In brief: On Tuesday Apple unveiled it’s newest Apple Watch — the Series 5. Not much has changed physically from Series 4. The base models have the same aluminum chassis as the older versions, the same slide-in band fasteners, and the same button and crown placement. Even the screen looks the same, but it turns out the Series 5’s display is its most exciting feature.
The newest Apple Watches are equipped with an always-on Retina display. This means no more raising your wrist to activate the backlight. It would seem that this would significantly decrease battery life. However, Apple has developed an “ultra-low-power” display driver and more efficient power management software to compensate. Apple claims it will have the same 18 hours of battery life as previous generations.
Additionally, the new low-temperature polysilicone and oxide (LTPO) display is capable of operating between one and 60 Hz. New AI manages the cycles dynamically depending on the position of the watch. It works similarly to the older watches with the screen coming to life when you raise your wrist. However, in idle mode, with your hand lowered or unmoving, the screen dims and switches to lower cycles, while still remaining visible.
The only other new physical addition is the option to get a Series 5 with a titanium chassis. Apple is also bringing back the ceramic cases for those with the money to burn. As usual, there are also Nike and Hermès offerings available as well.
The rest of the changes to the Series 5 Apple Watch are additions under the hood and with updates to watchOS 6.
The first is a built-in compass. Series 5 watches will have a compass app that not only indicates the user’s cardinal direction, but also elevation, longitude, latitude, and incline. The compass functions are also available as complications that can be added to the watch faces. The Maps app will integrate the compass to show the correct facing direction as well.
Series 5 has expanded on its predecessor’s capability to detect falls and call emergency services. Previously, emergency calling was only available in the US. Now the Apple Watch can place emergency calls internationally no matter where the device was originally purchased. It can manually initiate an emergency call or be set it up to call automatically in the event of a hard fall where the user remains motionless for about a minute.
Apple’s watchOS 6 will also have additional health and fitness features. There is a new app to track menstrual cycles for women to monitor their fertility. An ambient noise app will allows users to see how loud environments may be harming their long-term hearing health. And of course, there will be a few new watch faces.
Apple Watch Series 5 is available for ordering from the Apple website starting today and will hit stores on September 20. The GPS units start at $399, and the GPS+Cellular models list for $499 and up. Apple also said it would be dropping the price of its Series 3 watches to $199 and $299 for GPS and GPS+Cellular respectively.