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Apple hits the snooze bar on a sleep-tracking feature for the Apple Watch

At its September hardware event, Apple unveiled it’s highly anticipated next-generation smartwatch — the Apple Watch Series 4. From a larger display to a built-in electrical heart sensor that can measure a variety of health metrics, the latest device brings along some notable new features.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Apple Watch Series 4.

Updates

Sleep tracking could eventually be added, but not before 2020

Apple employees are reportedly testing sleep tracking on the Apple Watch Series 4, but we shouldn’t expect to see the feature hit Apple Watches before 2020.

This feature has been expected in Apple’s wearable since the company snapped up sleep tracker Beddit back in 2017. According to a report from Bloomberg, Apple employees have been testing a sleep tracking feature for the last few months, but Apple is apparently in no rush to add it any time soon, with most saying we won’t see it until next year, by which time the Apple Watch Series 5 will likely be the new hotness.

Part of the issue with sleep tracking on the Apple Watch is likely battery. Nighttime is when most Apple Watch owners charge their device, and keeping it on to track sleep will make it harder to time charges. It’s possible Apple will look to add more advanced Qi wireless charging in later models to reduce the amount of time owners need to charge their devices, making it possible to plonk the watch down on a pad first thing in the morning or at some other convenient time.

The Apple Watch Series 4’s ECG feature releases

One of the Apple Watch Series 4’s headline features is the ability to take an electrocardiogram (ECG) measurement of your heart’s electrical pulses to gauge your heart health and give a vague baseline for your overall wellness. It’s been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration, but it wasn’t quite ready for release. But it is now, and Apple Watch Series 4 owners can update their phones and give the feature a whirl. It’s easy to use; simply open the app on your Apple Watch Series 4, then hold your finger on the Digital Crown until the measurement is complete.

Design and display

The Apple Watch Series 4 comes in two sizes — 40mm and 44mm – and also brings along a 30 percent larger display. There’s also a redesigned modular watch face with more detailed and graphic information. Users can see stocks and heart rate, track scores from sports teams, view boarding information, and more. In terms of colors, the Series 4 comes in three aluminum finishes — silver, gold, and space gray. The Series 4 also comes in gold stainless steel with a Milanese Band, in addition to the silver and space black stainless steel options. The new bands will also work with any of the Apple Watch predecessors.

The Breathe app, which many use for meditation or to lower their heart rate, will now be available as a watch face. That way, you’ll be able to use it by simply raising your wrist to allow the Breathe app to guide you through deep breaths.

For the most part, the Series 4 looks similar to its predecessors, although there’s a new digital crown with haptic feedback. This will allow for a more responsive feel when you flip through items on your watch. The speaker has also been completely redesigned, making it 50 percent louder, and the microphone can now be found on the opposite side — far away from the speaker. This will hopefully help to reduce Echo and make phone calls much clearer.

The back of the Series 4 is made of black ceramic and sapphire crystal, allowing radio waves to pass through the front and back. Apple says this is meant to improve cell reception.

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Specs and battery

Under the hood is Apple’s next-generation S4, 64-bit dual-core processor that’s been designed to perform two times faster. The accelerometer and gyroscope have twice the dynamic range and can sample motion data eight times faster.

Nothing has changed when it comes to battery life, though — the Apple Watch Series 4 has the same 18-hour, all-day battery life. Apple has increased outdoor workout time to six hours, with full GPS tracking for long bike rides.

Software and special health features

The Apple Watch Series 4 runs Apple’s new WatchOS 5 operating system. It comes along with a variety of improvements, like enhanced fitness and health tracking, walkie-talkie mode, and more.

The Series 4 also has a ton of additional health features. For starters, it can now detect when you fall by analyzing wrist trajectory and impact acceleration. It will then initiate an emergency call. If it senses you’re immobile for 1 minute, it’ll automatically call and send a message to your emergency contacts using the SOS feature.

While older models of the Apple Watch include an optical heart rate sensor to track calories burned, resting heart rate, and more, the Series 4 offers a few new features. You’ll now receive a notification if your heart rate appears to be too low — which could mean that your heart isn’t pumping enough blood to the body.

In addition, the Apple Watch will now be able to screen your heart rhythm in the background. It’ll send a notification to the watch if it detects irregular rhythm, which could point to atrial fibrillation. While the device isn’t able to diagnose the issue, it can detect it for you so you can then consult a doctor.

Perhaps one of the most impressive features on the Series 4 is the built-in electrical heart sensor. Built into the back of the sapphire crystal and digital crown, users can now take an electrocardiogram (ECG) — the first of its kind in a smartwatch. This will measure electrical activity of the heartbeat in order to help diagnose heart disease and other conditions. You’re able to take an ECG anytime, anywhere, straight from your wrist by opening the app and placing your finger on the digital crown. Since all of the information is stored in the health app, you’ll be able to share the ECG with a doctor, who will be able to see a more detailed picture of what’s going on. Apple has also received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration.

