Apple raises the bar with iconic watch

Noel Campion says the latest model of the Apple Watch Series 4 is by far the best performer in the series.

Apple Watch Series 4 comes in two new sizes with a bigger screen.

I’ve used all versions of the Apple Watch, but the latest model is by far the best I’ve used. It’s not surprising that Apple’s only wearable is the number one watch, not just smartwatch, in the world. The new Apple Watch series 4 (AW4) comes in two new sizes with a bigger screen, refined design, boosted performance and new and improved features.

One of the new headline features is the ability to record an ECG. This means the AW4 can record the changes of electrical potential occurring during the heartbeat, which is used in diagnosing abnormalities in the heart. A PDF can then be created from the information on the watch and emailed to a specialist. Unfortunately, this feature hasn’t been unlocked or released yet, but it will be available in a future update.

Those familiar with previous Apple Watches will immediately notice some major differences in its design. Despite having a display that is now 30% larger, the overall form factor isn’t noticeably bigger. Apple achieved this by reducing the bezels despite going from 38mm to 42mm and from 42mm to 44mm on the bigger model.

The display uses a low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO), resulting in a stunning OLED screen that manages to use less power than its predecessor. The new display now has more pixels, going from 303ppi to 326ppi.

The new display is stunning and one of my favourite things about the new watch, because it makes everything look better and is easier to see and use. 30% larger is a big increase on a smaller watch display and really does make a massive difference. I found text much easier to read and things like icons are bigger, making it easier to use the touchscreen. Apps also look better thanks to the larger display, making them more useful than on previous models. This is especially true of apps like Maps, which I now find much easier to use.

Despite the larger display, I was able to get slightly more out of the battery. In general, I’m able to get two days out of a single charge including using it for sleep monitoring. Like the new iPad Pro, the new Apple Watch display can dynamically adjust refresh rates from 30Hz to 60Hz depending on what’s automatically required for performance or battery savings. However, for long runs or other activities that use the GPS, the battery will drain quicker, but most will have no problem getting a full days use. This doesn’t make the Apple Watch the best out there as there are other smartwatches that will last up to a week, but I didn’t find it inconvenient putting it on the wireless charger every couple of days.

The AW4 is also more comfortable to wear, being slightly thinner and the corners are more rounded. Thankfully, those considering the AW4 as an upgrade will be glad to know that all existing watch bands will work on the new model.

Other noticeable changes to the new watch is the haptic feedback is now more pronounced and the speaker is twice as loud. Although I’ve been testing the cellular version of the AW4, this feature isn’t supported yet by any of the networks in Ireland.

However, you can use the watch to take calls as long as you’re connected to your iPhone. I’ve found this incredibly useful on the odd occasion and have seen an improvement in audio quality thanks to the better placement of the mic and of course the louder speaker.

The AW4 is now much faster than series 3, using a new 64-bit dual-core CPU and a new GPU. There’s a major speed improvement when loading apps and using the watch feels smoother and snappier including when swiping to change watch faces. Speaking of which, Apple Watch series 4 has some new exclusive watch faces featuring fire, water, and vapour, which look stunning. You can set them to be round or full-screen. If you choose round, you can add complications to the corners. There also an exclusive to series 4 new complications watch face that jams in a ton of information by making the most of the new bigger display.

To complement the new CPU there’s also a new W3 wireless chip with faster Bluetooth 5.0.

The Apple Watch series 4 is now even better for fitness. You now get an automatic start and end detection of your workouts. You can still manually start sessions but it’s nice to know that the Apple Watch has your back if you forget.

A new and improved accelerometer sensor that can detect up to 32 g-forces and combined with a new gyroscope can detect falls. If you’re 65 or older, it will automatically identify a hard fall based on the information received from the sensors. You can also manually enable the feature from the SOS Emergency setting menu on the watch. Once enabled the Apple Watch will attempt to detect falls, trips, and slips. If you don’t respond within a minute, it can automatically make an SOS call to emergency services.

Although the Apple Watch doesn’t come with any sleep tracking apps, there are some excellent options out there. I used an app called Pillow which is free to use, but for a little more than a fiver you get all the premium features. This works so well by harnessing all of the hardware built into the Apple Watch. It reports on your time awake, light sleep, REM and deep sleep. Also, because the watch is constantly monitoring your heart rate, the app shows your heart rate during each stage of sleep as well as the max and min.

Apple Watch series 4 is simply the best getting better. I’d still love to see some implementation of an always-on-display and it would be great to get support here in Ireland for the cellular version from the networks, but right now, this is the best smartwatch money can buy.

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