Apple muscled its way back onto the top step of the smartwatch podium with the Watch Series 4 in 2018. The wearable featured an updated design, larger display, fall detection and the ability to take an ECG. The latter made Apple’s intentions for the Watch clear - while it is a smart and convenient way to check your phone notifications and even take calls, the wearable’s focus is on health and fitness.
It took Apple several months to get its ECG feature certified in the UK and Europe, with it only being enabled in March - a full six months after the Watch Series 4 went on sale. But at least this means the Series 5 should have ECG (and potentially more new health features) from day one.
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We expect a focus on health and fitness to continue for the Apple Watch Series 5, which is due to launch alongside a range of new iPhones at one of Apple’s big media events in September.
Apple Watch Series 5: Launch and release date
Although Apple is yet to say when it will launch the new Watch Series 5 - or indeed that such a device exists - we can take a pretty good guess. Apple announced the last Watch at its iPhone launch event in September 2018. Before that, the Watch Series 3 arrived at the iPhone event in September 2017.
So guess what? It’s highly likely that the Watch Series 5 will get its public debut at an Apple event this September, alongside the new iPhone, which could be called iPhone 11.
The Watch Series 4 was announced on 12 September and went on sale on the 21st, so we can expect to see a similar timeline for the Watch Series 5.
Apple Watch Series 5: Price
We expect the price to remain the same as it is for the Watch Series 4. This means a starting point of £399 for the smaller 40mm model with a rubber sports strap and Wi-Fi only (no 4G). This will likely increase to £429 for the larger 44mm version, while adding 4G connectivity will bump the price up by £100.
If Kuo’s prediction of a new, high-end ceramic model is correct, then you can expect to see this watch come with a four-figure price tag.
Apple Watch Series 5: Design and hardware
Apple shook up the Watch’s design last year by making both models slightly larger, to accommodate bigger displays. Given that, the first size change in the Watch’s three-year life, we are not expecting to see a size change for the Watch 5.
This also means much in the way of an aesthetic change is unlikely, since the device’s small size means there are few variables for Apple to play with. The company will also want to ensure the new model continues to work with older straps and accessories, further reducing our expectations for a design change. The Watch Series 5 might be a touch thinner and lighter, as is the general trend for consumer tech, but we suspect the biggest changes will happen on the inside.
It was reported in early April that Japan Display will be manufacturing the OLED panels for the next Apple Watch. It isn’t yet known if the size, resolution or quality of the new displays will differ from the current models, or if Japan Display’s screens will replace or contribute towards those already produced for Apple by LG Display.
Finally, a research note issued in February by the often-accurate analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the Watch Series 5 will feature a “new ceramic casing design”. This is an interesting statement, given how Apple dropped its ceramic Watch Edition when launching the fourth-generation model in 2018, presumably due to poor sales of the high-price wearable.
Either Apple is trying again with a premium Watch for Series 5, or Kuo’s note refers to the ceramic already used on the rear of the regular Watch.
Apple Watch Series 5: Software
Apple tends to show off its new Watch software, known as watchOS, at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), which this year kicks off on 3 June. This is where we can also expect to get a peak at new operating systems for the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac, too.
After this, the software, expected to be called watchOS 6, will roll out to customers when the Watch Series 5 goes on sale. We don’t know much about what watchOS 6 will offer for now, but given watchOS 5 included major new features like fall detection and the ECG function, 2019 might be a quieter year on this front.
Having said that, very high on our wish list is the option for an always-on display - that is, a way for the Watch to always tell the time, instead of spending most of its day with the screen off. We understand that not offering this option saves battery life, but other smartwatches manage to show the time all day without running out of power before bed. We’d like there to at least be an option; that way, less intensive Apple Watch users can opt to have the time on all day.
As for older models getting the upgrade to watchOS 6, we reckon Series 3 and Series 4 will be safe. The Series 5 will come with watchOS 6 pre-installed, while the future is less certain for the older Series 2. The Series 1 and original Apple Watch, with their older, less powerful processors, will not get updated to watchOS 6. Indeed, the original Watch didn’t get watchOS 5 either.
Apple Watch Series 5: Health and fitness
What Apple Watch owners have wanted for some time is sleep tracking, which is currently not available unless you download a third-party app. Apple is certainly interested in sleep tracking - it purchased Beddit, manufacturer of a sleep tracker designed to slip under your bed sheets, in 2018.
It will therefore be interesting to see if Apple brings sleep tracking to the Watch Series 5 - something the device is clearly capable of, given how many third-party apps off it - or stick with the dedicated Beddit tracker instead.
Enhanced fitness tracking is also expected, and we’d like to see a way to compete against more than one person at a time. That way, a family or group of friends could all compete against each other to see who can be the most active each week.
Sticking with fitness, we’d like to see more granular support of gym exercise. Google Fit on Android Wear smartwatches can identify specific exercises and movements when weight-lifting, automatically counting your reps and sets; we’d like to see the Apple Watch do this too.