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Apple Apple Watch Review watchOS

A Review of the Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch is Apple’s first foray into a wearable product. When it was introduced in September of 2014 it was intended to be capable of replacing many of the functions of the iPhone. However, as the Apple Watch got into users hands, and after getting feedback Apple has reduced the overall scope of the Apple Watch to be more narrowed. watchOS now focuses on two major areas, Notifications and Health.

I have owned an Apple Watch since the beginning and have used each generation of the Apple Watch, including the latest, the Series 4 Apple Watch. Here are my thoughts on the Apple Watch after about two weeks of usage.

Size

The Apple Watch Series 4 is the biggest redesign of the Apple Watch since the original, retroactively dubbed the Series 0. These changes somewhat mimic the redesign of the iPhone. The iPhone also saw its first radical redesign with its fourth release, the iPhone 4. The Apple Watch Series 4 comes in two sizes, a 40mm screen and a 44mm screen. These screen sizes are larger than the 38mm and 42mm options, which have been the sizes for all previous Apple Watches.

I opted to go with the 44mm version, and I am glad I did. The way I determined which one to go with was by using the Apple Store app. Within the app there are actual sizes for the watches. You can get to these two sizes by performing the following steps:

  • Open the Apple Store app<.
  • Tap on “Apple Watch”.
  • Tap on an Apple Watch model, it does not matter which one.
  • Tap on “Compare Sizes” directly underneath the two sizes.

Here you can actually place some paper on top of your iOS device and you can trace around the Apple Watch sizes and then you can place these on your wrist to see how well each size would fit on your wrist. This is the approach I used in order to determine which model I would buy. Ultimately, the 44mm was the right choice, for me. Here are the two Apple Watch sizes. Next let us look at the actual size differences.

Screen Size

When you think of the difference in size, 42mm vs. 44mm you would think that it is not a lot of space. However, the 44mm Apple Watch Series 4 screen is actually 32% larger than the 42mm version. The difference is not just noticeable, but quite welcome. Having al larger screen size makes everything easier to do, from tapping buttons to just being able to quickly glance at information. It really does make a difference with the larger screen.

With a difference in screen size you might think that it would be a bit odd having a larger screen than before on your first, but you quickly become accustom to the size difference.

Compatibility

There are a few different ways that Apple Watch users can personalize their Apple Watch. The first is through the choice of watch band. In the last 3 1/2 years many users have amassed a number of different watch bands. The Apple Watch Series 4 allows existing watch bands work with the new watch, with a bit of a caveat. In particular the 38mm bands work with the 40mm watch. Similarly, the 42mm bands work with the 44mm Series 4 Watch. This means that all of your existing bands will work, provided you upgrade to the corresponding size. This is important to note because Apple’s site only shows 40mm and 44mm options and third-party sites like Amazon may have 38mm and 42mm sizes listed.

Watch Faces

The second way that users can make an Apple Watch their own is through the watch face that they choose, and there have been some additional options for watch faces. Let us look at some changes around watch faces now. watchOS 5 brings a number of new watch faces, four in total. These new faces are Fire & Watch, Liquid Metal, Infograph, and Infograph Modular. These are broken down into two groups, Materials and Infograph. Let us look at these two groups in turn, starting with the Materials.

Materials

The Fire & Water watch face and Liquid watch faces share some traits. The first is that there are different colors to choose from in each watch face. For Fire & Water you can choose between two materials, fire and water. With Liquid Metal there are three colors, Silver, Gold, and Black. These colors match the available colors for the Watch as well as the iPhone XS. Also with both the Fire & Water and Liquid Metal faces you can select if you want to rotate between the options or just stick with a single option. Besides the color selection you can also choose whether to use a Full Screen or Circular watch face. If you opt for Full Screen, you cannot set any complications. With the Circular faces you have three complication options, upper left corner, upper right corner, and the bottom. The two upper complications are circular while the bottom complication is one off the new rounded complications that typically include a line of text.

