Apple Watch Series 4 Analysis
The Apple Watch could be seen as the true heir to the iPod tradition: in many ways, it was the company’s first «wearable» technology and even had to be presented in a special way. When Apple sent out keynote invitations, they were already warning that they were going to introduce something new and «A Track: It’s Not a Mac.» That meant many things, one of the most important was that Steve Jobs curiously left behind the rejection of mobile technology that years earlier had buried the Newton in a drawer. It seems like it was the time when you could create really interesting things beyond Macs.
The iPod’s journey marked a drift that placed Apple on the horizon line of many people who only considered it «a computer brand.» In fact, years later the company removed the «Computer» from its surname to be only Apple Inc., a global technology company. This effect of attraction to the brand achieved by the iPod was inherited after the iPhone and iPad, being considered as devices that marked new product families, new uses and a considerable improvement that was brought to the entire ecosystem.
The smartwatches, similarly to the other products, did not arrive with the first ones. In fact, the Apple Watch appeared at a time when a good range of watches already existed and how the uses already seemed so defined (notifications and little else), all eyes were on Cupertino’s company. In this range of products, technology almost came before than uses, and even Apple Watch itself has been specializing and evolving to the watch that we are going to analyze today. Personally, the Series 4 is one of the most interesting technology products of this 2018, let’s see why.
-The Apple Watch has reached maturity evolving with firm steps up to this Series 4-
Completely redesigned: we are looking at a new generation
The first thing that catches the eye of the Apple Watch Series 4 is the slightly larger screen compared to previous series. We went from a 38 mm case to the 40 mm case in the smaller model, and to a 44 mm case from the 42 mm of the previous large models. The thickness also lightens a few imperceptible -0.7 mm, although watching the new Series 4 together if it looks slightly larger and even thinner when gaining in extension. In the day to day the 2 mm that we won with this series does not radically change the size of the device, so if you liked the small or the big one, I would recommend that you continue to be the same size.
One of the questions that you raised me from the moment you can access the test area after the keynote, is whether the straps would be compatible with this new model. The answer is emphatically yes, those extra 2 mm have not significantly modified the anchorage with them. In my tests, I tested all the ones I had since Series 0 and they have come in smoothly.
This year the Cellular model with eSIM is finally available in Spain to be able to use it with phone-independent calls and data. That, apart from the advantages that we will talk about later also gives us a novelty that we did not see in the Series 3 in our country: the opportunity to choose between the finish of stainless steel or aluminum (the 3 was only sold in aluminum in Spain). Also this year a new color is available in all finishes, gold – in the same way that happens with iPhones.
The gold color of this generation is a discreet color that is maintained in an elegant and simple line. In stainless steel the gold is of a stronger shade I would say that even picking brown dyes, while in aluminum acquires coppery touches. I don’t think this color graduation is casual: it makes it more easily combinable with straps and – why not – with the clothes we wear.
Another of the most noticeable changes to the naked eye – and we haven’t turned on the screen yet – is the amazing work on the back of the watch: the new heart sensor looks like it’s out of a sci-fi movie. Everything has been combined at a single point in the center, while two semiarchs surround it: they are the new sensors for the electrocardiogram, an absolute prodigy of engineering and miniaturization of which we will also talk about later.
-The new gold color is discreet and elegant, with variations between the aluminium and steel versions-
By the way, does the digital crown look familiar? Well, it has been completely redesigned, so much, that it is now also part of the sensors that closes the electrical circuit – keeping it pressed while we are in a measurement – of the future electrocardiogram. At first glance, the only difference you’ll notice is that the red circle that differentiates the Cellular model is now a small ring and does not occupy its entire surface.
The new digital crown has been added a haptic motor that allows the physical notches of traditional watches to be emulated by vibrations. The effect is so real that it is not distinguished from a mechanical sprocket, and watchOS uses it to give us feedback while the wheel has use: in menus, navigating between lists, changing values with it, I have found it very useful for example to use it knowing the amount of scrolling I move while doing sport without looking at the screen.
-The new digital crown and haptic motor enhance interaction without the need to look at the screen-
The screen as the protagonist
One of the most surprising things with series 4 is that, despite having a very similar shape, when the screen turns on everything changes. It’s something that’s even hard to move in photos, but the larger screen surface and above all, Apple’s good decision to round the frames of it give the appearance of an edge-to-edge finish and a huge screen.
Let’s talk about the screen and the sensations: in technical terms, we have the same bright 1000 nits screen (the brightness unit of digital screens), a very high amount that allows the Apple Watch to be easily visible even in the direct light of the Sun – obviously it’s perfect for the sporty approach the company carries giving the watch especially from the Series 2. However, we need to talk about this screen because it will set precedents in important technology that will soon expand to the rest of devices.
Apple has designed this display using OLED LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide) technology, which it owns since it has been developing patents and tests with it since 2015. The essential thing about this new type of display is that thanks to a more fluid movement of the electrons, a considerable battery saving is allowed while maintaining the Retina specifications of the same. And it’s the company itself that’s developing it, probably the next time we talk about it, it’s because we’ll see it in the future iPhones. This screen also demonstrates Apple’s interest in controlling and saving every last power cycle on every part of its devices, especially considering that they are not screen manufacturers. It is very good news that we can already test such a screen after years of research and that – as we will see in the battery section – contribute both to the set in terms of energy efficiency.
-Apple’s new OLED LTPO technology is promising: a more energy-efficient display that will reach the iPhones of the future-
This new display has 30% more surface area than previous models, and it is important to note that the Series 4 has new dials and user interfaces customized for this watch. Now the complications – these small satellites of the apps that can be embedded in the spheres – can be larger and above all can be more numerous. This is not only an exercise of the larger screen size, but also of the new S4 chip that allows to manage up to 8 complications simultaneously maintaining energy consumption much more efficiently than the previous S3.
