“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a standard mantra at Cupertino. Which is one of the reasons why so many Apple products retain their designs for relatively long periods – witness the iPhone, which followed a path of “minimal change” all the way from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 8 Plus, and the MacBook Air, which last changed the design… we have forgotten when. So it was hardly surprising that the first three editions of the Apple Watch broadly followed the same design manual. However, with the Series 4 of the Watch, Apple has designed to muddle the wearable’s design waters. The change is not a radical one but it does make the Apple Watch Series 4 very distinct from its predecessors. There is no way anyone who takes a close look at it will confuse it for any other edition of the device.
And the reason for this is the display – the Apple Watch Series 4 has the largest displays seen on Apple Watches, going up from 38 mm and 42 mm to 40 mm and 44 mm. What’s more, the bezels of the display have been trimmed severely so the impression is that of having a much larger display on your wrist in spite of not being too overly large. It is not an illusion. The display IS actually much larger – the 40 mm case has a 759 sq mm display area while the 44 mm case has a 977 sq mm display area, which is way more than the 740 sq mm on the 42 mm case and 563 sq mm on the 38 mm case in the past. Yes, thanks to all the bezel trimming, the 40 mm case of the Series 4 watch actually has more display area than the 42 mm one of Series 3! The corners of the display have been rounded too and in fact the entire watch has a more curve-y look than its predecessors even though the other design parameters (the crown and the button on the right, the heart rate sensor on the back) remain broadly the same.
That bigger display does make a difference, as suddenly you get to see a whole lot more on your wrist. From having more Complications to check out to typing in the lockscreen password to viewing e-mails and messages – there just seems to be more space here. The display quality also seems to have improved with the fonts being much sharper and graphics being more colorful – we actually found ourselves browsing our phone’s photo gallery more frequently on this edition of the watch than any other. Some of the new watchfaces, like Fire and Water, look totally spectacular on the device. The premium quality of the components is maintained – you have aluminum and ceramic casing, and stainless steel and ceramic casing, and the glass on the display remains sapphire glass for the stainless steel model and Ion X glass for the aluminum model.
Another small change in design is the change in the color of the crown of the watch on the 4G edition – whereas the crown was painted red in the Series 3, it now has a red outline on the top. It is supposed to work for ECG, but that feature is not available in India at the time of writing – a bit of a bummer when you consider that bigger display apart, it was perhaps the newest notable feature of the device. Rotating the crown also gives you a clicky sensation as you scroll, which is a nice touch. Of course, there are a number of new features in the watch, among the most notable of which are fall detection and alerts for when your heart rate is too low (you get them when it is too high). Apple says that there are a number of sensors in the watch that can detect a fall accurately and send out alerts. There is also better activity tracking (yoga and hiking come to the party( and new features like challenging friends and of course, the Walkie Talkie, which lets you talk to other Apple Watch users. And making everything happen fast is the 64-bit S4 chip, which Apple claims is twice as fast as its predecessor, the S3. Water and dust resistance remain in place and yes, you can still expel water by turning the Digital Crown – a really cool trick we always are terrified of trying out. And battery life according to Apple remains 18 hours, which is respectable rather than sensational – we should be able to see through a day of usage easily.
Big display apart, our favorite new feature is the really loud speaker, which makes it Siri much more audible. Speaking of Siri, you can just raise your wrist to activate Siri, which so far has been a bit of a hit and miss, but beats saying “Hey Siri” out loud. We still feel silly taking calls on the watch, but the process is much more convenient now with the speaker and mic on different sides of the watch.
All in all, the new Apple Watch Series 4 looks extremely premium, and we do think the larger display makes it look even better, as the watch faces just pop out more prominently. The big question, of course, is whether the new design and additions are worth a stiff price hike – whereas the Apple Watch Series 3 began at Rs 28,900, the Series 4 starts at Rs 40,900 (with Rs 49,900 for the 4G edition). That’s quite a jump. Whether the watch delivers adequate bang for the extra bucks will be revealed in our review.
Watch out for it. Pun intended.