In just four and a half years, the Apple Watch has gone from a whim with vague use cases to some solid device that has found its stride. This year’s model, the Series 5, builds on the prior iteration with small, incremental changes, to supply a solid, useful device.

The good reputation for the Apple Watch has been brief, and has been marked by some major changes: adding optional LTE cellular connectivity with Series 3, and also the larger size of the Series 4 models. Using the Series 5, the biggest change may be the always-on display. However, in addition to that, the alterations for this year’s model are very minimal.

New features: always-on display, compass, 32 GB, decibel alerts

The Apple Watch has always were built with a display that illuminates whenever you raise your wrist, and you can set it to stay visible for 15 or 70 seconds. With the Series 5, you can set the timepiece to continually display your watch face and complications, however they dim after that initial period. Apple explained this was being completed with little impact on life of the battery because, rather than the display refreshing 60 times per second as when illuminated, it just refreshes once per second while not raised. The dimming affects all elements of the watch, including switching off any light or colored background on a watch face. As you can see below, my Apple Watch, using the blue California watch face, dims the numbers and turns off the blue component of the face, and the second hand disappears.

The benefit of getting the always-on display is you can glance at the time without needing to twist your arm. I often had that problem using the previous generation of Apple Watch: I’d be in your kitchen, for example, and couldn’t raise my wrist enough, and couldn’t easily tap the timepiece to light up it. The new always-on display resolves that challenge.

Aside out of this change, there is little change that's only at the Apple Watch Series 5. There's a new Compass app, which will help you discover the best direction when you are lost. The GPS + Cellular model includes a new International Emergency Calling feature that lets you make emergency calls in 150 countries . And all Series 5 devices come with 32 GB of storage-twice as much as the previous series-which allows you to store more music along with other media around the device.

The new Apple Watch Series 5 comes with watchOS 6, which is now available for the Series 3 and later, and can come later this year to Series 1 and 2 . An element of watchOS 6 that’s only at the Apple Watch Series 4 and 5 is really a new Noise app, which could provide you with a decibel reading from the sound around you. You can leave this on permanently, and obtain alerts once the sound is too loud, but I’ve found this hits battery life quite hard.

More new features in watchOS 6

All devices running watchOS 6 will also get a new Cycle Tracking app, which fills a long-missing gap within the device’s health features for women.

Apple has also put into watchOS 6 an application Store app that runs on the Apple Watch itself, however it isn’t very easy to make use of; it’s very difficult to browse such a small display to learn about and buy apps. Thankfully, Apple still provides the alternative to view and manage Apple Watch apps within the Watch app on your iPhone running iOS 13. However the shift toward iPhone-independent app management suggests that Apple may be planning on releasing a standalone Apple Watch that doesn’t need to be tethered for an iPhone-which might be a boon for sales of future Apple Watches.

The hardware

As far as materials, Apple continues to have aluminum and stainless models , and it has brought back the Apple Watch Edition, with models made of titanium and white ceramic.

We’ve advanced significantly in the $10,000+ gold Apple Watch Edition, and these devices start at $799 and $1,299 . They look nice, especially the white ceramic with the yellow leather loop band, but they are a bit pricey.

The verdict

If you've got a Series 4 Apple Watch, there’s little reason to upgrade to some Series 5, unless the always-on display or compass features are important to you .

If you possess an older model, however, get ready to enjoy upgrading to a larger, faster watch with a newer processor, display, and useful features .

The Apple Watch is really a mature device, but it has reached happens when major improvements are difficult. As with iPhones, you don’t need to upgrade every year, but if you upgrade every two or three years, then you’ll begin to see the changes. But where do we go next?

How can I learn more?

Each week on the Intego Mac Podcast, we discuss the latest Apple news in addition to security and privacy topics-this week, we discussed our first impressions of Apple Watch Series 5 and iPhone 11 in episode 102. Make sure to sign up for be sure you never miss the latest episode.

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