It was September 2018. I was patiently hoping to get my hands on a new Apple Watch Series 4. My Apple Watch Series 0 had been serving me very well, but it was showing its ages. The battery life, the low-resolution display compared to the latest ones, and lack of GPS prompted me to get the newly launched Apple Watch Series 4.
So, I walked into an Apple Store in September 2019 and got myself an Apple Watch Series 5. I mean, it’s not my fault I had to leave the country before I could get my hands on a Series 4. Besides, always-on display sounds fancy, even though it’s something a watch should have by default.
When the Series 5 launched and it was on the store while I was in the US, it was a no brainer for me to upgrade to the series one just like it is no brainer for me to write an Apple Watch Series 5 review a month after continued daily use.
I also bought an iPhone 11 at the same time. Read the full iPhone 11 review here.
Why Apple Watch?
Google recently launched a series of apps that have a primary goal of making you feel guilty of using the phone too much so that you eventually reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone.
One of those apps, a wallpaper, shows the number of times you’ve unlocked the device per day. Another one lets you look at all of your notification at certain times throughout the day. I think the idea is cool. However, when I saw that comment on the article that says a smartwatch has been the best tool for them that reduced their phone usage, I couldn’t help but agree.
You see, when I purchased the first Apple Watch, I had only one thing in mind, see the notifications, and when needed, interact right on the watch.
I used a Moto 360 smartwatch before. While that worked with iOS, the integration was not seamless. Besides, being into the Apple ecosystem, it made sense to purchase the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch Series 0 has constantly reached that goal for me. I did not need to take my phone out of the pocket every time it dinged or vibrated. One glance at the Apple watch and I knew what the ding was about. It actually did reduce the number of times I had to look at my phone.
Interacting with apps, such as receiving a call or sending a quick reply to a message, is also done very well. It’s intuitive, quick, and almost distraction-free, especially when compared to doing the same thing on the iPhone.
You may ask, if all was going well, why the upgrade? Well, it was mostly because I wanted to. Since Apple Watch Series 4, the display has gotten significantly bigger with clearer and more vibrant colors. The always-on display introduced with the Series 5 was the icing on the cake.
I’ve got a space grey Apple Watch (which is almost black) Series 5 with a black sports band last month and I’ve been using it constantly on a daily basis. I have zero buyer’s remorse with it and here’s my Apple Watch Series 5 review with all my thoughts and experiences explained.
What it’s like to wear the Apple Watch Series 5
I’ve never had any complaints with my Apple Watch Series 0. I purchased a few third-party bands for it, including a magnetic loop at less than half the price that Apple sells it for, and they’ve all lasted forever. The watch itself has aged well. It was comfortable in hand and still detected the raising of wrists without any error.
The trend continues with the Series 5. The watch looks remarkably better since it’s all space grey all around the body of the actual watch case. It’s lightweight and feels really comfortable at hand. The black sports band remains comfortable even if my hands are sweating. No itchy feeling or anything.
The watch still has the digital crown and a single button on the right side. The digital crown feels great to use. On some spaces, you get a distinct low vibrating feedback as you scroll the crown up and down. The neighboring button that sits right below it and is used for powering the watch on feels a tad better to press. I noticed it does not stick out like it did on my Series 0. It sits really close to the actual body so it looks better overall.
It’s one of those things that you can put on your wrist and forget about it. You know what one of those things are? A watch. That’s right, Apple Watch Series 5 gets closest to a traditional wristwatch. You only get reminded of its existence whenever you have a notification. The other times, you barely feel that it’s there.
Always on; raise to wake
The always-on display is definitely a great addition to this year’s Apple Watch. It’s better in person than I was led to believe on the Apple event last month. When the screen is dimmed, you still see all the colors of the icons/complications on your watch face.
When you raise your wrist, it springs to a more colorful and bright display. If you have active complications (such as the noise level monitor which actively listens to the environment and gives a dB output or the compass), they get activated while the watch is active/raised. As soon as you put it down, the screen dims into the always-on mode.
Those active complications, however, stop working whenever the screen is dimmed. I assume this is for saving battery. I also see the point of it. When you’re not actively looking at it, you don’t really need to see which direction the compass is pointing at or what the sound levels are in your environment.
While your wrist is not raised, you can still clearly see the watch face without bringing the watch close to you. This is important as it means you don’t have to raise or twist your wrist every time you want to see the time. You can glance your eyes at the watch face and you’ll see it, even in bright daylight, because that’s how good the always-on display is.
Apple takes the design customizability of the series 5 watch very seriously. They even have an entire page dedicated to the design of the Apple Watch Series 5. There are a lot of materials to choose from including Stainless Steel, Ceramic, and Titanium for the watch.
The option skyrockets when you look at bands. There are all sorts of designs and all sorts of colors that you can imagine. There’s also an Apple Watch Studio where you can go and ‘craft’ the perfect Apple Watch configured specifically for you, by you.
I couldn’t wait for Apple to confirm my order online and make a delivery since I was leaving the US. So I opted for a base model 44mm Space Grey Apple Watch GPS only with a black Sports band. It cost me $429.
But if you are feeling rich, you can go as high as $1,749 if you opt for a 44mm GPS + Cellular Ceramic case with Space Black Link bracelet.
