CUPERTINO, Calif.—As expected, Apple executives took the stage at the company’s headquarters in Northern California today to announce an update to the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 5 offers more customization and materials options than its predecessor, plus it debuts a few additional features.
The Series 5 looks similar to the Series 4 (it comes in the same 40mm and 44mm case sizes as well), but the biggest hardware difference is the new always-on display. The LTPO panel will now stay on indefinitely, so you don’t have to raise your wrist or tap the screen to see the watch face or your complications. When you’re not actively looking at it, the display’s brightness will dim so you can still see information on it, but it won’t draw more power than necessary.
That’s just one of the software features Apple came up with to turn the display into an always-on panel, while also preventing it from using up too much power. The Series 5 also has a new low-power display driver, a new ambient light sensor, and additional hardware improvements that help make the display more efficient. Apple claims that the Series 5, even with its always-on display, will still get the same all-day, 18-hour battery life as the Series 4.
That’s more than what we were expecting in the hardware department for the new Series 5, but Apple didn’t stop there. It’s also added a new built-in compass to the Series 5, which has its own complication and can work with the improved Apple Maps app to show you which direction you’re facing when you’re navigating to a destination using the Watch. Cellular models will also be able to use the new international Emergency SOS feature, which lets you contact emergency services directly from your Watch in multiple countries.
In the aesthetic department, Apple added new materials to the Series 5, including ceramic and titanium. You’ll be able to get select models with a ceramic white case and titanium cases, and other models are made with stainless steel and 100% recycled aluminum.
In addition to those few hardware improvements, the Apple Watch Series 5 can do everything the Series 4 could do. Features like all-day activity tracking, workout recording, fall detection, irregular heartbeat monitoring, and more come standard on the GPS and cellular models of the new Watch. Also, the Series 5 and many Watch models before it will glean the benefits of watchOS 6, which will bring new features, including an on-watch App Store, menstrual cycle tracking, Activity Trends, popular apps like the Calculator, and more to the smartwatch.
The new Apple Watch Series 5 is available for preorder today from Apple’s website, and it will be widely available in stores on September 20. The GPS models start at $399 while cellular models start at $499.