Apple Watch Series 5 review: The always-on display is great

Starting at $ 399, the Apple Watch Series 5 isn’t particularly affordable and in many ways is almost the same watch as last year Apple Watch Series 4 was. However, the constantly on display provides one of the most important features I’ve been waiting for. I feel it a lot because now I can take a look at the time I’m typing. Or watch TV casually. Or drive. No more strange arm turns.

It is a function that is long overdue: The Pebble, Amazfit Bip, Fitbit Versa 2, Samsung Galaxy Watch and Google Wear OS have always switched on modes for years. Always-on doesn’t improve battery life – it makes things worse. Among the smartwatches, the Apple Watch is considered to be the most feature-rich and powerful portable version there is.

You still need an iPhone to use the Apple Watch, but if you have one, it is almost certainly your best bet. It’s hard to find another smartwatch that responds so clearly or quickly to messages and calls. With most of the competition gone, the Apple Watch’s position as the best iOS watch is getting stronger.

I’ve been wearing the Series 5 for a couple of months now and it has met my needs in every way (except it has been charged for more than a day). It’s not a perfect device, but in the world of wearables, it’s as close as possible.

Just get it: the always-on display is the only major new feature in the Apple Watch Series 5. You don’t need this feature, but other than better battery life, it’s the only thing I’ve been looking for.

If you want an Apple Watch at a cheaper price and have last year’s Series 4 up for sale, it should feel almost the same aside from the always-on screen. And the Series 3, at half the price, is also worth considering.

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The Solar Dial watch face, maybe one of my new favorites (you can get it with WatchOS 6, you don’t need a new watch for that).

Sarah Tew /

The other major upgrades are:

  • A compass (magnetometer) to point you in the right direction when navigating maps – the iPhone has had one since the 3GS
  • An international SOS trigger for cellular clocks (no cellular contract required)
  • New premium (more expensive) surfaces in titanium and ceramic

That’s it. If you are not interested in any of these features, you can download them now Last year’s Apple Watch Series 4 was released by numerous retailers. (Right now, the savings seem to be around $ 50, but other deals might pop up over the holidays.) If you don’t need an EKG or the larger 40- or 44-mm Series 4 display, Apple sells the 38-mm – and 42mm Series 3 still officially priced at $ 199, which is basically the retail price of the watch for most of last year.

All in all, the new display is a killer feature. I wore an aluminum Apple Watch Series 5 and fell in love with the constant addition. It’s weird now to look at the older models without them. But it’s not always what you might think.

When I’m always on, I feel more normal

I now use the Apple Watch more like a normal watch. And I keep thinking of all the people with Apple Watches showing blank dark screens. That will change at some point. Interesting watch faces are displayed. Maybe those that go with the watch straps.

The new watch faces in Apple’s latest version of its watch software, WatchOS 6, are great. There are currently 34 dials with hundreds of variations. A solar dial shows sunset and sunrise and offers space for further information such as the weather or the date. Fresh, information-rich dials like Meridian and Modular Compact offer new mixes of links to apps. Download WatchOS 6 before you get a new Apple Watch, as the extra features that include podcasts and an ambient noise meter can make your old watch feel new.

But even with these options, I get bored and look for novelties. I want a third-party developer watch face shop to add unique designs and that hasn’t arrived yet. The always-on feature further cemented this desire. Perhaps this will pave the way for Apple allows third-party watch faces. Maybe a curated collection of famous designers? I would buy a couple.

Apple makes the always-on display work via the new OLED display technology, which slows down and dims the display, freezes animations, but offers this always-on display. A side effect: the screen automatically adjusts itself better in poor lighting conditions, like in cinemas. It will be interesting to see if this display technology ends up on other devices, including future iPhones – which many people still use as the main device to tell the time. (Just for comparison, With the Galaxy S7, Samsung introduced a permanently active display function for its phones for the first time in 2016.)

Here are some quick facts about the Apple Watch’s permanent display:

  • This will shorten battery life, but turning it off may extend the battery life. Apple promises a battery life of 18 hours, with the default setting enabled by default. The new OLED display lowers the refresh rate, lowers the brightness and reduces animations. So far I have about a day and a half. You could always toggle it on and off, and I’ll test that next to see how much better the battery life could be. I originally said “it doesn’t affect battery life” and since I’ve kept using it I’ve seen it go limp by the end of a day and have less battery life than the Series 4: on average, maybe I will be in the area of ​​20% or less. However, if you always switch the device on, it will reach exactly the battery life of the Series 4. In both cases, the watch must be charged at night. Choose your poison.
  • It’s always available for watch faces and the workout app only. Apple has not allowed other apps to be always active. That is, when they are open they disappear after a few seconds and a small generic digital dial appears. If you have dreamed of always having something on your watch, you are out of luck. However, this can be helpful when you have sensitive information on your watch. If you turn it away, like a privacy screen, it will no longer be visible.
  • Always-on only works on the wrist. The watch waits to detect skin contact before always turning it on. When not on your wrist (or charging) the display will still turn off.
  • Each watch face has a dimmed ambient mode that is always on. Similar to Samsung or Wear OS watch faces, Apple transforms itself into the always active environmental state. Movable second hands disappear. Background colors tend to fade too black or dark. The ads shrink a bit. Some watch faces just look dimmed while others take on a second cool identity. Some are just boring analog pointers.
  • The watch has to “wake up” before wiping, which takes half a second. You might see the watch face and want to swipe up a new one or see notifications. However, the permanently switched on display must be activated from standby. Tapping wakes it up. It’s a bit of a delay, but be prepared.
  • Active complications like the new compass or noise levels go dark. These things still take a twist of your wrist to wake up.

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