Apple Watch Series 4 can help keep tickers ticking

Along with its refreshed iPhones, Apple debuted its latest Apple Watch today. The Apple Watch Series 4 introduces larger displays in new 40-mm and 44-mm models, a faster system-in-package for more responsive wrist computing, a case that's both thinner and better-suited to letting cellular transmissions and other radio waves through, and a sophisticated heartbeat-sensor array that can keep an eagle eye on just how well your ticker is ticking.

The Watch's own heart is a new system-in-package (which Apple confusingly refers to as a "silicon-in-package" chip) called the S4. The CPU on board is a dual-core, 64-bit affair that Apple claims is good for double the performance of the heart of the Apple Watch Series 3. To improve both cellular transmission and reception, Apple clad the back of the Series 4 in a ceramic-and-sapphire-crystal cover that the company says lets the S4 SIP transmit signals through both the display cover and back of the device.

Any smart watch lives or dies by its display, and Apple not only increased the size of the screen on the Watch Series 4, it also implemented rounded corners similar to those of the iPhone X to make more of the available real estate. The company also says the rounded corners improve the way watchOS looks. Apps and complications now appear as though they stretch to the edges of the Watch's surface, and the touch-sensitive part of the display has a larger active area, as well. The display panel itself is a low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) OLED affair that Apple says is good for improved power efficiency.

Thanks to the stretched-out display, the Watch Series 4 can now show more at a glance. Apple has designed some new watchOS faces that can display as many as eight "complications" at once, including combinations of different time zones, pictures of close friends or family that users can tap to quickly message, watchOS' activity rings, music, heart rate, air quality, UV index, weather, and much more. The "digital crown" that controls certain elements of the watchOS UI now offers haptic feedback for more precise adjustment and scrolling, too.

Apple Watches were already capable wrist-worn heart-rate monitors, but the Series 4 has some new tricks in that regard. For one, Series 4 Watches will regularly keep an eye on the wearer's heart rate in the background, and they'll automatically inform the wearer if their heartbeat shows signs of atrial fibrillation. On top of that monitoring capability, Apple augmented the optical heartbeat sensor of the Series 4 Watch with an electrical heartbeat sensor that's capable of producing detailed electrocardiograms of the user's heartbeat. Folks who want an ECG need only touch a finger to the Watch's crown for 30 seconds to let the device gather the necessary data from its sensors. The watch will then let the user know whether their heart is beating in a healthy sinus pattern or exhibiting signs of atrial fibrillation.

It's worth emphasizing that Apple isn't just using fancy names for fluffy features here, either. The company sought and received US Food and Drug Administration de novo classification for both the atrial fibrillation monitoring feature and the electrocardiogram testing that's possible with the Series 4. The company says that both the electrocardiogram app and atrial-fibrillation monitoring capability for the Watch Series 4 will arrive later this year.

Heartbeat monitoring isn't the only way Apple wants to help Watch owners get help when they need it. The company says it studied the movement patterns produced by people who fall, trip, and slip. It uses that data in tandem with an improved accelerometer and gyroscope to let the Apple Watch Series 4 recognize when its wearer has fallen. When the Watch thinks it's detected a fall, it'll pop up a prompt to trigger Emergency SOS, a feature that places a call to 911, messages emergency contacts, broadcasts your current location, and shows a pre-configured Medical ID to first responders. If the wearer doesn't respond within one minute, the Series 4 Watch will automatically begin the Emergency SOS process.

For all that's new in the Apple Watch Series 4, the company says the improvements it made will have no effect on battery life. Apple claims the Watch Series 4 will still run for 18 hours in everyday use, while workout tracking will be possible for as many as six hours.

Prices for the aluminum Apple Watch Series 4 with an elastomer sport band will begin at $399 for the 40-mm model and $429 for the 44-mm model with GPS. Cellular models with aluminum cases and a sport band will start at $499 for a 40-mm Watch and $529 for the 44-mm version. Apple will continue to offer the Apple Watch Series 3 at a lower starting price of $279.

Pre-orders for the Apple Watch Series 4 will begin this Friday, although buyers may find themselves waiting until later to get one on their wrist depending on their country or territory and the type of connectivity they want inside. The Watch Series 4 will be available in some countries starting September 21, and global availability will follow later this year.