Price and availability

The Apple Watch Series 4 is now available for purchase and starts at 399, while the cellular model starts at 499.

Updated on February 27, 2019: Apple is working on sleep tracking for the Apple Watch.

What is Apple Watch Nike? And how is it different to the standard Apple Watch?

Here’s everything you need to know about Apple Watch Nike.

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Each Apple Watch between the Series 2 and Series 7 had a Nike version, although that run ended with the Series 8. The Series 7 Nike Edition was essentially the same as the standard Apple Watch Series 7 but it featured redesigned Nike watch faces and Nike-designed Apple Watch Sport bands.

You can also get a Nike version of the Apple Watch SE (which is essentially the Apple Watch Series 5 in a different guise).

Apple Watch Series 8

The Apple Watch Series 8 is the latest Apple Watch model and despite there no longer being a specific Nike model, you can still buy the Nike straps separately and use the Nike Run app.

Apple Watch SE (2022)

The Apple Watch SE (2nd gen) is a great entry point into the Apple Watch models, and while there is no longer a Nike model, you can buy Nike straps and use the Nike Run App.

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What is Apple Watch Nike?

For the Apple Watch Series 2, Apple teamed up with Nike to make a version of Apple Watch aimed at runners. a partnership that continued for models since the Series 2 but ended when the Series 8 didn’t get one.

Apple Watch Nike features a different strap design and slightly different Watch Faces to the standard model to make it easier for runners to make use of the device’s built-in GPS (and cellular).

Apple Watch Series 4 (44mm/Spacegrau/Sport Loop) Unboxing, Hands on & Vergleich. touchbenny

Externally, the only difference is there’s a Nike logo in addition to the Apple one on the rear of the Watch.

The Apple Watch Nike costs the same as the standard Apple Watch versions.

What does Apple Watch Nike feature?

In 2020, Apple revealed two different versions of the Apple Watch Nike with both the Series 6 and SE (and then 40/44mm variants of each of those, each with GPS and cellular variants). In 2021, it then released an Apple Watch Nike version of the Series 7, which sits alongside the Apple Watch SE Nike variant.

You get all the same features found in the Apple Watch Series 7 or SE, such as built-in GPS, a waterproof design and the option of cellular connectivity in addition to GPS, although it is cheaper to get the version without. The Series 7 has blood oxygen monitoring too, as well as a bigger display than the Watch SE. The Watch Series 7 Nike model comes in 41mm and 45mm options, while the Watch SE Nike model comes in 40mm and 44mm options.

Like the standard Apple Watch, you can change the straps on the Nike variant. It’s available with different case and strap combinations: there’s silver and space grey aluminium cases with Nike Sport Band (rubber) or Nike Sport Loop (nylon). The Nike Sport Bands have a perforated design that’s designed to be more durable and breathable.

As for software, Nike has additional perks over the standard version of watchOS: it gets exclusive Nike-themed watch faces that include a complication for directly launching the Nike Run Club app, which comes pre-installed and lets you track your runs, view running history, and more.

The 2021 Series 7 models have different colours for the Nike Sport Band and Nike Sport Loop. Both the Series 7 and SE Nike models take advantage of things like the Nike Compact watch face though, which enables you to see multiple Nike Run Club complications, too.

You can read our separate feature to compare all the Apple Watch models. We also have a guide for the best Apple Watch tips and tricks that is worth checking out.

The Apple Watch 4 is still one of the top smartwatches

TechRadar Verdict

Apple clearly believes smartwatches are here to stay. the Watch 4 utterly proves that. The design alone is a big upgrade, with the screen offering far more visibility, and while the health benefits are only going to help a subset of users, they’re welcome and show the direction Apple is heading. If it had better battery life, and thus was better able to track sleep, the Watch 4 could have been the perfect smartwatch.

Cons

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While it’s no longer new, the Apple Watch 4 is still a robust smartwatch, with an upgraded design and display compared to the still-on-sale Apple Watch 3, along with an ECG sensor to track a user’s heart rate, making one of the most desired timepieces in the world even more desirable.

The larger screen and more rounded edges are much nicer to look at and offer more functionality, and it also adds in some extra features too that are designed for those who are a little more vulnerable or suffer certain health conditions.

When it was released, the Apple Watch 4 was one of (if not the) best smartwatch around.

But it’s getting on a bit now, having been superseded not only by the Apple Watch 5 but by the even newer Apple Watch 6, while if you’re on a budget there’s also now an affordable Apple Watch SE, which you might want to consider rather than this older model.

Still, the Apple Watch 4 remains a popular and supported smartwatch. one which can now be updated to watchOS 7. so what does the smartwatch bring and is it right for you?

Update: watchOS 8 was announced at WWDC 2021, bringing more software and features when it fully launches later this year. Eager fans can get the developer preview now if they’re part of the developer program, or join the public beta in July.

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Apple Watch 4 price and release date

The Apple Watch 4 is available in four variants: 40mm and 44mm sizes, and with or without LTE. You can buy it now in almost every country around the world. It came out in September 2018 on the same day as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Keep in mind that Apple no longer sells the Apple Watch 4 through its online storefront, but you can still pick it up elsewhere online.

