The Apple Watch Series 4 was one of the most innovative devices of 2018, but we're already looking ahead to the Series 5. The next generation of Apple Watches is expected to debut in September 2019, and while we don't know yet what the Series 5 will look like or what features will be included, we have a wish list. Let's tick them off, one by one.
Apple Watch Series 5: Release date and specs
For the last few years, Apple has announced a new Apple Watch at its September iPhone event, and we expect the same time frame this year. The Series 4 was pricier than its predecessor at $399 for the non-LTE version (versus $349 for the Series 3 with GPS), because of its electrical heart rate sensor and advanced heart health features. Depending on what sensors Apple chooses to add to the Series 5, it could be even more expensive. The cellular model will likely command a $100 premium over the GPS version, as with the third and fourth generations.
Longer battery life
The Apple Watch Series 4 lasts about 18 hours on a charge, though I can usually eke out a full day and a half, especially if I don't work out. But Samsung's Galaxy Watch and Fitbit's Versa can easily last four days, making the Apple Watch feel a little behind the times. I already have to charge my iPhone every night; I don't want to think about another device, too.
The Series 4 offers the same battery life as previous generations but is thinner with a larger, brighter display and a new electrical heart rate sensor. That's impressive. But I wish I had the option to wear it overnight, forget it on a table, or travel for a weekend without packing an extra charger.
You can easily find a third-party sleep-tracking app in the watchOS App Store, but I wish Apple would build out its own sleep-tracking feature. The resulting data could be integrated with your activity data for a more complete look at your overall health. Perhaps Apple could add a ring for meeting sleep goals, as is currently the case for standing, moving and exercising.
Fitbit's in-depth sleep analysis makes its fitness trackers and smartwatches a compelling option, especially for insomniacs or people with sleep disorders who want to see how their activity and sleep correlate. Fitbit's newer devices, the Versa and Charge 3, also feature a sensor that could one day be used to diagnose sleep apnea. The Apple Watch has primarily focused on heart health, but the Series 5 could broaden its scope.
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If the Series 5 offers lengthier battery life, a native sleep-tracking tool would be a no-brainer.
Group activity challenges
Apple made the watch more social with the addition of activity challenges in watchOS 5. But you can only take on one friend at a time, and you can't choose the duration or the parameters of the competition. With the next version of watchOS, which I expect will be released alongside the Series 5, I hope Apple makes activity challenges more customizable, with the ability to compete against an entire group.
This could also help Apple win over business customers who want their employees to be more active — a digital version of a workplace wellness competition (minus the embarrassing public weigh-ins).
Even more advanced health sensors
The addition of an electrical heart-rate sensor pushed the Apple Watch Series 4 beyond rival smartwatches, which aren't even trying to compete at its level anymore. Additional sensors, such as the SpO2 sensor found in new Fitbits that can be used to detect sleep apnea, would offer even more insight into your health.
Some have speculated that Apple is working on a way to take non-invasive blood glucose readings, perhaps via sweat analysis, but experts I've spoken with think that technology is still a long way off. It's unlikely we’ll see such sophisticated diagnostic tools in the Series 5.
Another way for Apple to add more capabilities to the Series 5 is in the watch's accessories. Apple has over the past few years patented watch-band sensors that can detect UV ray intensity, monitor blood pressure and extend battery life.
A third-party watch strap, AliveCor's FDA-cleared KardiaBand, offers a built-in electrocardiogram sensor for diagnosing atrial fibrillation. The Apple Watch Series 4 has its own ECG sensor, but the company could explore adding on other sensors that are more specialized.
A fresh look
The Apple Watch's signature squared-off circle design (“squircle," if you will) is now practically iconic, but it's also still a little strange. Watches should be round, right? It's unclear if Apple will deviate from its now classic Apple Watch aesthetic, but a change would draw more buyers who aren't hip to the square.
Android smartwatches fail to impress, especially compared with the Apple Watch. If Apple made the Series 5 compatible with Android smartphones, the watch would almost definitely become even more widespread.
I'm not expecting Apple to radically overhaul the watch's looks (or play nice with Android), but it seems likely that the Series 5 will feature even more tools for monitoring your health and boost your activity. Stay tuned for rumors on the next-gen Apple Watch as they emerge in 2019.
Credit: Tom's Guide