Hands on with the new Apple Watch

More usable, more refined and less fiddly

The new Watch: More screen with a slightly increased casing Photograph: Bloomberg

The new Watch: More screen with a slightly increased casing Photograph: Bloomberg

 

Apple’s fourth version of its smart watch makes a few important changes that make it more usable than its predecessors. After a few hours with the Watch Series, here are the first impressions.

The basics

Apple has stuck with the Digital Crown on the side of the watch, but has added haptic feedback. It’s a small thing but it makes scrolling much easier. That little buzz gives you something to focus on when you’re scrolling through diary appointments, or messages.

Apple has also improved the speaker – it’s noticeably louder – and shifted the mic to the other side beside the Digital Crown to avoid any distortion when making calls or using voice commands. It means if you are use using Siri, communication will be easier, and it you are making a call in the car, the sound quality is much better.

Looks

Aesthetically, the Apple Watch Series 4 has seen a bit of refinement, although Apple has stuck with the rectangular watch face. Apple has shrunk the bezels down so you get more screen into that small space, but increased the size of the casing marginally. The two options before were 38mm and 42mm; now it’s 40mm and 44mm. Side by side with the original watch, it’s surprising how much bigger the display is. The good news though: if you’ve already bought a Watch, the straps will still fit.

There are some new watch faces specifically for the Series 4 that take advantage of that extra space, including some dynamic ones that feature fire and water, liquid metals and vapour. There’s an info graph one too that can be customised to include everything from your diary information and weather reports to activity levels and timers. They only work with Series 4, thanks to the extra space on the display. It means less fiddling around with the dock and the crown because everything you need is right in front of you.

Health

The Apple Watch has always had an emphasis on its health properties. Not only did it track workouts and daily activity, but it also kept an eye on heart rate. The new version does all this too, but it’s been stepped up a little. Now, the Watch will warn you if your heart rate drops too low for a sustained period of time or gets too high without a corresponding increase in activity. All that information is stored in the Health app so you can produce it if needed in the future.

One feature that couldn’t be tested is the ECG. Apple built electrical sensors into the Series 4 alongside the optical heart rate sensor. At present, there’s no way to use the ECH sensors, though the US is expected to get the app in a software update in a few weeks. The timing for Europe roll out hasn’t been confirmed yet, but when it is lived It’s comparable to a single lead ECG, and again all the information is funnelled into the Apple Health app. The heart rate monitor and the ECG will work together too, so if the optical sensor picks up a low heart rate, the watch could prompt users to perform an ECG and record the results.

The new Watch will warn you if your heart rate drops too low for a sustained period of time. Photograph: Reuters
The new Watch will warn you if your heart rate drops too low for a sustained period of time. Photograph: Reuters

What else?

Apple said it has improved the call quality on the Series 4 Watch too, making some adjustments to the case that allow for better reception. Again, it’s not something that could be tested as no Irish network has put out price plans for the Apple Watch.