Apple Watch Series 4 review (early verdict): the update you've been waiting for

The biggest update since it was first launched, it's looking like the Apple Watch is a must for those looking to upgrade

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The Apple Watch Series 4 was unveiled last night on stage at the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple's campus in Cupertino.

It's the biggest update to the Apple Watch since it was first released in 2015, and was probably the most exciting launch of the night (sorry, iPhone XS).

T3's sister site TechRadar has spent some quality time with the new smartwatch, getting to grips with the new display and watchOS 5 features. Here are their initial thoughts on the new Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Series 4 review: design and screen

Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch's design hasn't changed much over the years, and the Apple Watch Series 3’s design is almost identical to the very first model, which launched all the way back in 2015. 

This is partly due to the fact traditional watches are seen as items you wear for years, or even past down generations. Apple wanted to show the Watch wasn't just a piece of technology which will be obsolete within a year.

For the Series 4, though, Apple has shaken things… up a bit.

The biggest change is the screens, which have grown by over 30-percent, now reaching to the edges of the watch face with beautifully rounded corners.

TechRadar says, "Apple has used this to good effect, allowing more complications on the watch faces so you can see more information at a glance".

They do point out that the Apple Watch still doesn’t have an ‘always-on’ display option, meaning you'll still need to raise your wrist to wake the device.

Despite the larger screen size, the physical dimensions of the watch have barely changed (the Series 4 is compatible with all of the existing straps and bands). Apple achieved this by srinking the space around the screen.

Apple Watch Series 4

Just like before there are two sizes, but models are now called 40mm and 44mm, and a range of colours, new straps, and faces to choose from.

The rear is now made from black ceramic and sapphire. It not only looks good, it also allow for more stable Bluetooth and 4G connections.

The crown has also changed slightly, with a subtle red ring rather than a colour block circle to denote the watch's cellular capabilities.

The crown now also has haptic feedback, clicking as you spin it. TechRadar says it "gives a really lovely feel as you’re using it," making the Apple Watch Series 4 seem "like a mechanical device."

There are three different aluminium finishes to choose from, Space Grey, Silver and Gold. 

You also have the option of a stainless steel version with polished, gold or black finishes.

There are no gold or ceramic models this year – the stunning Hermés edition now sits at the top of the range.

Apple Watch Series 4 review: features and fitness

Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch can do everything you'd expect a smartwatch to do, from receiving notifications and calls right on your wrist, to fitness tracking.

As we expected, the Apple Watch Series 4 has a big focus on fitness, and is able to offer even more workouts than before, such as yoga, and hiking.

Electrodes in the heart-rate sensor and digital crown turns the Apple Watch into an (FDA approved) ECG, sending an electronic pulse through your body, allowing you to create a detailed picture of your heart rhythm, which can then be shared with your doctor.

TechRadar hasn't been able to test this yet, as the "feature isn’t coming to the US for a month or two, and the rest of the world later".

There's also a new accelerometer and gyroscope, which is used to detect when you fall. If you have fallen, and not moved for over a minute, it'll ring the emergency services automatically.

Away from fitness, watchOS 5 also includes a new walkie-talkie mode, where you can chat with another Apple Watch user by tapping on the screen – the future really is here, ladies and gentlemen.

The watch will also use Siri to keep track of your schedule, acting as a digital assistant on your arm, briefing you about all of your events and reminders for the day.

You'll also be able to use Siri to send messages, set reminders and begin alarms all using your voice.

The speaker inside the watch is 50% louder than the last generation, and Apple has moved the microphone, claiming it'll make phone calls clearer.

Apple Watch Series 4 review: battery

Apple Watch Series 4

Those hoping for a battery life to match the Samsung Galaxy Watch's 7-days will be a bit disappointed. Apple claims the Series 4 has a battery life of 18 hours, or "all-day", which is the same as the previous generation.

Of course, the Series 4 now has a larger, more demanding screen to power, as well as more powerful fitness sensors. 

Apple was able to maintain the same battery life thanks to the presence of the new S4 chipset, which is more energy efficient than the previous version.

TechRadar notes: "you can now go for 6 hours on the GPS, which is going to make it applicable to more marathon runners."

Apple Watch Series 4 review: early verdict

If you've been waiting to upgrade your aging Apple Watch, now is the time. The Apple Watch Series 4's new screen alone makes it a significant upgrade over previous versions, and other updates, such as the health, fitness and social features are the icing on the cake.

It's early doors, but it looks like Apple has done enough to retain its crown as the best smartwatch maker.

Overall, TechRadar believes the biggest and most important updates is to the display, it's "going to entice more users by bringing more information from the wrist."

TechRadar also thinks "it’s good that Apple’s managed to retain the form factor while making the screen bigger, and the mix of the fitness and more medically-aimed features will broaden the attraction of owning an Apple Watch."

Check out TechRadar's comprehensive hands-on review.

T3 will shortly be reviewing the Apple Watch in full, so be sure to check back in soon for our official verdict.

Don't want to wait? You'll be able to pre-order it on Friday, 14th September, and will be available to purchase in stores the following Friday, 21st September.

The Apple Watch Series 4 will start at £399 for the Bluetooth-only model, and £499 for the Cellular model.