These two watch faces are great if you want to use a watch face that only tells time, yet can take advantage of the smart aspects to the Apple Watch to provide a bit of animation. Let us now look at the other new watch faces. These two faces are “Infograph” and “Infograph Modular” and with these even more information can be shown. Let us start with Infograph.

Infograph

The Infograph watch face is an analog watch face, with hour, minute, and second hands. The Infograph watch face allows you to customize the color with over 50 choices, including using a white watch face. Besides the color you can customize up to eight different complications. There are the four corners which provide curved complications, and the four inner complications, called “sub-dial” complications. The sub-dial complications are the standard circular complications that most apps contain. You can use all of none of them. There are a lot of built-in complication options available. The entire list of available complications include: Activity, Air Quality, Alarm, Battery, Breathe, Calendar, Date, Digital Time, Earth, Favorite Contacts, Heart Rate, Monogram, Moon, Music, Reminders, Solar, Solar System, Stocks, Stopwatch, Sunrise/Sunset, Timer, UV Index, Walkie-Talkie, Weather, Weather Conditions, Wind, Workout, and World Clock.

One of the unique aspects to the Infograph watch face is that the complications in the corner can be curved to follow the watch face itself. These curved complications are not limited to the Apple native complications, but they are available for third-party applications to use as well. With the ability to set up to eight different complications, the choices can quickly become overwhelming. If you opt to use the Infograph watch face, start with only one or two complications and then add more as you need more information. Let us now look at the Modular version of Infograph.

Infograph Modular

There is one watch face that many would consider the definitive “Smart Watch” and that would be the Modular watch face. The reason is because all of the information that you can see at a glance. The Infograph Modular face is very similar to the regular Modular face. The Infograph Modular face also shows a lot of information. You can have up to six complications on the Infograph Modular face. The available complications are: Activity, Air Quality, Battery, Breathe, Calendar, Date, Earth, Favorite Contacts, Heart Rate, Moon, Music, Solar, Solar System, Stocks, Timer, UV Index, Walkie-Talkie, Weather, Weather Conditions, Wind, Workout, and World Clock.

With the Infograph Modular face the upper right complication can only be the current date or off. Just like the traditional Modular watch face, the time cannot be changed and is in one spot. Just to the left of the time is one of the four icon-sized complication areas available. The other three are at the bottom of the screen. The last complication area is reserved for large complications. The available options for this area are: Activity, Calendar, Heart Rate, Stocks, and Weather conditions.

Missing Complication

There are a number of complications that is available on the standard Modular watch face that is not available on the Infograph variant. Some of these make sense, while others do not. The one that seems like it is missing, to me anyway, is the “Now Playing” complication.

The Now Playing complication allows you to see the currently playing audio. With this complication enabled, if you tap on the currently playing audio you will be brought to an interface that will allow you to adjust the volume, skip to the next or previous item, as well as play and pause the audio.

I know for me this is a deal breaker with using the Infograph Modular watch face. This is only because when I am at work, I am typically listening to music. While I can often know which song is playing, there are times that I do not know. Hence, I need to be able to quickly glance and see which song is playing and the Now Playing complication on the Apple Watch is best at doing this. Alternatively, I could tap on the iPhone XS screen and see the current song, however that is not possible if the iPhone is not nearby.

It would be really convenient to have an option for the Now Playing complication to be used on the Infograph Modular face. There is a handy guide for the Watch Faces and which ones are available at https://support.apple.com/guide/watch/faces-and-features-apd6ce85daf4/watchos. Now that we have covered the new watch faces, let us turn to another piece of the Apple Watch that has been updated, the Digital Crown.

Digital Crown

The Digital Crown on the Apple Watch Series 4 is entirely different from the Series 3 and earlier models. The Digital Crown has two new distinct features. The first is that the Digital Crown now provides haptic feedback. This is most present when scrolling long lists of items, such as your app list, music, or adjusting the volume. This is quite helpful for allowing you to know the you get to the top or bottom of a list of items. Along with this, it is useful for accessibility for those to be able to know when an action is occurring.

