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Apple’s Series 5 Watch Will Have Always-on Display, drops price of Series 3 to $199

2019-09-10 19.36.44

Like clockwork, today Apple announced the new Apple Watch Series 5, which includes one substantial change, and only a handful of other modest updates. However, perhaps far more important than that is Apple’s official pricing shift on the Series 3 units (with GPS & music)  to $199. Previously these units floated in the $279+ range, with only occasional sales to $199.

This shift in pricing is a massive blow to Fitbit and the new Versa 2, as well as a solid blow to Garmin’s new Venu watch (priced at $399), and even the Vivoactive 4 at $349. Plus others like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 coming in at $279.  While each of Apple’s competitors compete on more than just price, the reality is that for the average consumer at a Best Buy display counter, those watches at their current respective price points will likely end up with an Apple Watch purchase. At least as long as you’re not an Android user (where Apple still isn’t quite yet compatible, though the gears are clearly turning there too).

First though, let’s do a quick recap of the Series 5 changes. I’ll have a review out later this month, but for now this post will serve as a bit of a placeholder and also as a gathering spot for questions. Also note that all imagery in this post is from Apple’s keynote or website. With Eurobike last week and a new Peanut due any day now, flying to California was not in my list of viable events.

Apple Watch Series 5:

2019-09-10 19.43.59

The Series 5 keeps the same general form factor as the previous Apple Watch units, going with that smoothed rectangular look, shunning some rumors of a round Apple Watch. It’s offered in more or less the usual Apple materials/finishes (with a few new finishes as well), but the big change this year is the always-on display. One of the catches of an Apple Watch up until now, as well as most higher-end smart watches with pretty displays, is that the display turned itself off when you weren’t looking at it.

In order for the display to turn on, you had to turn your wrist or press a button. While that was mostly fine for day to day usage, it has always presented itself as a bit of a challenge for sports. In cycling where your wrist is on the handlebars, turning your wrist away from the handlebars was hardly ideal (especially on rougher roads or near traffic). Or in the gym, when doing pushups or any sort of activity where your arms are busy – meant that you couldn’t see the sport-data on the screen unless you managed to trigger it.  With more and more gym & fitness apps giving guided workouts including things like animations for cardio or strength movements, keeping the screen on was important.

2019-09-10 19.39.44

With the Series 5, Apple’s going to manage the display automatically via ambient light sensor – just as they did in previous versions. In Apple’s presentation today they also discussed a ‘display driver’ and ‘power management integrated circuit’, which are basically just fancy terms for things that every watch on the market already has.

2019-09-10 19.39.07

From a battery standpoint though things aren’t quite as strong. Apple’s claiming – specifically, “All day 18-hour battery life”. That’s far below their competitors in the always-on AMOLED space. On the flip-side, Apple does tend to be fairly conservative with their Watch battery life estimates historically, often only citing single-day battery life when in reality the units usually get about 2 days of battery life (without GPS activities).

For competitive context, Fitbit’s new Versa 2 with always-on display gets roughly 2 days in that mode (with 24×7 HR tracking), while Garmin’s new Venu gets just shy of three days. For example, I’ve been testing always-on display on Venu and started a test Saturday evening at 5PM with 100%, and just got to Tuesday at 9AM with 10% remaining (I needed to charge it before some longer activities today). That’s not just always-on display, but also with live watch faces enabled (so every time I raise my wrist it shows me a colorful time-lapse of NYC). And finally, that’s with an hour’s GPS workout tossed in for good measure, and 24×7 HR at 1-second intervals.

2019-09-10 19.40.07

Both Fitbit and Garmin are further tracking sleep, which surprisingly Apple skipped on the Series 5.

Speaking of surprises, Apple added a magnetic compass. I didn’t see this one coming on my list of expected features, though it does poke directly at Garmin. Apple has some native watch faces that take advantage of this compass, such as seen below in one of numerous views:

2019-09-10 19.40.47

But far more important than that is opening up the compass to 3rd party apps. Out of the gate that’ll include Wikiloc, GoSUP, and Night Sky

image

Now while I see the actual usage of native compass bearings pretty minimal, what’s more useful is that Apple’s maps on the watch will now show you the map oriented based on your wrist orientation.

image

This is handy for those of us that are constantly swearing at the beloved blue dot, not knowing which way to go.

2019-09-10 19.40.34

Last up on the new Series 5 features is international emergency calling for the LTE/cellular versions. This functionality is leveraged within the suite of emergency related functions that Apple has, such as fall detection. With the new international emergency calling it can automatically connect to the network in whatever country you’re in and place that emergency call.

2019-09-10 19.41.06

At first glance this might not seem significant in the grand scheme of things technologically (obviously it is medically). But in reality – this is a big deal. Up until this point when you travelled between regions of the Apple Watch, you weren’t likely to get international services. For example, a US-based Apple Watch LTE/cellular edition was completely useless in Europe. This wasn’t a carrier limitation, but a connectivity one. It simply didn’t have the right hardware to roam in Europe. And vice versa was true.

So whatever capabilities Apple has quietly added into Series 5 may be setting the stage for future connectivity here. However, at present that’s not yet the case for regular data/phone access on the LTE/cellular editions. However, if you compare the band support for both Series 5 and Series 3, you’ll notice Series 5 has significantly more bands supported than Series 3 did (for the US models, and the same is true for other region models).

image image

From a pricing and availability standpoint, Apple’s top-end Series 5 remains the same price at a $399 starting point (bucking the recent trend of increasing the prices further). The cellular/LTE edition starts at $499. Availability for them is Sept 20th, and ordering starts today. The Series 4 units will be discontinued (Series 5 replaces them).

Finally, there’s a few other tidbits that Apple noted during the keynote. First is the introduction of a new medical research and studies app.