At launch, the GPS-only version started at 399 / £399 / AU599 for the smallest version, and 429 / £429 / AU649 for the larger one 44mm one. You can now find it for less, but there’s not a huge discount.

The cellular option starts at 499 / £499 / AU749 for the 40mm and 529 / £529 / AU799 for the larger watch. If you’re looking for a contract with the LTE watch, you’ll be looking at carriers ATT, Verizon, C Spire, Sprint, US Cellular and T-Mobile in the US.

If you’re in the UK, EE offers deals for the LTE version of the watch as it did for the Apple Watch 3, and now both Vodafone and O2 have joined the party by offering a data connection too. Those in Australia can find it on Optus, Telstra and Vodafone.

Expect to see big discounts on the Apple Watch 4 around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Although we’re not certain it’ll be discounted, we’ve seen solid deals in previous years on older models. We’re expecting a lot of Black Friday Apple Watch deals this year in particular.

Key features

The Apple Watch 4’s key feature is really its design. we say that because while the extra health benefits are something that are worthy and really make this an attractive device for those in need of them, the pool of people this is relevant to is smaller than just those looking for a new watch.

Another major upgrade is the electro-cardiogram feature (ECG) that has so far only been enabled in select countries, including the US and the UK.

We’ve yet to test it out ourselves. we hope to soon. however, we were able to see it in action during our demonstration from Apple, where you need to activate the app on the phone and then hold the Digital Crown down to complete the electrical circuit in your body.

This spits out a set of data from the ECG to your Health app on the iPhone, which can be exported as a PDF and give information on rhythm to a physician, plus you’re able to write notes to contextualize what was happening at the same time.

The other thing we weren’t able to really test was the new fall detection, as you have to go down a certain way and remain there for a while to activate the feature.

We did try to fall, but it was getting a little embarrassing and perhaps we need to commit harder to the testing. we’ll update the review if we get braver in the coming months.

However, one thing that did worry us a little about this feature is battery life. while it’s great to see that fall detection exists, and will be set up automatically for those over 65, the fact that you really need to charge the Watch once a day is going to be harder to remember for some users and that could mean their safety blanket (or for those that bought the Watch 4 in the first place to safeguard a loved one) is redundant if the Watch has no power.

There’s also a set of heart rate notifications, including one that’s looking out for atrial fibrillation (AF), meaning you’ll get a pop-up if there’s anything that looks sketchy with your heart with regards to this condition, which could lead to life-threatening complications.

The Watch 4 also comes with an alert system if your heart rate goes too low or high: should your heart rate spike or fall hard for no reason for a long enough period (around 10 minutes) you’ll get an alert telling you all is not well, and maybe you should see a physician.

We have a rather low heart rate from regular running training, and the update did ping in from time to time to reference to us that the heart rate testing was working.

The other key upgrades beyond the design, which we’ll get onto in a minute, are more hidden in the heart of the Apple Watch 4. there are sweet touches like a (virtually) clicking Digital Crown that feels like it’s clocking through lists on the wrist. It even makes a slight noise, and the whole system is incredibly pleasing.

The 10-point Apple Watch Series 4 review: Finally a worthwhile upgrade

If you’ve been on the fence about the Apple Watch, I understand where you’re coming from. Early versions were at least disappointing, if not perplexing, limited as much by hardware and software as Apple’s pricing and vision. Holdouts still ask the same question today as everyone did in 2015: If you have an iPhone, do you really need an Apple Watch, too?

For the first time, I’d submit that the answer is yes. The original Apple Watch was a sluggish dud that Apple treated as a full-priced public beta, and its Series 1, 2, and 3 sequels have been iPhone “S”-caliber tweaks that took the first form factor as far as it could go. Three years later, the Apple Watch Series 4 has arrived as the family’s first truly massive upgrade, and finally delivers an excellent end-to-end user experience, notably including health-related features that can’t be found in any iPhone.

Here are the 10 key things you need to know about the latest Apple Watch, which now comes in “40mm” and “44mm” versions starting at 399 for aluminum or 699 for stainless steel. The smaller versions were designed primarily to fit female wrists, while the larger ones come at a 30 (aluminum) or 50 (steel) premium. This year’s most expensive models are 1,499, and all part of the Apple Watch Hermès lineup.

Meaningfully bigger screens

Larger screens are the biggest changes to this year’s Apple Watches, and they led Apple to increase the sizes of everything from watch housings to display elements in the watchOS software. Each screen is roughly 30 percent bigger than on the prior “38mm” and “42mm” models, and features rounded corners rather than previously square ones.

Above: Apple Watch Series 4 in 44mm (left) next to Series 1 in 42mm (right).

  • The smaller 40mm model’s screen resolution is now 324 by 394 pixels, versus the old 38mm model’s 272 by 340.
  • The larger 44mm model’s screen has a 368 by 448-pixel resolution, up from the old 42mm version’s 312 by 390.

