Apple Watch Series 5 Reviewed and Rated
Apple introduced its first wearable smartwatch in 2014, although it seems like they were ubiquitous before then. Your editors live in the city for the most part, and it is rare for us to go a whole day without seeing someone sporting a wearable on their wrist. They aren’t always Apple, but typically even the most low-rent tracker will borrow a few of Apple’s aesthetic elements.
Since that initial release, every successive gen of the watch has added comfort, memory, or capability features. The Apple Watch Series 5, which appeared on September 20, 2019, sports a built-in compass and an always-on display. “Always on” means the screen will always show the time and date, sort of like an old school LCD or analog watch. There is something ironic about a product that was meant to enhance and supplant the humble wristwatch coming full circle, adding a basic watch feature after half a decade.
However, our appreciation of the irony does nothing to detract from the features and capabilities of the Apple Watch Series 5. In this review, we will break down the features, pros and cons, and technical ratings of the watch. Read on to find out if this product is for you.
Always on display makes things more efficient, and means you will use the device more
ECG monitor can help you identify blood pressure spikes, irregular heartbeat (not a medical device)
An almost endless array of features--we will not be able to touch on all of them in this review
Compass helps with navigation, especially is you do not want to drain the battery by using GPS
Apple introduced a suite of new apps to sync the watch with your device and expand possibilities
Finish options include ultra durable titanium, or ceramic
SOS/emergency calls in all countries under all conditions
Battery life is still less than two days, even if you don't use GPS
Works only with iOs devices--Android users can't use the watch
No sleep tracking or monitoring; watch looks and wears the same as Series 4
Still and all, a slightly tweaked version of an impressive watch is still impressive. You get an optical heart rate sensor, and it will be more accurate than those on a lesser watch--no wrist-based heart monitor is 100% accurate, as we always mention when we review them. The ECG monitor, which tracks electrical signals from your heartbeat, could potentially help you identify a cardiac arrest incident. It will help you with maintaining a target heart rate during cardio workouts.
Apple Series 5 has an onboard GPS. Some reviewers (though not Apple) will tell you the watch has GNSS on top of GPS, making it far more accurate and with better coverage. This is a bit misleading. GNSS just stands for the Global Navigation Satellite System. This is the catchall term for American GPS, Russian GLONASS, European Galileo, and Chinese Beidou. GPS is part of GNSS, not a weaker alternative to it. So, if all the GPS satellites suddenly quit working or fell into the ocean, the Series 5 would automatically switch over to one of the other networks we named. It's an advanced feature, but it doesn't mean you get more accuracy or better coverage by default.
The Series 5 also has an altimeter, which works by detecting changes in barometric pressure. This is how the watch approximates the number of floors you climbed each day. Your editors are cranks who think just knowing steps and distance are enough; calorie burn data is never accurate anyway, even on an advanced smartwatch. So the number of floors climbed seems irrelevant to us. However, the glorious thing about fitness is that, if you are getting results and they make you happy, there is no wrong way. So if you need or want an altimeter, there is one in the Apple Watch Series 5 for you.
The Apple Watch Series 5 is water-resistant up to 50 meters, has a gyroscope for tracking and recording your acceleration (it is part of the activity tracker), and also has an accelerometer and that compass we talked about. The compass would be great for your editors--we mostly work out in urban settings and often get confused when a friend says "head north" without offering a landmark. A compass would come in handy for walking home from a bus station as well as camping or long hikes in the woods.
Finally, rounding out the base features, the Apple Watch Series 5 has 32 GB of memory for your streaming music. That is twice as much as what the Series 4 offered.
For starters, this watch is easy to customize. You can pretty much design your own watch face, then see it every time you look thanks to the always-on feature. There is an almost endless spectrum of band styles and colors, all available through Apple. If you want a design or color not listed, or if you want to save some cash, we are sure there are plenty of third party suppliers making bands for the Series 5 and other Apple watches. The possibilities are as close to endless as we can get in this timeline.
Available finishes are aluminum, titanium, stainless steel or ceramic. Each one is at a different price point, which is part of the reason we can't quote an exact price on the Apple Watch Series 5. It may be as much as a secondhand Chromebook, or it may cost the same as a used car. We can suggest talking to anyone who owns the watch, and also plugging in different options on the Apple site or at a physical store.
What we find interesting about the ECG feature is the terminology Apple uses. On the product page, they called it the ECG app. More than just a sensor, the ECG feature is part of a program that will help you track those numbers over time. It is one more way Apple thought of to make knowing your numbers even easier.
Also, if you have your ECG data within an app that you can call up, the watch becomes even more convenient and more indispensable.
Apple offers many apps, in the iOs store, that interact with the watch and expand its capabilities. It is clever marketing, making the watch insert itself into your daily routine, but it is also of great value to those of us who use the Apple Watch Series 5 or similar products. If you are serious about being healthy and moving more, a fitness watch can be a brilliant investment.
There are also a few features that, to us, smack of Apple programmers throwing ideas at a wall to see what sticks. In the "why the heck not" file, there is a Noise app that alerts you when decibels are rising to the point of causing hearing damage or discomfort. However, assuming you are not hearing impaired, wouldn't you be able to tell that for yourself? Your editors know to put in earplugs when we go to loud concerts or meet clients at loud construction sites. The Noise app is not extraneous exactly, but if we were betting people, we would bet most people who buy the watch never use it or think about it.
Other, more practical features include a menstrual cycle tracker, detailed movement analytics, 50 meters of water resistance, and something called activity rings. The rings are a visual motivator telling you how much you have moved, and whether or not you are meeting your own goals. You can use the rings to compete with friends and loved ones, too. We are fans of anything that makes exercise fun or turns it into a game, so the rings are a feature we wanted to point out.