ECG

The second new feature that the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch Series 4 is that it can be used as the mens for completing the circuit for the included Electrocardiogram. The way that this works is by creating a circuit between the Crystal electrode on the back and the electrode on the Digital Crown.

The ECG sensor is designed to possibly detect the appearance of Atrial Fibrillation, more commonly known as Afib. There is a great explainer about the health aspects and an explainer about Afib over at Tidbits. This explainer is by a paramedic and well worth the read.

The fact that there is a way to detect Afib using a device that is right on your wrist will definitely help save lives of many individuals, beyond the ones that have numerous accounts of how the Apple Watch has saved lives.

Currently the feature is not available, but Apple states it will be “available later this year”. It would not be a surprise to see additional health features come to future versions of the Apple Watch.

Fall Detection

The Apple Watch Series 4 has a brand new feature, Fall Detection. By default it is not enabled, unless you are 65 or older. Fall Detection will automatically contact emergency services, as well as the Emergency contacts that you have defined in the Health app should the Apple Watch detect a fall, and you do not move for over a minute. When you enable Fall Detection you will receive a popup that states:

“The more physically active you are, the more likely you are to trigger Fall Detection due to high impact activity that can appear to be a fall.”

So, you should take note when enabling Fall Detection, particularly if you do some high-intensity workouts.

Pricing

Unlike the iPhone X, the Apple Watch Series 4 is more expensive than its predecessors. The 40mm GPS Model starts at $399, while the GPS + Cellular model is $499. The 44mm prices are $429 and $529 respectively. Similarly, the price of Apple Care has also increased, from $49 to $79. This means that the overall cost has increased $100, if you include Apple Care. This increase will definitely mean more revenue for Apple.

Other Tidbits

There are just a couple of other tidbits that should be noted. Apple has never really discussed the amount of storage available on the Apple Watch, but with the release of the Series 3 GPS + Cellular model, the storage was 16GB, while the GPS-only model was a mere 8GB. With the Apple Watch Series 4, all models now have 16GB of storage. The Apple Watch has been used by many for water sports, well before it was advertised as being water resistant. The Apple Watch Series 4 is now rated as IP 68, which means it will be able to submerged in 2 meters of water for 30 minutes, this is up from IP 67, which is 1 meter for 30 minutes.

The Wireless within the Apple Watch is still 802.11b/g/n at 2.4GHz, but the Bluetooth connectivity is now Bluetooth 5.0, instead of Bluetooth 4.2. The Apple-proprietary wireless connectivity uses the W3 chip, the next generation of their wireless chipset that was introduced with the AirPods.

The next tidbit is that the Apple Watch Series 4 can detect low blood pressure. It will provide a notification if your heart rate falls below 50 beats per minute for 10 minutes, in addition to the existing high blood pressure, which is 120 beats per minute for 10 minutes, without being in workout mode.

The last tidbit is that the red dot that indicated that a model was Wireless has been reduced to a red ring, this is because of the need for good connectivity for the ECG sensor.

Closing Thoughts

Overall the Apple Watch Series 4 is a worthwhile upgrade, provided you have an Original Apple Watch, a Series 1 or even Series 2 Apple Watch. The larger screen sizes will make interactions easier as well as provided more information on screen. Even with the larger screen, the overall depth of the Series 4 Apple Watch is thinner and it is noticeably so. If you are upgrading, you will be able to use your existing Apple Watch bands, from your 38mm watch, if you go to the 40mm version, or your 42mm bands, if you go to the 44mm Apple Watch.

If you have considered getting a Smart Watch and you have an iPhone, you cannot go wrong with the Apple Watch Series 4. Whether you choose the GPS-only model, or the GPS + Cellular model, you will be able to use all of the new features while on the go.

