Apple Watch five years later: What I love and hate

Apple Watch five years later: What I love and hate
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When I bought the first-ever Apple Watch five years ago, I thought my dreams of becoming a cyborg with a robot army would finally come true. Or, at the very least, I’d be the ultimate, up-in-coming hotshot tech reporter on my upstate college campus. 

My anarchic ambitions, though still existent, did not come true with the debut Apple Watch. Back when wrist computers were just one of my mom’s outlandish prophecies, the idea of an Apple Watch sounded a lot cooler than actually having one.

Similar to the AirPods’s ascent to mainstream, it took a few months for the Apple Watch’s cult to catch on. It wasn’t until holiday of 2015, almost six months after the wearable hit shelves, that I began noticing the swarm of little LCD wrist displays. By this point, I had already stopped wearing mine, and even debating selling it.

But I’m glad I didn’t, because now I have it to compare side-by-side with the Apple Watch Series 5. Sure, my OG Apple Watch might not turn on anymore, but that’s semantics.

Simply holding its sad, powerless body in my palm lets me reflect on how far the Apple Watch has come, and recall some of the quirks that drove it off my wrist in the first place. 

My second go-around as an Apple Watch user is much better so far. But it’s not like I haven’t tested modern smartwatches and fitness trackers in the interim – though I love some features like the cellular connectivity and health metrics, there are some areas where Apple can improve. In fact, there are a couple of things I still dislike half a decade in.

Here’s what I love and hate about the Apple Watch, 5 years later. 

Apple Watch Series 4

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Cellular LTE support is a game-changer

When Apple debuted a cellular version of the Apple Watch in 2017, it didn’t hold much appeal. In fact, we recommended you skip the pricier model in our Apple Watch Series 3 review because it didn’t quite live up to the hype. But like the popularity of the Apple Watch itself, the interest in cellular support has grown since then.

Though cellular functionality requires a monthly data plan from your wireless carrier, it gives you the power to separate from your iPhone when you go for a jog outside or run a quick errand. It’s freeing, really. 

And when I do have my iPhone, it’s reassuring to know that if my smartphone dies, gets damaged or stolen (it’s happened) that I’m still connected. 

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Watch health and wellness features get better every year

Apple’s edge over competing fitness trackers is how consistently it launches new features. The Apple Watch Series 4’s FDA-approved electrocardiogram can alert you when you experience irregular heart rate readings, while the fall detection sensors have and can save lives by calling emergency assistance on your behalf. 

Getting moving with the Apple Watch’s “rings” is just as motivating as it was five years ago. The visual reminders and challenges even turned my colleague into an Apple Watch believer. When I’m nearing my own goals, I’m more likely to squeeze in that extra walk I normally wouldn’t take.

I’m excited by rumors of what the Apple Watch 6’s release will hold. Sleep tracking has never appealed to me, but I know others will be glad it’s on the way. I’m interested in the potential of an SPO2 blood oxygen monitor, too. And while the Apple Watch’s breathing buddy is already great, the company is allegedly working on even more mental health support tools. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Five identical models later, it’s time for a new design

The look of the Apple Watch hasn’t changed in five years, and I have the first and most recent models to prove it. Heck, the iPhone’s design doesn’t even go this long without a significant alteration.

I’m a big believer in ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,’ but I would like to see Apple take a risk with the Apple Watch’s aesthetic. Even if it’s a tiny one. I’d appreciate something subtle like refreshed color finishes or a redesigned crown setup. As polarizing as it could be, maybe Apple should find a way to ditch the crown altogether.

And as sleek as the Apple Watch looks in athletic settings, it’s still not an ideal accessory for nicer occasions. Some of the best Apple Watch bands add a touch of elegance, but it can’t pass for fine jewelry like the Samsung Galaxy Watch can. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

‘All day’ battery life doesn’t cut it.

The Apple Watch is class-leading in every category except the most practical one. An all-day, 18-hour battery life isn’t good enough even with the always-on display. Though its performance might be more demanding than competing smartwatches that last several days, I think the company needs to do better.

I would rather the Apple Watch last three days on a single charge than have the always-on screen. No matter how often I organize my zoo of bedside cables, the knotted white cords give me a headache. Until a reliable, AirPower-type Qi charger is available, or the iPhone gains reverse wireless charging support, the Apple Watch’s battery life should improve.

I ditched the first Apple Watch because I grew tired of having to charge it so often. Eventually I would forget to charge it for a week at a time, and then I just couldn’t be bothered to charge it at all. I could see that happening again now, because that's just who I am (and I know I'm not alone.)

Bottom line

Have you ever held the Apple Watch in your hand, sans-bands? It feels like resting a teeny tiny iPhone in your palm. Try it the next time you’re switching your bands. While it might not be my favorite piece of tech, the Apple Watch fills me with geekiest joy in the world. 

Apple is expected to launch the next-generation Watch alongside the iPhone 12 in the fall. Check out our roundup of the latest Apple Watch 6 news and rumors, which will be updated regularly until then. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.