Yes, You Should Upgrade to the Series 5 (Maybe)

My new Apple Watch Series 5 is beautiful. And fast. I loved my Series 3 when I got it 2 years ago. I fell in love all over again last week. Let me explain.

Like everything else in life, the Series 5 has its pros and its cons. The pros far outweigh the cons, and the difference between the two depends on what you have on your wrist right now. If, like me, you’ve been rocking the Series 3 like it’s 2017, then—spoiler alert—it’s time to upgrade. If you have a Series 4, then you may want to wait.

One of the big differences I have noticed is the speed. Compared to my Series 3, the 5 feels like lightspeed. I tap, and it happens. I swipe—it disappears. Instantly. However, most of you got that when you upgraded to the Series 4, with the S4 chip (as far as anyone can tell, the S5 chip is virtually the same as the S4, with a little LPTO special sauce to manage that always-on display).

The size difference is also fantastic, but there again, I’m coming from a 38mm case to a 44mm one. You wouldn’t think that this just-over-one-half-a-centimeter would make such an outsized difference, but it does. Combined with the change to newly strengthened and polished Sapphire glass, the rounded corners, the slimmer bezels…I could never go back. The Series 3 all of the sudden feels very old, very slow, and yes—very small.

I do like the always-on display, but for me it isn’t the leap forward that so many other podcasters and bloggers make it out to be. I get it. I’ve read the stories. Even Apple is in on the joke. “This watch tells time” their ads say, which is as close they will ever get to acknowledging that this feature is overdue. Which it is. It’s just not a reason to upgrade this year. And for most people, this is the only change from the Series 4 that they will ever notice. The always-on display only works seamlessly with watch faces and the Apple Workouts app. When other apps are open, it just shows a clunky digital readout of the time when it switches to low power. Although it was nice on my Saturday morning run, I have to admit.

There are a few other changes, such as the increased memory (32GB up from 16GB) and emergency calling in many countries if you buy the LTE model (something you will hopefully never use), but the always-on display is the primary selling point of upgrading from the Series 4.

The one con I have noticed no matter what model you are coming from (or even if you are about to splurge on your first Apple Watch) is the battery life. It seems a little unpredictable. On day 1, I didn’t start with a full battery—I never needed to with my Series 3—and I made it about 13 hours. On Day 2, I charged it overnight, starting the day at 100%, and I made it through the day—about 16 hours. On Day 3 I also started at 100%, and only made it about 12 hours before my watch warned me that it was at 10%, so I topped it off for 30-40 minutes to get it above 40% so it would last me through a 2.5-mile run. I know, I know—it’s a bigger, always-on screen, and I know I am probably something of an Apple Watch power user, but my experience is that I am not getting anything close to the 18 hours that Apple promised. Am I ready to trade the always-on display for longer battery life? 3 days in, I’m not sure yet.

There are quite a few stories of poor battery life, and rumors that Apple is addressing those problems with a WatchOS update. I just installed 6.0.1 tonight, and maybe that will improve my battery experience for tomorrow. We’ll see.

The Apple Watch has been, and continues to be, an amazing, life-changing (and in some cases, life-saving) piece of technology for me and many others. The Series 5 is Apple near the top of their wearables game. Will they continue to innovate? Undoubtedly. But the Series 5 is looking like a fairly mature device. And it will continue to look that way. For about 11 more months.

—Ken Cooper

I can be found on Twitter at @krc2, every week or two on Apple Juice Cast, or sometimes just living a space gray life right here.