Tyler Milner
Oct 9, 2018 · 5 min read

I’ve had an Apple Watch since a few months after it was initially launched in April of 2015. I’m not usually an early adopter of Apple’s first-gen tech, but I feel that they did a great job with the watch. However, with watchOS 5 only supporting Series 1 and higher, I’ll admit that I’m a bit sad that my Series 0 watch has now reached its end-of-life. I know the new watches are supposed to be much faster, but my Series 0 is still chugging along just fine for the tasks I use it for the most — notifications, timers, stopwatch, weather, Siri, and music playback. Having seen watchOS mature to a great state with last year’s watchOS 4 release, I was hoping that the Series 0 would still get the update, but maybe lack some of the fancy new features. Of course, the new screen sizes and thinner profile of the Series 4 would have probably enticed me to upgrade this year anyway, but what are the other improvements I should expect when I strap Apple’s latest smart wearable onto my wrist in the coming weeks?

Speed Improvements

Apple Watch speed improvements showcased from their September 2016 event to their September 2018 event.

It’s obvious that my new watch will be faster, but how much faster? The Apple Watch Series 0 shipped with Apple’s S1 “System-in-Package” (SiP), which contained a single-core processor that ran at roughly 520 MHz. Apple shipped the Series 1 and Series 2 watches with their S1P and S2 SiP, respectively, which contained a dual-core processor touted as being 50% faster. When Apple introduced the Series 3 watch last year, they marketed the S3 SiP as being 70% faster. With the release of the Series 4 this year, they are now claiming up to a 2x improvement in speed. When you add up the speed improvements over the years, I think it’s safe to say that I should be blown away by how fast this watch will be.

The move to a 64-bit architecture is also important. Apple dropped support for their 32-bit iPhones and iPads when they introduced iOS 11 last year. I feel as though it’s only a matter of time before they will do the same thing to the Apple Watch.

Display

Series 3/4 screen size comparison, courtesy of Apple.

The most notable physical upgrade of Apple Watch Series 4 is certainly the display size. Even the smaller 40mm Series 4 watch contains a display that’s slightly larger than my current 42mm Series 0. This means that my new 44mm Series 4 watch should provide me with a significant upgrade in screen real estate. The edge-to-edge nature and rounded corners are also a great aesthetic upgrade.

It’s important to note that Apple also doubled the brightness of the display to 1000 nits when they introduced Apple Watch Series 2 in September of 2016. This should make it easier to see the screen in bright sunlight compared to my Series 0 (though I’ve never really had an issue with the display’s brightness in the past). I suppose it will also allow me to see a bit better in the dark when I use the app grid/list as a makeshift wrist-mounted flashlight at night. 😁

Form Factor

Series 3/4 thickness comparison, courtesy of Apple.

While never a huge deal, my Series 0 watch always felt a tad on the chunky side. I’m looking forward to the thinner Series 4 watch and hopefully not smacking it on as many surfaces as I clumsily move about my day (though my Series 0 has held up remarkably).

Another physical improvement that I’m excited about is the inclusion of haptic feedback for the digital crown. This should make it a much more pleasant experience to scroll through lists and reduce the chances of over or undershooting an item when scrolling quickly.

Health and Fitness

Taking an ECG on a Series 4 watch, courtesy of Apple.

One of the main features of Series 4 that’s got everybody excited is the ability to take an electrocardiogram (ECG) on-the-go via the new electrical heart sensor embedded into the ceramic back and digital crown. However, since I’m upgrading from a Series 0, I’m also excited to finally be able to take advantage of the heart rate notifications feature. Apple first introduced elevated heart rate detection when Apple Watch Series 2 was introduced in 2016, but the feature was only supported on Series 1 and higher devices. With additional upgrades to the feature in watchOS 5, I’ll also have the piece of mind that my watch will additionally be monitoring for abnormally low heart rates and atrial fibrillation.

Because I’ll be able to run the latest watchOS 5, I’ll also be able to take advantage of the new automatic workout detection feature. Not only can the watch detect when a workout session begins, it can also automatically classify the workout as running, walking, swimming, elliptical, or rowing. There are also now discrete workout types for yoga and hiking, which should improve calorie burn accuracy when performing those activities.

Other Improvements

watchOS 5's Walkie-Talkie feature in action, courtesy of Apple.

Coming from my Series 0, other net new features that I’m excited about include:

  • Built-in GPS
  • Water resistant to 50 meters
  • Audible Siri (having her talk back to you instead of needing to read the screen — first introduced with Apple Watch Series 3)
  • Faster WiFi (W3 wireless chip)
  • Built-in cellular (though I opted for the GPS-only version)
  • Built-in barometric altimeter
  • Louder speaker
  • Fall detection (via the improved accelerometer and gyroscope)

Of course, I touched on some of these above, but there’s also all of the new features in watchOS 5 that I’ll be able to take full advantage of like the Walkie-Talkie app and raise-to-wake Siri.

Conclusion

Although I’m a little bit disappointed that my Apple Watch Series 0 will not be receiving the latest watchOS 5 update, I feel like Apple has made it worthwhile to upgrade to the latest iteration of their watch hardware. When you add up all of the incremental improvements made over the past 3 years as well as the improved form factor of Apple Watch Series 4, it’s a no-brainer that this new device will be a significant improvement and happily stay attached to my wrist for another 3+ years.

Rocket Fuel

Exploring the universe of connected devices to help brands discover new customer experiences.

Tyler Milner

Written by

Rocket Fuel

Exploring the universe of connected devices to help brands discover new customer experiences.

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