- Apple just unveiled the Apple Watch Series 5, which comes in new titanium and ceramic casings and has an always-on display.
- Like the name suggests, the always-on display allows you to view information at a glance without moving your wrist to turn the screen on — a feature that brings a lot more convenience to the Apple Watch.
- Here’s a brief look at the Apple Watch, based on the few minutes I had with it.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
CUPERTINO, California — Apple just unveiled an updated version of the Apple Watch that comes with a new always-on display, a built-in compass, and new titanium and ceramic finishes. The new watch, called the Series 5, starts at $400 and will be launching on September 20.
That always-on display is important for the Apple Watch because it makes it much better at its most basic job: functioning as a wristwatch. Now that the Apple Watch has an always-on display, you can just glance down at your wrist to see the time and other information without having to move your wrist to turn on the screen.
That brings the Apple Watch up to speed with rivals like Fitbit, which just announced the Versa 2, another smartwatch with an always-on screen. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch also has a screen that can stay on to show the time and other bits of information, even if you’re not looking directly at it.
I spent a few minutes trying out the new Apple Watch Series 5 after Apple’s press event. Here’s a preview of what it’s like to use.
When the Apple Watch Series 5’s display isn’t activated, it will look something like this.
You can still see important information, but the display is dimmer to conserve battery life.
Then when you raise your wrist, the screen brightens up as usual.
Although Fitbit’s Versa 2 also has an always-on display, Apple has a critical advantage: The watch faces are optimized to work in always-on mode, unlike Fitbit’s. That makes the transition feel much more seamless because you’re essentially looking at the same content on-screen when moving between always-on mode and standard mode.
This worked pretty seamlessly during my brief hands-on time with the device, but I did notice that it worked best when I raised my wrist slowly.
Other features are designed to work in always-on mode too.
It’s not just the watch faces that are optimized to work when the Apple Watch’s display isn’t activated. The workout app also takes advantage of the watch’s always-on functionality.
When you’re running a workout, for example, the screen will dim, and the watch will pare back certain details to conserve power. In always-on display mode, for example, the milliseconds next to your workout timer will disappear. But when you raise your wrist, the screen will light up, and the workout app will appear the same as usual.
The Apple Watch’s new titanium casing felt surprisingly light.
For the first time, the Apple Watch is available in a titanium casing, which comes in natural and space-black color options. The titanium version feels incredibly lightweight, much more so than the stainless steel and new ceramic version. It feels almost as light as the entry-level aluminum Apple Watch.
And the ceramic edition has a slick, clean feel.
The ceramic Apple Watch has a glossy look that’s reminiscent of Apple’s classic white plastic MacBook. The company also says the ceramic finish is scratch-resistant.
It looks like there’s a lot of potential for the Apple Watch’s compass to be integrated into apps.
During my brief time with the watch, I saw how the built-in compass could be used to make navigation apps more useful. For example, in the Maps app, the compass will make it possible for you to see which direction you’re facing, right on your wrist. There’s also a stargazing app that uses the compass to display the precise direction of specific constellations.
But overall, it feels like it could be a relatively minor upgrade.
Features like a built-in compass and an always-on display are definitely welcome additions that make using the Apple Watch more convenient. And the fact that the cellular version can now be used to contact emergency services internationally boosts its usefulness when it comes to safety.
But upgrades like this suggest that the smartwatch market is maturing in a similar way as the smartphone industry — that’s to say that wearables are now so advanced that there are only minor ways to improve them. The major leaps — like standalone cellular connectivity in a sleek form factor — may be behind us.
Now we’re just waiting for Apple to make two other important improvements: native sleep tracking and battery life that lasts for multiple days.