As a result, the “small” Series 4 model’s screen is actually a hint larger than the “large” Series 3 screen, with a thinner but still obvious bezel between the screen and edge of the case. Apple has kept the OLED screens’ 1,000-nit brightness and pixel density the same as last year’s models.

Thankfully, Apple actually spent the time necessary to revamp its watchOS user interface to make proper use of the larger displays — something it notably didn’t do with the new iPhone XS Max. As you can see on the image above, the larger 44mm model fits more text and better-looking UI elements on the display without shrinking font or image sizes. watchOS has looked cramped for at least two years, but on Series 4 watches, it feels far less compromised.

The most obvious way Apple is showing off the new screens is a set of new watch faces that are either exclusive to Series 4 or better on Series 4 than on prior models. Choices shared between Watches include the beautifully animated Breathe, plus filmed videos of Fire Water, Liquid Metal, and Vapor. The latter three offer the option of a Series 4-exclusive full-screen mode in addition to a Series 1-3-compatible circle mode, really showing off the different screen sizes.

Apple has also added two new watch faces to all Series 4 watches: the circular analog Infograph, which can be customized with eight customizable complications, and the boxier digital Infograph Modular, with six complications. While neither face is beautiful, they do show just how much available screen space the new Watches have, and provide plenty of customization potential for people who need it. (Apple also added new faces that are exclusive to the latest Nike and Hermès versions of the Watch.)

There are two small issues with the new screens. First, touch sensitivity extends out to the edges of the display, but isn’t wholly reliable at the upper left corner, which sometimes requires a few taps rather than just one. Elsewhere on the screen, however, everything’s just fine, and deeper “Force Touch” presses on the display feel more effortless and responsive than before.

Second, the color rendition on the new displays doesn’t seem to be as vivid as on prior models, though this could be anything from the screen coating to a difference in the new model’s OLED display. I noticed this difference particularly on the new Fire Water watch face, where the fire didn’t have the same orange warmth as on my prior aluminum Apple Watch. It’s not a huge problem, but I slightly preferred the colors on the prior screen.

Taller, thinner housings

To fit the new screens, Apple made the Series 4 Watches a little taller and wider, a difference you’re likely to immediately notice on your wrist. Here’s how each version changed:

  • The smaller 38mm model measured 38.6 (H) by 33.3 (W) by 10.5-11.8mm (D), and has evolved into a 40mm version measuring 40.0 (H) by 34.0 (W) by 10.7mm (D).
  • The larger 42mm model measured 42.5 (H) by 36.4 (W) by 10.5-11.8mm (D), and has evolved into a 44mm body measuring 44.0 (H) by 38.0 (W) by 10.7mm (D).

While Apple kept the height and width constant in all of its past watches, it thickened the later models to provide extra battery space. The Series 4 models aren’t the thinnest ever, but rather are on the thinner side of the family’s historic range. They’re only an imperceptible hair thicker than Series 0’s and Series 1’s 10.5mm bodies.

Apple also tweaked the sides and back of the Series 4 casing. The Digital Crown now has a red ring on LTE models rather than a bold red circle, and uses the Taptic Engine for haptic clicks when you turn it. It doesn’t keep up with the actual motion of the dial, and therefore isn’t as exciting as expected, but it feels better than nothing. The side button is now flush with the rest of the casing rather than protruding, and the microphone hole is now between the controls rather than next to a speaker.

Series 4 retains last year’s 50-meter depth of water resistance and submersibility, enabling it to be worn pretty much anywhere — shower, pool, rainstorm — without fear of damage. As with the Series 2 and Series 3, a raindrop icon in the watchOS software lets you clear out the speakers if they become waterlogged.

Additionally, Apple has dramatically overhauled the health sensors as discussed in detail below, a change that makes the bottom of the Watch look very different than before. Even the aluminum-bodied Apple Watch models shift from plastic backs to the ceramic and sapphire used in steel models.

Last but not least, Apple has introduced a gold stainless steel option for the first time. It matches the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max with a rose gold color that tends to show as pink in most lights, but can lean more heavily yellow depending on the lighting and angle it’s viewed at.

Golden steel joins silver or space black steel at 300 premiums over the base models, since you can only get steel in Series 4 models with cellular functionality. For the base 399 (40mm) or 429 (44mm) prices, you can choose from silver, space gray, and gold anodized aluminum options. There’s no ceramic or actual gold Series 4 model this year, but Apple offers Nike models at the same as aluminum Watches, and fancy Hermés leather banded versions starting at 1,249.

Continued compatibility with bands

One piece of great news for prior Apple Watch users is continued compatibility with past Watch bands. Despite the housing changes, prior 38mm bands work with the 40mm Apple Watch, and 42mm bands work with the 44mm Apple Watch. The new watch bodies taper to let Apple’s prior Band lugs look perfect with the larger bodies.