2019-09-10 19.36.16

This allows you to enroll easily into various medical research studies that organizations are performing using the Apple Watch. Apple’s previously done similar large-scale studies before, but this seems to be solidifying the entry process a bit. Within that framework there will be three new studies they’re conducting this fall:

– Apple Hearing Study with the World Health Organization & the University of Michigan
– Women’s Health with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences & Harvard School of Public Health
– Apple Heart & Movement Study with the American Heart Association & Brigham and Women’s Hospital

I find these studies fascinating, not just from a topical standpoint but from just a scale standpoint. Never before in medical research (or really any research) can organizations get the kind of scale and data that’s being provided via this entry point. As usual, the Apple mantra on privacy applies here in that you control your data and can end participation any time.

There’s also the slew of WatchOS6 related features that come to all Apple Watches, including a redesigned Health App with highlights and summary sections, and also the new audio streaming API in WatchOS 6, you’ll start to see more apps take advantage of live audio versus just recorded content. I covered all of this though back in June as part of my post then.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that in some ways we may not know all the actual new stuff until units start shipping. Many things don’t make the cut of the keynote, and other things further don’t make the cut in media briefings. For example, when Apple revamped the optical HR sensor last year in the Series 4, it was noted the optical HR sensor was revamped – but it wasn’t said just how much more accurate it was than years past (spoiler: crazy more accurate). So it’s those sorts of things I’ll be looking for in a full review of the Series 5. Top of my list? Will they have finally fixed the long famed Apple ‘swooshing’ of GPS tracks around corners to make them look prettier? Only time, and some runs, will tell.

Going Forward:

2019-09-10 19.44.34

As I noted at the beginning, while the always-on display news of the Series 5 is a big deal for the Apple Watch in general – I think the headliner news here should really be the $199 price point for the Series 3. It’s something I’ve been talking about as a likely scenario for months, and the impacts can’t be overstated here. Undoubtedly companies like Fitbit and Garmin would counter that they have unique value props for their consumers that Apple doesn’t have. And that’s definitely true.

In the case of Fitbit, they’ve got the social/motivational aspects that are largely unbeaten in the segment, despite competitors (including Apple) adding in friend competition type features. Fitbit also has sleep analytics that Apple lacks entirely, something Fitbit is doubling down on this year. And finally, while I question how successful Fitbit’s premium offerings will be, they are an option – whereas Apple simply doesn’t have anything remotely like it from a sport/fitness standpoint.

Meanwhile, in the case of Garmin they’ve got all the sport-focused bits around training and recovery that Apple doesn’t have unless you extend into 3rd party apps (of which there are many, but none at the base watch level). Garmin also has a significant edge with respect to music streaming services and offline capabilities, including Spotify and Amazon. While I suspect we’ll see Spotify offline access come to Apple sometime this year, it’s not yet there today. And like Fitbit, Garmin also has cross-phone compatibility – so the ability to use a Garmin watch with iOS or Android (or no phone at all if you really want). Apple is iOS only.

And this entirely ignores the challenge for Samsung with their just launched Galaxy Active Watch 2 priced at $279 (it was $199 last year, a great price point), or the slew of Fossil watches at a range of price points. It also ignores Polar with their recent Ignite series watch, which targets a slightly more sporty individual – but at a $229 price point (without an always-on display).

Still, while I can articulate all of those nuances back and forth – your average Best Buy counter employee or mainstream media review can’t. They’re going to highlight the Apple Watch with GPS & streaming music at $199 (plus the entire Apple app store ecosystem). And competitors equal and above that price point without a hugely significant and unique value prop aren’t even going to be part of that conversation. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here for sure.

With that – thanks for reading, and stay tuned for a full review later this month!

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126 Comments

  1. Dave Cochrane

    Once again, NZ’s two major cell networks have decided not to bother allowing people to have the choice of provider for esim and deny us cellular availability – we are also only getting aluminium, which is less of an issue… but still irritating.

    I’ll be buying, but my lack of cellular choice is definitely a slightly sour note.

  2. Eduardo Cabral

    AW5 not have sleep track?!?
    But the app autosleep will Work on AW5?

    • You can still use 3rd party sleep apps.

      Interestingly, I’ve been on the Beddit 3.5 Sleep Beta for a few months now (it was announced a few months ago), they’re doing some actual improvement work there. I somewhat expected to see something come out of that today, but apparently not.

    • Joe

      It has a battery life of 18 hours, so I assume that you will charge it while you are sleeping 🙂

    • Dave

      I sleep track with my AW4 using Autosleep. I throw it on the charger after my morning run while showering, breakfast, etc., and again in the evening when there is usually an hour or so before bed when I’m reading or watching TV. My battery doesn’t drop below 60% with this strategy, even after an hour of GPS and Apple Music streaming during my run.

  3. Richard Owen

    The Apple devices are great sports watches for people who don’t really do much sport and don’t mind charging them a lot. So, perfect for my daughter (a swim and parkrun per week) but rubbish for my wife (swim-bike-run-repeat). Utterly useless for the boys in house who are on Android.

    However I welcome the price drop on Series 3. Getting fed up with the constant Garmin price rises – well over £500 now for the 945 and Fenix 6 and no cheaper multisport option available. I doubt it will change their pricing but could shake things up at the lower end.

    • Agreed. Apple has a reputation in some circles for being overpriced, and that’s certainly true with some of their hardware, but compared to many of Garmin’s offerings, the Apple Watch is downright cheap. Unfortunately, even as someone who is moderately athletic at best, the Apple Watch just doesn’t meet all of my needs.

    • gingerneil

      The S3 watch may be cheap, but if you need an iPhone to use it then the overall cost of the device/ecosystem is much higher.
      I see the Apple Watch as an optional extra for the iPhone – you cant really consider it alone alongside Garmin etc (although I take the point that many Garmin owners will also have an iphone anyway.. so this argument is somewhat flawed!).
      With regards to the 945 – its not “well over £500”. You can buy one today from CT for £471 with Ray’s discount (yes.. thats still not cheap!)

