The Apple Watch Series 4 is official, with the new smartwatch announced at Apple’s annual September event. Last year’s big new feature was LTE. This year, we’re getting an entirely new design and the addition of an electrocardiogram sensor, among other new health features.
While Apple has retained the rectangular shape of the Watch, it’s moving up in size for 2018. The Series 4 will come in 40mm and 44mm versions, increasing both the smaller and larger designs by 2mm each. And for good reason: to make room for a new, 30%-larger display.
To date, Apple’s done a great job of obscuring the bezel on its smartwatches, but there’s most certainly been a lot of it. The display on the Series 4 is much larger, allowing you to cram even more complications and info onto that screen.
Hands on: Apple Watch Series 4 review
The new watch has had a few other design tweaks, including a new Digital Crown that has haptic feedback and a red circle for LTE models, replacing the red dot of the Series 3. Apple’s also added a new, louder, speaker to the left side of the watch for better quality, while moving the mic away from the speaker to the other side of the watch, which should improve voice quality when on calls and talking to Siri.
New processor and sensors
The Series 4 is using Apple's new S4 silicon which packs a new 64-bit dual-core processor that, Apple says, will get you twice the performance that we saw on Series 3 – while keeping the same battery life of a-day-and-then-some.
There's also a new accelerometer and gyroscope inside that improves precision. Why is this important? The Series 4 can now detect when you've had a fall. If it detects a tumble, Siri will offers a shortcut to call the emergency services and your emergency contacts. If you don't respond to the alert within five seconds, it will automatically make the call for you.
ECG heart tracking
Another major new feature with the new Apple Watch is the electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor, something that’s more commonly found in professional medical equipment.
This will let you check in on your ticker by placing a finger on the Digital Crown for an ECG reading. You'll be able to take a reading any time and get an alert if the Watch detects any abnormal rhythms – a possible sign of atrial fibrillation.
Essential reading:Why ECG on Watch Series 4 is a big deal
Apple's received clearance from the FDA for ECG and detecting irregular heart rhythms, which is a significant step forward. In fact, this is the first ECG device offered over the counter to consumers. However, FDA clearance is not the same as FDA approval, meaning Apple has proved its device is similar to another "cleared" product on the market. Getting "approval" requires a clinical trial, but is usually for things like drugs and implants.
Apple says the ECG app will come to the Watch "later this year" and only in the US, so the rest of the world may have to wait even longer for that feature.
The regular optical heart rate monitor is still here too, with a few improvements. The Apple Watch already alerts you if it detects your heart rate is too high, but thanks to tweaks to the optical sensor on Series 4, Apple can now do more. The Watch will now give you a notification if it detects your heart rate is too low or if it detects abnormal patterns through the optical sensor.
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As for colours, it’s the same trio of Space Gray, silver and gold aluminum to pick from in the Sports variants, and more expensive stainless steel models in silver, gold and black finishes. No white ceramic this time, but there are some new Nike+ and Hermès special edition models. Apple's created some new watch faces to make use of all that added space too, including one that puts the breathing app on the display, giving you quicker access to Apple's mindfulness feature.
Once again, Apple is making its smartwatch available in cellular and non-cellular versions, both of which still come with built-in GPS. The GPS model starts at $399 while cellular models will cost at least $499. All will be available to pre-order from 14 September and arriving on wrists 21 September.
Of course the new Apple Watch will be arriving with the new watchOS 5 software on board, which includes improved notifications, auto workout detection, a smarter Siri, and the new Walkie Talkie feature.
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