Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 34 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals

Upgrading from an Apple Watch Series 2 to a Series 5

When Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 5 back in September (see “Apple Watch Series 5 Introduces Always-On Display,” 10 September 2019), I initially categorized it as I had the previous several Apple Watch releases: undoubtedly better than my Apple Watch Series 2 but not worth buying for myself.

Several weeks later, however, I realized that I had become increasingly disenchanted with the performance of the Series 2 and decided to treat myself to a new Series 5. Then I could hand the Series 2 down to my son Tristan, and my mother could try his original Apple Watch to see if she liked it. (Up to this point, Tonya had the newest model in the family, a cellular-capable Series 3.)

I’ve now had several months with the Apple Watch Series 5, and I wanted to share my impressions about what makes a difference and what doesn’t. I’m sure not everyone will agree with my conclusions, but if you’ve been holding onto an older Apple Watch, you may find my thoughts useful in determining whether or not to upgrade.

Always-On Display

First off, let’s dispense with the elephant in the room: the much-ballyhooed Always-On Retina display. It’s a fine screen, and nice to look at, but the always-on aspect of it is, if not worthless, certainly not worth much. In essence, Apple is employing some clever engineering and user-interface trickery to enable the display to continue showing something even when you’re not looking at it, all while maintaining good battery life. (Speaking of which, battery life wasn’t a problem on my Series 2 despite its age.)

The Always-On Retina display works—there’s always something showing on the screen—but it doesn’t do what Apple implies. When you lift your wrist, you see the screen brighten and various bits update from their previously dormant state. I’m not sure that’s any less annoying than waiting a beat for the screen to light up, as was necessary for all previous models.

Worse, if you’re using an app—I often use the Strava app to record workouts—the screen doesn’t show the app, just the time, until you raise your wrist and look at it. I suppose that’s better than nothing, but if I’m using the app, I want to see the app, and waiting for the screen to brighten and the time screen to be replaced by the Strava screen isn’t notably better than having the screen be entirely dark when you’re not looking at it.

Don’t buy an Apple Watch Series 5 because of the Always-On Retina display.

Similarly, I’ve found no benefit to the new built-in compass in the Series 5, or its international emergency calling. That’s me—if you regularly care about what direction you’re facing or worry about reaching emergency services on regular international trips, these features may be important to you.

Bigger Screen

So let’s talk about what does make a difference. The first thing I noticed when I got the Apple Watch Series 5 is that its screen is bigger: 40mm (324-by-394 pixels) on the smaller model that’s the right size for my wrist, compared to the Series 2’s 38mm (272-by-340 pixels). You wouldn’t think that 2mm of diagonal screen size would be a big deal, but all those extra pixels made a real difference.

Until the last month, I was struggling with a slightly out-of-date contact lens prescription that didn’t work well at wrist distance, meaning I could barely read the watch without reading glasses. The larger screen was noticeably easier to read. If you’ve been frustrated by the size of text on the Apple Watch screen, upgrading to a Series 5 (the Series 4 is no longer available, and the Series 3 has the smaller screen) may be a win for you.

Faster Performance

It’s impossible to compare the performance of the Apple Watch Series 2 at its 2016 launch to how it was working in 2019 with watchOS 5 and then watchOS 6, not just because of the evolution of watchOS but because of newer apps and an older battery. The main non-Apple app I wanted to use was Strava, and it was dog slow on the  Series 2. (Where the dog in question is old and lame; it’s not clear why dogs get a bad rap for speed in that cliché.) It felt like the entire interface was submerged in molasses—I’d tap a button and wait so many seconds for it to depress that I never quite knew if I’d actually tapped it or not.

In contrast, the Apple Watch Series 5 has been a joy to use. It’s not the most responsive user interface ever, but it’s fine for what I do. Meanwhile, when Tristan replaced his original Apple Watch with the Series 2, he was impressed at how much faster it was, and my mother hasn’t commented on the performance of the original model that she’s using now, although she’s not using any apps. It’s all what you’re accustomed to.

I had wondered if the Series 5’s improved performance would encourage me to use more apps—had I been shying away from playing with apps because I knew the performance would be dreadful? The answer turns out to be no—Strava remains the only non-Apple app I use, and of the built-in apps, I still rely only on complications, Siri, and the Timer app.

Bands and Colors

I wasn’t a huge fan of the silicone Sport Band that came with my original Apple Watch, although Tonya likes hers. Nor did I like the woven nylon buckle band that came with my Series 2. So when Tonya bought her Series 3, we got a Seashell Sport Loop with it, and I took that over. My problem with the Sport Band was that the holes were never quite in the right spot for me, so it was sometimes a little too tight and other times a little too loose. The Sport Loop, in contrast, is brilliant because you can adjust it to whatever size your wrist is (or feels like it wants) at the moment.