Apple has not yet introduced any major new Band designs for the Series 4 Apple Watches, apart from making seasonal color changes, and continues to offer various Band and Watch bundles — plastic Sport bands and fabric Sport loops are the lowest-priced default options. If you’re a Nike fan, Apple touted the addition of reflective thread to the Nike model’s fabric loop as the biggest Band change this year.

Improved health and motion sensors

Every Apple Watch since the original has featured a respectably accurate optical pulse sensor, as well as a gyroscope and accelerometer for tracking movement. Last year’s model added a barometric altimeter to measure elevation, which later saw a software update to support improved skiing and snowboarding tracking.

This year, the accelerometer has doubled in sensing power (from 16 g-forces to 32), the gyroscope has been “improved,” and a second-generation optical pulse sensor has been installed. Apple says that these features will cumulatively allow the Series 4 to offer wider or more precise measurements than before for activity and workout tracking, though in practice, the differences aren’t fully obvious yet.

One noteworthy addition is an accidental fall detection system, which can sense and react to the unusual collection of unnatural motions involved when someone tumbles to the ground. If a fall is sensed, Series 4 can be set to automatically call emergency services after 15 seconds pass without a response to a wrist-based alarm, but as the feature’s not perfect at detection, it’s not mandatory or guaranteed to work. Even so, it’s turned on by default for users aged 65 or older, and will be of particular benefit to users with mobility issues. Like the Apple Watch’s other health features, it’s a very welcome addition even if it won’t be used by everyone.

Above: Apple Watch Series 4 (right) completely redesigns the health sensor array on the bottom of the watch to incorporate an ECG electrode and new optical heart rate sensor.

On a similar note, the marquee addition to Series 4 is a feature that isn’t being unlocked until “later this year” in the United States — and who knows when elsewhere: an electrical heart sensor with an ECG app. An ECG is a recording of the way your heart is beating, displayed in a shape that a technician or computer can recognize as normal or abnormal. If the shape is consistently normal, great. But if it’s abnormal, it’s time to visit a doctor.

Speaking from personal experience, it’s an understatement to call this feature potentially life-changing, as it will enable users to learn about and manage potentially latent heart conditions that are waiting to unexpectedly strike them down. My wife and I discovered three years ago that such a condition runs in our family, and if we’ve learned anything from that experience, it’s that no one should assume that his or her heart is working perfectly.

Series 4’s heart sensors can collectively alert you to abnormally high, low, or irregular heartbeats, giving you the opportunity to take action before tragedy strikes. We’ll have to see how all of the heart functionality works together when it’s unlocked, but if it’s like prior Apple Watch health tracking, it will only get better over time. Even if there was no other reason for an iPhone user to consider an Apple Watch, its growing collection of health features would make the purchase worth considering.

Little audio improvements

The new Apple Watches feature two changes in the audio category: Speaker volume has increased a hint, and the microphone location has been shifted from the left to the right side, a change designed to improve voice input quality.

In practice, while I was expecting to see fairly large changes here, I found that the Series 4 generally sounds the same as older Apple Watches when used as a speakerphone — the benefits, if any, are in reducing feedback that Siri might hear during requests for assistance, and slightly improving Echo cancellation during phone calls. Unfortunately, while Siri seemed to make fewer errors in identifying what was being said, it continues to suffer from the same old issues in actually doing anything with requests.

A faster S4 chipset and more capacity

Series 4 includes a couple of substantial chip changes. First, it includes an Apple S4 processor, the first 64-bit CPU in an Apple Watch, which promises up to twice the speed of last year’s S3. This is the third time Apple has roughly doubled the prior generation’s speed, a change that matters for one key reason: Early Apple Watches were deadly slow — so slow that people didn’t want to use some of their features because they were so unresponsive.

That started to improve with prior Apple Watch CPU upgrades, and with Series 4, performance is a non-issue. There aren’t any benchmarking apps for the Apple Watch, so the only ways to indirectly measure system performance are personal observations and Sunspider tests, both of which somewhat quantify the improvements — they’re certainly there, and obvious across a variety of usage scenarios. Here are a handful.

  • The Watch cold-boots in around 30 seconds, way faster than before.
  • Siri generally takes much less time to process what you’re saying, though it will still frequently disappoint you by failing to be able to do anything with your requests.
  • Tapping on a random app typically brings up a usable screen within a second, unless the app depends upon an internet connection for its initial data, which may take an extra second or two.
  • Transitions between anything — watch face to app screen or dock, watch face to Control Center, watch face to Notifications — tend to be pretty much instantaneous.

Additionally, Series 4 now features 16GB of storage capacity across all models. The standard Series 3 (and all prior Watches) had 8GB, with 5.2GB of usable space, which was enough for a small assortment of apps and a playlist or two of synchronized music. Last year’s more expensive cellular version came with 16GB of capacity — 12.6GB usable — so now everyone has the extra space.

Unless you really want to load up your Watch with apps or music, the capacity change probably won’t mean much to you, but it’s nice to have enough room for pretty much anything the Watch might need at this point in time. The fact that the Watch performs so much better might encourage people to actually start using previously developed apps, assuming they haven’t been discontinued — unfortunately, many have.