    • fiatlux

      Fully agree – the AW is great for a little jogging and even performs well for freshwater swimming, where GPS smoothing actually works wonders.

      But the lack of physical buttons (and until the AW5, an always-on display) means that using for rapid intervals or multisport is highly impractical.

      An I share your pain wrt Garmin prices – I would love to upgrade from my good old 920XT but the 945 or Fenix 6 are indeed a bit expensive. The slightly older multisport 735XT or 935 can be found at bargain prices though.

    • Louis

      well.. the 735 is still there.. just not being updated :S

      so they go on sale often. Last time i saw it on sale for about $CAD 350 at MEC (equivalent of REI) when it retails for 400+ usually.

  4. Erick Gappa

    How would you compare the Series 5 to the Fenix 6 pro? I run and cycle, and use courses from AllTrails for hikes. Are apple watches to the point to where they could be viable for all this?

    • Sorta totally different beasts. Apples to Pineapple’s type of differences.

      You could certainly use an Apple Watch for that today, but I think in terms of hike and sport-specific features that are easier to handle in rougher conditions (like driving cold rain when your fingers are nearly frozen and you’re using gloves instead), then the Fenix is a better bet.

      Whereas if you want more of the day to day iOS integration such as text messages and LTE/etc…then Apple leads the way there.

    • Erick Gappa

      Thanks for reply. I thought I was settled on the Fenix 6, but every new Apple watch makes me hope I finally get the best of both worlds.

    • Paul S.

      If you use any sensors for running or cycling, the Apple Watch doesn’t support ANT+.

      My AW5 will be arriving on the 20th. The “always on” screen seems to be a bit of a misnomer from the articles I read today, though. It won’t go blank, but it reduces the refresh rate to 1 Hz and dims the screen. An arm raise is still necessary to turn it fully on. Still, progress.

    • Mike Richie

      @Paul S, I realize your not trashing Apple, since you ordered one 😉 but Always On is not a misnomer. It is still on and visible at 1 Hz, and in fact is probably the best way to manage always on and battery life. They also talked about the the refresh as being variable, so it may use a higher refresh if data is changing, like in workouts.

    • Paul S.

      Yeah, I was wondering if an app on the Watch could order it into full power mode screen mode (standard refresh rate, appropriate brightness) the way apps on the iPhone can keep the screen on. Lower the battery life, but maximum visibility.

    • Mike Richie

      I don’t think there is any API for that (yet, but Apple wouldn’t have released it before announcing the always on display) so, like most things Apple, they probably just figure it out based on how often the display is updated. It’s always been a separate system, since workout apps could always continue to run and update the display when the display turned off; non- workout (or, now streaming music) apps were actually shut down.

    • Ivan P.

      Some people on other sites have commented that if you are using a 3rd party app, then the screen will freeze and have a frosted look with the time overlaid when in “dim mode.” Reportedly, after you lift your arm up, the screen will return to the 3rd party app.

      Hoping this is not the case, as my AW2 was quite slow and waiting for the screen to come to life was always a bummer while running/cycling.

      Planning to walk into the Apple store to pick up AW5.

    • Paul S.

      That sounds annoying. Of course, the only 3rd party app I routinely use is the Overcast app which pops up whenever I’m playing a podcast on my iPhone, so maybe it won’t be so bad. I certainly won’t be using my AW5 for actual activities more appropriate for my Fenix 5+. Ah, well, I’ll find out what’s what in 9 days.

    • Mike Richie

      @Ivan P That would be discouraging, although that may not be the final behavior for workout apps. I don’t think any API behavior was known about the Always On screen before yesterdays announcement. I can’t believe that the Apple Workout app is the only one that would get the ability to update (and that was shown in their video). Where did you get your info from?

    • Ivan P.

      @Mike Richie-

      Totally agree, would be a real bummer if the 3rd party apps froze.

      Source: AppleInsider First Look video, YouTube.com/watch?v=RL31hmosfZl

      If the link above doesn’t work, just search on YouTube for “Apple Watch Series 5 — Hands On!” from AppleInsider. Scroll to about 2:45 seconds.

      -Ivan

    • Mike Richie

      @Ivan P – Thanks for the link. I think he is basing his comment on what was shown at the demo and no indication it was a Workout app, which are treated differently already. It is possible that to use the Always On display you need some additional provisioning in your app or API calls, so maybe we will need to wait for watchOS 6.1 for that behavior to be available. We’ll know soon.

  5. James Strack

    Curious if you think Apple will ever adopt ANT+ on their watches. Have there been any Apple folks showing face at any ANT+ events? It would definitely make them more appealing to the serious athlete.

    • Meredith

      I suspect it would be highly unlikely. ANT+ compatibility has been declining in Android phones as well.

    • Yeah, that ship has sailed (and sunk). There’s no chance of ANT+ on any Apple products. Some solid bad blood there from many years prior. There’s a better chance of Apple ditching iOS and adopting Android than putting ANT+ in there.

    • Mike Richie

      I think more likely (or in addition to) is that almost all sensor devices are dual Ant+/BT now. And BT 5 could allow multi unit broadcast. Even though that is being implemented yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if things didn’t move in that direction. Even Garmin is now supporting BT on their watches.

  6. Jared

    Do the old bands still work?

  7. Interesting to see how few comments this post received versus your recent posts about garmin, polar, and sigma sport watches. Not a lot of interest in Apple watches here… But we can still hope that the $199 Apple Watch 3 price drop will cause Garmin, Polar, and Sigma to lower their prices as well.