The screen is the real protagonist of the watch: it is easy to see you being swimming, running or walking on the street, the new size makes it perfect to customize to the maximum the spheres that we use in everyday life or on trips – and the new interface of Apple in the exc Apple Watch’s lusty certainly get a lot out of it. At first glance, it’s spectacular and even seems to be going much further on the edge of what it really is: the design exercise is flawless in this generation (including also the digital crown), but there are still more changes.
The on/off button is now flatter, continues with the case design and makes the watch’s appearance simplified. It has the same feeling to the touch and is still just as easy to access by the notches of the inlay in the box. For a few months we heard rumors that this button could be completely tactile with Force Feedback, but for now it is still a button to use, only better located and just as comfortable.
New speakers and LTE connectivity
The speakers have also been redesigned in this generation, are now larger and cover the entire left area of the watch, facing (if we wear the watch on the right wrist) towards us. Apple tells us that theoretically these speakers improve up to 50% more in sound power, certainly improved for LTE connectivity and to be able to make calls and listen to Siri directly on the watch. We can’t listen to music directly on these speakers, just like in past generations. A curiosity: the company has placed the microphone on the opposite side (just below the digital crown) to reduce the echo in the conversations.
In practice, the improvement in the speaker has allowed me for example to listen to the voice of the Nike Run Club app directly on the clock, in the middle of the street. It obviously doesn’t reach the level of a phone’s speakers, but it allows you to recognize the voice even if you have your arms down. The street wasn’t crowded but there was some traffic, so I think it’s a good result – although my recommendation is that the best accessory for an Apple Watch, right now, are AirPods.
The new LTE connectivity is another of the big changes that we will have available for the first time in countries like Spain: the configuration of an eSIM card is very simple, and is done from the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. You don’t need to go to any store or call any phone to hire the data plan. Once set up, we will be able to answer calls from the watch using the speakers and the microphone of the device itself, or again the best option: using airpods since in my opinion speaking from the watch should be certain specific cases if we want it do comfortably.
Native applications can also use the eSIM data plan. For example, some of the ones I use the most are CityMapper, Spark, Things, Overcast, Nike Run Club… In a few hours, we’ll publish a special article on ApplaSolutions on all the details of operation and peculiarities of the call and data feature on the Watch.
Chip S4, triple leap deadly again
As if that weren’t enough, Apple doesn’t seem to have settled for the previous generation of chips and gets a 64-Bit architecture chip out of its Watch for the first time: the S4. In terms of performance the company promises twice the speed compared to the S3, but the important thing – again – is that it is even more efficient thanks to the new architecture. Apple’s effort to squeeze the battery by doubling the power is evident, which is an important step forward. It also incorporates Apple’s new W3 chip, specializing in managing wireless connections such as Wi-Fi or connecting to devices such as AirPods. It now supports Bluetooth 5.0.
On a day-to-day basis: apps now fly, open from complications almost instantly, and charging times are almost non-existent. If the Series 3 already impressed us in this regard, with the Series 4 we get to the best point so far in terms of response not only with the interface, but also with the on-screen presence of the applications. And look that here I am commenting on third-party apps – for example, Evernote has loaded me without having it pre-loaded in less than a second. WatchOS apps like Mail, Workout, are instantaneous.
Let’s added all of the above: OLED LPTO screen, a more energy-efficient 64-Bit chip, watchOS 5 that has been even more optimized… the theoretical duration is 18 hours. In my tests, waking up at 7:00 in the morning and saving the watch at 0:44 I still had 60% battery, having even closed my three circles that same day. The Series 4 can last approximately two days without any problem, according to these measurements, and considering the power increase of this model is a very good improvement.
The new sensors
Undoubtedly the star sensor is the heart rate sensor to make electrocardiograms. It was an important announcement during the keynote and a milestone within consumer medical devices that for the first time can buy something with these features. As I mentioned above, this sensor not only comprises the two arcs surrounding the heart sensor, also the digital crown is part of it and will be used to close the electrical circuit that takes the samples.
The sensor is already ready on the watch hardware, but it will soon be activated with a software update as these types of measurements must pass audits by the health authorities of each country, so we have not yet been able to test it. In the United States regulation is expected to arrive by the end of the year, and to other countries it is possible that later – when it has obtained the approval in the country of origin.
Two major changes are improvements to the accelerometer and gyroscope. In the first, up to 32 g forces can now be measured, twice as much as in the previous generation. This does not mean that we can use it in our hypersonic jet – if you have one you could, by the way – but the accelerometer is now more accurate to sample the variation of speed and inertia. In practical results: it better detects the change in movements and allows to be more precise to understand what we are training, or to better map our sporting activity. The enhanced gyroscope helps in geolocation and is faster by placing ourselves on a spatial plane: maps, for example, work much better and are faster to orient ourselves to the destination.
-Motion and position detection are enhanced with the new accelerometer and gyroscope combined-
One of the new features is fall detection, which the company even separates into three groups. This feature is disabled by default if we are under 65 years old – which is the risk group where a fall can be a serious physical problem – although we can activate it from the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. I did, and even though I emulated some fall (on the bed, don’t worry) my alert didn’t go off. It’s probably because of my unacting skills, don’t take it into account. I hope I don’t try it too bumpy, but if I get activated, I’ll update this article with my impressions: it looks like the watch lets it go for some time until you indicate you’re OK, or then call your emergency contact