrect information. The processor is the same as Series 4. It’s not faster. Please do your research.

34. Victor.H

Posts: 1129; Member since: May 27, 2011

Thanks! I must have missed a recent article that showed that the new S5 chip is basically the same as the S4. I was under the wrong impression they improved it slightly, but it's in fact fundamentally the same. I've fixed this now in the article.

70. cheetah2k

Posts: 2354; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Oh dear...

21. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

The Apple Watch is dope, and the best overall Smartwatch I've owned. Doesn't have the most features, most battery life, and isn't the best looking, but it's the best performing. I gotta give props where it's due, and the Apple Watch gets the best watch nod. The Galaxy Watch is right behind, and just needs some more optimization, and slightly better heart rate monitoring to equal it.

25. Vancetastic

Posts: 1977; Member since: May 17, 2017

I'd bet that most of the Android fans that complain about it have never actually used one. I wish it would work with Android, because I'd own one again.

27. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I have a Series 4, and owned all but the 5. Absolutely great watch.

30. Vancetastic

Posts: 1977; Member since: May 17, 2017

I had a series 1. It worked flawlessly.

49. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Other than being slow as a snail, I had zero issues with my Series 1.

28. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

It'll compliment my Active Watch 2 perfectly...once I get it.

42. Vancetastic

Posts: 1977; Member since: May 17, 2017

I'm looking at that Active...its not huge like a lot of smartwatches. I don't like giant watches.

48. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I love the minimalist design of it. I'm glad it now has a loud speaker, and LTE. I'll be getting the bluetooth only model though.

54. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Picked mine up from Bestbuy today, and so far it's a great device. Fast, fluid, feature packed, and battery life has to be seen. I got the 44mm black, bluetooth model, $324 after tax. It's very good looking, and bigger than I expected. As far as keeping it, that will depend on how accurate the heart rate monitor is. As long as it tracks my HR, and workouts accurately, I'll keep it. That's very important to me. I missed having the widgets too, so it's a winner so far, but I'll be testing it out for about 10 days, and then making a decision.

18. Cat97

Posts: 2087; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Cons: - Feminine - Rectangular - No notification history - Proprietary bands

22. Vancetastic

Posts: 1977; Member since: May 17, 2017

"Feminine"?

35. Natko

Posts: 13; Member since: Feb 05, 2013

Yes like a women model from Patek Philippe. That’s what I’ve been saying from first iteration. Round model is a must one day!

41. Vancetastic

Posts: 1977; Member since: May 17, 2017

Welcome to 1955!

17. drunkenjay

Posts: 1705; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

i cant really say anything bad about the apple watch besides the battery life. when i got the new samsung watch with my s10, i realised how crap it was compared to the watch. the apple watch is one of the reasons i keep going back to apple.

11. stijnvbml

Posts: 79; Member since: Feb 20, 2013

Well, you can say what you want about Apple but the Watch is their best paced product ever. It was not that impressive at a beginning, but by making small adjustments every year, it has become the only smartwatch which is actually really good and easily beats the competition. Not only is watchOS the only well mentained and sort of app rich os, the hardware is really good and full of amazing health features.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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