Comments closed
    • HERETIC
    • 11 months ago

    We’re not there yet-Still a product searching for a reason to exist-
    OTHER THAN-Waves arm in air-“LOOK AT ME-LOOK AT ME-LOOK AT ME-I’M SPECIAL.”

    • Bomber
    • 11 months ago

    I have a first gen Watch (steel, 42mm, milanese loop) that I have worn daily for 4 years. This is the first one that feels like an “upgrade”. BUT since I got a steel one and I can’t justify spending that again any time soon. No WatchOS 5 for me, but it still lasts a day on a charge so I’ll see what next year brings.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 11 months ago

    Even at $400 it’s less than a copay for the emergency room and my 20% of the tests. 😆

      • tipoo
      • 11 months ago

      Pay…For emergency room?
      *scratches head Canadianly*

      Retracting some of my other comment about Canadian Apple Watch pricing lol…But it’s so shiny…

        • derFunkenstein
        • 11 months ago

        that’s why they sought/obtained FDA approval. It’s somehow cheaper than insurance. It’s not a life-and-death thing in Canada. 😆

    • shank15217
    • 11 months ago

    So everytime the watch falls off your dresser it calls 911?

      • DancinJack
      • 11 months ago

      Yeah, I’m sure it can’t tell if it’s on a wrist and touching skin or not. They surely didn’t think of that.

      • soccergenius
      • 11 months ago

      In the keynote, Jeff Williams specifically mentions that there are different physics involved between falling backwards, forwards, and straight down. The watch’s hardware and software is sophisticated enough to estimate its height relative to the ground (based on your height and sex) and where your arms are when the fall begins, along with the initial and final accelerations.

      Also you know, common sense. (And DancinJack is correct, the watch already behaves differently when it’s locked (and not being worn.)

        • shank15217
        • 11 months ago

        Sigh..

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 months ago

      I got the joke. Apparently everyone else didn’t.

      • ronch
      • 11 months ago

      No, it calls Google to bombard you with Apple Watch merchant ads, courtesy of Apple.

    • ronch
    • 11 months ago

    Being old school I much prefer a traditional watch on my wrist. And if you want a very nice automatic that’s an homage of the legendary Rolex Submariner, you can get an Invicta Pro Diver 8926OB (black) or 9094OB (blue) on Amazon for just $76. Terrific everyday watches for old schoolers like me.

      • ptsant
      • 11 months ago

      As I recently discovered, the problem with traditional watches is that they need maintenance and repairs. When I failed to maintain the watch (3 year “service”) I had corrosion and had to pay $1500 for repairs on a watch worth $3-4k.

      So, even though the image of a traditional watch that you can keep 50 years and give to your children is attractive, in real life this is either a watch that you keep in a safe somewhere (therefore useless) or a watch that you spend $$$ repairing/servicing (therefore unwise investment).

      Which is why I’m tempted by the iWatch. It doesn’t look cheap, it does useful stuff, doesn’t need repairs and I am ok with the idea of recycling it 3-4 years later.

        • ronch
        • 11 months ago

        Well, I’m not a big fan of watches that cost a fortune to maintain either, and I certainly don’t want to pass on a liability to the next generation because I “don’t really own the watch”, which is why I highly recommend that Invicta. And if you don’t like it, get a quartz analog watch or a G-Shock or a Citizen Eco-Drive. I heard they do last very long. And if they break after 10 years, so what. Apple Watch is great but it’s also not gonna last very long. It’s still a piece of disposable electronics.

        • Usacomp2k3
        • 11 months ago

        My traditional watch cost about $15 on Amazon and I replace it every couple years.
        [url<]https://www.amazon.com/CIVO-Calendar-Business-Waterproof-Analogue/dp/B01MY9TIW1/ref=sr_1_3?srs=14486559011&ie=UTF8&qid=1536840504&sr=8-3[/url<]

        • tipoo
        • 11 months ago

        Depends a lot on the movement. There’s tales of some very abused ones that went decades without maintenance. Look into the movement and how much service it requires.

    • albundy
    • 11 months ago

    you really cant improve on battery life much unless you increase the capacity/density. its still using the ancient lithium ion batteries. the only reason i like the apple watches is because of the 16GB capacity in them, while ALL android watches are stuck at 4GB for years now. My LG G watch still does the job. i get 3 days per charge with notifications off, with 2 hours daily local mp3 music playback on my commute and run for those 3 days. at night, i set it to theater mode so it hibernates.