    • Robin

      I agree, another forum I follow has a thread on the new iPhones. Not a lot of comment on it… I guess there aren’t the significant changes that used to occur, more marginal improvements (despite how Apple will advertise it).

    • Yeah, I think there’s three reasons for the lower comments:

      1) It’s simply not that big of a shift for AW5. As Robin noted, kinda a shrug at most. The bigger news is the $199 S3 bit.

      2) In general I see lower Day 0 Apple folks here, whereas my sports/fitness reviews tend to do better for it longer term.

      3) In a lot of ways, this post is merely a place-holder for people asking me on Twitter my thoughts. I learned that way back with the original AW. By having a quick post folks can get my thoughts, versus all the e-mails/tweets/FB/Twitter/Geocities messages. 🙂

  8. Neil

    Which has the more accurate HR Sensor, this or the Fenix 6/945?

  9. David

    Compare this to the Huawei Watch GT, which manages a stunning two weeks with always on display and 24 hour heart rate tracking, and approaches a month with the always on display switched off.

    If only they allowed Strava exports of activities.

  10. Zosek

    I sort of stumbled upon the apple event yesterday evening and started watching it. I was there mainly because of the iphone, which i wont be getting, but i also enjoyed the watch presentation. I was really looking forward to switching my VA3 to apple watch for that integration with iphone, but the 2 days battery is a no go for me. I am not a hard user of my watch, i mainly use it in the gym, but from time to time i like to go on hikes and it would be great to know it will last me whole day or two in gps mode. I am kinda disappointed in this aspect.

    Now i am waiting for new suunto (7?) watch. Hopefully they bring structured workouts.

    Cheers for the blog

    • Paul S

      As Ray says above, two different beasts for two different purposes. For example, yesterday my daughter had texted me while I was out for a ride. The texts popped up on my 830, so I knew (sort of, couldn’t pay much attention at the time) what they were about. When I pulled into my driveway I answered her by dictating my reply (and we went back and forth a few times) on my AW3. You can’t do that on a Garmin watch. If you’re hiking for a couple of days, aren’t you already carrying something to recharge your other electronics (battery, solar panel, etc.)? Little batteries that have AW chargers built in exist and are very light.

      Personally I’ve never understood the battery problem. I put my AW on it’s charger every night, whether it needs it or not. (Don’t care about sleep tracking. I tried it with a Withings device for a while. But I’ve been sleeping for a long time and have gotten good at it, and I can tell how it went without an accelerometer telling me.)

    • AdamR

      At the end of a day, my AW3 is usually about 60% charge. If I put it on the charger while I get ready for bed, it is usually 100% in about 30 minutes. If I want, I can wear it overnight. Rinse and repeat.

      OTOH, my Garmin Fenix 3 was constantly running out of batteries because I didn’t have a habit of charging it every day.

      TLDR: Battery life is a non issue for 99% of people.

    • Zosek

      I see. But still, i think structured workouts is something garmin has pretty good figured out, while apple doesnt have that. And since this is what i use the most on my watch (apart from notifications), i dont see myself buying apple at the moment. It is also the reason why i am still on garmin and didnt switch to suunto, even though i prefer suunto’s hardware.

  11. Nikolay

    Can someone please tell me more about the mentioned app “GoSUP”? Is it something new and upcoming, or an existing one?
    I was not able to find anything about it on Google or AppStore 🙁

    • Frank-enstein

      Looks to be basic SUP tracking, similar to native SUP activity tracking in many Garmin wearables.

      Distance, stroke cadence, avg distance per stroke, GPS track

      Wildly different approach versus classic fitness tri watches. Marry a patchwork collection of 3P activity tracking apps vs. having all activity types listed in one place, with custom data screens.

      Every year I find myself on a SUP and realize — oh, I can track this, and see in Connect with all other activities.

    • Sascha

      Hej Nikolay
      I’m the developer of GoSUP! It is a watchos only app and I will release it along with watchos 6! Maybe a few days later due to some problems on submitting the app.. I hope to fulfill your expectations 😉

  12. Dave

    Would be really nice if you could cover the HRV tracking capability of the various fitness watches Ray. Thank

  13. mart

    Why do you think Spotify offline will appear?

    The feature request has been lingering on Spotify forums with millions of comments for years now, no apparent process although watchOS enabled it already last year.

    I cancelled for that very reason.

  14. Nevan King

    The “swooshing” of the GPS got fixed a few minor releases ago. I think that it’s using the accelerometer to detect when you turn sharply. In my experience it only works with a sharp turn and still has difficulty with slower, gradual turns. Here’s an image of a parkrun with a Series 2 (watch only, no iPhone). You can see sharp turns in the middle and at the top. Accuracy on this course was good too, 5.06 km (where before with the rounded corners it was often 4.8 km). This track was recorded on watchOS 5 (latest release), not the newer beta watchOS 6.

    • It’s better in recent firmware versions, but is still there. I did a run a few weeks ago with it, and while it swooshed less, it was definitely still there.

      On your track above, did you run the same route twice? Surprised in that middle portion (of the map) to see it so far apart as you go between the lakes.

    • Nevan King

      Part of the course is run twice. Two loops around the two lakes and the bottom lake part is through fairly thick forest where there is a fair bit of GPS drift. The start and end kilometer are run along the river on the right. The start and end have tall trees and a big wall which probably interferes with GPS too.

  15. Jeff T

    With the new Always On display feature, will Workout apps like iSmoothrun, Stryd, Starva be able to have the metrics display always on when in use? This would be a great feature and would entice me to move back from Garmin to Apple.

