Apple Watch Series 4: A GPS + LTE-based watch that shows more than time

I have used at least half a dozen smartwatches in the past year, but none fascinating enough to keep my favourite Fossil-made analog watch off my wrist for too long. However, after using the new Apple Watch Series 4 for a week, I seem to have finally found a worthy replacement. 

Announced at the Apple Keynote event in September, along with the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the Watch Series 4 is more than just a smartwatch — it is a companion that runs errand for you, monitors your health, and tracks your fitness goals. Importantly, it also supports LTE for internet and calling, so you can use it as a standalone device for most of the things that you do on a smartphone.

I might sound old-school, but when it comes to watches, I am more for its utilities than looks or features. What blew me away this time was the Watch Series 4’s solid combination of looks and functionality. The Watch Series 4 comes in two sizes – 40mm and 44mm. I have been using the 40mm GPS + LTE unit with an aluminium casing, and it sits just right on the top of my wrist. This is the first time that Apple has changed the look of its smartwatch, and the difference is subtle but useful.

Before we delve into the details, let’s take a quick look at the key specifications of the Watch Series 4 – 40mm GPS + LTE unit with an aluminium casing:

Display: OLED retina screen with force touch support, covered with Ion-X glass (394 x 324 resolution)

Cellular: LTE/UMTS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz), W3 wireless chip, Bluetooth 5.0

Storage: 16GB

Processor: S4 64-bit dual-core processor

Sensors: Electrical heart sensor, Optical heart sensor, 2nd-generation accelerometer (up to 32 g-forces), 2nd-generation gyroscope, Barometric altimeter, GPS with GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS, Ambient light sensor

Digital Assistant: Siri

Water Resistance: WR50 (swim proof)

In addition to solid specifications, the Watch Series 4 is functional, has tons of new features and works for almost two days straight on a single charge. For better use of the new display, Apple has created several new watch faces, each with different areas to track (called complications) — this shows all relevant information at one place and makes the device easier to operate. Among other things, my personal favourite is the new infograph face, which supports eight different ‘complications’ that you can personalise based on your interest. Though the new faces add to the overall utility, the Watch still does not support third-party watch faces, limiting users only to the faces offered by Apple.

Speaking of utility features, the Watch Series 4 has a new re-engineered digital crown with haptic feedback support, which is intuitive and responsive. The digital crown also doubles up as an electric heart sensor, working along with optical heart sensor placed at the bottom to record an electrocardiogram. However, this feature is currently disabled; it might be enabled in future through a software update. Currently, the Watch uses only the optical heart rate sensor to monitor heartbeat. Interestingly, it keeps a continuous check on heartbeat and notifies if the heart rate drops or rises suddenly.

Being an LTE-enabled smartwatch, the Series 4 edition can be used as a standalone device, without connecting to a smartphone. It can make calls, receive messages, stream music and show relevant information from the internet. However, the supported Indian operators – Airtel and Jio – are yet to enable the LTE support through e-SIM. So, it remains to be seen how well it fares as a standalone device. The Watch Series 4 also supports Siri, Apple’s digital personal assistant, making it easy to operate the watch using voice commands. Interestingly, it recognises the Indian accent and does most of the tasks with ease. But Siri has its own downsides, such as irresponsiveness, connectivity issue, etc, which hinders the use sometimes.

The Watch Series 4 also has a fall detection feature, which calls the emergency number and sends a message to pre-stored emergency contacts in case it detects any accidental fall. I tried a mock-fall scenario, but that did not trigger any fall detection feature to work. So, either this function has some drawbacks or the watch is smart enough to say a mock-fall from a real one. The feature is disabled by default for users aged less than 65. You can enable it from settings.

With a price starting Rs 49,900 for the GPS + LTE variant, the Apple Watch Series 4 could be counted as a device that might hold the key to future smart devices. The smartwatch is an all-inclusive package of health, fitness and smartwatch functionalities. There is literally nothing that you cannot do using this watch. However, the strictly closed Apple ecosystem makes it ideal only for the users of Apple devices. Others might not find it as useful in real life.

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