Apple Watch Series 5 Hands On: Always-On Display is Great, but Otherwise Not Much of an Upgrade

Apple today announced and launched pre-orders for the Apple Watch Series 5, which is the company's latest wearable device. The new smartwatch features an always-on display, built-in compass, and more, and members of the media have begun sharing their opinions on Series 5 models after going hands-on at Apple Park.

engadget series 5 image

Image via Engadget

Engadget's Dana Wollman pointed out that the Series 5 is far less of a drastic upgrade compared to last year's Series 4 (which is now discontinued). The Series 5 continues to adopt the Series 4's larger display, 40mm and 44mm case sizes, and ECG testing.

Other than the much-touted always-on display, there isn't a whole lot that's new with Apple Watch Series 5.

Apple just unveiled the newest Apple Watch (we're up to the Series 5 now) and -- I mean this in the nicest way -- but there isn't much to see. Whereas last year's model, the Series 4, ushered in a new, larger screen and a built-in electrocardiogram test, the differences in the Series 5 are difficult to notice at a glance. Chief among them: an always-on display that's constantly visible at dim brightness, but that wakes up to a fuller brightness when you tap it.

Beyond that, this is the Apple Watch you know well by now, just with some new bands and finishes. There's the screen, available in the same two sizes (40mm and 44mm). The Digital Crown is where it's always been (the upper right edge). Below it is that rectangular button you'll use less frequently, though Apple did announce today that you can now use it for international emergency calls on cellular models (i.e., not just in the country where you purchased and activated it).

The Verge's Dieter Bohn also talked about how there is little difference between this year's Apple Watch and last year's, calling the Series 5 a "dead ringer" for the Series 4. Bohn was a fan of the always-on display and believes that this feature will "finally make the Apple Watch a competent time piece."

the verge series 5

Image via The Verge

It works just as you’d expect — you can see the full watch face at a dimmer brightness all the time, and then at full brightness when you lift your wrist up. The watchfaces are even able to show all of their complications and data in the always-on mode.

You can also just slap your hand down on the watch face to immediately dim it, which is some thing I do all the time and is weirdly more satisfying to do on the Series 5 than earlier models, since it changes the mode instead of just turning off the screen.

If you're looking for more details about the Apple Watch Series 5, our full launch post has all of the information you'll need about the latest Apple wearable. You can also check out our posts on the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, and new 10.2-inch iPad to catch up with the news from today's event.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

turbineseaplane Avatar
18 months ago
Do we really think they couldn't have brought the AOD to the S4 last year?

This feels purposely held back just to have "something" for this year.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
turbineseaplane Avatar
18 months ago

I think this is a huge upgrade with the AOD and incredible battery advancements. It's a no brainer upgrade for pretty much everyone, no matter what Apple Watch Series you currently own. For those who haven't invested in Apple Watch yet, now is the perfect time.

Tim?
Is that you?
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
miniyou64 Avatar
18 months ago
Is there a way to turn it off so it works like normal Apple watches? Aren't there potential privacy concerns for complication data?
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
18 months ago

Do we really think they couldn't have brought the AOD to the S4 last year?

This feels purposely held back just to have "something" for this year.

No, Apple isn’t going to hold back a much requested feature. It will ship when it’s ready.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macduke Avatar
18 months ago
While it may be true that there aren't a lot of things upgraded, always on display is a HUGE one that is usually at the top of every single person's list of Apple Watch upgrades since 2015. It was a surprise feature and we will gladly take it. Doesn't mean I'm going to upgrade my Series 4 this year, but I'm stoked and looking forward to my next upgrade even more.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WBRacing Avatar
18 months ago
Let the small [S]iterations[/S] innovations commence!
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

lg wing

LG Considering Exit From Smartphone Business, Halts LCD Production for iPhone

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:38 am PST by
LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald). LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry: Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about...
google maps detailed street level e1611052089473

Google Maps Gains Enhanced Street-Level Detail in Four Major Cities

Tuesday January 19, 2021 2:34 am PST by
Google Maps has quietly been updated to include significantly more detailed street-level information in a handful of key cities around the world. Upon zooming in, Google's maps for Central London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York now benefit from shapes and widths that match the scale of roads more accurately. Meanwhile, enhanced graphical representations of sidewalks, crosswalks,...
2019 mac pro side and front

Tim Cook Gifted Donald Trump 'First' 2019 Mac Pro

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:45 pm PST by
Apple CEO Tim Cook gifted former United States President Donald Trump with the first 2019 Mac Pro that came off of the assembly line in Austin, Texas, according to a financial disclosure report that was released today (via The Verge). "Mac Pro Computer, the first created at the Flex Factory in Austin, Texas," reads the entry, which values the machine at $5,999, the base price for a Mac Pro....
airpods max sim ejector

AirPods Max Headband Removable With Just a SIM Ejector Tool, Hinting at Interchangeable Headbands

Tuesday January 19, 2021 8:25 am PST by
It is possible to remove the headband of AirPods Max with just a standard SIM card ejector tool, hinting at the possibility of interchanging headbands to achieve a different colorway. Image via Prelook In December, MacRumors revealed the large variety of AirPods Max ear cushion color combinations when it became clear that they were magnetically attatched and available for sale separately....
iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
iphone 12 vs iphone 12 mini

Apple Shifting Some Production From iPhone 12 mini to iPhone 12 Pro to Meet Demand

Wednesday January 20, 2021 8:12 am PST by
Apple has reportedly cut production of the iPhone 12 mini by two million units to create more manufacturing capacity for the iPhone 12 Pro, according to a new Morgan Stanley investment note seen by PED30. Apple is believed to have made the switch for the first quarter of 2021 in an effort to combat continuing lead times for the more popular iPhone 12 Pro. iPhone 12 Pro lead times remain ...
Apple VR Feature

Bloomberg: Apple's First AR/VR Headset 'Pricey, Niche Precursor' to More Ambitious AR Glasses and Could Launch Next Year

Thursday January 21, 2021 3:27 am PST by
Apple's first virtual reality headset will be a "pricey, niche precursor" to a more ambitious augmented reality product, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. As a mostly virtual reality device, it will display an all-encompassing 3-D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating. AR functionality, the ability to overlay images and information over a view...
shot on iphone 12 apple

Apple Highlights Photos Shot by iPhone 12 Users: Portraits, Cityscapes, and More

Tuesday January 19, 2021 6:05 am PST by
Apple today shared a gallery of photos shot by customers using the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, with scenes including cityscapes, landscapes, portraits of people, and more at day and night. Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by "NKCHU" in China (top) and shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by Rohit Vohra in India (bottom) iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 models have a dual camera ...
Apple and Hyundai feature

Apple Car Production Again Linked to Kia Motor's US Plant in Georgia

Tuesday January 19, 2021 4:19 am PST by
Hyundai intends to transition the company's Apple Car involvement to its Kia brand as part of an internal arrangement that could see production move to the U.S., according to a new report today. On Sunday, Korea IT News reported that Apple and Hyundai are seeking a partnership agreement for the upcoming Apple Car by March, and that the electric vehicles could be made at a Georgia factory...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature

iPhone 13 Rumored to Feature Smaller Notch, Pro Model Cameras to Use Larger Image Sensor

Thursday January 21, 2021 1:38 am PST by
Apple's iPhone 13 series will feature a redesigned Face ID system that will allow for a smaller notch at the top of the screen, according to a new report today. The rumor comes via hit-and-miss Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes, whose supply chain sources also claim that the ultra wide-angle lens in Apple's next-generation iPhones is due for an upgrade. The next-generation iPhones'...