Apple Watch Series 4 review: The king of the smartwatch is bigger and better than ever

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Quick verdict

With a larger and more immersive screen than before, the fourth generation Apple Watch is a step beyond its predecessor. Thinner design and other design tweaks, as well as updated software, also provide a more complete experience.

The Apple Watch has been updated for the fourth time in many years, bringing several new features, and for those who wish to upgrade from the first-generation model, there is an improved design that has a bigger screen and other interesting news. technology, including an ECG monitor on the crown.

But is that enough to take you to the next level? We’ve lived with Apple’s smartwatch since launch to find out if this is really the king of the hill when it comes to staying connected.

Prices

  • New 40 and 44mm sizes

The Apple Watch Series 4 starts at £ 399 / $ 399 for the 40mm version (or £ 499 / $ 499 with cell phone) and £ 429 / $ 429 (or £ 529 / $ 529 with cell phone) for the 44mm model. We originally had the larger model for review, which also has a more spacious battery, but we use and continue to use both models across the team.

Existing users will notice that the 38 and 42 mm models from before no longer exist.

A new design

  • OLED screen bigger than before
  • Same strap size as predecessors
  • Aluminum and stainless steel options
  • Gold finish on stainless steel also available

The Apple Watch Series 4 is physically the same size as previous models, but the screen is much larger.

In fact, the screen is 35% bigger than the smaller predecessor (32% if you’re looking at the larger 44mm model) and this is achieved by Apple by pushing the screen to the edge, making the viewing experience much more immersive in your wrist. We like this new screen – although, at first use, it looks and feels much more like you tie an iPhone to your wrist than with a delicate watch, over time you get used to the new screen size.

The new design – which looks like a major breakthrough for the Apple Watch compared to previous iterations and similar to the breakthrough of the iPhone 3GS for the iPhone 4 – still features the same rectangular design, as is the Apple Watch clip, but now in a thinner format. If you’ve been using your Apple Watch for some time, you will certainly notice the difference in this latest model.

This larger size certainly makes it easier to read messages, view data or interact with things. Apple has filled the screen with data wherever it can and it can be a little tiring at times, although it is welcome in others. Take the new watch faces, for example: some allow up to eight complications, in addition to calendar information and, of course, the watch. We struggle to fill it.

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Despite the upsizing, the straps remain the same size, thankfully, so any that you have already accumulated will still fit the new watch. Ufa.

The Digital Crown has also been enhanced. It is much thinner and now has haptic feedback – the same technology found on other Apple devices like the iPhone XR and the MacBook. These changes not only mean that the crown doesn’t protrude so much from the edge of the watch, but when you scroll through apps or messages, you get vibrant feedback to feel more connected to the experience.

The back of the watch has also been changed across the range. It now features ceramic and sapphire glass for better cellular connectivity (it was metal and sapphire glass for the sports model and sapphire glass for the stainless steel models), although changes in the materials at the rear are not noticeable when using it .

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The 4 series has several colors: the aluminum models remain the same as before, but the stainless steel offering has a new shiny gold finish to match the colors of the iPhone XS and XS Max.

New power

  • New S4 processor, 64-bit dual core
  • Accelerometer gyroscope can track falls
  • New: support for EE and Vodafone in the UK

This is not just a new screen. The Apple Watch Series 4 also offers a robust specification update. The speaker location has changed and is now 50% higher than previous models – designed to help with phone calls. The microphone has also been relocated, so that you are not answered by the speaker.

New speaker

Both improvements are instantly visible the moment you ask Siri for help. It is now certainly possible to make a call on the Apple Watch and you do not need to connect it to your ear.

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The operator’s options have expanded this year to include Vodafone in the UK. You will need to be a consumer and not a commercial customer (this support is expected in 2019), but, as with EE in 2017, it is simply the case of adding the Apple Watch to your contract. Both cost about £ 5 a month.

The signal looks remarkably improved compared to our experience with the Series 3, presumably due to improvements to the rear of the device and better antenna implementation. But if you have little network coverage and are already having problems with your high-end iPhone, the Apple Watch will not suddenly improve.

Walkie Talkie Sticker

The new speaker and microphone can also be used for a WatchOS 5 feature: Walkie Talkie. Register a friend, press the talk button and your voice will be heard loud and clear.

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In theory, it sounds like a great idea and we can imagine it in certain use cases, but it can also be a disaster in the wrong situation. The problem is twofold: one, you need to activate it to receive messages; second, you receive a quick beep to inform you that someone is trying to reach you. Getting that beep will make you want to look at your watch, but that means the message will be deleted.

The first time this happened was a friend yelling at us while we were having dinner with the family. It is not good. Let’s say you need to be careful who your friends are on Walkie Talkie. Since the fun and games of the first week, this feature has been disabled for us.

