Apple Watch Series 4 Brings Huge Display, Life-Saving Features

CUPERTINO — Apple has been steadily evolving the Apple Watch from a style-conscious device that inadvertently saved lives into a more purposeful health tool with heart rate alerts. The newly unveiled Apple Watch Series 4 has a beautiful new display, but more importantly, it’s the first FDA-approved smartwatch with an electrocardiogram sensor for measuring irregular heart rate.

The new sensor is one of many new health features Apple putting in the Series 4. You can take a 30-second EKG using the Digital Crown to detect electrical signals from your fingertip. Apple’s FDA-approved algorithm will alert you when you’re experiencing atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart rhythm that can be the sign of a critical health issue. Many Apple Watch users have discovered they’re experiencing atrial fibrillation with a watchOS 4 feature that alerts people when their heart rate is too high outside of a workout. Now Apple is making that a more intentional, actionable alert.

Advanced Health-Tracking

The ECG sensor is impressive, but Apple is packing the Series 4 with more health tools than any other smartwatch on the market. The new watch has an upgraded accelerometer and gyroscope that can detect if you’ve fallen, then prompt you to send a message to an emergency contact. If the watch senses you haven’t moved for a minute after the fall, the device will dial emergency services for you.

The optical heart rate sensor in the Series 4 measures low heart and sends an alert if your heart rate dips below your baseline. That could signal a serious health issue.

“You can always check your heart rate, but Apple Watch now looks in the background and notifies you if it detects an elevated heart rate,” Apple COO Jeff Williams said on-stage at the Apple Watch announcement today (Sept. 12). “This might be a simple change, but we see it in customer letters: it’s a profound change. Apple Watch has become an intelligent guardian for your health.”

Glorious New Display

The Apple Watch Series 4 isn’t just an advanced health-tracker, though that is a huge deal. The device has looked the same since its 2015 debut, but Apple gave the just-announced Series 4 a fresh face. Apple is nudging up the watch sizes, from 38 and 42mm to 40 and 44mm, respectively, but also slimming down the devices, so that the Series 4 has less volume than its predecessor. The Series 4’s display is also a whole lot bigger.

It’s a continuation of a trend Apple began with the nearly bezel-free iPhone X and extended with this year’s iPhone lineup. The Series 4 has more screen real estate than any previous Apple Watch, which is opening up a world of possibilities.

Both displays are 30 percent larger than previous Apple Watches, and Apple redesigned every part of the interface to look more vivid and detailed on the extra-large display. There are a variety of new watch faces that can fit up to eight complications for quick access to your favorite apps or your loved ones. New dynamic watch faces send flames licking the sides of the display and illuminate the ticks of the dial. The Breathe app is brought to life in watch face form with three dynamic, hypnotic faces.

Battery Life

With all of these new health features and a larger, information-packed display, Apple says the Series 4 doesn't sacrifice battery life. The new device is expected to last 18 hours on a charge with mixed use, or up to five hours in workout mode with continuous GPS and heart rate-monitoring. That's a little disappointing, because the watch still can't be worn to track sleep, but the trade-off for advanced features might be worth it.

Price and Availability

The Series 4 without cellular connectivity will be $399 and the LTE model will start at $499 when preorders begin Friday (Sept. 14). Both watches go on sale in stores on Sept. 21.

They come in a silver, gold and space grey aluminum. Stainless steel models will be polished, space black and gold. The Series 3 will still be available to buy for a lower price, $279, starting now. All Apple Watch bands will still fit the new models.

The new version of watchOS is available to download Sept. 17, and will come preinstalled on the Series 4.

Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.