Apple Watch Series 4 first look review: Thinner body, bigger screen, higher price
The new Apple Watch Series 4 is available today and this new wearable from Apple may have been the best new product launched at the event last week in California. The Apple Watch Series 4 has been “redesigned and reengineered” with a focus on the features that people use the most; health and wellness.
A couple of months ago I sold my Apple Watch Series 3 because I was primarily using Android phones and other wearables, such as the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus, were better serving my needs. After watching the Apple announcement for the Series 4 watch I ordered one the minute they were available because the larger display, focus on health and wellness, longer battery life, and ability to still use all of my existing 42mm Apple Watch bands was appealing.
I picked up my Apple Watch Series 4 at the Apple Store and am currently testing it with an Apple iPhone X. I selected the non-LTE model since I only used the last generation with LTE for a total of about 30 minutes over LTE in a year of use. At $10 a month, the cost to use the LTE model was ridiculous and not worth the added cost.
The packaging of the Apple Watch Series 4 is interesting this year with an origami style approach where you unfold a few layers to then find the Apple Watch body secured in a microfiber softshell. The straps are located in another area with the charger buried deep inside. It’s a bit of an experience just to unbox it.
Apple again has aluminum and stainless steel models, but since I like to use the Apple Watch for exercise I prefer the lighter aluminum casing ($399 starting price). The stainless steel models start at $300 more ($699) than the aluminum models, which is a significant increase in case. Interestingly, the stainless steel models only come with the cellular option. For $100, you can buy an aluminum model with cellular capability, but there are no WiFi-only stainless steel models.
One of the first things I noticed on the Series 4 is the thickness of the Apple Watch. It is now 10.7 mm, compared to 11.4 mm on the Series 3. It also has a different optical heart rate sensor configuration with a ceramic ring on the back that is designed to help with the ECG app functionality coming later this year.
The digital crown has also been modified to now include haptic feedback. The digital crown is also used to help complete a circuit in your body for the ECG measurement.
The accelerometer has been improved to measure twice the amount of gravitational forces and is part of the new fall detection and notification system.
I purchased the 44mm model, which has a 368×448 pixels display and 977 square mm of display area. This is more than 230 square mm of display area compared to the 42mm Series 3.
The general squircle form factor, watch band system, and button layout is the same as before. Thankfully, even though the larger model is now 44mm, the watch bands for the 42mm Series 3 are still compatible with this slightly larger Series 4.
The Apple Watch Series 4 launches with watchOS 5 and at first glance not much has changed. However, spend a little time with it to discover:
- Raise to launch Siri without having to say “Hey Siri”
- Podcasts can now be enjoyed while you workout with no iPhone
- Automatic workout detection
- Grouped notifications
- View web content
- Schedule do not disturb, including a location-based option
Samsung has had automatic detection of activities on its watches since at least the Gear S3 and I found it handy for my one mile walk to and from the train. I tested this a couple of times on the Apple Watch 4 and it works well.
Looking ahead to the full review
There is a lot more to test in the weeks ahead and I am especially interested in diving deep into the fitness and health functionality. My family enjoys hiking in the Cascade mountains so I’m very pleased to see hiking as a new workout option and look forward to climbing up in the hills soon.
I’ve used the Apple Watch for running with third party apps before, but will start testing the advanced running features such as pace alerts, rolling mile splits, and cadence.
Let me know if there is anything specific you would like me to test as I work on the full review.