Apple doesn’t need to announce and release a brand new Apple Watch in 2019. Any true Series 5 Apple Watch will be a waste of time right now. Why? Because the Series 4 Apple Watch is still so far ahead of the competition, when it comes to functionality, reliability, and style, even though it is a year old, that Apple doesn’t need to come out with a new model at all. It can wait another six months, possibly even another year, and the Series 4 will still be the smartwatch I recommend you buy.
Think I’m mad? A salivating Apple fanboy? Sorry, I’m neither; but that doesn’t stop me from being correct.
Let’s start with the undeniable facts. You can do more with the Series 4 Apple Watch than you can with any other single smartwatch. It’s by far the most versatile, most useful single wearable you can put on your wrist. I only need to state the Apple Watch has a heart-rate sensor, an ECG feature, and a fall detection system that has saved lives to prove it. What other touchscreen smartwatch has all those features working together? Sure, you can buy the Withings Move ECG, but that’s a hybrid watch, so it’s functionally inferior to the Apple Watch.
That’s the argument won; but I can carry on going, just to hammer my point home. Apple’s WatchOS software works properly. It delivers notifications in a clear and concise manner, you can interact with them, and the alerts can be tailored so you’re not disturbed by those which are not important. Go right ahead and buy a smartwatch that runs Google’s WearOS; but just know the notifications it delivers will be less useful, and often less reliable than if you were using an Apple Watch. Apps work better, music is easier to control, and there are more comprehensive fitness tracking and health features too.
This leads me into the reliability. Other smartwatches are available, but they never sync as reliably with your iPhone. This is by design on Apple’s part. The third-party apps needed to connect a non-Apple Watch to the phone have to run in the background, and often crash or have other issues that either disconnect the watch, or cause delays in notifications. This can be somewhat avoided by using a hybrid smartwatch or a connected watch like a G-Shock, which don’t always need a permanent link. However, these don’t provide all the features the Apple Watch, or any full touchscreen smartwatch, can.
The Apple Watch has become iconic. I don’t mean it’s beautiful to everyone, but as a symbol of the smartwatch, it is indeed iconic. When you see someone wearing an Apple Watch, not only is it instantly recognizable due to the body shape, it says “smartwatch” in a way that some circular smartwatches do not. Samsung and Fossil look towards traditional watches for design inspiration. Apple defined the smartwatch with the Apple Watch, because for the most part, it doesn’t resemble a traditional watch.
That said, it’s still very obviously made by people who like watches. The crown on the side is wonderfully tactile and responsive, and not simply a button as it has been for years on many other smartwatches. The curve of the body makes it comfortable to wear, the horns never poke into your wrist, and it’s not too heavy to wear all day. Material choice is also important, and the Apple Watch has come in ceramic, there are versions with sapphire crystal glass, and the original straps are all very high quality. There are other well-designed smartwatches made by watch makers, but none are the complete package like the Apple Watch.
Best of all is the level of customization presented by the amount of different straps and accessories you can buy. This is a particular joy of traditional watches. A new strap changes the look entirely, and makes the Apple Watch suitable for almost any situation imaginable. There are dress-style straps, straps suitable for swimming, straps influenced by classic designs including NATOs, and at all different prices too. You may be able to find one decent Double Tour strap for the Samsung Galaxy Watch, but not the dozens of great options for the Apple Watch. More customization means a more enjoyable, longer lasting ownership experience.
Is nothing really coming close?
You want a smartwatch? There are hundreds of choices, many of them very good. However, if you want a real, true smartwatch and you own an iPhone, the Apple Watch is the best. If you don’t want a true smartwatch, in that it may not have a touchscreen, a heart-rate sensor, or deliver comprehensive notifications, there are other good options.
The Alpina AlpinerX is a personal favorite, combining Swiss-made credentials with a reliable app plus basic notifications and fitness tracking. All Casio’s connected G-Shock models are great; but they don’t offer true smartwatch functionality. The Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 is one of the best WearOS watches you can buy — great battery life, cool design, and good performance — but it’s rather specialized and pretty expensive at $550.
Fossil makes excellent smartwatches too, whether under its own name or wearing Diesel, Kate Spade, or Armani brand names. The hardware is top-notch, but the Google WearOS software is not. It’s less intuitive to use than Apple’s WatchOS, it’s often slower and less reliable, and is crying out for attention from Google in terms of updates and new features. Fossil’s latest platform, along with Qualcomm’s newest chip, is a step forward; but resulting products may be held back by the software.
These are problems the Apple Watch owner simply does not face, even when wearing a smartwatch that’s now a year old.
What should Apple do?
The Apple Watch does more, works better, and is more satisfying to own than any other smartwatch. Apple does not need to replace it this year; but that’s not to say it can’t make the best even better. The functionality doesn’t really need to be updated yet, because none of the other smartwatches can match it, but it would be great to see some other changes.
New materials would be interesting. The aluminum and stainless steel model choice could be joined by one made from titanium, which is exciting. Titanium watches are very light and very strong, and when matched with scratch-resistant sapphire glass, it’ll be more resilient to damage on a daily basis. It’ll also be more luxurious, so don’t expect such a thing to be cheap. More straps are always welcome, particularly as we’re leaving the spring and summer season and getting reading for fall and winter.
A slightly refined Apple Watch Series 4.5 is all that’s required for 2019, and even then it’s hardly essential. Final evidence? If you can’t justify the price of a Series 4 Apple Watch, just buy the Series 3. It’s still brilliant, even though it’s more than two years old. The Apple Watch Series 5 really can wait until 2020.
- Apple Watch Series 5 review: A smartwatch close to perfection
- The best Apple Watch bands and straps for 2019
- Amazfit GTS Review: Apple Watch looks, but not Apple software
- The best Apple Watch faces for 2019
- Xiaomi shows no self-restraint, teases Apple Watch-look-alike smartwatch