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Apple Apple Watch HomePod iOS iPhone watchOS

Apple’s “Gather Round” Event Round Up

Today Apple held their September “Gather Round” event. As expected, Apple released unveiled new products. But for only two product lines, the Apple Watch and the iPhone. Let us start with the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch was introduced four years ago in September of 2014 and released in April fo 2015. In the interim releases additional features have been added and they have all fit into the same physical sizes of 38mm and 42mm. The Apple Watch Series 3 added a cellular option. The latest version, the Apple Series 4, offers a whole new look.

Externals

The Apple Watch Series 4 starts with two new screen sizes, 40mm and 44mm. The screens now go edge to edge, and the bezels have been reduced to allow you to see more on the screen at one time. This is because the new screen sizes have over 30% more physical screen. While the screens are bigger, the Apple Watch Series 4 is thinner, by 0.7mm. Your existing Apple Watch bands will still work with the Series 4. Along with the screens, the Digital Crown has been modified to include haptic feedback, which will help you know when an action is taken.

Watch Faces

With the redesign of the screen the Apple Watch faces have also changed. There is a new “Breathe” watch face that comes in three variations that will allow you to simply tap on the watch face and start a “Breathing” session. Besides the new “Breathe” watch face there is another new watch face that will allow you to have up to eight complications on it at once. This allows you to see the information that you want to see, all at a glance. This includes added people’s faces to the watch face which you will be able to contact them with one tap.

The Modular Watch face, which is the one I use most often, is also getting redesigned to allow more information to be shown from stocks, weather, and other sources. The ability to customize the Apple Watch face even more than you could before will help the Apple Watch become an even more personalized device.

Internals

The outsides have been redesigned, but so have the internals. The Apple Watch Series 4 now sports a 64-bit dual-core S4 processor, which is 2x faster than the previous S3. The Apple Watch has been equipped with a heart sensor since its introduction, but there is a second generation heart sensor, which can perform more measurements. This includes when your blood pressure is too low.

The biggest improvement though is the ability to have the Apple Watch Series 4 take an electrocardiogram reading. This is done by starting up the ECG app and placing your finger on the Digital Crown. This will create an electrical loop which will allow the app to gather the necessary data. You can then take the information and send it to your doctor in a PDF format. The ECG app has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration, who is in charge of any medical devices and their claims. It should be noted that the ECG app is coming later this year.

One other area of improvement is the accelerometer. The Accelerometer and gyroscope in the Apple Watch Series 4 has been improved to be able to detect 32 g-forces, which is up from 16 g-forces on the Series 3. This improvement allows for a new motion detection, falling. It is bound to happen to us at one time or another. In a majority of cases the only outcome is the embarrassment when it happens with others around. However, in the event that it is more serious, the Apple Watch Series 4 will be able to do more than just detect the fall. If you do fall and there has not been any movement for over a minute, the Apple Watch Series 4 will automatically contact emergency services. Along with this the emergency contacts will also be notified. It is not a feature that anybody wants to have to use, but in the event it is needed it will be a very welcome change.

Colors, Materials and Pricing

The Apple Watch Series 4 comes in two models, a GPS-only model, and a GPS + Cellular. The GPS Model comes in an aluminum finish and can be Silver, Space Gray, or Gold. The GPS + Cellular comes in aluminum or stainless steel. It is also in the same colors, Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. The Gold on the stainless steel model is a slightly different shade of gold. The Nike+ version is only available in Silver and Space Gray and is aluminum only. The Hermes version is in stainless steel only.

The Series 4 starts at $399 for the 40mm GPS only model, the 44mm model is $429. The aluminum GPS + Cellular is $499 and $529 respectively. The Stainless Steel is $699 for the 40mm and $$749 for the 44mm with a sport band. If you go with the Milanese Loop the price goes to $799 and $849 respectively. The Stainless Steel model is GPS + Cellular only. The Nike+ models are also $399 for the GPS only model and $499 for the GPS + Cellular. The Hermes version starts at $1,249 and goes up to $1,499.