      • blastdoor
      • 11 months ago

      [quote<] its still using the ancient lithium ion batteries[/quote<] This intrigues me -- what alternative do you have in mind?

        • UberGerbil
        • 11 months ago

        [url=https://www.thinkgeek.com/images/products/zoom/htip_back_to_future_mr_fusion_replica.jpg<]This[/url<] on your wrist.

        • albundy
        • 11 months ago

        gerbils. tiny little microscopic gerbils.

    • davidbowser
    • 11 months ago

    Hrrmrm… this looks like a good upgrade.

    This was going to be the replacement to my old series 2, but I recently switched to Android. I am now waiting on the next batch of Qualcomm 3100 based WearOS options.

      • tipoo
      • 11 months ago

      Do you feel a bit like the Qualcomm 3100 was the minimum response to complaints of the 2100 being old and holding back WearOS devices? The low power core is a decent addition, but it’s still 28nm, still Cortex A7s, still doesn’t really scream platform of future to me.

        • davidbowser
        • 11 months ago

        From a pure chip capabilities perspective, I see this falling into the bucket of “Apple does it better than anyone today”, but Qualcomm is at least trying to compete. It seems like nobody else in the chip world really sees this usage as critical, but I see the combination of technology required to make smartwatches as setting the standard for IoT, wearables, and mobile moving forward. Think about all the work that goes into multiple radios, graphics, touch interface, various sensors, low power optimization, UI optimization, etc. The other players ignore at their own peril.

        As far as the end product goes, I have some pretty specific use cases for my watch (fitness tracking, lots of types of notifications, calendar, etc.) so I will find out pretty quickly whether the hardware and software are going to meet my needs.

          • adisor19
          • 11 months ago

          lol Qualcomm may be trying to compete but they are unable to for obvious reasons : their clients will not pay top $ for a watch SoC. Apple’s clients however will and here we are today with the 3100 that is outdated compared to the Series 3 and is utterly irrelevant when compared to the SiP4 in the Series 4 Apple Watch.

          • tipoo
          • 11 months ago

          There’s Apples chipmaking being highly impressive, but this just seems like a lack of effort. Even if they couldn’t get it on 7nm, there was 14nm. Even if they weren’t ready to make a low power 64 bit core for it, there’s cortex A7 successors.

          So here it doesn’t even look like an Apple is better at chipmaking thing, it’s the complete minimum of effort that gets me.

    • DancinJack
    • 11 months ago

    I’m gonna get one. I don’t know which model yet, or exactly when (because no way am I pre ordering), but i’m gonna get one. I think the expansion of the screen makes it look a lot better.

      • blastdoor
      • 11 months ago

      Me too. I find this far more compelling that the new iPhones. Even though the screen on my 7+ is cracked, I’m going to try sticking with it for another year and instead buy one of these watches.

        • Wonders
        • 11 months ago

        But — just to clarify for everyone else — by stating the watch is “far more compelling”, we’re not in any way stating the new iPhone is uncompelling. Heavens no. More along the lines of asking a mother to choose between children. You know, like when one child has a bionic chip, and the other child has a really compelling form factor.

        • adisor19
        • 11 months ago

        Truth be told, the Apple Watch Series 4 stole the show this year. The ECG alone is worth considering. Too bad it’s only available in the US.. Would one need to spoof location in order to use it in Canada ?

        Adi

          • shank15217
          • 11 months ago

          Why is the ecg worth considering? Do you seriously think having a fuking watch telling you that you have a heart problem is a good thing? This is a serious issue, if Apple gets it wrong then it can start a panic like situation. Way too much intrusion by a wearable, it’s over the top. Apple should focus on fundimentals of a watch.

            • tipoo
            • 11 months ago

            It’s the first consumer wearable to get FDA approval for it. Clearly it doesn’t suck, their standards for it held everyone else back on approval.

            It’s single lead, that’s the limit, but for what it does it should work.

            • superjawes
            • 11 months ago

            [quote<]Apple should focus on fundimentals (sic) of a watch.[/quote<]...anyone buying a watch for the "fundamentals of a watch" are going to buy...a watch. A dumb watch. A watch whose battery life is measured in months (maybe years) instead of hours. Anyone buying an Apple Watch is looking for all the "non-watch" enhanced functionality. Something like an ECG is exactly what this market is looking for.

