Apple Watch Series 5 First Impressions

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While I unboxed two Series 5 Apple Watches yesterday, I didn’t get to do anything with them for reasons I wrote about earlier. However, I am off and running today and so far, I really like what I see.

Seeing is believing

I knew the always-on display of the new Series 5 would be a big deal when Apple announced it, but seeing really is believing. It quite literally changes the way you look at the device. and more importantly, the way you use it.

Anyone who has owned a previous version of the Apple Watch for any length of time has developed a routine for waking up the display when it goes to sleep. There are a few different moves, such as the quick tap and the wrist flick. I have resorted to using the tip of my nose a couple of times when my other hand wasn’t available. These moves are no longer necessary with the new Series 5.

Several times today I have caught myself flipping my wrist, even though I no longer have to. Old habits die hard. However, I have also noticed the dimmed display several times when I wasn’t expecting to see anything on the Watch face. That’s something I will definitely get used to. It makes the Apple Watch so much more useful for little things, you know, like checking the time. The ability to just glance down and get what you need has finally come to Watch users.

The last brick in the wall

The always-on display is the highlight feature of the new Series 5 and it feels like it completes an already strong package. The Apple Watch has had a long, slow progression toward becoming that device. The original was good for the first gen of such a small device, but it was just sooooo slow. The Series One was a much better and much more usable version of the device, but it was really with the Series Three that the Watch really hit its stride. The addition of cellular was nice, but it was the combo of speed and good battery life that finally made it a pleasure to use.

Last year felt like a big step forward for the Apple Watch, at least to me. The bigger screen of the Series 4 made the Watch more readable and easier to use. Adding the always-on display makes the Watch more than just a health and fitness wearable or high-tech gadget. It is now the perfect stand-in for any WATCH.

It took Apple a while, but they did this feature right. Always-on isn’t some kludgy work-around, special monochrome knockoff display or other compromise. You get a dimmed version of your watch face, and that means it’s still your Watch, even when it goes to sleep.

All that glimmers

I mentioned earlier that I got two Apple Watches yesterday. I decided to take another look at Gold this year after going Space Gray on the Series 4. I got one aluminum and one stainless steel, both in Gold.

What I found is that, while they are named the same, they look nothing alike. The Gold of the aluminum version is a merger of the old antique-style Gold (which I loved) and Rose Gold. In my personal opinion, it is a mediocre knockoff of both colors. It doesn’t have the class of the old Gold or the brilliance of the original Rose Gold. I understand the need to reduce the number of SKUs, but what’s left just isn’t that great.

The gold of the stainless steel model is a completely different story. This is the same bronzish tone of the iPhone XS and XS Max gold, likely owning to the fact that are both devices being finished are stainless steel. It’s also much more of a polished, mirrored finish.

In my personal opinion, there isn’t any comparison here. The stainless version (on the left) wins hands down. It really looks good, and the Midnight Blue band I paired it with in Apple’s Watch Studio compliments it very nicely.

Decisions, decisions

There is no decision for me between Gold models. Now I just have to figure out if I want to cough up the extra money for the stainless model, or go back to Space Gray and stick with the less expensive aluminum model. That’s a tough one, as those good looks come with a cost of $235.40.

You do get a more durable case and a sapphire screen as well with the stainless version, so there are other advantages. I haven’t made up my mind, but I have a few days to mull this over. Selling my old Watch will more than make up that difference, so I am leaning toward keeping the stainless at the moment.

In the studio

I’m a big fan of Apple’s new Watch Studio. This is a much better way to purchase what you want right out of the gate, as you are no longer saddled with a small selection of bands that have to be packaged inside your Watch’s box. Now you can see the combos you are interested in in advance and get exactly what you want. Apple now packages up the Watch box and the Band’s box separately, making the process fast and easy.

The only exceptions here are the special editions. Hermes and Nike, representing opposite ends of the purchasing spectrum, are notably absent. This is probably a good idea, as those who are interested in those models are getting something set apart as exclusive.

Down the line, I imagine the Hermes watches and bands will remain exclusive, but I will interested what Apple does with Nike. At a certain point after release, it wouldn’t surprise me if they add the Nike bands into the Studio to generate a little extra interest. We shall see.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back after another day or two to gauge real-world battery life and use.

James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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