Apple Watch Series 5 with Midnight Blue Sport Loop bandEvery year, Apple announces new colors for its Apple Watch bands. I’ve liked some of them in the past, but at $49, I could never justify the expense of replacing the grayish Sport Loop. I was looking forward to picking out a new color for the Sport Loop, but I was disappointed to discover that every time Apple comes out with new colors, the company drops all the old ones. In my fashion cluelessness, I had assumed the others would remain available. In the end, I was pretty happy with the Midnight Blue Sport Loop, but I remember liking other previous colors more. C’est la vie!

(If I ever get around to it, I’ll try the cheap knock-off Sport Loop replacements available from various Chinese companies on Amazon, like this five-pack for $24.)

Five-pack of knock-off Sport Loop Apple Watch bands

New Watch Faces

Infograph Modular watchOS 6 faceApple adds new watch faces with each new version of watchOS and each new Apple Watch release, it seems, and not all are available on older models. I was looking forward to exploring the new watchOS 6 faces that weren’t available on my Series 2, such as Gradient, Infograph, Infograph Modular, Meridian, and more. Apple has a full list of every watch face, its customizable features, and its available complications.

Most of these watch faces seem merely like eye candy—I’m uninterested in an analog dial of any sort—but the Infograph Modular face provides an alternative to the Modular face I had been using without losing any functionality.

Your mileage is likely to vary here since the choice of watch faces seems like the veritable definition of personal preference.

Was It Worth It?

Spending $499 to upgrade from the Series 2 to the Series 5 was worth it for me, especially given that I’m in the business of keeping up with Apple. I opted to get the GPS+Cellular model not because I intended to use it but because Tonya will likely take over this Apple Watch at some point, and she does need cellular connectivity because she often doesn’t have her iPhone 7 handy due to it being too large to carry comfortably on her body. Plus, if something changes with a future version of watchOS or an app that makes cellular connectivity attractive, I’ll be able to sign up for it without buying new hardware.

In the end, I would suggest that it’s probably worth upgrading to a Series 5 from an original Apple Watch, particularly given its aging battery, or a Series 1. The improved performance and longer battery life will likely be welcome. It’s harder for me to say that the Series 5 is so much better than the Series 2 that it’s worth even $399 to upgrade to the GPS-only version of the Series 5. Similarly, you will notice the larger screen and improved performance if you’re moving from a Series 3, but just as with an upgrade from a Series 2, is it worth $400 to $500? Finally, unless you have money burning a hole in your pocket, I can’t see much reason to upgrade from a Series 4 to a Series 5.

Subscribe today so you don’t miss any TidBITS articles!

Every week you’ll get tech tips, in-depth reviews, and insightful news analysis for discerning Apple users. For over 33 years, we’ve published professional, member-supported tech journalism that makes you smarter.

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. The Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Comments About Upgrading from an Apple Watch Series 2 to a Series 5

Notable Replies

  1. As luck would have it, I also upgraded from a Series 2 watch to a Series 5 this month (and gave the Series 2 to my daughter). Adam’s right that individual experiences will vary — wildly.

    The Series 5’s always-on screen addresses one of my biggest complaints about the Series 2: Checking the time required a dramatic, grandiose arm swing to wake up the screen. I’ve worn a watch for years and years, and it always bothered me that there was no way to discreetly check the time on the Series 2. If I want feedback from an app screen, I don’t mind raising my wrist. I love that my Series 5 Apple Watch feels like a watch again. To each their own.

    On the other hand, it’s taking me a while to get used to the bigger screen. I think it’s because the Series 5 screen’s corners are more rounded. I never had trouble with the size of the screen on my Series 2, but the useful part of the Series 5 doesn’t feel much bigger. Again, to each their own.

    Skipping ahead to the bands and colors: I can’t imagine I’d ever look at Apple Watch colors as a reason to upgrade, personally. I got my Series 5 in exactly the same color as my Series 2. As far as the bands, I got the Series 5 with the band my daughter wanted for her new-to-her Series 2. I now use my Series 5 with the same bands I used with my Series 2 — including my original black Sport Band — and I like them just as well.

    However, I totally endorse Adam’s feelings about the difference in performance. I knew the Series 5 had to be faster than the Series 2; I had no idea how big the difference was. Use cases that felt janky and half-baked on the Series 2 are flawless on the Series 5. My app use was always split roughly 50-50 between Apple and non-Apple apps, but in the weeks I’ve had the Series 5 I’ve tried several new apps and installed several that I’d been using on my iPhone 7 but not my watch.
    ETA is one of my new favorites — having a complication that always shows me travel time home from work (or to work from home) feels pretty dang cool.

