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Apple Watch 4 review

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Our Verdict

All in all, the Apple Watch Series 4 is a very impressive bit of kit. Not only is it able to accurately track a host of workouts - being intuitive and a pleasure to use throughout - but it is also a beautiful and super premium lifestyle device. More and more popular iPhone apps are becoming available on the Watch, and we can't wait to see what's coming next.

  • Design

Apple’s latest smartwatch remains one of the best on the market

EARLIER THIS YEAR, Apple took the wraps off its latest piece of wristwear, revealing some new life-hacking features and a few hardware tweaks.

The gadget, officially dubbed the ‘Apple Watch Series 4‘, is the world’s the company’s smartest, lightest  – and also priciest – smartwatch to date.

Apple Watch 4 review

We’ve been using the Apple Watch daily for a couple of weeks, and here’s what we think of it.

Design

So, what’s new with the Apple Watch 4? First of all, it’s skinnier than before, offering a slightly slimmer chassis at 10.7mm compared to 11.4mm.

On the side, the digital crown has been completely re-engineered and now comes with haptic feedback to make menu navigation more precise. It’s also very satisfying to operate; much more so than that found on the Apple Watch 3.

Apple Watch 4 review

The Apple Watch 4 is also more lightweight than previous iterations, making it feel more comfortable when being worn.

Screen

Unlike the majority of other wearables on the market, the Apple Watch 4 retains the square display that debuted on the first-gen model. While not to everyone’s taste, we like it, and often find that circular smartwatches try too hard to mimic traditional mechanical watches and end up looking a bit odd. Nevertheless, while it’s not exactly edge-to-edge as some have claimed, it’s definitely more rounded than previous iterations, giving the impression of a more curved timepiece without losing the benefit of the square display.

Best of all, though, is that the Apple Watch 4’s OLED screen now comes in two new slightly larger sizes of 40mm and 44mm versus the 42mm and 38mm offerings of the third-gen device, making it more than 30 percent larger, while still shrinking in thickness.

Apple Watch 4 review

The Series 4’s 40mm variant has a 324×394 resolution display, up from the 272×340 pixels on the 38mm variant of the Series 3, while the 44mm version boasts a 368×448 resolution, up from 312×390 pixels seen on last year’s 42mm variant.

In terms of the screen’s performance, it’s impressively crisp and vibrant, and offers all the display features you’ll find on Apple’s Retina-equipped iOS and OS X devices.

Strap and fit

We’ve been reviewing the 44mm Apple Watch with the standard silicone strap in space grey, which wraps around the wrist with a button clasp. It’s super smooth and comfortable, and above all else, it’s the same strap size as previous models, meaning those upgrading to the Series 4 won’t need to buy all new straps.

Apple Watch 4 review

Thanks to the slimmer chassis, the Apple Watch 4 is by no means as bulky as some of its competitors and sits comfortably on the wrist, without feeling weighty.

Set-up

Setting up the Apple Watch is incredibly easy, as long as you have an iPhone 6S (or newer) running iOS 12 (or later). Switch Bluetooth on, open the app, scan the face of the Apple Watch using your iPhone’s camera, and you’re pretty much done.

Your iPhone will then ask for a few details – such as your Apple ID, whether you’ll be wearing the Apple Watch on your left or right wrist, which apps you want to install on your smartwatch, and whether you want to set up a passcode – which you definitely should do.

After this, the two devices will sync – a process that took around two minutes during our attempt.

Software and new features

One of the biggest features Apple touted when it unveiled the Apple Watch Series 4 was the electrocardiogram feature (ECG), so you can regularly check on your ticker with the press of a button, without a visit to the hospital.

However, the feature isn’t even enabled in the US yet and it’ll be a while before it reaches the rest of the world, so we aren’t able to test it just yet.

Apple Watch 4 review

The Series 4 also has some new sensor tech. Boasting a new gyroscope and accelerometer, give the watch more sensitivity to track your activities precisely. An advantage of this means Apple has been able to introduce fall detection, which is enabled automatically if you’re aged 65 or older and will alert authorities if it detects you’ve fallen and haven’t moved since.

Apple Watch 4 review

The speaker in the Apple Watch 4 watch has also been redesigned. It’s now 50 percent louder so you can better hear music when playing it through your watch.

Cellular signals also get a boost thanks to some fiddling with the watch’s new ceramic rear, so LTE signals are much more improved. We weren’t able to test this feature yet though as we didn’t have a 4G enabled contract to try it out with.

Fitness features

While we couldn’t really fully test most of the brand new features yet, we were able to put the watch through its paces when working out. A new fitness feature is the tracking of hiking and yoga in addition to the run, swim, bike, walk, and the rest of them.

Apple Watch 4 review

We gave the new yoga tracking test at a class and found it super simple to operate before and after exercise, be discreet during the workout so as not to disturb anyone else around us, and also offer vital health data like heart rate and minutes elapsed. At the end of the workout, it’s really easy to select finish and you immediately get a rundown of how you performed, or in this case, how many calories were burnt during the elapsed workout time.

Apple Watch 4 review

While all the fitness features we tested worked effortlessly, it is a shame there’s no native app for tracking sleep, like you’d find on the Fitbit Ionic or Versa, for example.

Performance and battery life

Under the hood, the Watch 4 comes with Apple’s new S4 chipset that sports a dual-core 64-bit processor and new GPU to be two times faster than the old S3 chip. So that means more effective data collection, including sucking up an accelerometer and gyroscopic info.

We’ve noticed no issues in terms of swiping through screens or firing open apps, as you’d expect from an Apple device. Everything is super fast and fluid. It’s really a delight to use.

Apple Watch 4 review

However, while the feature-set on the watch has been vastly improved over the years, battery life is one thing that’s remained the same: at two days and a bit. After a day of using it perhaps far too much, the Apple Watch has used around half of its battery. On the days that we don’t use its features as much, we can squeeze another half a day out of the watch.

Price and availability

The Apple Watch 4 is available in four variants: 40mm and 44mm sizes, starting at £399 for the smallest version, and £429 for the larger model.

There’s also an LTE version, which has all the same tech inside but starts at £499 for the 40mm and £529 for the larger watch.

If you’re looking for a contract with the LTE watch, you’ll be looking at carriers like EE offers deals for the LTE version of the watch as it did for the Apple Watch 3, and Vodafone has joined the party with the Watch 4 by offering a data connection too.

Apple Watch 4 review

In short

All in all, the Apple Watch Series 4 is a very impressive bit of kit. Not only is it able to accurately track a host of workouts – being intuitive and a pleasure to use throughout – but it is also a beautiful and super-premium lifestyle device. More and more popular iPhone apps are becoming available on the Watch, and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

All the negatives highlighted, such as the no always-on display option, the lack of sleep tracking, and the high price tag, aren’t huge and are more like little niggles.

It’d be hard to see how Apple improves on the Series 4, but we’re sure they will, somehow. For now, though, it remains one of the best smartwatches on the market.

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