Faster wireless and tweaked cellular

Apple launched the first Apple Watch with support for two wireless standards: 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. Wi-Fi has remained the same from generation to generation, but the Bluetooth was bumped to version 4.2 in the second year, and Series 4 takes a further step forward to Bluetooth 5.0. (That’s thanks to an updated Apple S3 wireless chip.)

As a practical matter, you might notice this change if the Apple Watch is paired with another Bluetooth 5.0 device or accessory, but there aren’t many of them out there right now. That said, owners of 2017-2018 iPhones may notice a difference during downloads, such as syncing content to the Watch or updating watchOS, which typically (and surprisingly) uses Bluetooth.

I had a series of Bluetooth-related problems when I tried to use an older Watch backup to “restore” the Series 4, but wiping the backup and starting fresh — a fairly easy and comparatively painless process with the Watch — made a world of difference, even though it should have been unnecessary. With watchOS 5 running fresh, the Bluetooth sync process to add a large number of apps was blazingly fast, as were transfers of screenshots and other files that were getting hung up with the initial restore.

It’s likely that most of the problem was iOS/watchOS software-related, but having Bluetooth 5.0 hardware on both sides probably helped with speed once the issue was resolved. Whenever Bluetooth 5.0 Airpods come out, they may exhibit better wireless range and/or signal reliability with the new Apple Watch, as well.

Starting with last year’s Series 3 model, Apple began to offer two versions of the Apple Watch: a “GPS” version with GPS hardware, and a “GPS Cellular” version with both GPS and an LTE modem. There’s a 100 premium for the cellular model, and increasing carrier support for the functionality, which for 5 to 10 per month bonds the Watch to your cell phone number, letting you make calls and access your phone plan’s data when you’re not carrying your phone with you.

Beste Smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 4 (review)

Apart from battery performance (below), data services and calling work as you’d expect on the Watch: OK. You can access your contacts list or a dialing keypad for calls, and stream the same types of data over cellular that you’d normally be accessing over your phone’s Bluetooth or home’s Wi-Fi connection. But unlike a phone, you’re not going to be making super-long calls or using a ton of data from your watch. For that reason, if you’re thinking of buying a Cellular model, I’d suggest you take advantage of a carrier deal, because at 10 for minimal Watch service, they’re going to be taking advantage of you.

For this year’s cellular versions, Apple didn’t make many promises about the Series 4 beyond to say that the new watches have an improved antenna design and support more bands than before. The reality is a little more complicated. There are now two cellular Apple Watch models rather than three: one North American model, and one international version that includes support for mainland China rather than requiring separate Watches. Both the North American and international versions of the LTE Watch actually drop one Band — 800MHz UMTS — but the international version adds LTE Band 41, TD 2500MHz.

What this all means for average users is simple: The last cellular Apple Watch wasn’t a “world” model, and this one isn’t, either — U.S. and Canadian users in particular shouldn’t expect to get cellular service with the Watch overseas, or vice versa. Thanks to the Watch’s exclusive use of eSIM technology, there’s a day when this could change, but don’t hold your breath for that to happen soon.

Continued battery disappointments

Every year, the Apple Watch battery story is the same: Apple promises 18 hours of life, which is good for a typical day of use between charges. The story’s the same this year, albeit with two small changes — the phone promises an hour less of talk time when used as a Bluetooth speaker phone, and an hour more of workout tracking time.

While it would be unfair to describe Apple as having made zero progress on this front for three years, the reality is that the Apple Watch’s one-day battery life and one-hour cellular talk time are far below what most people would prefer, even if that’s what customers come to expect from Apple. Users shouldn’t have to worry about whether a watch will keep working through the night if they have to make a 30-minute phone call.

Having used prior versions of the Apple Watch, I can say that if your use of Series 4’s most power-draining features is light, and you’re not using the Cellular model, you’ll be able to go for a day and a half between charges. But there are competing watches that will work without compromises for two to five days. With the Cellular Series 4 Apple Watch, battery drain will likely be higher, and on the 44mm model, the 18-hour/one-day estimate is fair.

(Update on October 9 at 10:20 a.m. Pacific: After two weeks of testing non-cellular and cellular models, my feelings about Series 4’s battery life are somewhat more nuanced. While the first days after each version was set up appeared to be particularly draining, both watches settled into more consistent patterns: the non-cellular model could stretch to two full days of use if you’re not working out or using the Bluetooth phone feature, while the cellular model showed stronger drain that varies based on its proximity to an iPhone. Battery life meets Apple’s claims, but if you’re not pushing the Series 4 particularly hard, you may well find that it lasts a lot longer than expected.)

Like its predecessors, the Apple Watch Series 4 ships with a wireless inductive charging puck that has a USB-A connector on the other end. Though Apple separately certified this year’s chargers — the first time it has done so since 2015 — they superficially appear to be unchanged from before, so whatever’s new is unclear. As before, the Watches are super-easy to charge, though a charging stand is strongly advised for convenience.

