The Apple Watch Series 5 is nothing special, but it still deserves all the attention in the world

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

There's been a lot of talk about the iPhone 11 lineup and how the Pro models stand out from the "regular" version without making people on tighter budgets feel embarrassed that they need to "settle" for a non-Pro handset, and at least based on early assessments of the family's popularity, it sure looks like Apple managed to squeeze the most out of a largely iterative hardware upgrade.

But more than a month and a half in, it feels like the Apple Watch Series 5 is not getting the attention it deserves. Unveiled alongside the three new iPhones, the latest edition of the world's top-selling wearable device kind of flew under the radar when it started shipping to early adopters over a month ago, and despite earning pretty much the same rave reviews as its 2018 predecessor, the Series 5 doesn't appear to have elicited similar excitement in one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tech industry.

While it's obviously too soon to know if this apparent lack of excitement will translate into shrinking sales numbers during the always important holiday season, it might be worth highlighting why Apple made the right call in playing things safe this year and why you can't find a better smartwatch... to use alongside an iPhone.

No real pressure from the competition, no reason to take big risks

Just like in the handset market all those years ago, it took Apple a little while to find its footing and focus in the fledgling wearable industry. As such, the first couple of Apple Watch generations were far from perfect. A third edition followed that also got a few things wrong but at the same time implemented a game-changing cellular feature better than all other smartwatches that previously dared to go there.

Then the Apple Watch Series 4 blew us all away with its life-saving skills, making the competition scramble for a response that has yet to come. While more and more devices with built-in ECG monitors and fall detection functionality are announced, their actual rollouts in major Western markets are either delayed or nonexistent. No wonder Apple is taking its time preparing a feature that comes standard on many other smartwatches.

Make no mistake, sleep tracking is coming... eventually, but adding that the same year always-on display functionality was introduced could have been greatly detrimental to the battery life and overall user experience. Instead of rushing half-baked technologies to the market, Apple's comfortable lead allows the company to refine everything behind closed doors. That was most likely the case for LTE support and ECG monitoring, which probably could have been implemented a year earlier but their execution would have undoubtedly been deeply flawed.

Ironically, the fact Google still doesn't know exactly what it wants to do in this space (if anything) and Samsung's way too many experiments over the years have helped the world's most popular smartwatch reach a very mature stage of development relatively early after its decidedly hesitant debut.

The design doesn't matter (yet)

While brands like Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Montblanc, or Tag Heuer seem to think buying a smartwatch comes down to making a fashion statement, Apple knows full well functionality beats style any day of the week as far as the masses are concerned. So, no, the Apple Watch Series 5 is definitely not the handsomest or prettiest smartwatch in the world, but its straightforward and familiar design still works. Not to mention it's probably far easier to manufacture in large numbers than most of its circular rivals.

Will Apple ever give up the square and embrace the circle to answer the pleas of fashionistas everywhere? Perhaps, but only if it absolutely has to, pressured by the competition or in lack 
of better ideas for under-the-hood innovation. Until that happens (if it ever does happen), you should probably be happy the company has had bigger fish to fry so far, focusing on saving and improving lives rather than superficial changes you don't really need. 

Besides, the design so many people love to hate has become such a staple of the thriving industry that tech giants like Xiaomi are starting to shamelessly copy it. That has to mean it's really not as bad as some hardcore Android fans insist it is, right?

Should you buy it or wait for the Apple Watch Series 6?

That, my friends, is the million-dollar question and the honest answer is... I have absolutely no idea what anyone else but me should do. What you definitely shouldn't do, though, is ignore or chastise the Apple Watch Series 5 because it's not "special" or "original" enough. Since it's slightly better than its forerunners, with an always-on screen that surprisingly does not impact battery life in a big way, as well as a compass and a few other small tweaks, it's without a doubt the best smartwatch money can buy this holiday season. And if that's not special, I really don't know what is.

As for the Series 6, no one knows what it could bring to the table. Sleep tracking might be in the cards or Apple might do the unthinkable and release a perfectly circular smartwatch with both Android and iOS support in 2020. 

But it's generally not wise to chase some distant pipe dream when a product as well-balanced, mature, and polished as the Series 5 is sitting right in front of you. And if it's not completely flawless or it doesn't quite look as the smartwatch of your dreams, you may want to blame Google and Samsung for not challenging Apple to speed up its pace of innovation.



