When I reviewed the first Apple Watch for Technopolis TV in 2015, I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t really more than a delightful gimmick. Since then, it’s been through four versions, each one a significant improvement: it’s become waterproof; it can be used to make calls independent of an iPhone; and there have been ever-increasing health functions – all significant milestones on the journey towards this, the Apple Watch Series 5, the 2019 product I would most like to receive for Christmas.
Why so, when it’s closer to its predecessor than any past Apple Watch release? It’s because of one seemingly minor but, for me, gigantic improvement. The screen of the Apple Watch 5 is always on. No longer is it an enigmatic, featureless black oblong for 99 per cent of the time, only showing its face when you raise your wrist. Nope, this is finally the equal of a real watch.
It means you can tell the time by giving the watch a surreptitious glance, rather than making it very clear to whoever you are with that you feel time is ticking by. The standby face is, admittedly, a dimmed version of the brighter one you see on raising the watch, but it is still easily readable. And the battery life of the watch is perfectly fine – well over a day. Some of the new faces, especially the one Apple calls California, best seen in blue, are rather beautiful. And there are new features, including a compass, which I will find invaluable in New York where I lack the locals’ ability always to know which way is which.
An Apple Watch, then, that’s gone from novelty item to beautiful essential.