  16. Mike Richie

    I am surprised that Apple has done so little with their fitness software on the watch. If they spent a little effort they could really decimate the competition, at least for non endurance athletes. They have done nothing to improve the actual workout interface since the original AW. They could easily add BT sensor integration, more advanced data metrics and display layouts, even just creating an activity for transitions and a way to preset the sport changes would make them an effective multi sport solution. They need an iCloud solution for pure sports statistics and tracks (vs the health stats which are only on the phone). Heck, they could just put the Activity App on iCloud with a web or iPad/MacOS app. Their mapping capabilities with added watch based navigation for running/biking, would equal or surpass any other device makers; the Compass and Always On capabilities are a step in the right direction. One of the easiest things they could do is open up the Workout app, so others could add 3rd party workouts into their list as long as they followed their UI guidelines, rather than having a separate “App”. Things like Running Power, ought to be in Apples wheelhouse.
    Instead of trying to be the best non-endurance fitness device they seem to want to be in the medical device business. Not sure these are incompatible, but I sure wish they would spend some time on their Workout app. They supposedly have a huge department dedicated to it. Consumers/athletes base their fitness watch buying decision, for the most part, on what is provided out of the box by the manufacturer, not on add-on Apps or ConnectIQ although their availability is important. Time for Apple to step it up, then maybe Garmin won’t keep raising their prices. Although I do think Garmin needs to respond to AW3 at $199 (or even more interesting, AW3 with Cellular for $299) buy lowering the price of the Venu/Vivoactive 4 by at least $100.

  17. Lars

    AW isnt an option for none iOS user. Apples market share is around 10% and shrinking. I have an iPhone and Samsung but i hestitate to go any further in to Apples ridicoulus expensive ecosystem. I had AW3 but sold it because its HR and GPS was so bad. Price dont important then. And then AW has a battery that is truly bad.

    Customer that buy a AW3 from a salesperson without knowledge is going to be mostly disappointed i think. If you are invested in Apples ecosystem i think AW5 is a much better value for money.

    • Using smartphone global market share is and always will be a bad way to look at metrics for devices like the Apple Watch. People on budget Android phones in the far reaches of China or India aren’t the target market for Apple, Garmin, or Fitbit.

      If you look at the target market, it floats in the 60% range iOS share. As a good example of the perfect target market, are the stats for here. For August 2019, the mobile OS share is 59.15% iOS, 40.1% Android, and then a handful (0.66%) of Blackberry and Windows phone users followed by like 7 other random things.

      It holds remarkably consistent month after month and year after year, and within Western Europe and North America it remains surprisingly consistent as well from country to country.

      Obviously that’s because this site attracts those that have more expendable income, but that’s the exact same group of people that are the target market here for these devices.

      Alternatively, we can just look at the Apple Watch sales numbers. They dominate and completely crush the competition, and are growing YoY. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to seeing Apple add Android support, and I fully expect that by next September we’ll see that. There’s just too many quiet shifts Apple is making on Apple Watch to make it non-phone dependent. And Apple has done this with other services as well, such as Apple Music on Android.

    • Eli

      iOS browsers includes both iPad and iPhone users, right? Are android users more likely to browse the web on a desktop/laptop/iPad as there are no good Android tablets while ios users are fine browsing on a tablet as its basically the same as a laptop/desktop? Assuming android users are just as likely to browse a site on their android device as an iOS user on their iOS device seems like a bad assumption.

    • Paul S.

      Possibly. But Ray’s site shows completely differently on an iPad (even my iPad mini) and an iPhone. On an iPad it looks like the site you get on a desktop, while the look on an iPhone is completely different. So the browsers are identifying themselves differently, and in principle you could separate them.

      Personally I do very little browsing on my iPad. I actually do more on my iPhone, and when I hit Ray’s site, if it’s not from a Mac it’s from my iPhone. My iPad is used mostly for video consumption and as a Kindle substitute.

    • The above stats were specifically for mobile, of which Google Analytics does not count tablets. That’s a separate category.

      Ultimately, my stats match what I hear from companies in the segment when they talk about their split between iOS/Android, roughly 1/3rd Android, 2/3rd iOS. It continues to be remarkably consistent year after year.

    • Tyler

      Android user here.

      We mostly use Amazon tablets (forked Android OS) for media consumption separate from our phones, but also use Chromebooks, especially now that the kids are of school ages where Chromebooks are used and issued at school (we also have our own).
      Chromebooks completely dominate school touch-screen/convertible category.

      You couldn’t pay me to use an Apple product.
      Pretentious, over-priced, walled garden, high repair and hidden costs.

    • Mike Richie

      You know who complains about Apple products?
      Android users.
      Over 95% of Apple users are happy with their phones, way more than other manufacturers. (And their repair rate is also lower.)

    • Mike Richie

      BTW, I don’t mean to start a flame war. If you like your phone/tablet/chromebook, that’s great! And Apple products are kind of pretentious 😉

  18. Michael

    Hi Ray,

    Do you think the AW5 will be able to broadcast HR data to, say, a Garmin Edge head unit any time in the near future? And, conversely, do you think power info from, say, Garmin Vector pedals will be able to be read by and displayed on the AW5 in the near future?

    Thanks for everything you do.

    • It can’t today, due to lack of broadcasting BT heart rate (recent Garmin devices can connect to both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors). There’s some apps that can pass through HR to their own other apps, such as Zwift’s companion app. But I’m not aware of anything that re-broadcasts it via BT smart openly.

      Inversely, there’s only one app I’m aware of that can connect to power meters on an Apple Watch, and it’s part of a monthly training log platform subscription service, super expensive.

    • not sure if you are referring to 2PEAK.com but in any case our Apple Watch app (Train2PEAK) does connect to power meters and is free to use, meaning you can use the AW app (connected to power meters) without having to subscribe to a training plan. you can also create very detailed structured workouts on the iPhone app and send them to your AW (or your Garmin) where you get audio (and of course visual) guidance, including siri commands for start/pause with gloves or wet fingers etc.
      again, free to use.

    • Ahh, sweat, I thought when I tried it last fall it had required a subscription beyond the free trial?

