The new Apple Watch Series 5, revealed by Apple earlier today, goes heavy on the bling—but light on new health features.
The new wearable now has an always-on display that dims, rather than disappears, when you lower your arm. Finally, almost like a real watch. All Apple Watch faces are tuned to the new display, making it easier to see your workout metrics without needing to raise your wrist. Or, you know, sneak a peek at the time in the middle of a boring meeting, just like your colleagues with analog watches.
Despite the always-on screen, Apple is claiming the same 18-hour “all day” battery life as previous models. The power savings come thanks to a new low-power display driver, which might one day make it’s way to other Apple devices.
The Watch Series 5 adds a built-in compass that can discern which direction you’re facing, just like the iPhone. In addition to heading, the Compass app can also show elevation, latitude, longitude, and even incline. That’s great news for hikers looking to score some bragging rights. Was that climb really a 40-degree slope? Yes, yes it was.
Apple also showed off two new titanium models of the Watch, a light brushed style and a “space black” option. There’s also a new ceramic model in glossy white. As with iPads, the aluminum models are now made of 100 percent recycled aluminum. The high-end Hermes-branded models are now also available in space black, and there are updated Nike models as well.
The new Apple Watch starts at $399 for a Series 5 with GPS, and $499 with cellular. The new watches go on sale today, September 10, and they become available on September 20. The Series 3 Watch gets a price drop, down to only $199. The Watch Series 4 appears to have gone the way of the iPhone X; it wasn’t mentioned during the launch event.
For all the new features, what’s conspicuously lacking in the Apple Watch Series 5 announcement is any mention of the sleep-tracking capabilities that were largely expected to make their way into the wearable this fall. Apple started off its Watch announcement with a video showcasing users whose lives had been saved or drastically altered in positive ways thanks to the Apple Watch’s various health-related features, which made it a little odd that Apple then touted precisely zero new fitness features in today’s presentation.
This is an area where Apple has been leading the way with last-year’s model, the Series 4, which included an FDA-cleared EKG app, one that could record an electrocardiogram from the wearer’s wrist and potentially spot arrhythmias. It was a relatively novel feature for a wrist-based consumer wearable, and Apple has touted it as evidence that the company is serious about health tracking beyond typical step counting and workout features. For now, Apple Watch fans will have to make do with the fitness features they already have.
The Apple Watch has, in just four years, grown to be a successful business for Apple. While the company doesn’t break out how many units it sells each year, it has volunteered that accessory products like AirPods and Apple Watches have grown to be as large as a Fortune 200 company. As of the first quarter of 2019, Apple was leading the global wearables market, beating out high-volume, lower-priced products from Xiaomi and Huawei, according to research firm IDC.
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