The smartwatch was supposed to be the next big thing. From geeks to Wall Street analysts, everyone was bullish about how the smartwatch would change our lives and blaze sales charts. While we’ve certainly seen the category make huge steps, it hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. We’ve not seen too many new watches riding on Android’s Wear OS over the last two years. But there are some signs that we could see an upward swing and it’s not just the Apple Watch’s success.
Fitbit’s Versa has helped the brand make the transition from fitness trackers to smartwatches and Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch has aced battery life. And then there’s the Apple Watch that took two big steps last year. The first, improved battery life and the next a Cellular version that sort of addressed one of the biggest conundrums smartwatch manufacturers have been grappling with – Is a smartwatch a complementary device to your phone or competition? The Series 3 GPS + Cellular version built a case for both your watch and phone to complement each other. Of all the devices that debuted at Apple’s big September event, nothing excited us as much as the new Apple Watch Series 4. As I unboxed the top-of-the-line stainless steel gold variant with a matching Milanese loop wristband, my first thought was that this Apple Watch certainly lives up to the hype.
Part of that appeal comes from the reimagined form factor. It’s not a complete departure from Apple’s design template for the Watch but makes significant improvements. The first is the expanded screen that knocks the bezels off. Apple tweaks last year’s 38mm/42mm watches with new sizes – 40mm/44mm. This year’s 40mm variant offers more screen real estate than last year’s 42mm version – 759 sq.mm vs 740 sq.mm. Things get pretty obvious with the larger 44mm variant. It’s a big deal for a watch display whether you’re scrolling through images or reading texts. The display is also more vibrant and packs more pixels per inch. It’s not just the screen size, this year’s watch is a touch lighter, thinner and sits more at ease on your wrist.
At the core of the new Apple Watch Series 4, is the S4 chip (64-bit, dual-core processor) that Apple claims is twice as fast as last year’s 2017 chip. We totally dig the new crown with haptic feedback, another example of skeuomorphic design from Apple. You can hear each click as you scroll down menus or your calendar. There’s a whole bunch of hardware upgrades other than the display and the new chip. Aside from fitness-friendly and standard wellness features like the optical heart sensor, the Apple Watch Series 4 also adds a new Electrical heart sensor. This will allow you to generate an ECG report with a touch of a button. It’s still pending approval from regulatory bodies in countries like India. And then there’s fall detection; the watch will detect a serious fall (made possible by machine learning skills that are able to tell between an emergency and your standard fall where you might end up with a bruise or two) and send an SOS alert.
The new hardware improvements are matched by the all-new Watch OS 5.0. This new iteration brings a whole new set of watch faces that play up the size and add more complications (watch speak for additional details that do more than just tell the time). Battery life – this is quite subjective depending on your usage scenarios, has improved marginally too. In our tests, the watch ran out of battery around 6 or 7 pm on day two – so effectively two working days or 36 hours. It’s still not in the same league as the Fitbit Versa or this year’s Samsung Galaxy Watch. Apple’s GPS + Cellular version is super convenient, allowing you to make calls, texts and even stream music during a run even if you’ve left the phone behind at home. Apple has re-jigged the speaker (its much louder; particularly handy for calls) and the microphone. Airtel and Jio are the only operators that support this watch in India.
The smartwatch is no longer a gadget, it’s equally a fashion accessory and nobody understands this better than Apple. This year, Apple adds a new gold shade (that’s subtle) to its stainless steel colour options and also introduces a whole new array of straps including our favourite leather version with a ‘Modern buckle’. That’s one more excuse to consider the Apple Watch Series 4. It’s pricier than last year but it’s the best smartwatch your money can buy. Period.
The Apple Watch Series 4 comes in both GPS and GPS + Cellular versions and starts at Rs 40,900. The top-end, Cellular edition 44mm stainless steel variant with Milanese Loop wristband costs Rs 80,900)