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Apple Watch Series 5 vs. Series 4

The Apple Watch Series 4, which was almost immediately taken off Apple sales channels when Series 5 was launched, was a genuine work of art 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.

At first glance of the exterior, the newer model is identical to its predecessor. However, a few upgrades lurk within that improve what was considered the best product in its genre at the time. Here’s what changed.

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 almost completely unchanged 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 a bit 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 Apple Watch models offer excellent fitness and health-tracking. The Apple Watch 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 6, which is now available on both devices, brings a period tracking app called Cycle, a Noise app to measure the decibel level of your environment, and a dedicated App Store so you can find the best Apple Watch apps on your wrist. Sleep tracking, however, though a highly sought-after feature, was put on hold.

Since both watches 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

The Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $399 for the GPS aluminum model and goes up from there. It’s $499 if you want to add cellular connectivity, the titanium body starts from $799, and the even more luxurious ceramic starts from $1,299. Apple has discontinued the Apple Watch Series 4, but you can likely still find it at various retailers for a discount.

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’re buying your first smartwatch or upgrading from an older model, the Apple Watch Series 5 is the one to get.

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