What’s obviously missing

At this stage, the Apple Watch has several obvious flaws: battery life, limited watch faces without screen persistence, and responsiveness. The platform would be markedly better if you could use it for multiple days between charges, keep your choice of clocks on the screen at all times, and rely upon Siri to work reliably and instantly.

This isn’t to say that the Series 4 Apple Watch hasn’t improved over its predecessors — it has. To address some user demands for more clock options and “better Siri,” Apple updated watchOS some time ago with a Nightstand Mode to let the Watch serve as a bedside clock, and in watchOS 5 enables Siri to be more easily triggered with just a twist of the wrist.

But these improvements haven’t really expanded the Watch’s utility to the point it should be at by now. There is no good reason that the Watch should still be confined to Apple’s own set of Watch faces, which remain extremely limited despite adding six (or seven, depending on the Watch you purchase) new options for Series 4. It’s also amazing that Apple doesn’t offer a basic, one-color persistent clock option for users who want it. And Siri still stinks.

Virtually everything Apple has engineered into Series 4 appears to have been geared towards getting it to complete the original model’s vision — specifically, what Apple wants it to do — rather than what mass-market users have been asking for. Focusing on nearly-one-day battery life has killed the Watch’s ability to be worn at night as a sleep tracker, and limited its ability to be used as a “smartwatch” for more than a day between charges, depending on how much you use the battery for workouts or phone calls. Once Apple addresses these issues, the Apple Watch’s potential will be limitless.

Pricing and conclusions

After several years of iterative improvements, the Apple Watch Series 4 is finally worthy of being called great: It’s pretty much everything that people would have hoped for the original model to be back in 2015, and then some. The larger screens alone dramatically improve reading text and using apps, while the new processor and sensors make interacting with the watch feel fantastic. You’ll be reminded of the scope of improvements virtually every time you look at a watch face.

This year’s Watches are a little more expensive than last year’s, but unlike the iPhone XS, they feel worthy of a small premium — even if they’re belatedly delivering on the potential they had several years ago, an aluminum Series 4 will feel like a worthwhile investment by the time you’re done with it.

On the other hand, the stainless steel Apple Watches have crossed the line into “too expensive.” Requiring customers to buy cellular functionality to get a stainless watch is a cruel trick, and for those of us without a need to pay recurring fees for a watch, a waste of money. Thanks to mediocre cellular battery life and still-limited data functionality, there isn’t yet a mass-market need for an LTE watch. If those issues are addressed, that could change over the next few years.

If you’ve been holding out on an Apple Watch, I’d advise you to strongly consider giving the Series 4 a shot — unless you need a watch that you can wear overnight. In that case, hold out for a year: Even if that improvement’s not next on Apple’s list, many Apple competitors (including Samsung and Qualcomm) are working on solutions that feature improved battery life as a key differentiator. We’ll just have to see whether they deliver overall experiences as wide-ranging and refined as the Apple Watch Series 4.

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What Every Runner Needs to Know About Apple Watch Series 4

With a longer battery and larger screen, the Apple Watch is finally a great option for runners.

When Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the company’s annual product showcase this year, it wasn’t a shiny new iPhone that wowed the crowd. Instead, stealing the show, was Apple Watch Series 4, the latest advancement in the wearables category. And much like the current crop of iPhones, there wasn’t a complete overhaul of the product. Instead, there were a few exciting new features—including the ability to take your own electrocardiograph—added to an already impressive device.

I’ve been extensively putting the Apple Watch Series 4 through its paces for a week now, so let’s take a look at what’s new and limited to this version.

The new watch comes in two varieties, just as it did with Series 3—one with cellular connectivity starting at 499, and one without for 399. (Apple Watch Series 3 will still be available, starting at 279.) The aluminum Watch is available in three finishes—silver, gold, and space gray—as well as stainless steel models in three finishes—silver, space black, and an all-new gold.

The first and most important update to the Apple Watch is a larger screen. The watch case itself is only two millimeters bigger than Series 3, but you’ll be hard-pressed to notice the difference when holding the two side-by-side. (I tried and couldn’t.) But you will immediately see the extra real estate on the screen. That change comes from Apple reducing the size of the borders around the display, maximizing what they can show on the watch’s face.

That’s great for runners, because it means all of the digits are larger and it’s easier to read the time, distance, or pace at a glance. I also like it because I can now read the time of day in the top-right corner of the watch—my aging eyes aren’t as sharp as they once were.

The change also allowed Apple to pack more data on the screen. As you can see in the image above, the Infograph face, a rather awful design with a slew of small dials exploding in a rainbow of colors, crams a lot of data into one spot. Thankfully, there are a number of other faces you can choose from, but in any case you can still customize each with “complications,” the small widgets on-screen that give you quick access to an app.

Another change we appreciate is an extra hour of battery life. Series 4 now will last up to six hours in outdoor workout mode—so the watch is actually useful for long runs and marathons. Of course, if you’re listening to music over Bluetooth and streaming data via a cellphone network, you’ll get less runtime. But even in those instances, the new Apple Watch will last a full hour longer than its predecessor under the same conditions.