New accelerometer with drop detection

The Apple Watch Series 4 also features a new accelerometer gyroscope for better data recording. This, combined with the new processing capacity, means that the new watch will be able to detect when you fall and will be able to initiate an alert to help you send a message to the emergency services if necessary. If you do not react to the alert, it will automatically ask for help on your behalf. This feature is automatically activated if you are over 65 years old.

There are questions, of course. If you are unconscious, how can you talk to someone to say you need help? And there’s nothing to stop the clock from calling services if you fall home drunk and pass out on the kitchen floor.

The feature can still be deactivated by ignoring the alert within one minute of the warning, which is likely to be useful for those who play contact sports.

New processor

To power all these new features, the clock receives a boost from the processor. Called S4, it is a dual core 64-bit processor that promises twice the performance of previous models. Like the iPhone XS and XS Max, this speed improvement aims to ensure that Watch is able to do things in the future, regardless of what app developers and Apple create.

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In daily use, this translates well. Applications open even more instantly than before, but you will still be hampered by data transfers if the application in question needs to extract data from your phone or the Internet.

WatchOS 5: Additional resources

WatchOS 5 includes many more features on the fitness side, including the ability for the watch to go back during exercise start times, if you forgot to press the Start button (we find this really useful for recording walks), the ability to challenge friends to see who is more energetic and a kilometer feature that lets you see how you’re doing in a race, instead of just showing your total time.

Apple also announced WatchOS 6, which will arrive on the Apple Watch Series 4 later this year. With WatchOS 6, users will see a dedicated App Store on Watch, Activity Trends, enhanced Siri and women’s health tracking, which are also being launched, among other features. You can read all about WatchOS 6 and the new features in our separate feature.

Drums

With a bigger screen, more sensors, but a smaller battery than before, you’d expect the Watch S4 to get worse in terms of longevity. However, that is not what we found. The busy days of receiving messages and recording exercises still left us with more than 50% battery in the tank before bed and, while the smaller model has a smaller battery, we still have between 30 and 40% at the end of the day.

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The use of cell phones and various applications will affect this performance, of course, but there is certainly nothing to worry about. We haven’t yet reached Garmin’s week-long battery life levels, but you can easily spend the day and, more than likely, for two days on a single charge for the 44 mm model or a day and a half for the model 40mm.

Electrocardiogram support and better cardiac health resources

  • Capture electrocardiogram data
  • New low heart rate monitor feature

Series 4 receives WatchOS 5 software and new heart monitor options specific to the Series 4 model. WatchOS 5 allows you to check for low heart rate and irregular heart rate and alert accordingly. It is something we hope you never need to use, but it certainly makes it attractive to those of a certain disposition.

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Series 4 and also offers the ability to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to help you diagnose certain heart diseases. Available in the USA and the UK, the back of the watch includes electro on the glass. Users will be able to touch the digital crown with the index finger of the opposite arm to complete the circuit and record their findings to share with a doctor via a PDF report.

In practice, it is as easy as it looks. You activate the service through the Health app on the iPhone and run the app on your watch. Thirty seconds later, you get a result with an “impression” of your heart’s waveform.

In addition to the ability to perform an electrocardiogram, the watch also monitors your heart rate every two hours to detect irregular heartbeats. If he finds one, he will do five additional tests, and if they are positive, you will be asked to perform an ECG. I hope you never need to go beyond that.

New Watches

  • More support for complications
  • Screens of fire, wind, steam

With a new screen and a new operating system, new watch faces. There is a comprehensive circular face that will allow you to use the corners of the screen to present more shortcuts and complications for your favorite applications. It’s a really functional design that uses this bigger screen very well.

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Anyone who already uses the modular design on the current Apple Watch will love the amount of data and shortcuts that the S4 can offer. At the moment, we decided on the new modular face, choosing to show more detailed details about our daily exercise. For those who really want to follow, say, a single stock, this can be a price chart. A new Breath watch encourages you to breathe, providing a quick shortcut to the Apple Breath mediation app.

Instead of adding more Disney characters or butterflies, there are also new Fire, Water and Steam screens. They are fun, but nothing to write about.

Verdict

So, should you update? If you’re still using the original Apple Watch, the S4 is a monumental leap forward.

In the past four years, Apple has continued to refine the experience, enlarging the screen, adding GPS, waterproofing, cellular sensors and others and features. There is also a consideration that the original Apple Watch is not eligible for the WatchOS 5 update, so you will also be missing out on new software features as well as the new features that come with WatchOS 6 later this year.

If there is criticism, there are a few tricks about S4: there is no display always active (although the feature to activate activation improves with each iteration); we are disappointed with the increase to speak without the Siri feature (it only works a fraction of the time); and the Walkie Talkie is not as exciting as it looks (if we were 12 again, maybe it would be).

The biggest success of the 4 series is its screen. This larger panel provides much more information than before, which makes it easy to interact with access codes or swipe to write messages when you can’t use voice commands much more easily.

Even if you are a Series 3 user, you are likely to be jealous of those who sport the latest device. Like the multipurpose smartwatch, there is nothing better than the Apple Watch Series 4.

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