In this review of the Apple Watch Series 5, we discuss the pros and cons of this latest Apple Watch. How do you like the new always-on screen and are the other improvements appreciated? You can read it in this Apple Watch Series 5 review
Before the announcement of the Apple Watch Series 5 , many people wondered whether Apple should come up with a successor to the excellent Apple Watch Series 4 this year. We also had our doubts, because which functions were really missing? How could Apple make the Series 4 even better than it already was? We did not have to expect a new design and the most important functions were included. Still, there is now the Apple Watch Series 5, which has some useful improvements. But do those improvements justify buying a new model? In this review of the Apple Watch Series 5, we share our experiences with this latest model.
Introduction Apple Watch Series 5
Where Apple made huge leaps last year with the Apple Watch, in terms of design, performance and functions, the new Apple Watch Series 5 is a lot smaller. Apple builds on the already great Series 4 and adds a number of features. You could see the Apple Watch Series 5 as a kind of Apple Watch Series 4S, because the improvements are mainly on the inside.
Nevertheless, Apple has now opted for the name Series 5. Actually we think this is a bit unjustified, because the step from the Apple Watch Series 4 is a lot smaller than a year ago with the Apple Watch Series 3 to the Apple Watch Series 4 . The improvements can be counted on one hand. However, that does not alter the fact that the Apple Watch Series 5 is another excellent Apple Watch.
Apple Watch Series 5 screen: always on
- New always on screen, never goes out
- Energy efficient LTPO OLED screen
- Two sizes: 40 and 44mm
Apple has been using an OLED screen since the very first generation of Apple Watch . Since last year, that is a so-called LTPO OLED screen , but you actually noticed very little of it. Only this year will Apple reap the benefits, thanks to the always on display . The always on screen ensures that your Apple Watch never goes completely black. Instead, the screen dims and shows only the watch face (or the Workout app, if you’re working out).
With the Apple Watch Series 4 and earlier, the screen only turns on when you tap it or turn your wrist. We have rarely experienced this as a problem ourselves. Nevertheless, many users wanted an always-on screen and that wish has now been granted.
Now that we’ve walked around with this new feature for a while, we think it’s a nice addition. You don’t notice it very much in everyday use, but in some specific situations we do appreciate the function. For example, during exercise, where you are not always able to turn your wrist or tap the screen. The Workout app will then always remain on screen, even if you are not actively looking at your screen. A look at the Apple Watch is then enough to know what your statistics are.
Incidentally, the Work-out app is the only one where information is continuously displayed. Second hands are hidden, however, because the screen in the always-on position is only refreshed once per second. Apple does this to save battery . Other apps where you would like the full information to be constantly displayed, such as the Maps app during navigation or the new Compass app, do not have this. In those cases the app will be blurred. We find that especially inconvenient with the Timer app. The timer appears faded in the background, with the digital time in front of it. Although you can always see the time, you cannot quickly glance at your timer. You still have to turn your wrist or tap the screen.
For the always-on screen, it does not matter which watch face you have set. All dials are suitable, although we find one more suitable than the other. Bright colors are dimmed or blackened on dials. The seconds hand is hidden on analogue dials. This automatically appears as soon as you turn your wrist or tap the screen again. The always-on screen is therefore especially useful when reading the time and statistics via the Work-out app, because that is the only thing that is really always on the screen. Information from other apps, even those that may be useful while resting your arm, will not appear. We think that’s a shame, but hopefully Apple will adjust this in a future update.
Apple still has two sizes to choose from: 40mm and 44mm. This has remained unchanged since the Apple Watch Series 4. We don’t think Apple needs to release an even larger or smaller format. We sometimes see very large traditional watches on the street, but we always find that something exaggerated. The sizes are still good: 40mm is fine for the smaller wrist, while 44mm is useful if you want a slightly larger screen or have a wider wrist. A smaller Apple Watch for children is not yet available.
