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Despite the new iPhones taking center stage at Apple’s big event this week, there was still time for an upgrade to the world’s most popular smartwatch. And you’ll be glad to know that at long last, the Apple Watch is getting something we’ve waited a long time for: an Always-On screen. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming Apple Watch Series 5.
Before now, watch enthusiasts – and especially watch traditionalists – bemoaned the Apple Watch’s screen, complaining that to do something as simple as read the time, you needed to either tilt your wrist or tap the screen. Of course, this was a necessary limitation imposed by Apple: battery and screen technology simply couldn’t power a smartwatch with a screen that could stay on all day while also delivering messages and email, updating you with weather reports, and providing wrist-side access to Siri.
That is, until now.
At the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, Apple unveiled the latest in its line of smartwatches: the Apple Watch Series 5. And indeed, the company celebrated the Always-On screen as a feature consumers have been requesting since the first model in 2015.
You might think that an Always-On display would come at the expense of the Apple Watch’s impressive 18-hour battery life, but you’d be mistaken. In true Apple style, the new Watch maintains the same 18-hour battery life as its predecessor, despite the screen’s improvements. This is something the crowd loved, and rightly so – it’s a technological feat, but how is it possible?
Well, according to Apple, the new device includes a low-temperature polysilicone and oxide display, and a low-power display driver. These allow the screen to dynamically shift between high-power 60 Hz and ultra low-power 1 Hz as and when required. The Always-On display also remains at a low brightness setting until you move your wrist or tap the screen, conserving valuable energy; Apple unveiled a series of new watch faces which shift between dark, low brightness and light, high brightness when you activate the screen. They reminded us a lot of the Dark Mode wallpapers in iOS 13.
What we didn’t see from Apple, however, was mention of a first-party sleep tracker – something which had previously been rumored. The obvious problem with such a feature is of course charging: how do you top up your device if you aren’t hooking the Watch up to its charger overnight? It’s likely going to be a few years until Apple develops truly wireless charging, so we aren’t surprised to see this feature put on hold. And for anyone desperate to track their sleep with an Apple Watch, plenty of third-party options are available on the App Store.
What else is new?
The display certainly is good, but that’s not all the Series 5 model delivers. Apple is also adding a built-in Compass app to its Apple Watch, similar to the iOS app, which will prove useful for orienteers. The Compass app can be added as a complication to a watch face, and it can offer measurements including latitude, longitude, elevation, and incline. Emergency calling for users who are abroad is also being added, alongside a decibel-reader for measuring noise intensity.
And of course, the Apple Watch is getting a brand new look. You’ll now be able to pick up an Apple Watch in either recycled aluminium or titanium, though as before, stainless steel and ceramic options are still available. There’s never been a wider selection of finishes for the Watch, Apple explained, meaning customers should have no problem finding the perfect model for them.
To complement all that, you can pick up one of Apple’s new Watch bands – more have been added to the collection – and a new Web app called Apple Watch Studio allows users to mix and match cases and bands in order to find the right combination.
When it comes to the price, there are no surprises here. The GPS-only Apple Watch Series 5 will set you back $399, and for GPS + Cellular, you’ll need to cough up $499. You’ll also be able to pick up 2017’s Apple Watch Series 3 for $199 once the new models launch, providing a more affordable way to get a brand new smartwatch.
Orders for the Apple Watch Series 5 are now being accepted – head over to Apple.com to place your preorder. You can expect to see the Series 5 model in stores on Sept. 20.