The Apple Watch Series 3 remains and is now $279 for the 38mm, and $309 for the 42mm. If you want the GPS + Cellular version, that will cost $379 and $409 respectively. You can buy the Apple Watch Series at the new lower prices right now.

Pre-orders for the Apple Watch Series 4 start on Friday, September 14th at 12:01am Pacific Time. It will be available on September 21st. Now, let us look at the iPhones.

iPhone

Last year Apple showed off a whole new interaction method with the iPhone X. The iPhone X removed the home button which also replaced Touch ID with Face ID. Many speculated that the iPhone X This year Apple is bringing Face ID to even more of the iPhone line up. Instead of the two new phones that were introduced last year, there are now three new phones, the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

Displays

Last year when Apple introduced the iPhone X, it was not certain how well it would be received, given the radical redesign. The screen of the iPhone X was larger than the screen on the iPhone 8 Plus, and it was still physically smaller. The screen size on the iPhone X is 5.8 inches. This year there is a replacement for the iPhone X, the iPhone XS, pronounced “Ten S”. It is still sporting a 5.8-inch screen and it is still OLED, which means the colors will be as good as ever. That is not all. The iPhone XS also now has a bigger brother, the iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XS Max sports a 6.5-inch OLED display.

The all new iPhone XR has a 6.1-inch LCD display. However, it is also

The screen resolutions for the models are 2436 by 1125, at 458 pixels per inch, for the iPhone X, 2688 by 1242 at 458 pixels per inch, for the iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XR on the other hand is 1792 by 828 pixels, at 326 pixels per inch.

All of the iPhone have True Tone displays, the Wide Color Gamut (Display P3), and a Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating. Now, let us look at the internals.

Internals

All three of the new iPhones have an A12 Bionic chip, which is up to 50% faster than the A11, in CPU tasks and 15x faster with Graphics while being 40% more efficient.

The iPhones also has a new Face ID system, which is faster. This is due to the faster storage and even faster secure enclave. There is also an upgraded Neural Network chip. The iPhone XS Neural Network chip houses 8 processors. Last year it was able to process 600 Billion transactions per second. The A12 version is capable of handling 5 Trillion operations per second. The A12 Neural network is capable of performing real-time machine learning with CoreML and through applications. This ability will also work well within Augmented Reality applications by allowing real-time updating of information.

Cameras

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have an improved camera system. The new camera includes Dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, Wide-angle with a ƒ/1.8 aperture, a Telephoto lens with a ƒ/2.4 aperture with Dual optical image stabilization. There is a new feature as well, called Smart HDR.

Smart HDR will take more than just the four images that HDR takes. Instead it will take an additional interleaved set of images, and one additional image. These nine images will then be processed to find the best composite image and will provide you even better quality images. To go with Smart HDR, you can also use the new “Advanced bokeh effect”. The advanced bokeh effect will allow you to change the depth information for a portrait photo after the photo is taken to show the just the right amount of background.

By contrast, the iPhone XR has a single camera lens. But it still sports many of the same features. These include a 12MP wide-angle camera with an ƒ/1.8 aperture, Smart HDR, Portrait Mode with advanced bokeh effect, Optical image stabilization, and much more.

The Face ID Camera has also been improved. It is still a 7 megapixel camera, but it can now support 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps.

Dual Sim

One area where the iPhone has not been as advanced as other phones is when it comes to having multiple SIMs. This year, the phones all have Dual-SIM support. Dual-sim support is great if you need to have multiple phone lines, but want to use the same physical phone. This could be having one number for personal and another one for work. Another possibility is when you are traveling. You may want to keep your home phone number but may also want to have one for the local country. The capability for Dual-SIMs is made possible through the use of a physical SIM as well as an eSIM, which has been present in the iPads.

iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR will be able to differentiate between the two lines. And you can even label them to your liking so you can easily see who is calling and be able to answer appropriately. There is a special model for China that will have two physical SIMs.