Design Apple Watch Series 5: unchanged success
- Unchanged from Apple Watch Series 4
- A rounder finish is not boring
In terms of design, Apple has made great strides last year, as said before. In our review of the Apple Watch Series 4 we wrote that we were impressed by this renewed design and we are still behind it a year later. We still think the Apple Watch is the most beautiful smartwatch there is. The design is not boring either, because the playful round appearance makes it look more modern. The design of the older models also seems a bit clumsy. In our opinion, Apple can continue for a few more generations with this design.
The question still remains: should Apple release a round Apple Watch? In the responses to iCulture we still read that there is often a need for a round model. While we understand this from a watch wearer’s point of view, we find this far from ideal for reading text, using apps and other functions that you do with an Apple Watch. A round design simply has a much smaller screen area. A round screen is widest in the center, making only that point ideal for reading texts. watchOS is not built on that, so a round Apple Watch is very inconvenient in that case.
Versions Apple Watch Series 5:
- 4G versions in stainless steel, titanium and ceramic
- Apple Watch Nike + also available
- New Apple Watch Studio: choose your own combination
Apple offers several models in countries where this is supported: the GPS version and a 4G version. Apple has chosen two new materials for the 4G versions of the Apple Watch Series 5 this year: ceramic and titanium. We already know ceramics from the Apple Watch Series 3 and have a shiny white finish. Titanium is brand new and is a bit rougher than the shiny stainless steel. Unfortunately the titanium, stainless steel and ceramic versions are not yet for sale with us. In the Netherlands and Belgium you therefore only have the choice of aluminum in space gray, silver and gold.We think it is a shame that Apple has once again not chosen to release the Apple Watch Series 5 with GPS in materials other than aluminum.
Just like every year, you get a Nike strap (which you can also buy separately later) and exclusive dials. There are no differences in the appearance of this version compared to the standard aluminum versions. For the same money you get more watch faces, so in our opinion it is best to choose this version.
Apple Watch Studio: choose your own combination
What we do like when buying a new Apple Watch is that at Apple you now have the freedom to choose the strap with the case yourself. Apple calls this Apple Watch Studio . Do you want a 40mm gold Apple Watch with a khaki woven sport band? Then you can now, thanks to this new possibility. We think it’s good that Apple now gives you a lot more freedom in putting together your Apple Watch. With the wide collection of watch straps it was also about time, since we have now seen the standard versions with a black, white or gray (woven) sports strap .
Compass: Always knows where North is
- New Compass app
- Also available in Apple Maps
- Supported by third party apps
In addition to the new always-on screen, the compass is the second major innovation. When Apple announced the new addition, we actually realized that it has never had a compass in it before. That also immediately shows how we think about the function: we have never actually missed the compass in those five years of Apple Watch. With the new Compass app you can check where north is and while navigating with Apple Maps you can see which direction you are pointing. We think this function is best (come) only when walking in combination with Apple Maps . You can then see more clearly in which direction you have to walk. Previously, more map reading was involved and it was a matter of guessing whether you were going in the right direction.
Whether you really need the compass depends on your activities. If you often go out for a brisk walk off the beaten track, it is handy to have. On the other hand, you may wonder how often you use the compass on your iPhone. If you never use it and you never check in Apple Maps which direction you are facing, you can almost be sure that you will never use it on your Apple Watch. We therefore think the compass is a useful addition, but it is certainly not a must-have .
Finally, third-party apps can also use the compass function. An example is the Night Sky app, with which you know better in which direction to look for the correct constellation thanks to the compass. It’s especially nice to give this a try or if you really love stargazing, but in practice you probably don’t use this feature that often.
Performance Apple Watch Series 5
- New S5 chip, but with the same performance
- Twice the storage: now 32GB
Apple has equipped the Apple Watch Series 5 with a renewed S5 chip. While the name suggests that another leap in performance has been made, that is not the case. The name S5 only refers to the improvements for the always-on screen and the sensors for the compass, not to the performance of the watch itself. On the one hand, we think that’s a shame. Apple has managed to improve performance up to now, but that has not happened now. Although we don’t have much to complain about the speed of the Apple Watch Series 4 (the watch is quite fast and apps run smoothly), a small leap in performance improvement would have made a difference in the long run.