Get Your Heart Racing

The most exciting feature of the new Apple Watch Series 4, electrocardiograph, sadly is not yet available. Apple says only that it’s coming soon, but this watch has the hardware for when the feature is rolled out.

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New electrical sensors on the back of the watch and the touch-sensitive digital crown allow the it to serve as an over-the-counter ECG. After a 30-second test, the results are recorded to the Health app, and you’re alerted whether you have a normal heart beat (sinus rhythm) or if you might have atrial fibrillation, which should be checked out. The results of the test, including the rhythm strips, can be printed as a PDF that you can take to in to your doctor.

Another new measurement is the watch’s ability to detect if your heart rate drops too low. Previously, Series 3 was able to detect a too-high HR (above 100 bpm) when you were at rest and alert you. Now, the watch will alert you if it detects a resting heart rate below 40 bpm for 10 minutes. That’s a flaw for a small percentage of us distance runners who have an exceptionally low resting rate. But if you fall into that camp, you can turn this feature off.

“Help, I’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up”

The little old lady from Life Alert may be out of work soon, thanks to a fall detection feature that’s built into the Series 4. By using motion detectors to sense common types of falls—you throw your hands in the air when you slip, but reach out forward when you trip—as well as impact sensors, the watch can tell when you’ve hit the deck.

Apple Watch Series 4 GPS Cellular 44mm

Of course, it must be said the watch may not be 100 percent accurate, and more complicated scenarios like wiping out on a trail run or crashing on a bike may go undetected. But, in the interest of doing a thorough test, I threw myself to the floor at the office a dozen times, at least. My body ached, but on only one fall did the watch give me an immediate alert saying it detected a fall and offered to call for help. If this happens to you and you don’t respond for one minute or the watch doesn’t detect movement, it calls emergency personnel automatically.

Under the Hood

There are a handful of enhancements you won’t readily see, but they affect the performance of Series 4 watches. First is a new dual-core processor that makes the watch twice as fast. What that means for you is it’ll load apps faster and won’t get jammed up as often.

The backside of the case has been reworked with glass and ceramic, mostly because of the change to the electrical sensors for the above-mentioned heart-rate monitoring. But those changes also allow cellular signals to pass through the backside of the case (aluminum and stainless would interfere with those signals), so you’ll have better reception when using the watch in standalone mode.

Apple also modified the speaker, moving it to the opposite side of the watch from the microphone and making it 50 percent louder. In my testing, Siri and phone calls were much easier to hear, especially when outside on busy city streets.

Runner-Friendly watchOS 5 Features

While Apple Watch Series 4 is being turned loose in the wild, the company is rolling out an update to the operating system for all Apple Watch models, which has other features runners will like.

apple, 44mm

First is Podcasts. This has been a huge request among runners and a real head-scratcher to why it hadn’t been included sooner. But, with watchOS 5, you can now download podcasts to the watch and listen to them, even when you don’t carry your phone. Much like how the Music app works, the watch will sync new episodes when the watch is connected to a charger and Wi-Fi. In general, it tries to include at least one episode for each show you subscribe to, but if you’re using a cellular-enabled watch, you can always request any new show or episode by using Siri.

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At some point, we’ve all headed out the door and forgotten to start our watch. Now the watch will recognize when you’ve started an activity and even try to identify the type—strangely it thought I was on an elliptical machine when I was driving my car. But it’s a handy feature in case you do forget, and the watch will have recorded your data from the start of the activity, not just when you hit the start button.

For marathon runners aiming for a specific time goal, you’ll like that Apple has added a feature common to other advanced GPS watches: pace alerts. You configure these within the Workouts app on the watch (click the three dots on the workout tile to access that workout type’s settings). On the run, the watch will alert you whenever you cross the predesignated threshold—for example, if you speed up and go from 8:05 per mile to 7:55 on average, it’ll alert you once. But the alerts are infrequent, so you don’t get annoyed.

One bummer: You can only set a pace alert for up to 12 minutes per mile. So if you expect to be on the marathon course for longer than 5:15, you’re out of luck.

Bottom Line

Are these new features enough to upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 4? In certain cases, I’d suggest yes. If you’re like me and starting to wear cheater glasses for reading, the larger screen size is a nice addition. Or, perhaps you have a family history of heart troubles, in which case you might like to keep tabs on your own ticker with the ECG testing.

And senior runners may appreciate the peace of mind they’ll have with a built-in SOS alert in case of a road-side accident. In those situations, pony up the cash for Series 4. In my testing, all of the available features have worked as advertised.

But, if you’re a younger runner without any heart issues, give another look at the Series 3 watch, and put the extra 120 toward another pair of shoes.

Jeff is Runner-in-Chief for Runner’s World, guiding the brand’s shoes and gear coverage. A true shoe dog, he’s spent more than a decade testing and reviewing shoes. In 2017, he ran in 285 different pairs of shoes, including a streak of 257 days wearing a different model.

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