Apple Watch Series 5 Brings Software Upgrades, Not Much Else

Image: Apple

It’s no surprise that Apple announced the next iteration of its Apple Watch today. But where last year’s Series 4 represented a major shift in design and added ECG capabilities, this year’s model focuses on software.

We already knew what to expect from WatchOS 6 after WWDC. And as expected, we’re getting some new watch faces, noise monitoring, better menstrual tracking, a tip calculator, and a wrist-based App Store. All these are pretty incremental, but at the same time somewhat overdue. After all, Android watches have had the Google Play Store available on the wrist for years. Samsung has also had its own app store in Galaxy Watches for ages now, too. (That said, the experience isn’t super, so it’ll be interesting to see Apple’s take on it with the Series 5.)

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There’s also an updated compass, so you can see your direction at a glance. It’s also added International emergency calling in over 150 countries, adding to fall detection as a safety feature. Apple also noted you’ll be able to opt into a new health research app. If you do, you’ll be able to participate in three studies: one for hearing, women’s health, and heart and movement. Apple emphasized privacy would be paramount for those who do, and that data would be anonymized.

Behold, the ceramic.
Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
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Hardware-wise, Apple isn’t rocking the boat with the Series 5. There’s a new always-on display, which means you don’t have to worry about waiting for the screen to flicker back on when you raise your wrist. That’s thank to an LTPO display, which refreshes dynamically from 1Hz to 60Hz. The most notable thing is there’s now ceramic and titanium models, proving early rumors right on the money. Apple didn’t say how much these bad boys will cost in the presentation, but it’s likely they’ll cost much more than base models. [Update: According to Apple’s site, the titanium watches will start at $800. The ceramic will start at $1,300. Goodbye wallet.]

It’ll be interesting to see how the LTPO display impacts battery life.
Screenshot: Andrew Liszewski (Gizmodo)
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One glaring omission? Battery life. Sorry buds, still no native sleep tracking with the Series 5. Five watches in, Apple is still opting to prioritize features over extending the 18-hour, “all-day” battery life. It’ll be interesting to see whether the new LTPO display will impact this, despite being engineered to use power more efficiently. Many users report that they get longer than the estimated 18-hour battery life, but that’s wholly dependent on how often you use GPS, and other power-guzzling apps and features.

Series 5 models will cost $400 for GPS only, and $500 for LTE. They’ll be available today for preorder, with shipping slated for September 20. Meanwhile, if you want a deal, the Series 3 will be discounted for $200.

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About the author

Victoria Song

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.