Apple often makes a distinction between processors for software updates. Older chips are no longer supported at some point, because they cannot handle the demands of the new operating system. Because Apple has now used the same chip in terms of performance, the Apple Watch Series 5 may last as long as the Apple Watch Series 4 from a year ago. It is therefore not the case that you get a more future-proof Apple Watch and we think that is a pity.
What we are very happy with is that there is now more storage. With the Apple Watch Series 4, you got 16GB by default, but Apple has now increased that to 32GB. That is more than enough for an Apple Watch. It gives you the ability to download many apps (which are quite small in and of themselves anyway) and store music, podcasts and audiobooks at the same time. We especially often play music directly via the Apple Watch , because then you can leave your iPhone at home. In combination with the AirPods , for example , this is very easy, and since watchOS 6 , this is also possible with audiobooks.
Battery life Apple Watch Series 5
- About the same battery life, even with the always-on screen
- Still charging every night
Apple promises the same battery life of 18 hours for the Apple Watch Series 5 and our test showed that this is indeed the case. Apple managed to do this through all kinds of clever tricks, despite the new always-on screen. Although the battery has become slightly larger, it is mainly due to the improved LTPO screen. This makes it easy to get to the end of the day, even if you do multiple workouts. If you want a little more battery life, you can always switch off the always-on screen. We did notice that the battery on the Apple Watch Series 5 is slightly less full at the end of the day than on the Apple Watch Series 4. Ultimately, you charge both models every night, so you don’t notice that much at the bottom of the line from.
By turning this function off, you can use the Apple Watch just a little longer. However, don’t expect the battery to suddenly last twice as long, but if you’re in an emergency and don’t have a charger nearby, this is a nice remedy to use your Apple Watch a little longer.
Still, we regret that Apple has not made any bigger leaps. While we don’t have a problem charging the Apple Watch every night, a battery life of about two days would have been very welcome. The fact that this is not the case now is probably also the reason that there is no standard Sleep app available yet. According to rumors, Apple is working on this, but the limited battery life may still be the big stumbling block.
We would therefore have thought it better if Apple made the Apple Watch Series 5 suitable for standard Qi chargers. Now you can only charge the Apple Watch with the specifically designed chargers, which you do not always have with you. Wireless chargers are becoming increasingly common and we therefore regret that the Apple Watch is not yet suitable for this.
Apple Watch Series software 5
- Comes standard with watchOS 6
- Requires at least iPhone 6s or iPhone SE
- Tons of new features, such as new default apps
watchOS has played an important role in the development of the Apple Watch in recent years. New hardware functions alone are of little use, because there must also be software that makes full use of the possibilities. In watchOS 6 , which runs by default on the Apple Watch Series 5, we find a number of new apps. There is a Sound app , with which you can measure how many decibels the sound is in your environment. You can also put this on your watch face, so that you can always see if you run the risk of hearing damage. Other new additions include a Calculator app, Voice Memos and the new Cycle period tracking app . In the new App Storeyou download new apps on the Apple Watch. For the first time, these are also apps that are only available for the Apple Watch.
All these new features of watchOS 6 are found in both the Apple Watch Series 4 and the new Apple Watch Series 5. No software features were released this year that only work on the latest model. On the one hand, that is good, because it does not let users of last year’s model down. On the other hand, you may miss the feeling that you have something exclusive. There is of course the compass, but such a big important new function like the ECG app last year, is not there this year. In our review of watchOS 6 you can read more about how we experienced this new version.
