Apple's made some pretty big improvements to its Watch lineup over the years, adding features such as waterproofing and 4G connectivity to its wearable. But the design of the watch itself has remained broadly the same during that time. With Series 4, Apple has overhauled the Watch with new sizes, increased screen space, and new rounded corners to the display. It's a design revolution!
So if you’ve wanted an Apple Watch but have been holding off buying one until now, it’s going to be a no-brainer that you’ll want the Series 4. But what if you've currently got a previous-generation Watch adorning your wrist? Is it worth the upgrade? Let’s break it down in detail and decide whether it’s time to ditch the older model.
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 - SHOULD YOU UPGRADE? DESIGN
This is probably the biggest reason to consider upgrading to Apple Watch Series 4: that fancy new design. Apple says that the latest watch boasts a 30 per cent bigger screen, which allows it to fit in more complications (those little widgets that show things like the weather and your next meeting). It also allows you to see more of your pictures on the watch, although we doubt anyone realistically sits there on their watch browsing photos on the regular.
The new model is also thinner than the previous generation, but only by 0.7mm. Apple’s shots of the new watch make it look deceptively thinner, but in the real world we’re not expecting a great amount of difference. Other than that, the last major design change is that the Digital Crown now has haptic feedback, so you get a physical response as you scroll through lists. But again, we tend to use the touchscreen to scroll on Series 3 watches, so let’s call the haptic Digital Crown a “nice-to-have”. Ultimately, though, that gorgeous new screen and thinner design do make the Series 4 feel like a significant upgrade over previous models.
Should you upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 4 based on Design: YEAH
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 - SHOULD YOU UPGRADE? FEATURES
Apple spent a lot of time in its press conference playing up the health benefits of the new Apple Watch, but based on our experience of previous generation models, we don’t expect to be using them that frequently. The big upgrade is Series 4's ability to act as an electrocardiogram, which is a really advanced thing for a smartwatch to be doing. If you have reason to worry about your heart health, then the ability to take these readings regularly and share them with your doctor might be a major reason to buy the Apple Watch Series 4. For others, it could end up being a feature like Breathe: one you get reminded about regularly, but barely actually use.
The other major feature exclusive to Series 4, fall detection, will again be a draw that depends on your personal circumstances. If you’re prone to falling over or would struggle to help yourself back up again if you did, then it’s potentially a life-saver. But for many people, who might not even have an emergency contact set up on their phone, it will probably (and hopefully) be something they never use.
Should you upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 4 based on Features: POSSIBLY
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 - SHOULD YOU UPGRADE? POWER
Whereas all the premium features on Apple Watch Series 3 were saved for the cellular version, the Series 4 brings parity across both cellular and non-cellular models. That means it has 16GB storage rather than 8GB, a more premium ceramic back, and a wall power adaptor included in the box. So if you’re not bothered about cellular connectivity, your non-cellular Series 4 watch isn’t going to be significantly hampered like the previous generation.
Series 4 models also bring with them the new S4 processor, which promises double the speed of Series 3, but we’ve never found the older model a slouch when it comes to general use. Maybe WatchOS 5 will struggle on Series 3, but we wouldn’t go upgrading for speed at this stage. Likewise, Bluetooth 5.0 is a welcome addition if you have an iPhone 8/X or later, as the range between devices should be greater. But again, it’s a negligible improvement.
Should you upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 4 based on Power: NAH
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 - SHOULD YOU UPGRADE? VALUE
There’s a reason Apple focussed on the design and features of Apple Watch Series 4 in its press conference — the price they announced at the end is significantly higher than that of the Series 3 when it launched. If you’re getting the basic Aluminium model, you’ll pay £70 more for the Series 4 in both sizes, while the Cellular version sees a £100 jump. That’s a big increase — where most configurations of the basic Apple Watch Series 3 sat comfortably in the £300-400 category, most Series 4 models now hit the £400-500 mark.
Given that we’re much more impressed with Apple Watch Series 4’s design improvements than we are the feature improvements, we’d suggest that you have to be able to justify the price increase to yourself based on those same terms. Whether it’s worth the extra money will come down to how you feel about the design improvements. If you value a smaller watch that has much more screen, then it’s probably worth the premium. If you’re happy with the amount of screen real estate on your current Apple Watch, then hold off.
Should you upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 4 based on Value: POSSIBLY
APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 - SHOULD YOU UPGRADE? VERDICT
With the new Apple Watch Series 4 stunning thanks to its gorgeous new design, the issue of upgrading essentially comes down to how much you prioritise that as a feature. Do you spend hours per day staring at your watch screen, or find the Series 3 just a little too bulky? If so, then make the upgrade.
If you’re looking for the next big functional leap though, along the lines of waterproofing or cellular connectivity on previous watches, you won’t find it on Series 4. The health and safety benefits may well appeal to certain people, and the heart functions are technically very impressive, but they have less potential to impress on a day-to-day basis than the design upgrades.
It’s a shame that there’s such a premium on the Series 4, especially with the Series 3 dropping in price now it’s the older model. There’s no doubt that the Series 4 is going to have the wow factor for the coming year though, so if you’re into your design, go for the newer option.