With so many smartwatches currently available in the market, it can be hard to choose which one's the best as they each have their own pros and cons. But to be completely honest, I don't think so. There's definitely a clear winner here.
What I mean when I say this is; if you're looking for the best smarwatch out there, with plenty of great features and regardless of the price, it exists. And it belongs to the Apple Watch Series 5.
So much so that, as mainly an Android user using this Apple Watch Series 5 for about two months now, that if there's anything out there that can convert me to be an Apple user, it's the Apple Watch Series. Not the iPhone, not the MacBook, but the Apple Smartwatch.
Using the Apple Watch Series opened a whole new world of health facts and possibilities for me - and with new additions such as the always on-display and built-in compass, the Series 5 is definitely one that deserves the top spot of the year for smartwatches.
Design: Always on, always in style
As a newbie to the Apple Watch Series, I can't compare much to the previous versions. So far, those in Stuff UK have pointed out that the Series 5 is "indistinguishable from its predecessor. The dimensions are the same, there’s a button for quick app-switching and fast access to Apple Pay, you still get satisfying haptic feedback from the Digital Crown, and it’s still doing absolutely nothing to appease those who prefer circular watches."
But that's pretty much it; instantly the big difference you will notice of the Series 5 is its new Always-On Retina Display. Apple uses what’s known in the business as a low-temperature poly-silicon and oxide (LTPO) display, which allows the refresh rate to adjust from as high as 60Hz to as low as 1Hz. This means that you can expect the display to always be on without zapping up energy, making the smartwatch last for a lot longer that you'd expect, which I will touch on more later.
When you lower your wrist the screen dims just enough with mainly the time and your choice of display viewable at a glance. Once you raise or tap it, the watch illuminates to full brightness. There has been some moments where it doesn't read that I lifted my wrist, but it wasn't a majoy inconvenience as I could still somewhat see what I needed to.
If you're worried about it illuminating while you're watching a movie, it isn't that bad and will not be bright enough to distract others though I would recommend turning on the Do Not Disturb mode to keep notifications from flashing on your wrist. I also recommend turning it on as you drive, too.
Some of you may find the idea of an always-on display unnecessary, and I also shared the same thoughts too. But after some time, I grew attached to having the always on display available, as I don't need to make unnecessary movements to see what's on display and can be discreet in wanting to know simple information like who messaged me or how long I have been working out.
Speaking of which, reading notifications on the watch is great. The colours are bright, and even the images that appear in notifications look distinct and great. And with so many great faces to choose from, you can even choose one from your own photos to personalise it even further.
To top off what I love the most about the Apple Watch Series is that it comes with the option of velcro straps. Can more tech companies do this? After testing out so many smartwatches, it's such a relief to try on a smartwatch with velcro straps as they feel so much more comfortable compared to the traditional ones that most have. It may not look as stylish, but you can always swap out the velcro for the stylish ones. The point is; velcro straps. Good. More please.
Features; Don't lose your way
Feature wise, it has plenty of features that you can find from the Series 3 and 4 - fall detection, heart rate monitoring and alerting you of irregular heartbeats, making calls and offline music playlists and more.
The biggest and latest feature comes from the compass - a great addition to those who love hiking or going into the unknown. You don't even need data or Wi-Fi to access the compass as it's already in built. Pair it with the right watch display, and you'll always know which direction you're going towards. The compass also features your current elevation level, compared to the previous where it shows only elevation gains.
Making calls on the smartwatch is something I rarely get to test out on other smartwatches and the Series 5 passes with flying colours in my book. Not only is the microphone great at picking up my voice, the speaker on the device is loud and clear with no issues whatsoever. Of course, setting up calls and the use of eSim was a bit of a hassle on my part, as I had disconnected it once and had trouble reconnecting it back later on, forcing me to stop by Digi to get it settled. All I can say is; don't disconnect your smartwatch from your iPhone and remember to update the software as often as possible.
You may think that a smartwatch being able to function on its own without needing to be connected to a smartphone all the time to function is a bit unnecessary, but you'd be surprised. It's not just about picking up calls while working out, but think about forgetting to download your Spotify playlist on your smartwatch. The Series 5 is great as you don't have to worry about that - just stream the songs that you want without having to download them. If you can afford the eSim, you can definitely stream the songs you want with no worries.
Great health tracking
Out of the many smartwatches I have ever tested, it amazes me that the Apple Smartwatch actually has a HIIT and Strength Training option under the workouts. The best part is that the results on the fitness app is catered specifically to my workout - knowing that HIIT workouts are all about reaching the highest heart rate and showing me the results of my heart rate throughout my workout instead of just showing me how long I worked out.
I would also like to share that the Activity goals setup by Apple is a thousand times better than hitting 10k steps daily. Depending on what you choose, you can set up your Activity goals that are broken down to Move, Exercise and Stand. Move is calculated by calories, exercise is based on your workout and Stand is the goal of standing up every hour. This is definitely a more balanced style of workout than just focusing on steps - something I hope to see more smartwatches do in the future.
Also, as likely one of the few female reviewers, let's talk about the menstrual tracker on the Health app. I use another tracker on my Android which does a pretty good job, even willing to track everything from my overall mood right down to my sexual activity. The cycle tracker on the Health app is a lot more limited, with tracking mainly symptoms, flow and spotting. That's not overall a bad thing, but if you're hoping for more indepth tracking, the tracker is a little too simple for that. Overall, my menstrual cycle is stable though, so the estimated timing has been correct thus far. And I completely appreciate my watch reminding me of my upcoming period, as I tend to lose track of time and my menstrual cycle as well.
Probably the only feature the Series 5 lacks (and continues to from what I've seen) is sleep tracking. You still need to depend on a third party app for sleep tracking and even then, I haven't seen any significant results that really show my sleep quality. But then again, I'm not too keen on sleep tracking anyways, so this is a small problem for me personally. But if sleep tracking is important to you, the Series 5 fails in that area.
Decent battery life
Today, plenty of smartwatches can last for a week or more, and that's definitely impressive and note-worthy. The Series 5 may not last as long as other smartwatches, but it can last for a full day and charges fast so I recommend charging during your down time or shower. If like me you don't mind not having a sleep tracker, you can charge it as you sleep too. Overall, the Series 5 hits full charge in less than an hour after a full day use, and even then the full day use ended up using a little less than half of the watch's battery.
Whatever it is, do remember to charge the Series 5 at least for half an hour a day, or else be prepared to have the smartwatch die on you in the middle of the next day.
I stand by my gound that the Apple Watch Series 5 is the best smartwatch in the market. As an Android user, it hurts to know that this great watch is exclusive only to the iPhone, but then again the smartwatch works best in its iOS environment. While there's no doubt that as an Apple product it costs quite a bit, but this is one device from Apple I consider to be worth the investment. Or else, there's always the Apple Watch Series 3 for us Malaysians to consider.