Over the course of a little less than two hours on Tuesday, Apple showed off a range of new products to the world. One of those was the Apple Watch Series 5, which is available for order on Apple’s website right now.
It looks like a slick upgrade to Apple’s chief wearable line, with the Retina display “always on” — meaning you don’t need to lift up your wrist just to tell the time — and the addition of a built-in compass. That’s all very cool, but the problem with the new Apple Watch is just how expensive you can make it if you start tacking on fancy accessories.
I took a few minutes to add all the most expensive accessories Apple is willing to include with the new Apple Watch so you didn’t have to. if you want all the cosmetic upgrades, a relatively affordable device becomes significantly less affordable.
The non-cellular version of the Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $399. Considering everything it can do in conjunction with an iPhone, that’s not the worst price in the world. (It will cost you an extra $100 to add cellular connectivity to the Apple Watch.)
From there, you can add $50 to the price by making it four millimeters larger. It’s when you change the case that things start getting really silly. There’s a gradient to the case prices, but for the sake of this article, let’s jump all the way to the white ceramic case, the most expensive one on the store page.
Adding four millimeters of size and a white ceramic case makes the price jump by $950. That’s more than twice the cost of the watch itself, with zero accoutrements. It must be a very nice case.
This isn’t the end of the Apple Watch ordering journey. You still need to choose a watch band; it’s possible to add an extra few hundred dollars onto the final price tag through these alone.
Scroll all the way to the right on the watch band section and you’ll come across the cream of the crop. The space black stainless steel band brings the total price up to $1,749.
All told, your brand new Apple Watch can come perilously close to costing $2,000. That’s a lot of money for a smart device.
Of course, materials are expensive and watches are status symbols as much as they are timekeepers.
But that doesn’t make the price of a high-end Apple Watch Series 5 any less striking. If you see anyone with one of these, assume they’re loaded. Or maybe that’s the point.
The next version of the Apple Watch is here and … it’s pretty much the same as last year’s Series 4.
As expected, it’s a relatively boring year for the Apple Watch save for one major change: an always-on display. While Android smartwatches have had displays that dim but don’t sleep, one of the defining features of the Apple Watch has been that its display sleeps when not in use.
That is no longer the case. With the Series 5, Apple is introducing new watch faces that still display the time and some other data at all times. If you’re used to having your watch face go completely black when not in use, the change might take some getting used to, but I’m already a big fan of the change. It’s always seemed silly to me to have a watch that required you to physically lift your wrist in order to see the time.
Besides the display, there are two other significant changes: new finishes and a new compass app.
Besides the base-level aluminum (Apple’s cheapest watch material) and pricier stainless steel, Apple added two additional materials for Series 5: titanium, available in silver or black; and white ceramic, which was last available with the Series 3.
Both upgrades will cost significantly more than the base model Apple Watch, which starts at $399. Titanium starts at $799 (if you get a sport band, a leather band ups the price to $899) while white ceramic will run you $1299 (again, with a sport band, leather adds $100 to the price). There’s also a new Hermés-branded Apple Watch, made of stainless steel, which starts at $1249.
All of the more premium versions of the Series 5 look nice, but nice enough to justify the price. (Apple Notes the titanium finish is more scratch and stain resistant, though we haven’t been able to test these claims yet.)
Another welcome change that feels way overdue is the fact that Apple now allows you to pair any type of case with any type of band when you buy. That may seem obvious, but with previous versions, Apple limited the band based on what model you bought (you couldn’t buy the base-level Apple Watch Sport with a leather band, for instance), so it’s nice to see Apple finally giving buyers some flexibility.
The other notable change with Series 5 is the new compass app. At first, a compass is one of those features that seems like it shouldn’t really be that big of deal. And as a standalone app, it doesn’t seem like it is.
The new compass app looks slick, but unless you’re lost in the woods or something, I can’t imagine it being terribly useful on its own (I can’t recall ever using the iPhone’s native compass app on its own).
Where the compass really starts to matter though is in third-party apps. Because other apps can now take advantage of the compass, location-based services start to get much more useful. Maps can show you what direction to walk in, workout apps can understand more about where you’re at, like your current elevation. I saw a demo of the Yelp app, which can show you what direction to walk in order to find the restaurant you’re looking for.
There are a few other updates to look forward to: emergency calling now works in a lot more countries, and watchOS 6 will bring a host of upgrades of its own.
We’ll have more thoughts when we have an official review, but for now it looks like a relatively low-key year for the Apple Watch, despite some notable upgrades.
Apple isn’t claiming outright that the Apple Watch saves lives. In a new promotional video that Apple played on stage at its hardware debut event at Cupertino, it let users do that for them.
“Hearing these stories really makes my heart sing,” Cook said.
But to bolster credibility for their claim that the Apple Watch is “the ultimate guardian for your health,” Apple announced that it was launching three new health studies, in conjunction with reputable medical institutions, to assess issues around hearing, women’s reproductive health, and heart health.
What’s more, Apple wants its customers, i.e. people who wear Apple Watches, to be the study’s participants. All you have to do to participate is download a new app: Apple Research.
A main criticism of wearables, and health tech more generally, is that they approach health problems with technological solutions that haven’t been vetted by experts and with features that may not be wanted or recommended by doctors. Apple is attempting to directly answer the former criticism by undertaking studies with institutions like the American Heart Association and the National Institute of Health.
These aren’t Apple’s first forays into medical research. The company released the results of its first study assessing the Apple Watch last March. That study found that the Apple Watch’s ability to detect an irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation) was accurate 84 percent of the time. However, analysis from a doctor from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in STAT cast doubt on whether the atrial fibrillation detection is accurate for wearers under age 55 (which is most of them). As recently as April of this year, Harvard Medical School does not recommend wearables to screen for atrial fibrillation.
