Test: Watch Series 4, Apple Still Improves The Best-Connected Watches

Since 2014, Apple refines and polishes its connected watch. This fourth generation is gaining in power and expanding its screen while continuing to strengthen tools to monitor our health.

With the first Watch, Apple had achieved a pretty tour de force but was lost, missing at the same time the chance to define what was the market connected watches from its first try. The American giant had opted for luxury, perhaps for its margins, before realizing that it was wrong. With the Series 2 and Series 3, Tim Cook’s teams have clearly refocused their efforts towards sport and well-being (physical and digital) and are gradually improving their offer.

This Series 4 is a first in-depth redesign of the Watch, a flattening in continuity that maintains the essential benchmarks and ensures compatibility with the accessories of previous generations. A new iteration that embodies more than ever Apple’s antiphon, that of the advanced integration of hardware and software, when one is nothing without the other. What makes you want to spend?

The Screen, The Screen, The Screen …

Apple knows how to design screens. Look to convince you of its MacBook Pro, iMac, iPhone or iPad. The Series 4 is definitely added to the list. Not that previous generations were devoid of a good screen, but for the first time since its announcement in September 2014, the Watch has an increased display area. As a result, say goodbye to models 38 and 42 mm and hello to their replacements the Watch 40 and 44 mm.

Do not worry about this increase in the size of the screens causes a small increase in the size of the boxes. Between the Series 3 42mm and the Series 4 44mm, there is thus 1.5 mm more in height, 1.4 mm more in width, while the case is refined even 0.7 mm.

On the wrist, you hardly feel it, just as you do not really notice your slight weight gain. On the other hand, we immediately appreciate the gain in visual comfort when we turn on the screen. Now almost edge to edge, the new OLED tile is still as contrasted (perfect black) and very bright, more than 600 cd / m2. This means that you will be able to read the information on its screen even in direct sunlight. We will not go so far as to say that we will spend our day looking at photographs, but there is really a leap forward on this side.

Change Is In …

The screen steals the show but we should not forget what is hidden inside the Series 4. Within the Watch is the feast of SiP (Silicon in Package). This is the fourth generation of its packaged chip, now dual-core, which is at the controls. It ensures more fluidity and responsiveness to the Watch. If it is still necessary to wait, Series 4 takes a big step forward in the direction of instantaneity. The applications are launched in one breath and the rocking from one to the other is extremely fluid. One would be almost tempted to say that this Watch has crossed the power course that any additional gain will be used for new functions and no longer to ensure minimum comfort.

In addition, from this processor, Apple introduces new gyroscopes and accelerometers. More powerful, they are at the heart of one of the new functions of this Series 4, the fall detection. If the Watch wearer falls (and the option is active), a message appears on the watch. It is possible to indicate that one has fallen and that everything is well or that one has not fallen. In case of no response, after one minute, the watch will automatically notify the emergency services and send your location to your emergency contacts.

A tip for those who practice impact sports, such as judo, for example, remove your watch during the warm-up phase or do not activate this function. The watch does not make the difference between a beautiful drop before plated and an impromptu and uncontrolled bowl.

To continue, those who use their watch to listen to music will rejoice to know that it still offers 16 GB of storage but especially that it is compatible, thanks to its new chip W3, with Bluetooth 5.0. It is both more energy efficient and able to send or receive data faster. Using it with AirPods or compatible headsets will therefore be even more relevant.
Finally, we will say a word about the speaker of the Watch. It is given to be 50% more powerful. In fact, the telephone communications managed by the watch are indeed more audible even if it will always be a little complicated to hear his interlocutor when you are in a noisy environment. If the speaker is still on the left side of the Watch, moved between the digital crown and the button. This avoids feedback sometimes when the sound of the conversation is looped.

From Form To Health, From The Heart To Work

By encouraging us to be more active, to get up every hour, to complete our rings of activity, the Apple Watch was looking from the beginning to keep us in better shape. Over the generations, she has improved her offer of exercises.
We have seen that the GPS is still accurate, despite a tendency to lose some of its accuracies when alternating course race flat and steep. Nothing crippling. On a run of about 16 km, we found an error of about 10m before the sloping part and about 200m in total. In his defense, this Watch had not yet had time to get used to our stride and its variations.

The heart sensor also remains very reliable. It follows with rather a good accuracy the rhythmic variations according to your efforts. This is handy if you’re doing split workouts and rely heavily on the Watch to track your progress or keep you in an aerobic slice during the effort.

Head-to-head athletes, of whom we are, will also appreciate that the Watch is now able to detect an activity and offer you to launch its registration a posteriori while taking into account it’s beginning with a certain precision. This option proved useful during a swimming session and after ten minutes of brisk walking. Walking is just one of the new activities now integrated into the Exercises app. This means that the algorithms for measuring effort and the calories consumed are much more precise.

