Review: Apple Watch Series 4 GPS + Cellular

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of the Apple Watch. I’ve had the Series 2, the Series 3 with GPS, and the Series 3 with GPS + Cellular and today I’m bringing you the latest Apple Watch which is the Series 4 with GPS + Cellular:

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The model that you see below is the 44mm model in space grey Aluminum (a stainless steel model is also available along with a Nike+ model and so is an insanely priced Hermes model that is basically a stainless steel model with a really expensive watch band, a sport band, unique packaging, and a unique watch face). And that’s the first big change to the Apple Watch. They have new sizing which are 40mm and 44mm. But that doesn’t mean that they are bigger because they are not. The 40mm watch is the same physical size as the 38mm from the Series 3 or below. And the 44mm is the same physical size as the 42mm from the Series 3 or below. However each watch is a tad bit thinner than the Series 3 and below which means it looks a bit more sleek on the wrist. So, what does the new sizing mean? It’s a reference to the new display which depending on the model you get is going to be at least 30% bigger. Not to mention they seem brighter and sharper to me. And that is something that you will notice and appreciate right out of the gate. The new screens make the watch far easier to read. And things like notifications simply look better. Plus it allows you to use some unique watch faces to put way more info in front of you. One watch face allows nine complications for example. Thus I fully expect app developers to leverage that. It also means that you don’t necessarily need to get the biggest watch to see the screen. In my case, if I didn’t have an investment in 42mm watch bands (which fit the 44mm watch by the way just fine… 38mm watch bands fit the 40mm watch as well), I might have gone for the 40mm version.

There’s some other changes as well.

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The speaker is twice as large as last year and you can hear the difference. Especially if you are on a phone call.

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The huge red dot that let everyone on planet Earth know that you have a cellular Apple Watch is gone and replaced by a smaller more discreet ring. The crown has another hidden feature in the form of haptic feedback. That makes scrolling through stuff feel a lot more natural. The crown also acts as an electrode for an all new ECG feature. More on that in a second. The microphone which is the dot to the left of the crown is there to reduce echo during a phone call.

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The back is made entirely of black ceramic and sapphire. That’s to make it easier for the watch to connect to cellular and WiFi. The heart rate sensor is a brand new design. The rings around the heart rate sensor are the new electrical heart rate sensors, which will be used to perform ECGs once that feature rolls out later this fall in the US. Who knows when it will show up elsewhere as Apple isn’t saying.

Under the hood is a new 64 bit S4 processor which makes it almost twice as fast as the Series 3. You do notice it, but it wasn’t the dramatic jump that I observed when I went from the Series 2 to the Series 3. Still it’s a welcome jump as even the Series 3 could occasionally bog down. watchOS 5 which you can read about here is preinstalled and really leverages this platform. Along for the ride is the ability to detect falls. For some people like seniors, that’s a game changer as it will detect a fall, ask you if you’re okay or if you didn’t fall, and if you don’t respond quick enough phone emergency services and a contact or contacts that you define. However, when I tested it, I set it off by doing jumping jacks. And I suspect if I fall while cross country skiing which tend to be (mostly) painless falls, I may do the same thing. Thus if you have a more active lifestyle, you may want to think about whether you want to turn it on or not as it is off by default. In my case it is off but I am considering turning it back on. Finally, all Apple Watch models now have 16GB of storage for music, apps and the like.

I picked this up from my local Telus store and set it up an hour later. As always, setting up an Apple Watch on the Telus network was dead easy and the total process to do that and move over everything from my previous Apple Watch was less than 45 minutes. Using this Apple Watch for the last few days has been interesting. Beyond the screen which is far easier for me to see, the only time I took a phone call on the Apple Watch the person on the other end of the phone noted that my voice was clear and easy to understand. One other thing I noted was that cellular performance was better with this Apple Watch as I was able to get notifications in my condo’s underground parking lot where getting any cellular connectivity wasn’t possible previously. Battery life is about the same as my previous Apple Watch which I have to admit is a bit of a let down as I hoped that Apple would have at least tried to move the needle on that that front.

So here’s the question that you want answered: Should you get an Apple Watch Series 4? Well, that depends on who you are:

  • If you own an original Apple Watch or a Series 0 – 2 Apple Watch, run to your local Apple Store and buy one. Do it now. You will thank me.
  • If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch, the screen is going to be the only reason why you upgrade. For those who fit in that category, they may have to think about it before they pull the trigger on the Series 4.
  • If you don’t have an Apple Watch and have been thinking of getting one, this is a no brainer as this is the Apple Watch that you have been waiting for.

Here in Canada the Apple Watch Series 4 with GPS starts at $519 CDN. The model that you see above which is GPS and Cellular starts at $649 and in either case they go up from there. Minus the lack of increase to the battery life, Apple has a winner with this version of the Apple Watch as they’ve managed to come out with a package that is well thought through and a coherent package.

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One Response to “Review: Apple Watch Series 4 GPS + Cellular”

  1. […] Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of the Apple Watch. I’ve had the Series 2, the Series 3 with GPS, the Series 3 with GPS + Cellular and today I’m bringing you the latest App… ( read original story …) […]

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