1. Cat97

Posts: 1955; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

The Watch Series 6 will probably have one of: sleep monitoring or better battery life. The Series 7 will have the other. Series 8 will probably be round. Battery life and sleep monitoring are actually the things people care and use the most. Round watches make you not look like a dork. You can get these crucial features today, in Samsung offerings, or, even better, in Garmin offerings (which also offer continuous oxygen saturation readings helping diagnose sleep disorders - feature that will probably be found in Apple Watch Series 9). Apple Watch sells solely because iPhone owners have no other real alternative, are like a cult of enslaved worshippers. And Apple knows it.

2. jmill75

Posts: 125; Member since: Jul 22, 2009

As someone who has wore the Galaxy watches for a few years now I disagee. Circle faces are fine, but that works well for a clock (clocks are round :) ) but for data and text Apple I think has the better form factor. I highly doubt they ever change to a chance.

3. drunkenjay

Posts: 1698; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

yup. i had the galaxy watch but stopped using it after a week and i started to miss my apple watch. apples iteration is just way better and you get more content on the wrist since its a square compared to a circle. the only thing the samsung watch did better was the battery life.

10. bucknassty

Posts: 1363; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

first person i've seen admit samsung watch had better battery life... when comparing reviewers always downplay it to be same as apple watch, but stand alone review gives it better battery life .... crazy

12. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1337; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

They have yet to change iOS so I highly doubt they will change the watch anytime in the next 5 years. Higher chance that they just make available a round watch in addition to the square.

14. Deadeye

Posts: 128; Member since: Jul 26, 2019

Like you′re browsing photos on your watch. The circular form factor is much more pleasing to the eye. You can see all your data very well, no need for fugly rectangular design.

16. tedkord

Posts: 17431; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Exactly. There's zero advantage to the rectangle forum factor, and if you remember back to the first Samsung watch, people were claiming that Apple would show them how it was done and come out with a circular watch.

4. midan

Posts: 3087; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

"Apple Watch sells solely because iPhone owners have no other real alternative," Maybe someone should make better ones? I mean if you look other smartwatch sales it doesn't look like others want them either? Propably even Android users would want Apple watch.

5. southernzombie

Posts: 358; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

i thing he meant no real alternative from a compatibility standpoint. But as an android user i will say no I don't want an apple watch. if i were to get a smartwatch it would either be a Fossil or Samsung

7. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2471; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

“Battery life and sleep monitoring are actually things people care and use the most.” Battery life I will 100% agree. People ideally would want a watch that can last a week without needing to be charged if it were possible. However, sleep tracking is a feature people care about and use the most? Eh, I have even talked with people who have Fitbits that have sleep tracking that say they just like to take them off at night. I just doubt that sleep tracking is one of those “make it or break it” features that people are craving for. I have no doubt Apple will introduce the feature at some point, but I’m just saying I don’t think it’s as important as you make it seem. Also, I know people who have iPhones that have picked up a Garmin. The problem is as others have pointed out: compatibility. I think Fossil or Garmin finally introduced a smart watch that can answer a phone call from an iPhone for the first time.

9. Saioofi

Posts: 346; Member since: May 23, 2014

Enslaved worshippers? So all those people whose lives were saved thanks to the Apple Watch are basically Apple sheep? lol typical Apple hater

6. darkkjedii

Posts: 31442; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I skipped the Series 5, kept my 4, and bought the Active 2 by Samsung. The Active 2 is a great Watch, but lacks a couple key features for me. I feel the Apple Watch is better at this point, mostly due to it being more refined, and having fall detection, and ECG. The Active doesn’t allow you to use raise to wake during a workout, with do not disturb turned on, and won’t alert you of a high or low heart rate, unless you use continuous monitoring. Those two thing bring down the user experience. I prefer the Series 4/5 at this point.

11. LordDavon

Posts: 162; Member since: Sep 19, 2011

I thought the Active 2 had ECG, but it just wasn't being activated until 2020. Anyway, I traded in the Note 9 and got an 11 Pro Max, so I've been looking at the Series 5. It is good to know the Active 2 works with the iPhone, since I really hate the look of the Apple Watch. Does the Active 2 have an LTE version that allows you to receive calls without the phone?

13. darkkjedii

Posts: 31442; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Yep, it does. I should’ve mentioned it was waiting for FDA approval. The Active 2 does have an LTE variant, in stainless steel.

8. Vancetastic

Posts: 1664; Member since: May 17, 2017

It still only works with an iPhone. Too bad.
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