Tech Savvy: Apple Watch 4 is the smartwatch you've waited for
I admit, I was beyond excited to get an Apple Watch the minute it was announced.
Being able to answer a phone call from the device on your wrist seemed as close to living in the future as you could get without a flying car parked in your driveway. My brother made me wait until Apple released its series 2, convincing me the second year upgrade was always better than the first model. So I waited and I wasn't disappointed. The ability to write out messages using the watch's touchscreen and have those letters turned into a neat digital message was terrific. Having the watch remind me to stand up during the day, drink water, take a breath to reduce stress and complete the exercise rings was great and often the nudge I needed to do all the above. It was useful and fun—the best combination for technology.
So when the updates came along, I waited again. Anticipation is a good part of the journey.
Recently I upgraded to the Apple Watch Series 4. And it has lived up to all the accolades. It is the smartwatch to buy. The screen display is larger—an increase to a 40mm from the 38mm Series 2 watch. And the watch itself has a flatter profile, which creates an even better fit on the wrist than my Series 2. The increased display increases readability and the Watch is even better now in bright light conditions.
I debated and at first picked up the GPS model. The Series 4 watch offers two options, one that has the GPS and works with the iPhone but has a limited range for some of the features. The other option includes GPS and cellular. It comes with a $30 setup with your cellular carrier and has a $10 a month fee, but the watch is entirely independent from the phone. That means you can go out on a run or a hike or a kayak trip and leave the phone behind without worry that you will be stranded without a way to reach someone short of sending a 911 call. Like most of us, I have my smartphone with me nearly all the time, or so I thought. And then there were numerous occasions where I ran out for what I thought would be a short errand, and left the phone behind, only to find I was gone for a long period without access. Going back and getting the Apple Watch with the cellular option changed that. Now I will be able to leave the phone behind entirely and go out on a trail, run to the grocery store, check in with the parents and still have the ability to make a call, all with my phone miles away. And if it's a feature that you end up not using, it's a simple move to disconnect the cellular and restart it later when it will be useful.
For some, finally getting an entirely independent watch is what they've waited for to make the jump and, in that case, the Apple Watch 4 is the one.
"The Apple Watch Series 4 offers a larger, crisp display that shows more with less bezel, super fast speed and a louder speaker," CNET reported in a review. "It adds high and low heart-rate detection, fall detection with SOS trigger and an FDA-cleared ECG app for more detailed heart readings."
The electrocardiogram "amps up the Watch's already impressive heart-rate monitoring features with a full-on, FDA-cleared, on-demand ECG app that will check for heart arrhythmia, via 30-second heart rate samples," CNET noted.
The ECG has already been reported on numerous occasions to have helped people realize they had an issue and seek medical attention.
The larger display makes it even easier to move between apps and fit all the information I'm now asking for from the watch face.
CNET's knocks on the Apple Watch came from a battery life that didn't last more than two days and a more limited selection of watch faces than some of its competition. For me, the number of watch faces are well beyond ones I'd need. I loved the Mickey Mouse face with Mickey's foot tapping out the seconds. The Series 4 offers watch faces with beautiful simplicity of a flower or nature to a personal photo an individual may want, to more detailed options. There is a watch face to match any season or mood, whether the image is in motion or stationary. I didn't think I'd leave Mickey Mouse behind, but I've found a display that lets me know in an instant if I have a message I may have overlooked and keeps me connected to any calendar appointments along with the weather. It has room for quick links to music, to my health rings and to the fitness tracker. But I can change those quick one-touch links at any time to whatever I find most useful.
Other upgrades, CNET noted as standouts included the Watch's fall detection "to alert loved ones and EMS when you've taken a serious tumble." But as CNET notes it's not guaranteed and it's not on default unless the wearer is 65 years old or older.
When Engadget conducted a review asking Apple Watch 4 users what they thought, they reported, "Overall, most users agreed with our review: The Series 4 is a must-have device."
Consumer Reports also rated the Watch highly on its durability.
"The Apple Watch Series 4 gets a big thumbs-up from Consumer Reports' testers, thanks to its growing arsenal of useful features coupled with accurate tracking and durable design," Consumer Reports stated. "Like other top models from Samsung, Fitbit, and Garmin, the new Apple watch excelled in our heart-rate and step-tracking tests. But the Apple Watch Series 4 also distinguished itself with expanded sports-tracking capabilities and a new sensor that one day soon will allow the watch to take an electrocardiogram (ECG), a recording of your heart's electrical activity.
"Apple also managed to stretch the screen toward the edges of the watch face, creating a bigger display for texts, emails, and photos—all while keeping the watch itself relatively similar in size to the Apple Watch Series 3 models."
I looked for the Apple Watch Series 4 in rose gold but no luck. So I went with a gold color and, while it wasn't the rose shade I hoped for, it's stylish with a pink sand sports band and there are any number of bands available to offer a change of design or for practicality of use. I have a buckle version I use when kayaking, just for added security. As a fitness tracker, it also has the ability to work as a companion for other apps such as MyFitnessPal.
The Apple Watch 4 comes in a 40mm and 44mm size. The starting price is $400 for the GPS version and $500 for GPS and cellular. It's a high-tech device that becomes part of everything you do from encouraging you to be active and keeping track of those fitness goals, to keeping you connected to work and loved ones and still only taking up a small spot on your wrist in order to do it all. If you've waited to get a smartwatch that truly fit all those needs, the Apple Watch Series 4 has it and if you're like me and waited and saved for the upgrade, there is no time like the present to reward yourself. For others who find the price too steep, the older Apple Watch models come with a reduced price and still offer a lot of the smartwatch benefits. And when users are ready to upgrade, their earlier models come with resale or trade-in value. Either way, the Apple Watch 4 is worth adding to the wish list.