Apple Watch Series 5 vs. Series 4

The Apple Watch Series 4 was a genuine work of art when it was released in 2018 and so far ahead of the competition that observers had argued that Apple didn’t need to update it. Of course, Apple had its own ideas about that and followed up with the Apple Watch Series 5, resulting in Apple removing the Series 4 from its official sales channels (it has now done the same to the Series 5 after releasing the Series 6).

At first glance of the exterior, the 2019 model is identical to its 2018 predecessor. However, a few upgrades lurk within that improve on what was considered the best product in its genre at the time. Here’s how both watches stack up against each other.

Once you’ve settled on a model, don’t forget to comb through the best Apple Watch deals and best smartwatch sales available now.

Specs

Apple Watch Series 5
Apple Watch Series 4
Display size 40mm: 1.57 inches

44mm: 1.78 inches

40mm: 1.57 inches

44mm: 1.78 inches

Body size 40mm: 40 x 34 x 10.7mm

44mm: 44 x 38 x 10.7mm

40mm: 40 x 34 x 10.7mm

44mm: 44 x 38 x 10.7mm

Resolution 40mm: 324 x 394 pixels

44mm: 368 x 448 pixels

40mm: 324 x 394 pixels

44mm: 368 x 448 pixels

Touchscreen 40mm: 1.57-inch LTPO OLED Retina display w/ Force Touch

44mm: 1.78-inch LTPO OLED Retina display w/ Force Touch

40mm: 1.57-inch LTPO OLED Retina display w/ Force Touch

44mm: 1.78-inch LTPO OLED Retina display w/ Force Touch

Storage 32GB 16GB
Wireless interface Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, NFC, LTE Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, NFC, LTE
Depth 10.7mm 10.7mm
Accelerometer Yes Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes
Ambient light sensor Yes Yes
Heart rate sensor Yes Yes
Barometer Yes Yes
GPS Yes Yes
Compass Yes No
Water-resistant Yes Yes
Battery life Up to 18 hours Up to 18 hours
Price From $400 From $400
Availability Apple Apple
DT review 4.5 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

Design and display

Apple-Watch-Series-5
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The measurements and design of the Series 5 are barely distinguishable from the Apple Watch Series 4 — it looks exactly the same and comes in the same two sizes with the same display size. The headline feature was the addition of an always-on display that lets the Apple Watch show the time constantly, like a regular watch, without having to tap the display or raise your wrist. The newer model lets you keep an eye on notifications and whatever else you like to have on your Apple Watch face.

The body of the Series 5 may look the same, but the aluminum version is now made from 100% recycled aluminum, and there’s also a new titanium option, which costs more. We’re also glad to see the return of the attractive ceramic case as an option.

While the two are very similar, the always-on display is a very welcome addition and wins the Series 5 this round.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 5

Fitness and health-tracking features

Apple Watch Series 4 Review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Series 4 and Series 5 offer excellent fitness and health tracking. Each can automatically recognize many exercises, and it has workout plans for everything from yoga to hiking. All of the data is beautifully presented in the Health app on your iPhone. Both Apple Watch models also offer activity reminders to spur you into action, like if you’ve been sedentary too long. They’ll also encourage you to breathe and take a minute if you’re stressed. There’s also built-in heart rate tracking and the option to conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG).

WatchOS 7, which is now available on both devices, finally brings a sleep-tracking feature to both devices. It also adds a new interface for customizing watch faces, a new Fitness app with new exercises to try, and even hand-washing tracking (which is very timely).

Since both watches support the same OS and therefore have the same fitness features, this is a tie.

Winner: Tie 

Battery life

Apple Watch Series 4 Review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You get up to 18 hours of battery life from the Apple Watch Series 5, which is the same as the stated battery life for the Apple Watch Series 4. You may wonder how it achieved that without increasing the size, considering that there’s an always-on display to power now. Well, the screen simply switches the refresh rate from 60Hz to 1Hz, so less power is needed. The S5 processor inside is more power-efficient, evening out the always-on display’s power needs. This is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Apple-Watch-Series-5
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The always-on display in the Apple Watch Series 5 is not all that sets it apart. The newer Apple Watch also has a compass that enables much more precise positioning to help you navigate. While you can press and hold the power button on the Apple Watch Series 4 to contact emergency services in the U.S., the Apple Watch Series 5 expands that to the wider world, enabling you to contact local emergency services wherever you are. Apple also doubled the storage capacity in the Apple Watch Series 5 to 32GB, while the Series 4 has 16GB. The Series 5 is a clear winner here.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 5

Price and availability

Apple has discontinued both the Series 4 and Series 5, which started at $399 for the GPS aluminum model when it was released in 2019. Apple now currently sells only the Series 6 through its official channels, although you should be able to find the previous two models at a variety of retailers, most likely at a discount compared to the latest device.

Overall winner: Apple Watch Series 5

Naturally, the Apple Watch Series 5 is better than the Apple Watch Series 4, but it’s still a minor upgrade. There’s the always-on display, more storage, the compass, and a couple of extra-expensive options for the body exterior. If you already have an Apple Watch Series 4, though, then you really don’t need to upgrade. But if you do want a slightly newer model, the Apple Watch Series 5 is a great option, even if it has now itself been superseded by the Series 6.

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