The latest in the Apple Watch series is competent, addictive and demanding

Apple watch series 5 (Left), Apple watch series 3 (Right)
The Apple Watch dresses you up, tracks your every move and keeps a keen eye on your heart. The addition of an always-on display, a compass, an electrical heart rate sensor and its own App Store makes the fifth generation update a fiercely independent device. So you can’t help but wonder why it still depends on your phone for menial tasks, such as initiating a WhatsApp conversation (you can reply to them). To be fair, the Apple Watch Series 5 still does a lot to ease your every day, unless, of course, you forget to charge it every night. You see, the latest wearable from Apple is a sum of great improvements and missed opportunities. Allow me to explain the statement through its use cases. And since it looks and behaves much like the discontinued Series 4, I will compare it to the Series 3, which starts at Rs 24,900, GPS). 

As a dressy watch

The Series 5 is a polished addition to your wardrobe. The edges have been rounded and the display is about 30 per cent larger than the Series 3. You can pair it with suits, sherwanis and t-shirts alike and choose between aluminium, stainless steel, titanium and ceramic — arranged in ascending order of price — for the dial. The many options in straps, which can be switched effortlessly, make the watch very versatile. Many smartwatches come close, but none looks the part at a gala quite like Apple does. Series 3 does the job, but the always-on display of the Series 5 better mimics a functional timepiece. Unfortunately, the analog watch faces are still very animated and if you like the screen to go dark when not in use, looks aren’t the reason why you should spend more on the Series 5. Better grab a festive offer on the Series 3. Score: 4/5

As a fitness tracker

The Series 5 wants to keep you moving. The activity rings in red, green and blue within the dial in the activity watch face track your calories, movement and workout goals, and closing all rings, in Apple’s celebratory fashion, is a good motivator for lightly active people. While there is an abundance of sports modes, such as archery and bowling and workout options such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and hiking, the watch rarely recognises your choice of movement automatically. I found myself pressing buttons in awkward positions to switch from HIIT to strength training within a session to get more accurate readings. It did recognise me running, though, and prompted me to start a workout. But that’s the thing — it could have made that decision on its own.

For an athlete or even a fitness conscious person, tracking exercise, nutrition and sleep are vital. The Series 5, much like the Series 3, does an okay job of tracking workouts and relies on third party apps to log food and analyse sleep. Fitbit does all three through a single, clean interface and its Versa watches have a more attentive fitness tracker and better batteries. Score: 3/5

As a health monitor 

The addition of the ECG app, which can basically differentiate between a sinus rhythm (normal) and atrial fibrillation, is a big plus. It can even alert the user when the heart rate is abnormally high or low. The WatchOS6 also brings fall detection (and alerts emergency contacts if no movement is detected for 10 seconds) and noise alerts to both Series 4 and 5, even while using headphones. It’s not an alternative to medical supervision, but I’d recommend the Series 5 to everybody who can do with some extra attention. Score: 5/5

As a phone alternative 

The Series 5 uses an e-SIM, which can be configured in just a few taps.  The watch is phenomenal at taking commands. In my two weeks with it, I rarely took out my phone to act on a message and dictated long replies through the watch, unless I was in a crowded place where either the watch couldn’t hear me or my privacy was compromised. The mic does need some improvements, though. I also took the watch for many solo spins and read snippets of news, listened to music and podcasts on my Bluetooth headphones, took calls on the watch speaker while driving and missed my phone only occasionally. The compass brings direction accuracy to Apple Maps and more on-board space — from 16GB to 32GB — means you can load more songs, photos and apps on the watch. Score: 4/5

Overall 

The Apple Watch Series 5 makes the least attractive wrist look appealing. It is a phenomenal lifestyle gadget and a proactive health support. The watch is not the best fitness tracker going but is the closest alternative to your phone. Only, it does not last as long as the phone does on a single charge. The Series 5 suffers terribly from the lack of the anticipated power-sharing functionality — a hands-on 15-16 hours of battery life just doesn’t cut it for the things it can do and the active people it wants to represent. Score: 4/5



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