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Apple Watch Series 5 – GPS + Cellular: the full review 2020

Under applause, on September 10, the Apple Watch became able to display the time … permanently. Put like that, performance is ready to smile, especially from the master standard of connected watches, an indisputable benchmark in terms of ergonomics, functional and application richness, and especially sales. Yet it is a manifestation of steady gradual progress.

Always on… like a real watch

Until now, the Watches have offered a screen completely off or on for a few seconds. The magic operated thanks to a lively and more or less ample wrist that called in particular his gyroscope. We got used to it and the lack – not having the time permanently displayed – was paradoxically not one.

We can therefore consider the arrival of the screen always on in two ways. On the one hand, see the watch half empty, and say that it took five models for the Watch to be equal to the most ridiculous of wristwatches and not bring much. On the other, consider that this screen always on will remove the main point of friction in the daily use of the watch and thus ensure that all the benefits it brings are there, at your fingertips, at a glance. It is a fluidification of uses, a service rendered, a gain in comfort. The symbol of an important step in the evolution of the Watch, which is now mature enough in its form factor and technical basis to refine the details, improve what seems superfluous.

Technological tip and visual reflection

By capitalizing on its LTPO OLED panel technology – introduced last year and exclusive to the Watch – and by adding better control of energy consumption, Apple has succeeded in varying not only the brightness of the display but also the frequency of its refresh from 1 to 60 Hz.

A precision in the management of the energy resources necessary for the display which are summarily manifested by two states, one passive, at all times, and the other active, when you request the Watch. In passive mode, the screen is less bright and the display adopts a kind of dark mode. A darker and also more readable interface with weaker lighting. There are complications, but all the most mobile and therefore the most energy-consuming elements are suspended. Thus, a stopwatch will display only the change of seconds and not the tenths and hundredths. Similarly an “analog” dial will save the second hand. Most of the information is there, visible, even in direct sunlight. If you want more, twist your wrist, and the magic happens.
The only downside when you notice a notification to view, you have the reflex to slide your finger from the top of the screen. If it is in passive mode, nothing will happen. You must first activate it and then interact with the interface. No doubt it is a matter of habit. In any case, this is a good reason to choose a Watch face that varies a lot from one state to another so as not to be mistaken.

Just for your eyes…

We can’t obviously speak for everyone, but this little week spent in the company of the Series 5 proved to be more comfortable and less subject to the micro-annoyances caused by the lack of reaction of the Watch despite a perfect wrist movement . We’re rediscovering the pleasure of having everything in front of us all the time, which other smartwatches already offer, it must be said.

But once again, Apple does it in its own way, made with care and attention to detail. The permanent display indeed exposes some of your information via complications, small graphic elements that are used both to create a shortcut to call your spouse and to launch an application that you use often. You don’t necessarily want everyone to see your next appointment or the favorite contact that appears in a complication. It is possible to ensure that this information is only displayed in active mode, when the screen is fully turned on, and therefore probably reserved for your eyes only.

Still on, but for how long?

If Apple has gone to great lengths to optimize the consumption of its screen, it is generally the biggest energy budget of a mobile device. However, it is necessary to ask the question of the impact of this always on mode on autonomy.

During our short week of use, we could see at the end of the day a lower percentage of battery remaining than with the Series 4. Depending on the day’s uses – call management, sports activities (even types of activities: running, cycling, swimming, etc.), music streaming, interactions by messaging, etc., we noted a variation of 5 to 15% of the amount of energy remaining when removing the Watch to recharge it by compared to our habits.

Let’s take several examples. After a very sedentary day and conventional use, the Series 5 battery displayed just under 40%. In the same configuration, the Watch Series 4 won with around 50%. As soon as you increase the amount of physical activities followed during the day, the remaining battery difference can go up to 15% in favor of the Series 4.

Ultimately, during our week, the most active days systematically left the Watch Series 5 in Reserve mode – activable as soon as the 20% threshold is reached. On the other hand, we have never been short, even it was sometimes by little.

Of course, we are not talking about a day when we would combine long sports outings and forget the iPhone, which requires the 4G connection intensively. In this case, none of the Watch does without recharging before bedtime …

The impact ofalways on therefore seems real even if it also depends a lot on your uses. On the other hand, the promise to last all day (7 am to 11 pm) is kept in cases of “reasonable” use. But you hadn’t thought of Series 5 for your next Iron Man, right?

Anyway, occasionally or permanently, it is possible to deactivate the permanent display. You will lose in comfort what you will gain in scrunchy autonomy. On this subject, if we rejoice that the loss is not greater, we can only regret that this generation is not synonymous with big gain in this area. To be honest, with around 23 hours of average battery life, we’ve never been so close to the 18 hours announced by Apple, which is very little. Will the next step be not having to charge the Watch every night?

A compass, for many uses

The other new addition to the Series 5 is a … compass. Once again we can hold back a smile, however, this tiny novelty could have many future uses when the application developers use it. For now, it will allow you not to go in the wrong direction when leaving the metro, for example. In Maps, a more or less wide “cone of confidence” shows the direction in which you are turning. Another reason to leave the iPhone at home. Be careful, however, Apple indicates that Watch straps that use a magnet to close, such as the Milanese buckle for example, can produce interference, which will affect the accuracy of the compass.