      Noted, will add it to my list to include in the review. Does it export out a .FIT file when all is said and done, and will that include HR/cadence data too?

      Thanks!

    • the Train2PEAK Apple Watch app is for you to keep also after the expired trial.

      thank you! we export in json for our own needs (its easier to read the data) but HealthFit exports it to .fit
      the data includes HR, apple estimated Kcal and elevation. cadence will be added soon.
      data fields can be configured on the fly and include rolling km/mile speed, pace, HR or power

    • Thanks.

      And sorry, since I didn’t bring home an Apple Watch tonight, does that export via HealthFit include power then? Just trying to understand how someone can get power files out (to export to wherever) that includes all the basics:

      A) GPS positional data
      B) Power
      C) Cadence
      D) HR (optical or chest strap)
      E) Elevation

      Note: I think people would be more than willing to pay for that (think = know) as a one-time app fee, just not another recurring monthly fee.

    • good question. i had to go look… and it appears that HealthFit exports A, C, D (we support pairing BT chest straps ) and E.
      so i need to talk to Stéphane and find out what it would take to add power support on his side or then see if we can justify converting to .fit on our side.

      thanks for the encouragement, the thing is we are in the business of providing precise individual training plans that fit people’s life’s and then adapt.
      the app is “just” a conduit to it.

    • Cool, I’ll let you and Stéphane hash it out.

      As for the app being a conduit – yup, totally understand. I think there’s an opportunity for someone to offer a standalone app at perhaps a bit of premium (like $9.99 or something) and probably make good money from it, that does the A-E I listed above. Nothing fancy, just simple recording and spitting it out to .FIT that services can leverage.

    • got it. we’ll take a hard look at it
      is the “spitting it out” part good enough if it’s exported by email or would it need to hit the API’s of the all usual suspects?

    • Spitting out a .FIT file via e-mail is totally fine by me, though I expect some folks would want integration to core platform services (Strava/TP/etc..). I’d guess that’s where HealthFit doing it’s thing is so solid.

    • Jim Robertson

      I’ve been told previously (not in technical terms) that one reason the Apple Watch can’t “talk” to other devices is because it lives as a captive client of the iPhone. Of course, another is that it doesn’t “speak” ANT+.

      However, that’s no longer the case. The watch is no longer a client of the phone for making/receiving phone calls (although not in the Netherlands, apparently). It’s also not a dedicated client of the iPhone in the Apple ecosystem, because it can be used to unlock the screen of ANY macOS computer that’s logged in to the same AppleID.

      So, one issue is whether another hardware refresh would be necessary for the Apple watch to transmit heart rate to Garmin devices over BT (and, of course, whether Garmin would welcome or try to block that).

      I’m about to spring for my own Apple Watch Series 5, but wish that it could replace my other HRM (although the Scosche arm strap is a welcome replacement for the chest straps I’ve always hated).

      And, “one more thing” (to quote Steve Jobs, who’s no longer around even in spirit, it seems). Steve obsessed with user interface perfection, to the point that he woke up one morning a few weeks before the first iPhone release, realized some little thing wasn’t quite right, so forced manufacturing to scrap the first million or so that had already been manufactured. He obsessed equally over his Gulfstream jet (wouldn’t accept it because it had an “open” AND a “close” button between two compartments, and he pointed out that if the door was open, you wouldn’t NEED an “open” button, and if the door was closed, there’d be no need for a “close” button, so he made them change that tiny interface element (I have no idea whether that attracted attention from the FAA). Similarly, when the main building was erected at Pixar, Steve ordered 150% of the wood they’d need so that he personally could select which panels to mate to its neighbors. So, imagine my surprise, when I selected the “Milanese Loop” band to mate with my aluminum case Series 5 watch to read, at the end of the web interface for ordering, in small point size type “some Apple Watch Bands contain magnets, which could possibly interfere with the operation of the compass on Apple Watch Series 5.”

      If Buddhist Steve Jobs isn’t reincarnated as an underpaid Chinese laborer on an iPhone assembly line (a great cartoon, which you’ve probably seen), he’s probably rolling over in his grave that the company he founded would permit such a gross loss of obsession with perfection.

    • Paul S.

      It’s still a mistake to think of the Apple Watch as a wrist iPhone. I have a 3LTE, and my 5LTE arrives Friday. The Watch always prefers using the iPhone to its own capabilities. If the iPhone is nearby, than calls, etc., are made through the phone, not independently. Similarly, I hear GPS works that way as well (the watch can do it but won’t if the phone is available). It’s more independent of the iPhone than the series 0 I used to use, but it’s not cut loose yet. Rumors are that it will be independent in the future, with the WatchOS app store being a big part of the independence drive.

      As to why it can’t transmit heart rate, that’s entirely on Apple. It transmits to the iPhone, after all (just look in the iPhone Health app). It’s just not doing it in a way that 3rd party devices can use. It has Bluetooth, so it’s just a matter of software.

    • done! you can now get your .fit emailed to you and import it wherever you want. direct upload to strava will follow soon and depending on demand and relative API we’ll add other destinations…
      so far still all for free, but we are thinking of changing that…. 😉
      BTW, next app version will have meticulous management ans storage of sensor data (such as HR and GPS) from the first second on.

  19. Frank-enstein

    Every year I expect Apple will allow connection to at least <> cycling sensors. Speed, cadence, power meter.

    How hard would that be, technologically speaking? I s’pose just shows Apple aren’t focused on athletes above the couch to 5K crowd.

    • Dr_LHA

      As a AW4 owner, I tend to agree. Apple need to find an employee who actually does the sport, and ask them what they’d do to improve in the fitness app. Cycling for example, not only doesn’t support any sensors (other than HR), but also doesn’t do any sort of stop detection (outside of the usual “are you still working out” thing that comes up a few minutes after you obviously are stopped). In addition I’ve found that cycling distance almost never matches Strava or what my ELEMNT records.