New complications, new things to play with
As I’ve mentioned above, two of my favorite complications — the little ‘things’ that you can add to your watch faces, depending on where and how many that specific watch face allows — are noise level monitor and compass.
🔈 The noise level monitor, known as the Noise app, lets you see the current decibel levels of your surrounding environment. If it goes above 80 dB, it goes yellow. And if it goes above 90, it goes red. It’s a fun thing to keep checking to see how high the noise level is in a particular location. Fun fact: I’ve found that the cafeteria in my university is louder than that of a small commercial aircraft. 🤷♂️
🧭 I’ve recently discovered why people in the West, like in the US, have a good sense of direction, like East, West, North, and South. As I drove more than 1,000 miles in the US last month, I noticed that all roads are labeled with South/East/West/North depending on which direction they are heading.
It might be no brainer for someone born in the US. But for us, where road signs barely exist, it’s never been that case. So most of us don’t grow up with good directional skill. In order to build that up, I find the ‘compass’ complication useful on a daily basis.
Health and Activity
Apple touts the device as a health and activity tracking device that will motivate you to reach your fitness goals. My friends who are into fitness say that there are cheaper and better ones (like those from Garmin and Fitbit) out there. Also, given the fact that I’m not into fitness (I know, I should 😬 ) I couldn’t test how good or accurate its activity tracking is.
I’ve seen with my Apple Watch Series 0 that it would count even bus rides as steps in Dhaka. You may not know that most roads in Dhaka are terrible, resulting in a bumpy ride no matter what vehicle you are in.
The previous Apple watch would routinely count bus and three-wheeler rickshaw rides as steps since our roads are terrible and bumpy. I disabled the Activity app altogether seeing it was pretty much useless. I haven’t tested this on the new Apple Watch yet, but if I do, I’ll write about that later.
Performance and battery life
There isn’t much to say about the performance of the Apple Watch Series 5. It runs fast. No matter what app I open or what I do, the watch does it at a remarkably fast speed. What used to take no less than two minutes (opening the Facebook Messenger app) now takes two seconds.
What can be quantified, though, is the battery life on the Apple Watch Series 5. Apple claims that it does a full-day of battery. In my test, I’ve found that it can last nearly two full days of moderate use. By moderate, I mean you don’t get notifications every hour so you don’t have to wake up the watch that frequently.
After constant use, I’ve found Apple Watch Series 5 to have 35% of battery left after 24 hours of continued use.
Features I’m not actively using
The Apple Watch Series 5 has other features that I don’t really take advantage of. Some of them are:
- Store music right on the watch’s internal storage.
- With the Cellular model, go without the iPhone and still be connected to call, text, or stream music.
- App store built right in to browse and install Watch-specific apps.
- Cycle tracking.
- Health/activity tracking.
Things that I’m not a fan of
Both of my unhappiness comes from the always-on display and how it works. When I receive a notification and the Apple Watch vibrates or dings (depending on the sound mode it’s on), I have the option to instantly look at it or let it be.
If I let it be, whenever I look at it later, I see the red dot at the top of the watch face indicating that I have unseen notifications.
Alternatively, if I raise to see the notification right away, I see the notification followed by contextual buttons (such as quick replies, dismiss, etc.) based on what the notification is about.
The problem is, if I don’t dismiss or take any other action on the notification and put my hand back to the position where the watch dims its display, it does not go back to the watch face (or what would be the ‘home’ for the Watch). Instead, it adds a layer on top of that notification and displays just the time in four digits. Here’s a picture I managed to take:
I’ve noticed that this does not go away even after a long period of time. If I’ve looked at the notification — whether instantly or later — I have to do something to it. Otherwise, the Watch just keeps that weird overlay with just the time on it.
This makes me have to either dismiss each notification every time I see them or press the digital crown to go back to the watch face. It’s happening frequently enough that I’ve got to call this annoying.
There are options in the Watch app on the iPhone that might have something that would prevent this from happening. But I haven’t explored those yet. If you know of any ‘fix’ to this, kindly do let me know.
I should mention that I’m not using a passcode on my Apple Watch. I turned it on at first, but then I noticed it was getting tiring to tap the passcode every time I raised my wrist (no, it wasn’t supposed to lock it when it was on hand, but for some reason, mine did). That led me to disable the passcode.
Should you buy the Apple Watch?
For the convenience it provides, I can forgive these small imperfections. But I wanted to note it here just in case there are other Apple Watch Series 5 users who feel similarly.
In summary, I don’t really have much else to say about this cool little smartwatch that makes my life easier. It does what it says it’s supposed to do, and it does those pretty well. Minor annoyances aside, I’m happy with my purchase of the Apple Watch Series 5 and I’d recommend it to anyone considering it, especially if you have an iPhone. (The Watch is pretty useless without an iPhone anyway.)
If you’re an iPhone user and you want to make life a little bit easier (though at the expense of having yet another thing to charge), I highly recommend the latest iteration of the Apple Watch. And if you’re thinking of the latest iPhones, don’t forget to check out my iPhone 11 review.
Thoughts, questions, comments? The form awaits below!
All photos were taken on the full-frame mirrorless Canon EOS R.