Friday 25 January 2019 6:05 pm

Apple Watch Series 4 review: How Apple’s timepiece finally became a ‘must buy’ gadget


I'm the editor of City A.M. The Magazine, and editor of the daily newspaper's Life&Style section. We cover food, going out, art, technology and travel. I like to write about restaurants, theatre and video games.

I'm the editor of City A.M. The Magazine, and editor of the daily newspaper's Life&Style section. We cover food, going out, art, technology and travel. I like to write about restaurants, theatre and video games.

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In the almost four years since the first Apple Watch launched, many have come to see it as the weak link in the company’s portfolio. While iPhones have sold in record numbers, Apple has declined to release official sales figures for its timepiece, and initial excitement over the futuristic new category was at risk of turning into a collective shrug.

Research suggests Apple dominates the category, but nobody has achieved a great deal of success selling smartwatches – it’s telling that I’ve never laid eyes on a Samsung Gear or Huawei Watch ‘in the wild’.

But the last 12 months have been a turning point – Apple Watch sales are said to be up more than 50 per cent on the year, and even more in the final quarter. And with the new Series 4, Apple offers its best argument yet for the viability of smartwatches.

Bigger and brighter than its predecessors, the 4th generation Watch is a huge step forward. The old 38mm and 42mm versions are out, replaced by 40mm and 44mm versions; combined with a new closer-to-edge screen, this makes a huge difference to basic functionality. It’s most noticeable on the new pre-loaded “complications”, which pack in a level of detail and customisation that would have been a UI nightmare on a smaller display.

On my watch face, for instance, I can see the temperature in London, the moon phase, what time my alarm is set, any timers I have running, the next appointment in my Google calendar, the day and date, the remaining battery life, my heart-rate, and a shortcut to my most-used contact. Oh, and the time. What sounds like a baffling amount of information is easily parsed and – moon phase aside – genuinely useful.

While marketing for generations 2 and 3 of the Watch focused largely on fitness, Apple is selling this one as more of an all-round lifestyle device. US versions already come with an electro-cardiogram feature (ECG), which can detect, among other things, arrhythmia (a global release is expected soon), and there’s a fall-detection system useful for elderly wearers. There’s also a new walkie talkie function, which is fun, albeit a little gimmicky.

The battery is improved, giving you at least six hours of continued use, and I managed to eke out an entire weekend when I left my charger in the office. You can also get it in gold to match your new iPhone XS.

It’s not all gravy – Watch OS is a little finicky, with some options buried in out-of-the way menus (or, indeed, on your iPhone), and there’s still a paucity of useful third-party apps. But these increasingly feel like minor issues, and with prices starting at an eminently affordable £399, this is the perfect time for late-adopters to finally get on board.

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