            • shank15217
            • 11 months ago

            Why is longer battery life and lower weight and better screens not worthy goals for a smart watch? Can they provide a simpler watch without all the sensors but better battery and a bit cheaper?

            • ptsant
            • 11 months ago

            To be clear, this is mostly of use for people with a pre-existing heart condition, especially atrial fibrillation. The frequency of episodes is important for several reasons, mostly to decide whether treatment is needed. So it can be a useful datapoint.

            For the rest of us, the main issue for HR tracking has been that (at least in iWatch 2) it was clearly not as good as dedicated watches (garmin, fitbit etc). There are reviews showing this in quite some detail (dcrainmaker, most notably). I am wondering whether this new sensor means that additional effort has been dedicated to HR tracking.

            • shank15217
            • 11 months ago

            I get that, if you have it already I can see the benefit, but if you don’t have it and this watch deems you do, you might end up in a panic situation.

            • tipoo
            • 11 months ago

            98% accurate according to filings. I’m sure the messaging will also be “go get checked out by a proper doctor now” rather than claiming to be a full diagnosis.

            [url<]https://9to5mac.com/2018/09/14/apple-watch-series-4-ecg-accuracy/[/url<]

            • shank15217
            • 11 months ago

            My concern is about the false positives, why are you apple fanboys so ready to downvote a legimate concern?

            • tipoo
            • 11 months ago

            Like a pregnancy test, better to air on the side of false positives and get people to get checked out by a real doctor, than not and have…Unexpected consequences. Like I said, 99% detection of normal hearts, 98% of afib, so some one in a hundred detections may go to a doctor and come back relieved, I already addressed your concern either way.

            They never said it replaces a doctor, so the concern trolling is misplaced. It just nudges people to go see one.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 11 months ago

      Can you use an Apple watch without an iPhone? Or are you getting an Excess too?

        • shank15217
        • 11 months ago

        You cannot use apple watch without apple phone.

          • DancinJack
          • 11 months ago

          That’s…wrong, just like your other comment.

          You can use an Apple Watch without an iPhone, but it’s not ideal by any means. With each generation Apple is moving more features to the watch though so it’s getting to be less of an issue.

          To address your secondary question, yes, I’m likely going to be getting an X s or X s Max.

            • soccergenius
            • 11 months ago

            You don’t need to be in range of your iPhone for your Apple Watch to function, but you need an iPhone 6 or newer to initially pair it. You can’t use an Apple Watch without that initial pairing.

            • DancinJack
            • 11 months ago

            Right, but after the initial set up you can use it devoid of said iPhone. Like I said above it’s very much not ideal, but can be done.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 11 months ago

            So if someone doesn’t have an iOS device they’re out of luck, but even if you have an old-ass iPhone 5C you can at least get it activated. Definitely not something I’d want unless I was also using an iPhone, but Apple is going to have to completely decouple the watch from the phone if they want it to become popular outside of America where they have like half the smartphone market.

            • shank15217
            • 11 months ago

            Why don’t you send me your Ipohne and I’ll active the watch and send it back to you, what BS

    • tipoo
    • 11 months ago

    God, the steel is sexy.

    *pulls out wallet*

    1K CAD

    *puts back wallet*

    [url<]https://hodinkee.imgix.net/uploads/images/1536783889697-zp0m0oxf84-7ff6013f4830e9c8baae2bc83bbfcab4/watch_16.jpg?ixlib=rails-1.1.0&auto=format&ch=Width%2CDPR%2CSave-Data&fit=crop&fm=jpg&q=55&usm=12&w=820&dpr=2&s=93dfcdd6d73f3a64336302b6643aaa87[/url<] The steel with link bracelet, that would have some wrist presence you usually don't even get for that eye watering price though.

      • adisor19
      • 11 months ago

      I currently have the Series 2 Steel Black which I’ll be keeping until apple no longer provides software updates for it. When the time comes, I’ll replace it with the newer steel model that comes out no questions asked. The sapphire glass alone is scratch free after 2 years just as the watch itself. Steel is worth it.

      Adi

        • tipoo
        • 11 months ago

        Yeah I’ve heard the DLC on the steel black is pretty indestructible.

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