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Apple Watch Series 4 review: Easily the best smartwatch

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By refining and smartening up how it shows you information and boosting its speed, the Apple Watch Series 4 has become the best smartwatch you can buy.

The good

  • New watch faces prioritise notifications
  • Great battery life
  • eSIM options for phone-free usage
  • Larger displays, but old bands still work

The bad

  • Still can't roam with an Apple Watch
  • You'll have to wait for the ECG function
  • No third-party watch faces
  • Apple's watch bands are still a little pricey
  • iOS only.

Design

  • Larger screens with little increase in mass
  • Smaller bezels make rounded faces more attractive
  • Existing watch bands still fit corresponding sized watches

Performance

  • S4 processor provides swift app response
  • Heart rate monitoring covers high and low heart rate.
  • ECG functionality should be very cool – but not yet
  • Fall detection could be great for the elderly or infirm
  • eSIM compatible – at extra cost
  • Haptic feedback on digital crown works well

Battery life

  • Good two-to-three-day battery life
  • Apple's watch charger is still a little fiddly
  • Whatever happened to AirPower?

Verdict

  • The best smartwatch by far
  • But still not a must-have device

Apple hasn't reinvented the smartwatch with the Apple Watch Series 4, but in taking its sharper corners round, it's also smoothed out a lot of the very minor annoyances present in the Apple Watch Series 3. It's faster, it's better at displaying critical information relevant to your usage, and it's just damned pretty. It should also be better at tracking your ongoing health concerns, especially when and if Apple gets approval to switch ECG capture on Down Under.

So it's a superbly refined device, but that doesn't automatically mean you should buy one. Even nicely refined, the Apple Watch Series 4 doesn't present an argument for its own existence in a "must buy" way. It's a lovely bit of kit, and easily the best smartwatch you can buy right now, but it's also very much an indulgent bit of wearable tech.


Pricing and availability

The Apple Watch Series 4 sells from $599 for a 40mm watch with a sport band, all the way up to $2,299 for the most expensive Hermès 44mm models. It's worth remembering that the underlying technology doesn't change with price; what you're paying for at higher price levels is either material, with the stainless steel models attracting a premium, and the cost of the included band.


Alternatives

Apple does still sell the Apple Watch Series 3 with either sports or Nike bands, with pricing starting from $399. If you're an iOS user, it's easily the next best option and still a fine smartwatch in its own right.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is iOS-only, which is disappointing for Android users, because while there are functional smartwatches available on the Android platform, pretty much all of which work on iOS, there's really nothing quite like the Apple Watch Series 4. Samsung's Gear smartwatches are decent, as are Huawei's, but the state of the art in Android wear and Tizen watches are still well behind Apple's best.


Specifications

Apple Watch Series 4

General

Face Size
40mm/44mm
Strap Size
Adjustable
Colours
Grey, Silver, Gold
Internal Memory
16GB
Battery Life
Up to 18 hours

Connectivity

Wi-Fi
802.11 b/g/n
Network Compatibility
4G on select models
Bluetooth
v5.0
NFC
Yes

Features

Wireless Charging
Qi on select models
Accelerometer
Yes
Alarm Clock
Yes
Built In Microphone
Yes
Calories Burned
Yes
Distance
Yes
Gps
Yes
Gyroscope
Yes
Heart Rate
Yes
Nfc
Yes
Pedometer
Yes
Rechargeable
Yes
Sleep Tracker
Yes
Speedometer
Yes
Touchscreen
Yes
Usb Charging
Yes
Water Resistant
Yes
Wireless Sync
Yes

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