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.


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


  • 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:




2. DBozz

Posts: 68; Member since: Sep 19, 2019

Undeniable even if you had rated 9.5 But wish it also supports android and had better battery life per charge

5. Feanor

Posts: 1389; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

I've been an Apple Watch hater for long, but now I have to admit that the Apple Watch, that started as a big joke in comparison to a much more advanced and aesthetically exiting first wave of Android Wear watches, now has practically smoked Wear OS. However I am still amazed (in a negative way) of how the Apple Watch reached such a level of excellence, because its fan base -in typical Apple fashion- was both numerous and loyal, whereas the initially much more promising Wear OS floundered under the weight of lack of brand loyalty. The pervasive opinion may be that Wear OS failed, because it was flawed and brands abandoned it, but actually what happened was the opposite; brands like Sony, Motorola, LG had no brand recognition to support such a new segment of product, low sales of -otherwise better devices than the flawed first Apple Watch- made them abandon ship and Google lost the incentive to develop further a platform that started surprisingly strong in comparison to the initial Apple effort. Real shame. If Samsung had supported Wear OS, things would be very different now for the competition between Apple Watch and the Wear OS camp.

56. TheJazzluvr

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 28, 2019

For Apple, that seems like a nice problem to have. Problem with WearOS has been around for thousand of times for Google. They try to make a wearable OS that works for everybody on every brand and every watches. They need to make their own Pixel Watch and not selling craps to the like of Sony or LG or even Samsung. You won't get much incentive by opening up to OEMs, and consumers aren't willing to buy a watch that may or may not be supported after 2 years of use. Apple always warrant long term updates for its product, and consumers love it because they're being taken care of. Smartwatch is the new segment of product, and it's a peace of mind knowing that I can buy an Apple Watch that will get sufficient support for at least 3 years.

7. Xavier1415

Posts: 208; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

one day battery life is unacceptable to any smart watch smh but gets a good score lol

9. mackan84

Posts: 555; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Apple knows what they’re doing. Makes me buy the better design last year, introduce always on this year which makes me want to get this one and then next year, 2 days of Battery. They use the old technique of not giving it all at once, but just enough to entice consumers to upgrade. And I hate them for it. But my wallet seems to want throw money on tech regardless of Apple so it’s not like I’m saving any if I jumped ship.

12. Victor.H

Posts: 1079; Member since: May 27, 2011

Well, obviously it is acceptable to the millions of people who buy it and use it. Let me remind you that it's the best selling smartwatch by a huge margin. You might not like it and that's okay, it is my biggest complaint about it too, but it gets a great score because it's a great smartwatch. Not ideal, but still great considering the state of technology now.

26. Vancetastic

Posts: 1581; Member since: May 17, 2017

I agree. It's the best full-on smartwatch out there...if only it worked with Android. Come on, Apple!

36. raky_b

Posts: 415; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

I agree with that too...but even as best smartwatch there is, this is just not good enough for me to spend 500€ on a toy. And yes, with (much) better battery I would consider it...even with other problems it comes with...

31. Charlie2k

Posts: 137; Member since: Jan 11, 2016

Most people buying it have been scammed by journalists, who have been praising these watches since day one even though the first four was utter s**t. And number 5? Well.. They've added an incapitated always-on screen, in comparison with Garmin Venu that has true always on. Yet the Garmin also have six times longer battery life than AW5. So the rating for AW5 is 9/10. Very very little room left for improvement. With a week long battery life, or a month like Garmin Fenix, the score would have to be 12/10...and that's just wrong.

33. Victor.H

Posts: 1079; Member since: May 27, 2011

I would agree with that if we had millions of people who were scammed by journalists to buy the watch and then found out it has 1-day battery life and were bitterly regretting their buying decision and returning it, but... that doesn't seem to be the case, don't you think?

53. Cat97

Posts: 1933; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Any product Apple makes is best-seller. Not because it's better, it's just because it fills a gap in their closed ecosystem, a gap that their trapped customers need fixed and that Apple ensures it cannot be filled by anything else. Example: on iOS, you can only reply to notifications on your smartwatch if you have an Apple Watch.

57. TheJazzluvr

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 28, 2019

A battery can always be replaced. For any Apple Watch, it's a flat $79 fee if you're out of warranty. Worth every penny if you love the watch and will use it for the next 4 - 5 years. It's a wrist computer that may have limited lifespan, but also does a lot more than telling you the time. After all it will keep working on its late OS, even if Apple stops supporting it. It will still do a lot more than typical watches.

8. Derekjeter

Posts: 1526; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Does it matter which face is on the watch for it to stay on all the time? Or can it only do it with certain faces?

14. Victor.H

Posts: 1079; Member since: May 27, 2011

It works with all watchfaces :)

10. JCASS889

Posts: 565; Member since: May 18, 2018

Still not worth half the cost of a flagship smartphone? I would buy if it was $200 max.

15. Victor.H

Posts: 1079; Member since: May 27, 2011

Right now, the Series 3 costs about $200. So I guess in about two years the Series 5 will be sold for that price.

11. stijnvbml

Posts: 76; 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.

19. Cat97

Posts: 1933; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Try a Garmin Vivoactive 4...

17. drunkenjay

Posts: 1697; 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.

18. Cat97

Posts: 1933; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

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

22. Vancetastic

Posts: 1581; Member since: May 17, 2017


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: 1581; Member since: May 17, 2017

Welcome to 1955!

21. darkkjedii

Posts: 31310; 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: 1581; 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: 31310; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

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

30. Vancetastic

Posts: 1581; Member since: May 17, 2017

I had a series 1. It worked flawlessly.

49. darkkjedii

Posts: 31310; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

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

28. darkkjedii

Posts: 31310; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

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

42. Vancetastic

Posts: 1581; 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.

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

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