So while the expert jury is still out on whether routine heart monitoring in otherwise healthy people with an Apple Watch is a good idea, Apple lets its promotional videos, filled with anecdotes about the feature, say it anyway. As the Apple Heart Study demonstrates, not conflating the fact that Apple simply did a study, with what the study actually proved, will be crucial in assessing the importance of these new studies (and usefulness of the Apple Watch) in the future.
The studies take advantage of Apple’s three newest health-related features. At this time, they are all light on details about exactly what data Apple will be collecting, and the specific research questions.
One study will be the Apple Hearing study, conducted with the University of Michigan. At WWDC in June, Apple launched “decibel monitoring” as a function on watchOS 6. This feature alerts wearers when they’re somewhere that’s too dang loud. The study will use this feature to “understand how everyday sound exposure can impact hearing.” Ambient noise studies usually involve putting sound meters in different locations, so it seems reasonable to infer that location-tracking would also be involved in this study.
Notably, Apple will be studying the effects of ambient noise and not the potential for hearing loss caused by listening to music too loud from headphones that provide little-to-no noise cancellation. You may know those as earbuds and AirPods.
Next, the Apple Women’s Health Study will assess how menstrual-cycle monitoring can interact with infertility and osteoporosis diagnostics. In June, over four years after the initial launch of the Apple Watch, the company added the Cycle Tracking app, which finally allowed users to track menstrual cycles. Apple will conduct the study “in partnership with” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). It’s unclear as of yet what other information would be needed from users to make this study successful, and how the Apple Watch itself is germane to the issue, since menstrual data would likely need to be entered by the user. A fertility-tracking app DOT undertook a study that showed it was a successful method of pregnancy prevention, but that doesn’t appear to be the aim of the Apple study.
Finally, the Apple Heart and Movement Study will attempt to discern the correlation between heart rate/movement and hospitalizations. It’s working with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the American Heart Association on this one.
Scientific evidence for health tech products is welcome in a field that often casts aside the best practices of the medical system. Still, there’s something that feels a bit… icky… about deploying scientific studies to prove the viability of a commercial product. Of course, this is something health companies and pharmaceuticals do all the time. But Apple’s lofty claims that participating in Apple Research will contribute to, like, the good of humanity, seem a bit convenient.
The watch’s most significant new feature is an “always on” Retina display, which means that you can look at the time, or whatever is on your home screen, without having to raise your wrist or tap the screen. This answers criticism that one of the Apple Watch’s main failings was as a, well, watch.
Apple is claiming that the new “always on” display won’t drain battery life — it’ll still get 18 hours per charge.
The base model of the Series 5 GPS will start at $399, with the cellular model starting at $499. The Series 3 is also getting dropped down to $199. Apple Watch Series 5 will be available on Sept. 20.
The other new features come in the realm of safety and navigation. The Apple Watch will now have a built-in compass, which will tell you which direction you’re facing in third-party apps, maps, and in a separate compass app.
Next, cellular models will come with international SOS calls to emergency services. That means you can call 911 from your watch, anywhere in the world (provided you have the pricier cellular model).
The Series 5 is also getting some blinged up options. For the first time, the Apple Watch will come in titanium—a “natural brushed titanium” at that! It will also come in a white ceramic, plus it’s getting some new designs from Nike and Hermès, including one pretty hawt black stainless steel and leather band Hermès model. There’s no word yet on the prices for these aesthetic upgrades.
The new watches will take advantage of Watch OS 6, which will include new watch faces, an app store accessible from the watch itself, and new health features (like period tracking and noise cancelation).
The more significant changes to Apple Watch came last fall, with the release of the Apple Watch Series 4. That was the biggest redesign of the device since its inception, allowing for more sensitive tracking, a bigger screen, and robust health features, including the ability to take an Electrocardiogram.
Apple introduced some new Apple Watch models at a press conference. The Apple Watch Series 5 has an always-on display. It seems to look just like the Apple Watch Series 4.
“Apple Watch puts groundbreaking health, fitness and communication capabilities on the wrist of millions and millions of people,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. He then introduced a video segment showing how Apple Watch users are healthier.
The Apple Watch automatically adjusts the brightness of the new always-on display. When you lower your wrist, the brightness goes down. It features an LTPO display with an adaptive refresh rate. It can go down to 1Hz, or one screen refresh per second. That’s how Apple can reach 18 hours of battery life with a display that stays on.
The new Apple Watch also features a built-in compass. There’s a new app that tells you your latitude, longitude and direction. It could be particularly useful when you’re hiking.
When it comes to emergency calling, Apple is extending emergency calling to 150 countries. When you press and hold down the side button, it automatically calls local emergency services.
Aluminum models come in silver, gold and space gray. Those cases are now made from recycled aluminum. Stainless steel models come in gold, space black and and polished.
And finally, there are two new titanium models (brushed and brushed space black) and a ceramic model. Apple is refreshing special editions of the Apple Watch with Nike and Hermès.
Apple Watch Series 5 with a GPS starts at $399. For $499, you also get a cellular modem. Pre-orders start today and they will be available on September 20. The Apple Watch Series 3 first introduced in 2017 now starts at $199.
Apple also announced three new health research studies with health facilities. Apple is starting a hearing study with the World Health Organization and the University of Michigan, a women’s health study with NIH and Harvard thanks to the new cycle tracking feature, and a heart and movement study with the American Heart Association and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.