      My wife complains bitterly about how useless the AW is for Crossfit as well. Really the AW is very basic in this regard. I also am somewhat annoyed by the fact that some AW apps like Strava are little more than remote controls for the iPhone app, which doesn’t work if you don’t bring your phone with you, despite the fact that AW is capable of recording GPS tracks without a phone present.

    • Thomas Gunleiksrud

      I actually went from Fenix 5x to AW because Fenix 5x was useless for me in Crossfit. Wristbased HR with the AW4 is just day and night better than the 5X. I get accurate HR readings and workout data with AW4.

      If Fenix 6 had equal quality wrist rate HR then I would switch back in a flash.

    • Eli

      A very heavy watch like the 5x will have worse hr then any of the lighter watches

    • Joey

      I agree on the optical heart rate. I’ve owned all series of apple watches (well, not the 5 yet!), and the Series 4 made a Massive improvement to optical heart rate readings. It actually fared better than my Garmins (935 at that time) for CrossFit workouts. The always-on display is a huge add, IMO. Garmins are still the king for running and cycling though.

  20. Jonathan

    The lack of significant updates to the workouts app, and lack of structured workouts, is what’s causing me to take a much deeper look into Garmin.

    But I did come up with a hack/ workaround to get structured workouts from TP over to intervals pro on the watch (using the Shortcuts App).

    • Richard

      Would you care to share your hack/workaround, if able to do so? I love my AW in general, but the lack of structured workouts/sending them to the watch is something I dearly miss from my earlier Garmins!
      Thanks!

    • Sims

      If you have a Stryd footpod, the Stryd app can automatically fetch structured workouts from TrainingPeaks to Apple Watch. Works well for me. As an added bonus, VO2Max is calculated in Apple Health even for treadmill runs with this setup.

    • Richard

      Good to know! I do not own a Stryd footpod, so that’s a fairly expensive solution – although I’ve looked at Stryd a bit further and darn it if you don’t have me seriously considering buying one!! 🙂

  21. Gary F

    Where in the heck is the GoSUP app????

  22. Mike S.

    “…flying to California was not in my list of viable events.”

    Would you have really made the trip to cover the presentation in person if you were available? I consider AW a competitor to Fitbit but not really to the higher end watches most of us use.

    • Yeah, I usually combine things together with other companies, so I’d do something like go to Apple, X, Y, and Z – all in the Bay Area. Additionally, for Apple Watch specifically, it’d do well enough on YouTube to be worthwhile (though this year the lack of new features might have made that more difficult than normal).

      While I agree with you that the AW isn’t considered a true competitor to a higher end endurance watch, what I’ve seen/learned over the years is there’s still a ton of interest there – especially for folks trying to figure out if they can make the jump.

  23. Alberto

    The BestBuy seller is going to offer even Android compatibility to sell the watch

  24. Nic Zuraw

    Still an ugly watch reminiscent of the Casio Calculator watch – obviously style doesn’t really come into it?

  25. Itai

    The always on is really nice, but after living with the AW4 Cellular for a year I bought the Fenix 6 Pro Solar and don’t look back. I used to go everywhere with a charger becuase after 2 hours of training the battery just drained. The Fenix 6 is just a whole different ball game. It’s a true professional hardwere that doesn’t let you down, has phisical buttons, loads of information and the battery Oh the Battery! Although I miss a the cellular connectivity (when I go for a long wood run I strap both watches on but don’t tell anyone 😉

    • Diane

      @itai, on long walks I have my s3 cellular on my left wrist and my polar on my right!
      As a daily driver the AW is comfy (I have tiny wrists) and useful for the likes of Apple Pay, but like you it dies running strava over a few hours.

  26. Howie

    FR945 & Fx6 have more advanced sleep tracking.
    AW5 has HRV, and now RR, tracking via HRV4Training app.

    I want both features. Ray, what are the options for having HRV tracking on Garmin and/or adv. sleep tracking with 🍎⌚️?

    • There’s a few good sleep apps I cover in my Apple Watch 4 review.

      As for HRV/RR on the Garmin, technically speaking CIQ apps have access to that data these days, so they could start recording it in non-workout mode (there are no optical HR sensors that accurately record HRV/RR data in intense workout modes). I don’t know why Garmin doesn’t write it to Health.

    • Chuck

      Very few apps write HRV to Apple Health as Apple is the loan horse who calculates HRV using SDNN, while the rest of the world uses rMSSD.

  27. Tyler

    Do you think Garmin will quickly adjust the pricing of any of their just announced watches, to try to counter?
    Maybe the Venu and Vivoactive 4?

    • Hard to say. I suspect they might watch things a little bit. My guess is the first cuts we’d see would be around the Black Friday timeframe and sales.

      But even that is a bit trickier now – because the Venu/Vivo products are uniquely *NOT* on MAP in the US. That’s unheard of for Garmin products, and means retailers can technically price them however they’d like.

    • Tyler

      Crazy.

      Just an oversight by Garmin, or purposeful strategy, knowing that their offerings are becoming so broad, and that other watches compete more with those lines?

  28. Paul

    Hi Ray,
    When you get your unit and do testing, is it possible to see if the eSIM can roam for calls and data? The series 4 can’t roam, you have to connect to your phone to get services outside of your home country.
    Thanks

    • Unfortunately here in the Netherlands they don’t offer any cellular versions at all, so I’m stuck with the non-cell variants.

    • Jim Robertson

      Paul, I’ve not seen a direct answer as yet, but what I’ve read about the eSIM is the it’s localized for the market where the watch is sold, except that the Series 5 watch with Cellular can make emergency services calls to the local emergency services network in more than 100 countries, no matter where it was sold. The explanation I’ve read says something about a limited number of transmission bands available, but I’m not sure that squares with the watch’s ability to make ermergency calls essentially anywhere.

