The new Series 4 Apple Watch puts a fresh face on the tech giant’s smartwatch effort — literally.
At its Cupertino, Calif. press event Wednesday, executives introduced the latest generation of its watch, which boasts several changes, including smaller bezels, a modest increase in case size and a bigger display.
Chief executive officer Tim Cook pointed out that the device isn’t just the top smartwatch, but “the number-one watch in the world, period.”
According to Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams, the company doubled down on all of the watch’s primary uses, including communication, fitness tracking and health monitoring.
“Everything about it has been redesigned and reengineered,” Williams said. “The design still looks very familiar, but it’s clear that the screen is bigger. You don’t necessarily see it when there’s a dark watch face. But it’s striking in the Breath app, for instance.”
The Series 4 can detect strange heart rhythms and alert the user. It also includes fall detection — which helps justify the wearable concept for seniors. The display on the bigger unit is 35 percent larger than its predecessor, and the smaller version is 32 percent larger.
For the ardent multitasker, the extra room means the watch can cater to more complications, or visible software features. But that expanded screen real estate has a price — namely bigger overall sizes.
The 38mm version of the watch, typically considered the female-friendly size, has grown into 40mm, and the 42mm model ticked up to 44mm. The change doesn’t seem huge, but it remains to be seen if the modest size upgrade will be noticeable to wearers.
Williams made the case for the design, explaining that the new wearable may be bigger than the Apple Watch Series 3, but it’s also thinner.
The displays also have rounded edges, lining up with the design language established by the company’s iPhone X. The digital crown — the scroll wheel on the side — now comes with haptic feedback for responsive vibrations. And audio also got some attention with a louder built-in speaker, presumably for people who enjoy playing ambient music or insist on making calls from their wrists without earbuds.
The new version, Apple promises, is faster than the last-generation model due to an upgraded processor. And new materials, like black ceramic and sapphire crystal, could help boost cellular connectivity.
Apple has never made its attention on the health-care space a secret, and the latest watch continues the theme. The device’s fall detection comes courtesy of a new gyroscope and the software can be set to contact emergency services automatically. And the unit not only detects irregular heartbeats, but it can supposedly capture an ECG — users simply launch the app, place and hold a finger on the crown, and the device sends the data to the iPhone’s Health app, for sharing with doctors. Both features will be available later this year in the U.S., with other regions following at some point after.
Perhaps the best feature is that all this newness doesn’t undercut precious battery life. It would have been better to add more longevity, but at least there’s no reduction, with the Apple Watch lasting for about 18 hours or so before it needs charging.
As for whether it’s enough to keep Apple’s wearable efforts juiced up, the market will find out very soon: The Series 4 will be ready to order on Friday, with availability on Sept. 21, starting at $399 for the Wi-Fi-only version. The cellular version will cost $499.
For penny-pinching Apple Watch hopefuls, the company has also dropped the price of the previous generation. The company set official pricing for the Series 3 at $279.
Apple also introduced three updates to its iPhones: the 5.8-inch iPhone XS (pronounced “iPhone 10-S”), the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max and a new version, dubbed iPhone XR, with 6.1-inch “liquid retina” LCD screen. The new crop of phones features better cameras, an upgraded processor and more robust machine-learning capabilities. Pricing starts at about $750 for the XR, while the XS and XS Max start at $1,000 and $1,100, respectively.