Apple Watch Series 5 review: Redesigned last year, refreshed this year

Mala Bhargava | Updated on October 09, 2019

The edge-to-edge look came in with Series 4. This time, there’s an icing of new features

Last year in September, Apple Watch fans were thrilled to see a complete redesign of what has become the world’s most popular smartwatch.

The Series 4’s display became bigger without increasing the overall size of the gadget, going edge-to-edge and even spilling over the sides like some phone displays do. The effect, when some of Apple’s live watch faces are used, was and is quite mesmerising.

It also had important hardware additions, like electrodes on the underneath of the watch’s disc, that allows it to record ECG, and the fall detection feature which alerts an emergency number if the user falls and doesn’t confirm that all is well.

So no one seriously expected the Series 5 to get a big makeover — and it didn’t. However, it added interesting features that no other wearable has managed to put together, and make it work as well as it does.

The ECG and heart rate measurement features and fall detection are carried over from Series 4 to Series 5. The ECG feature has just been activated in India, and will be usable on both these series.

Here’s what’s new on the Apple Watch Series 5:

Always on

The display on the Series 5 watch now stays on, so that it also works as a regular watch, and doesn’t look like a little dark square on the wrist, something that many found disconcerting.

When you raise your wrist to look or turn it towards yourself, the screen brightens up, dimming again when you’re done. This is done by varying the refresh rate across a wide range.

The watch auto detects when it needs to get brighter and go back to dimmer. Naturally this is to preserve battery life, the one thing about the watch that users wish was better, and also to not draw the eye needlessly in various situations. If you’d rather the watch just stayed off until you wake it up, you can always go into settings and turn off the display.

There have been some general grumbles about the impact of the always-on display on battery life, but being a light user of the watch, I still found my device left with 40 per cent charge by bed-time. Since there’s no way the battery life extends to cover the next day, one just has to set it down to charge overnight.

The watch still comes with its exemplary charging puck and all of that is beautifully packaged in the box the watch comes in, with extreme and careful attention to detail.

There’s even a soft little sleeve for the watch’s face to keep it from any scratches.

The Apple Watch Series 5 comes in a stainless steel and aluminium casing for different styles and is in silver, rose gold and space grey which is Apple’s not-quite-black. It goes without saying that this is an expensive piece of gadgetry.

The Series 5 (priced at ₹40,900 ) doesn't have cellular connectivity, which is necessary for so many of the unique features to work. Then one has to consider that you can’t really use it stand-alone but only with an iPhone.

Those who have bought into the Apple ecosystem will inevitably consider adding an Apple Watch to what they have, because it’s become known to be health-oriented, and important for those who take their fitness seriously.

Cycle Tracking

Another new health related feature to have been added on the Series 5 is Cycle Tracking, finally something specific to women’s health.

With the accompanying app, women can track data related to their menstrual cycle specially if they have a specific interest in fertility or have issues and need the data to discuss with their doctors.


Another new feature — a rather thoughtful one — that could relate to health or just any emergency is that the watch can call helplines internationally — even without the cellular connect.

If you have the cellular edition, you can also leave your phone behind such as when you go on a hike or out swimming at the beach. The watch will still be able to make and receive calls. And if you’re out and confused about which way is North, the Series 5 now has a compass.



Then, there’s Siri who is Indianised, and now can respond to more things including web searches, Shazam and more.

The watch finally has the App Store, letting you add from the collection of apps optimised for the watch.

Noise-level detection

Finally, perhaps one of the most fun features on the new watch is noise-level detection. With a few taps you can see what the decibel level is from the sounds and noise around you. If it’s too much as indicated by the watch, you may want to get yourself elsewhere. It’s actually long-term loud noise that is harmful for health so the detection gives you the chance to see if you can modify the noise level in places where you have to be for long hours.

Owners of previous generation Apple Watches don’t need to feel too sorry for themselves however. The upgrade to WatchOS 6 has brought in a host of new features that everyone can use. They also don’t need to upgrade to the Series 5 if they have a Series 4 and if they aren’t too keen on ECG and a few other features, can buy the Series 3, available for Rs 29,900 and Rs 20,900 starting prices.

Price: GPS starting from Rs 40,900; GPS+Cellular starting from Rs 49,900

Pros: Comprehensive unique feature set strong health and fitness focus, excellent hardware and software integration

Cons: Expensive, specially as it needs an iPhone, no outright improvement in battery life

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Published on October 09, 2019
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