I am all about the Watch. Over the past several years I haven’t used my smartphone as much because I’ve been using Apple’s Apple Watch to send and receive text messages, make calls, and listen to music. I’ve been very happy with the thing since the first one came out, in early 2015.
The latest model, which went on sale yesterday, while not a huge leap in functionality, nevertheless nicely amplifies the utility of the device, with a larger display and new electronics that make all tasks feel considerably faster.
The Watch sells for $399 for the basic model with an aluminum finish, or $499 for the one that has cellular built in, which is the one I got. That’s $100 more than I paid for the prior model. (The Series 3 that I bought last year has now been knocked down to $329.) I find enough utility in the Watch that I’m not grumbling, considering that it’s saving me money on phone upgrades. I skipped last year’s iPhone X and may skip this year’s “Xs,” because I’m not using the phone as much.
As with many gadgets, and as with the Apple Watch in particular, the airbrushed photos used to promote them really don’t do the thing justice. The feel of the display has to be experienced first hand, because it’s a meaningful improvement for the device.
The larger size of the display — 32% larger, at 977 square millimeters versus 740 millimeters for the Series 3’s 42mm version — makes a difference all around, as do the now subtly rounded corners of the display. Images and text have more of the illusion of reaching to the edge of the case compared to the Series 3, even though there is, in fact, still a thin bezel between the display and the edge.
The larger case shows off some of the existing watch faces better than before. For example, the “Utility” face has a nice arrangement of the text in curves above and below the display that better suits the watch face overall.
Although the 44mm case is bigger for series 4, it’s a hair’s difference, and it doesn’t feel larger. The Series 4 is a couple of grams heavier, something that’s too small to notice when holding both of them to compare. The new model’s case is actually ever so-slightly-thinner, though you’d be hard pressed to really discern that, even from a head-on comparison:
Although the case style is still chunky, the larger display has the effect of making the thing feel better proportioned overall.
All the existing bands still fit the Series 4, which is nice because I have amassed a lot of bands over the years. One of my favorite band makers are E3 Supply Co., a family-owned business operating based in New York. Their simple leather band is the most comfortable band I’ve found for the Watch, and at $69, it’s a pretty good deal.
Information, such as texts and email and maps and weather all benefit from that expended screen. When writing replies to messages with handwriting, I found just the slight difference in size made the whole process feel more comfortable.
Of course, the whole thing feels more “snappy,” as it were, in opening apps and fetching data, and generally moving around the user interface. I noticed that the GPS signal picked up faster than on the Series 3. I was surprised to find that evening the hand-writing step felt more comfortable wth just a little more speed.
Interestingly, the Watch comes packaged for the first time in a little felt caddy of its own. At least, I don’t remember that from last time. That’s a nice touch.
I also don’t remember this surrounding envelope with watch pictures last time. The Watch and the accompanying watch band come in separate boxes.
The back of the Watch has changed, and in some ways looks a bit more slick and high end. The change is because of the inclusion of not just optical sensors but also electrodes. Those electrodes will make possible an electrocardiogram. That feature is not yet available on the Watch. Apparently it will arrive in a month or so with some software upgrade.
All in all, a very good, meaningful upgrade. I expect some people who didn’t care for the thing will be lured in once they get a look at the new screen up close.