Differences

There are some differences between the iPhone XS/XS Max and the iPhone XR. For instance, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are made out of stainless steel, where the iPhone XR is aluminum. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are rated at IP68, which means that it can be submerged at 2 meters for 30 minutes without causing issues. The iPhone XR on the other hand is rated as IP67, which means it can be submerged at 1 meter for 30 minutes without issue. The last change is that the iPhone XR does not have 3D Touch, which for those users who are used to it may be an issue.

Like last year the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max come in three colors, Silver and Space Gray. There is also an additional color, Gold. This contrasts with the iPhone XR which has six different colors, Yellow, White, Coral, Black, Blue, and (PRODUCT) Red.

Storage and Pricing

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max come in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB models. The pricing for the iPhone XS is $999, $1149, and $1349 respectively, while the iPhone XS Max is $1099, $1249, and $1449, respectively. Pre-orders for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max start at 12:01 am Pacific on September 14th, and they will be available on September 21st.

The iPhone XR comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB Models. The pricing is $749, $799, and $899 respectively. The pre-orders for the iPhone XR start on October 19th, and will be available on October 26th.

Entire iPhone Lineup

With the introduction of new models, some older models have shifted in terms of price. The new lineup is the iPhone 7/7 Plus, iPhone 8/8 Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. The iPhone 7 comes in 32GB for $449, and 128GB for $549. The iPhone 8 is $599 for the 64GB and $749 for the 256GB.

AppleCare

Apple’s iPhones have always had an option to add AppleCare to them. This warranty protects you from accidental damage and allows you to get it fixed for two years. This also includes hardware and software support. There is a new option, “AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss”. This is, as one might expect, more expensive. It includes all of the AppleCare+ offerings, but also provides you with protection against theft and loss. There is one additional payment option for AppleCare+, you can pay for it monthly instead of all up front. This may help some people be able to afford the iPhone and pay for the warranty over time. This is available on all iPhones. Here are the AppleCare+ Costs:

Device AppleCare+ Monthly AppleCare+ Full AppleCare+ Theft and Loss Monthly AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss Full
iPhone 7/8 $5.99 $129.00 $9.99 $199.00
iPhone 7/8 Plus $7.99 $149.00 $12.99 $249.00
iPhone XR $7.99 $149.00 $12.99 $249.00
iPhone XS/XS Max $9.99 $199.00 $14.99 $299.00

iOS 12 and HomePod

iOS 12 will be released on September 17th and is a free update for all users. On the same day, the HomePod will also get an update which will allow you to do a couple of new things. The first is to make and take phone calls directly on your HomePod. Along wit this you will also be able to start multiple timers on the HomePod, which will be great for some users. The last new feature is the ability to ping your devices from the HomePod to help locate them in the house.

Closing Thoughts

Even though Apple’s September event focused on only two products, the Apple Watch and the iPhone. The Apple Watch has seen its biggest set of improvements to date with the Apple Watch Series 4. This includes as a set of larger screens, redesigned watch faces, and a set of new sensing capabilities. The ability to get an ECG right from the Watch and then being able to send it to your doctor will help many users. What could also help save lives is detecting a low blood pressure situation. The biggest of all though is the new fall detection. In the case that you do fall, if you do not get up within a minute, the Apple Watch will contact emergency services and your emergency contacts, so that you will be able to get the assistance you need.

The new iPhone lineup is one that has something for everyone. All of the new iPhones sport the A12 Bionic processor, edge-to-edge screen, the faster Face ID, faster graphics, processor, and the new Neural Engine and the inclusion of advanced bokeh effect with depth effect control.

While there are differences between the iPhone XR, and the iPhone XS models, they are minor differences. These include the iPhone XR being made out of aluminum instead of stainless steel like the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and IP67 for the iPhone XR and IP68 for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Additionally, the iPhone XR coms in six colors, and the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max only comes in three colors.

The inclusion of the iPhon XR shows that all future iPhones will have edge-to-edge bezels and are definitely the future of the iPhone.