  29. Laramie

    Sorry if this has already been asked and answered, but can you turn the screen off on the AW5 so it still turns on with a wrist turn (like AW3) to get better battery life? If so, how much more battery life? Just curious…

    • My understanding from reading a few bits from folks that were there is that you can cusp your hand over it and it’ll shut off the display. The Verge talks about this specifically in today’s post.

  30. Johan Hellström

    Any info about the GoSUP app?
    Apple watch series 3 user considering an upgrade to get cellular, always on display, ecg etc.

  31. Jenni T

    Any thoughts on why apple is dropping the series 4 and keeping the 3. I have a Versa and I’m considering switching to the 3 since the 5 is out of my price range (which is why I went with the versa a year and a half ago). Is the 3 still worth it?

    • Paul S.

      Depends on what you want it for. I’m wearing a 3LTE at the moment, and my 5LTE is coming Friday. The 3 doesn’t have the always on screen, it doesn’t have the 3-point ECG, it doesn’t have fall detection. But it’s a superb smart watch (provided you have an iPhone). I never use it for any fitness purposes, though, since I have much better devices for that. (Can’t keep it from measuring heart rate or “steps”, can keep it from bothering me about them.)

    • my understanding is that series5 is basically a series4 with always on screen and more material choices.
      so series4 has no real reason for remaining in the line as it did cost the same as S5 does now.
      to answer your question: S3 is worth more than it was so far, as it price dropped quite a bit.
      it should increase the market potential quite a bit and you could exemplify this perfectly if you end up buying one…

  32. I was thinking of getting the AW for the ECG and A Fib tracking, but I don’t think the AW3 has this does it? So thhe options are either get an onsale 4 or a 5

    • Correct, only S4 and S5. And I suspect we won’t see much in the way of S4 sales for long (meaning, stock will disappear quickly).

      It’s a tricky feature in that for many people it’s a one-time use thing, whereas for certain folks it’s a always use thing. I suppose it’s not terribly different than an airbag in the one-time use aspect, but is of course very different in that you can do a one-time test with someone elses watch, versus you can’t just borrow someone else’s airbags. As always I suppose, car analogies suck.

  33. Jan

    First of all welcome to The Netherlands, had no idea you moved here. I have watched many of your reviews (thank you for all that work).

    While watching the Apple Keynote last week I saw them mention the GoSUP app for the Apple Watch which sounded great as I do stand up paddle here in Haarlem weekly. BUT I just cannot find that app anywhere. Does anyone have a tip how to look for it or where to find it?

    • Paul S.

      This is just a guess, but I’d wait until Thursday, when iOS 13 and WatchOS 6 come out, and look again, especially in the new Watch app store. There are several SUP apps currently in the iOS App Store, but none of them say they have a Watch component. I’m guessing this is something new, and since Apple highlighted it, it may well be in the new Watch app store.

    • Sascha

      Hej Jan
      I’m the developer of GoSUP! It is a watchos only app and I will release it along with watchos 6! Maybe a few days later due to some problems on submitting the app.. I hope to fulfill your expectations 😉

    • Jan

      Thank you for letting us know. Would you be so kind and let me know here when you publish it so I can go look for it? Look very nice in the Keynote presentation. All the best.

  34. Rob

    Been on and off interested in the AW for a while and seriously tempted to just give it a go this time and scratch the itch, however having read the AW4 review on here I’m wondering if the 30ish seconds delay whilst gps and hr lock is achieved after starting an activity has been started is still an issue/thing or whether that’s been addressed in WatchOS updates.
    If it’s still a thing, does it only happen with the native activity ‘apps’ or does it affect apps such as Nike Running Club/Strava/Runkeeper etc?

    • it is still a thing in watchOS5 (current) and also, as far as can be seen, on watchOS6 beta (public v. being released end of the week)
      other apps are affected by this as well as they tap into the same data source provided by apple. we are working on a hack that should allow our app (Train2PEAK) to work around it and show data from the first second on.

    • Rob

      Interesting and thanks for the reply.

      I’m reality then how much of an issue is it really? Subjective I’m sure.

      Any reason to not just start the training and not move for 30secs or so and just accept beyond a race scenario that that’s just what it is.

      Not sure it would ultimately bother me that much in use but trying to get an idea of opinion from long term users.

    • I think it’s far more an issue for HR than GPS. GPS lock is relatively quick, but I often see HR lock at well into the first minute or so. Again, starting the activity makes it worse (meaning, going somewhere), but at the same time, nobody wants to randomly wait a minute or two and have all their averages skewed.

    • Mark

      I use the WorkOutDoors app on my Apple Watch 4 for kayaking, hiking, cycling and running. I get instant GPS lock (or within seconds) and heart rate. It pulls all the data directly from the watch, so I’m not sure why there are reports of a 30-second delay. I’ve had the watch for a year and I’ve just not seen the problem.

    • Dirk R.

      Same with Stryd and iSmoothRun. GPS lock and heart rate within a few seconds. I guess the 30 secs and more is a problem of the original training app on the iPhone.

  35. J

    Hi,

    Since the AW3 is now cheaper it would be interesting to see if the HR and GPS data gathering improvement between the Series 3 and 4 were mostly due to hardware or software updates. Would you consider quickly testing the AW 3 with watchOS 6?

    Thanks!

  36. Hey Folks – I just published a first look video after my initial run with it, covering GPS accuracy and HR accuracy. Dig in here: link to youtube.com

    • Blair

      Good stuff, as always, Ray. Quick question: do you think what your initial test of the HR accuracy suggests would affect resting HR and HRV measuring? Trends seem more important with those metrics than any individual data point….. Yes, I may be trying to talk myself into something.