In addition, the Series 5 has a barometric altimeter, which will indicate the difference in altitude during a walk or a race, or simply the altitude at which you are, also using Wi-Fi and / or cartographic data. Once again, we are far from the revolution, but we know that Apple likes to advance by technological stratum. A minor novelty may therefore prove essential later. Let us therefore not judge anything at a time when localization in buildings is an increasingly important issue.

Your health will make noise

Since Series 2, Apple has fully embraced its goals in terms of well-being and health. This year, with the Series 5, Apple is tackling two new pillars. The first is the hearing. The Series 5 is able to warn you when you are in too noisy surroundings for a long time. If it is not particularly practical, it is a good way to become aware of what is inflicted on your ears. Nevertheless, we will slip a flat and a regret. The first is that just showering with your Watch can cause a noise alert. Not because you’re listening to loud music, but because the water is probably hitting the microphones and making them think there is a lot of ambient noise.

On the regret side, we note that the Watch is not able to warn us when our AirPods or other Bluetooth headsets inflict too many decibels on us – even when it is playing music or can control the volume produced by the iPhone …
With AirPods, which insulate very poorly from the outside, it is common to have to turn up the volume to listen to a song or podcast in a metro train, for example. If the health of our ears is important, why not have thought of alerting us?

The second pillar is not sleep, as some rumors suggest, but monitoring menstrual cycles. We enter data from the iPhone Health application (date of last period, usual period and period, etc.) and then receives indications on the Watch to announce the rules or predict periods of fertility, etc. . The interface is clear and the planning schedule easy to understand. This could make life easier for many women.

Always at heart…

Of course, there is always the second generation cardiac sensor, which reacts more precisely to changes in your heart when you do interval training, for example. In this area, the Watch does not have to be ashamed of the competition for sports watches. The ECG, the electrocardiogram is obviously still there, although it is very unlikely that you will ever need it.

And of course, for those who have not already opted for Nike Run Club, Runtastic, or even Stravia, watchOS has an application dedicated to sport, from running to swimming, cycling or hiking. If you cannot find your account in the activities already identified and which then benefit from dedicated algorithms to measure your effort, you can always find your happiness among a long list of more generic activities.

Thanks to watchOS 6, it is also possible to track your efforts to complete your three daily rings over a longer period of time: number of exercises, calories burned and minutes of exercise per day. According to all logic, it is necessary to lend yourself diligently to this gamification of your daily life to find its interest. However, the data collected by Santé are sufficiently varied to warrant regular inspection. You will find your VO2max, for example, or your progress during your workouts.

For older, more worried, or more frequent users, the Watch Series 5 continues to detect falls, of course, but it also expands the potential for international emergency calls. Thus, if you fall or feel unwell, you can, by pressing the side button of the Watch, notify both your contact and local rescuers in more than 150 countries.

And a new OS, watchOS 6

The Series 5 obviously benefits from the new features introduced with watchOS 6, the new version of Apple’s operating system for its watch. We note the arrival of Audiobooks, the appearance of a calculator or a dictaphone in addition to the Compass app, exclusive to the Series 5.

But watchOS 6 also introduces a major novelty which aims to cut the umbilical cord which has linked the Watch to the iPhone even further since its inception in 2015. It is now possible to download an application directly from the connected watch using an application Dedicated App Store. Since there is no Touch ID or Face ID on the Watch, you will need to enter your password manually during the first purchase, either by writing it on the Watch screen or using a keyboard … which will appear on your iPhone. Fortunately, the following purchases are validated by pressing the side button of the Watch twice. Anyway, the arrival of the download kiosk has a positive effect on the Series 5: it doubles the on-board storage capacity. You can now count on 32 GB and not just 16 GB to store your favorite apps or music tracks.

Upgrade to Watch Series 5?

The Watch Series 5 has killed its predecessor, the Series 4. Like it, the Series 5 comes in two sizes, 40 and 44 mm with a larger screen than on the Series 3 (38 and 42 mm), still sold from from 229 euros. These boxes are themselves available equipped with a GPS or a GPS and a cellular module (3G / 4G). Finally, they are available in four materials: aluminum and stainless steel, for the most common versions as well as ceramic (back) and titanium (a new one) for the Watch Edition. Watches are no longer considered luxury goods, but the latter two are extremely expensive and high-end. Titanium has the advantage of being both stronger and lighter than steel.
To help you in this labyrinth of options, Apple has set up a Watch Studio on its site and in the Apple Stores, which allows you to try and choose everything, from the case to the bracelet.

However, it may be good to have some ideas of pricing. The least expensive Series 5 is thus sold at 449 euros for the aluminum model, the first steel price is set at 749 euros – 799 euros for the reviewed version, while the Titanium Watch is accessible from 849 euros… Always not scared? Count 1349 euros for the ceramic finish. Not luxurious, but not given.

However, Watch Studio won’t help you figure out if the Series 5 is right for you. If you own the Series 4, we would strongly advise you to skip your turn. Except that one of the new features in the Series 5 is the panacea for you. If you have Series 3, you can start considering taking it again, especially if having a larger screen with more information matters to you. But maybe you could wait another year before upgrading. This Series 5 is just a very good tweak of the model that didn’t make you fall in love last year. And if you are equipped with Series 1 or 2, you should appreciate the solid gain in performance provided by the S5 chip, given to be identical to the S4, integrated in the Series 4.


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