Apple Watch Series 5 is the weakest update for Cupertino’s best product in 5 years


Apple did something strange at its “by innovation only event” – on the fifth anniversary of the Apple Watch, the one product that has also defined the tenure of its CEO Tim Cook, it released the timidest update for its most innovative product in 5 years. The Apple Watch Series 5 comes with literally zero performance updates as opposed to a gargantuan one last year, which of course allows Apple this extra headroom to work on things that it has added this year. 

The yawn-inducing updates

  1. The headlining new feature is the new LTPO display that stays on all the time. The screen doesn’t turn off and automatically turn on when you’re looking at it. Instead, it enters a low power resolution like low power states on Android smartphones with OLED screens and jumps into the full display mode when you’re looking at it. But at a minimum, it will display time all the time and all of this comes with no trade-offs on the battery side. You get the same 18-hour battery life that the series 4 gets. 
  2. Apple has added a compass to the Apple Watch which can detect heading, incline, longitude, and elevation. There is also a new compass complication for glancing. Certainly, a handy feature offered by the likes of Garmin, but this isn’t a game-changer. 
  3. International SOS dialling has been enabled on the Apple Watch Series 5. This is restricted to the cellular model. This is a big safety feature but again, this isn’t a feature for which people are going to be lining up to buy this. 
  4. Apart from this, there is watchOS 6, that includes cycle tracking, tracking of menstrual cycles, a noise app which helps you understand the impact of loud volumes on your system and a bunch of new watch faces and there is the new Apple Watch Studio which is basically irrelevant in India as there no Apple Stores where people can customise their Apple Watch. 

What would’ve made it a big update 

  1. Last year, there was the dual-core S4 processor in the Series 4 Apple Watch which also had a 64-bit architecture. There is no processor update. In fact on the Apple Watch page on Apple’s website, there are no technical specifications given out. If there was a new chip that would’ve made things intriguing.
  2. Last year, also marked the first time a major redesign of the Apple Watch was executed. For all intents, the Apple Watch looks the same apart from the fact that it is now made up of recycled aluminium and there is even a titanium casing. A new design would’ve certainly shaken things up and the fifth anniversary was a good time to do it.
  3. Feature updates were also bigger last year which included the ECG feature, the much-loved walkie talkie feature and tracking for yoga sessions. There is no single feature that is coming this year which is as impressive. 

UPDATE: Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman points out on Twitter that Apple indeed is using a new processor on the Apple Watch Series 5, but it speaks of no performance improvements. It is likely that net-net there are no gains because it drives the LTPO display that provides the always-on screen feature.