What you still have to take into account is that the Apple Watch Series 5 requires at least an iPhone 6s or iPhone SE . That’s because watchOS 6 can only work with iOS 13 , the latest version for the iPhone. As an indirect consequence, older iPhone models such as the iPhone 6 are not suitable for this new Apple Watch. So keep that in mind before you run to the store.
Who is the Apple Watch Series 5 for?
Since the upgrade of the Apple Watch Series 5 is a lot smaller than last year, it is interesting to see who the Apple Watch Series 5 is best suited for. Users who bought the Apple Watch Series 4 last year have little reason to switch in our opinion. We think the always-on screen and the compass are too small an improvement to pay more than € 400 again. We think it only makes sense if you know how to sell your Apple Watch Series 4 well or because it has some small scratches that bothers you.
For users of the Apple Watch Series 3, we think it is a worthy upgrade, although with that model you can also go ahead for a few years. If you switch from the 2017 model, you immediately benefit from all the improvements that were also added to the Apple Watch Series 4, such as the new design, the ECG function and the larger screen. If you are even more than satisfied with the Apple Watch Series 3 and the new design does not add value to you yet, then it is not necessarily necessary to switch. Apple is not selling the Apple Watch Series 3 for the lower entry price of € 229 for nothing , because it is still a very good smartwatch.
If you still have an Apple Watch Series 2 or perhaps older, then we think the Apple Watch Series 5 is a no-brainer . The performance improvements are huge in that case and it won’t be long before these models don’t get the latest software update anymore. This year, Apple has already chosen to release watchOS 6 for the Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 at a later time , so it is not inconceivable that this will be one of the last major software updates. We think it is a logical step for the original first-generation Apple Watch.
Still not sure whether you should choose the Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 5? If you’re just looking for an advanced watch, want to check notifications and do some workouts, the Apple Watch Series 3 is a good choice. For the relatively low amount of € 229 you get a large part of the Apple Watch experience at home. If you’re willing to invest more and want the extra features like EKG, the larger screen and the always-on function, the Apple Watch Series 5 is by far the best choice. Also check out our extensive Apple Watch comparison, in which we compare the different models.
There are plenty of other smartwatches and activity trackers available too, but we can’t find one that is as good as the Apple Watch. The collaboration with the iPhone does not match any other smartwatch, making it the best choice for Apple users. If you’re just looking for a pedometer for some simple statistics, the cheaper Fitbit activity trackers are the best choice.
The price of the Apple Watch Series 5 is a bit on the high side with a starting price of € 449 , but in our opinion it is still more than worth it. However, Apple must be careful that the price does not increase further in the coming years. Compared to the Apple Watch Series 4, the price has gone up by a few tens, but that should not be much more for the standard versions as far as we are concerned.
- Always-on screen a nice addition
- Compass helps with navigation
- Extra storage comes in handy
- Easier to put together your own combinations (only at Apple)
- In the Netherlands and Belgium still only in aluminum and without 4G
- No sleep function yet
- No improvements in battery life
Conclusion Apple Watch Series 5
With the Apple Watch Series 5, Apple is taking a few small steps to make this smartwatch the ultimate watch. We found the Apple Watch to be the best smartwatch out there last year, and with the introduction of the always-on screen, it’s now also a more versatile watch. Although you can also do without an always-on screen, we think it’s a nice addition. We do hope that Apple will improve the function even further in the long run, so that the timer, for example, remains visible. Other new functions such as the compass are nice to have, because that makes the Apple Watch a suitable companion to navigate with. But none of it is necessary.
The improvements of the Apple Watch Series 5 are minor. Apple again especially put some finishing touches. The always-on screen has been a wish of many users for years and Apple has granted that this year. Still, there is still plenty to be desired, such as a longer battery life and a standard sleep function. Moreover, we regret that Apple has not chosen to release the new materials without 4G in all countries. As a result, you are limited to the aluminum versions in the Netherlands and Belgium, until the 4G Apple Watch is finally available. We think Apple is already busy behind the scenes with the next generation, which will hopefully make the rest of our wishes come true.