On the other hand, if you use a third-party application to record your races on foot or by bike, it will be better to start your session. The detection only concerns the Apple app …But the big jump to health is to be credited with the arrival of an electric heart sensor that has not been seen for the moment. Located next to the classic cardiac sensor, on the lower part of the Watch, now ceramic and more metal, it is able to perform an electrocardiogram …

For now, the ECG application is awaiting validation in the United States, where it should be available by the end of the year. It will arrive in Europe when a medical authority has approved it in one of the countries of the Union. It will therefore be a little more patient. But in the absolute, this promise could change the lives of many people, save some, reassure others. In any case, it will be a way to facilitate the conversation with your doctor …

New Watch, New OS, Key Enhancement

It will be understood, the Watch is now beyond the form, it is attached to your health. watchOS 4 introduced a tool for heart rate detection too fast. With the 2018 edition of watchOS, you can be alerted if your heart beats too slowly for more than ten minutes – on all models since Series 1. And if you’re a great sportsman, you sleep with your Watch and the 40 default bpm are too high you can always customize them.

Be that as it may, beyond health, watchOS 5 also marks a significant evolution of the watch’s interface. Thus, the application cloud can be replaced by a list that is scrolled using the “digital” crown. In use the list is relevant especially if you do not have too many applications installed on your Watch. On the other hand, if you have a lot, you’ll have to think twice. For now, it is impossible to group them in folders or thematic, which means that the alphabetical classification requires you to scroller a lot … In our case, we still prefer the cloud of application bubbles, the Dock serving to assemble the apps that we prefer or that we requested most recently.

Let’s take a quick glance at the notifications. Some of them remain a little frustrating because they do not allow real interactions. This is particularly the case for the information put forward by newspapers in the form of push. On the other hand, it is always possible to react to an SMS received, obviously. Better yet, the notifications are now grouped, as on iOS 12, which makes it easier to consult them, always mixing interactions via the touchscreen and digital crown
It should be noted that it remains the central point of interaction of the Watch and that it has been redesigned to be more compact and especially to offer a haptic feedback.

Thus, each element on the screen causes a small vibration that rhythm the scrolling interface. The digital crown is still used for the invocation of Siri. The wizard is usually more responsive than the Watch Series 3 even if it happened during our test to ask us to wait before we can make a phone call, for example. Siri will be especially useful to send messages, make a call or possibly start some simple tasks, like a countdown. It can also be solicited to launch a playlist on Apple Music or know whether to take a sweater or umbrella.

But the biggest change is the introduction of new “Watch Faces”, these dials, “analog”, animated or modular, which display time and complications. Regarding the latter, it is now possible to add up to eight – but not on any dials. These watch shortcuts mean that you always have a brief summary of information (weather, time in another time zone, the progress of your daily activity, etc.) or access to an application. This can be the case for starting a physical activity, measuring your heart rate, or making a call to one of your contacts. You can even have fun to go back to childhood and play walkie-talkie with your friends, preferably in the evening, hidden under the duvet to avoid being caught by your parents …

Also welcome the other new application, Podcasts. You will finally be able to listen to your favorite episodes of running or walking, directly from your Watch. It works perfectly and it’s another argument to leave your iPhone when you go out. Especially if you opt for the 4G model.

4G And Autonomy

New for last year, the 4G is no longer a question, provided you take the option from Orange, which remains the only French operator to offer. Its activation on compatible models is fast and is done from the iPhone and Watch application.

As with the Series 3, it still happens sometimes that the connection with the 4G network takes more than the usual few seconds when you leave the smartphone behind you. So, in the worst case, depending on the quality of the reception of the 4G signal or the way we lose the signal of the Wi-Fi network used, we found that the Series 4 can sometimes take between 30 or 60 seconds.

The 4G obviously represents an additional cost to purchase (100 euros) and then asks to pay the multi-SIM option (eSIM) to 5 euros per month after the six months offered. However, for those who like to play sports without the clutter of their iPhone or go shopping while remaining reachable, this feature greatly facilitates life.

Beware, however, that autonomy has an impact on the overall autonomy of the Watch. Switching to 4G will consume more power, just like activating the GPS strike the endurance of the battery. Nevertheless, autonomy is rather good, if we accept that a connected watch must be recharged every day or every other day. During our tests, we managed to use it moderately as much for the notifications as for the calls and the sports activities to make him cross two full days without it failing. He had about 10 percent battery left at 11 pm the second night. The Series 4 was roughly 39.30, much better than the 18h announced by Apple.

On the other hand, if one solicits it by a long sporting beach without telephone where the modules 4G and GPS are active, its autonomy is much smaller. Thus, after a morning of the race, he had only 55% of autonomy left at midday and about 15% on his battery charge indicator to 23h. The day is held but recharging is mandatory. We also noted that in half an hour, we get about 30% of the total load and about 70% in one hour. It may be possible, for those who would like to use the Watch with a sleep tracking application, to keep it on the wrist all night long. They will have to remove it at sunrise, put it in charge and think about taking it back when leaving.

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