Putting it on, I immediately noticed the extra screen real estate. Where the Apple Watch Series 3’s display felt like it was surrounded by some indiscernible bezel, the Series 4 adds over 30% more screen real estate to the Apple Watch without making it feel cumbersome. That double-digit percentage increase is both not much and more than enough. It allows for more complications (think widgets, just on your watch), which gives you either more information at a glance or just a larger, easier to read clock. You can also look at pictures, but I suggest you just pull out your phone for that. No one wants a giant watch, after all. Diehard Apple Watch fans can breathe easy: The 40mm and 44mm versions look nearly identical in width compared to their 38 and 42mm predecessors. And while the watches might be bigger, they’re backwards compatible with existing bands.
Speaking of breathing, Apple has taken its health features up a notch, including a new watch face that guides users through a deep breathing exercise. The Apple Watch Series 4 also added the ability to conduct an electrocardiogram test (ECG) using the updated digital crown and a series of electrodes integrated into both the crown and the heart rate monitor. (Unfortunately, the ECG feature won’t be available when the device ships next week; the company says it will arrive later this year.) Thanks to Apple’s improved gyroscope and accelerometer, the new Apple Watch can now detect falls and alert your emergency contacts if you’re rendered immobile after a tumble.
While I only spent a few minutes wearing it so far, the advances made in the latest version of Apple’s wearable device might be the best example of why Apple has such an advantage when it comes to smartwatches, especially compared to the competition. With its complete control over the Apple Watch’s manufacturing process, down to the new S4 processor, Apple’s advantage is readily apparent. The worst part? It’s not even the competition’s fault, really. Google and its WearOS has been hamstrung due in part to a lack of advancement from companies like Qualcomm, which, after two years, has finally announced a new processor for WearOS devices. That lack of progress has left the field wide open for the Apple Watch Series 4 to capture anyone in the market for a new smartwatch this year, even with the first smartwatches powered by Qualcomm’s new chip debuting as early as next month.
The Apple Watch Series 4 will start at $399 for a GPS version, and $499 for an LTE version. There’s also, as always, the Apple Watch Hermes version of the wearable, which brings a custom watch face and Hermes band, starting at $1,249.
You can pre-order an Apple Watch Series 4 starting Sept. 14, and expect it to ship or show up in stores on Sept. 21. For current Apple Watch owners looking to update the software to WatchOS 5, you can do that on Sept. 17.