    So, is it worth it? I think so, I guess? I’ve been a smartwatch user since the first-generation Pebble, and the Series 5 feels for the first time like a fully functioning product — but even if it feels worth the price of the upgrade for the moment, I know those feelings could easily change if the Series 6 comes out and offers another leap. That’s just the way I’m wired, I guess.

  2. I went from 3LTE to 5LTE, so not quite as big of a jump as you made. I got mine when it came out, one of the first few days they were available.

    Always on: At the beginning, always on burned battery too much, so I initially turned it off. After a couple of WatchOS upgrades, I turned it back on. It’s useful enough so that I haven’t turned it off again, and the battery burn is acceptable, but I agree with your complaints about 3rd party apps. There should be a way for an app to keep the screen on (with the understanding that that’ll burn battery).

    Compass: I actually used it! A few months back we went to England for a week and I went on a trip to Greenwich one day. Standing on the prime meridian, I checked the coordinates on my phone and the longitude wasn’t quite at zero. There was a sign explaining that fact and saying “go 100 meters east” to find the prime meridian for the GPS coordinate system. I wondered which way was was east, and then I remembered that my watch had a compass. Found east, walked until I was on the zero longitude line of the GPS coordinate system. Haven’t used it since, didn’t use it before, but at least one time I found it useful.

    Apps: Only used Strava once, to “cheat” on the Escape Plan challenge. (Well, technically not cheating, but walking the dog for 30 minutes, which counted according to the rules of the challenge, is much easier than any of the rides I do, and I usually wouldn’t bother recording that.) The other app I regularly use is Overcast. Occasionally I’ll use one of a number of weather apps. I have speciality devices (Garmin Edge 830 and Fenix 5+) for cycling/hiking/cross country skiing, so I don’t use my AW for recording activities, and I keep it from annoying me about steps/heart rate/etc. I occasionally take an ECG, but only because I can, not for any real purpose.

    Was it worth it for me? Yes, I’m still glad I did it. It’s faster than the 3, and I like the bigger screen.

  3. I also went from S2 to S5 (though I’ve kept the S2 as a sleep tracking/spare watch) and it was a great upgrade for me. I did go down in size (42 to 40) and my only regret is that the bands are just a bit on the small side for me. Performance is excellent, as you say.

    I’m a huge fan of always on display, though. I always have a watchface showing so I can see the time easily without the wrist raise and I especially love the fact that the workout app has a great always on display. My biggest frustration with the S2 was when I’d be mid-workout and want to see time and/or distance and the watch would be black when I looked at it. It always took a weird exaggerated raise to get the display to turn on in a workout.

    I’ve never used the compass and likely never will. (Well, I used it once and it was off, but that’s because of the Milanese loop band with its magnet.)

    One other thing is that I’ve gone from aluminum to stainless steel and I like that my crystal remains without a scratch. My S2 was scratched up within a month of owning it.

  4. I’m surprised you don’t find the always-on display more useful, Adam. That’s my favorite feature and the main reason I upgraded.

    First, quick background: I bought a stainless steel Series 0 in 2015 sight unseen (pre-order) and used it until just a year ago fall. By then its battery life was pathetic, it was so slow I pretty much just used it to tell time (no apps), and then while on a trip I scratched the screen. When I got back home I upgraded to a Series 4, opting for the smaller size since the screen was made bigger.

    The series 4 was definitely a huge improvement over the 0, and I prefer the smaller watch, but I found I still didn’t really use apps. Oddly, one of the main things I use it for is telling the time. When Apple announced the always-on display, I wanted that. Sadly, Apple only gave me $100 trade-in for my year-old series 4, which was lame, but better than nothing (what Apple would give me for my expensive Series 0). I figured if I waited I’d get even less, so I decided to go for it. I’m glad I did. I see no benefit to the steel or other finishes over the aluminum other than they make your wallet lighter.

    Battery life is better on 5 than the 4 (I’m usually at 50% by bedtime while on the 4 I was closer to 25%) and I love being able to just glance at my wrist to tell time. If I’m in a dark place like a movie theatre I love that I can check the time without lighting up the room.

    It is true that always-on doesn’t show app info or other detail, and some complications (like weather status) are out of date on the always-on, but none of those are a huge deal for me. Just the other day I was telling myself that there’s no way I could go back to an apple watch without the always-on display.

    In terms of other features, the 5 is slightly better at detecting “exercise,” but I still have to start workouts manually for the most part, which I hate (I forget about twice a week and don’t get credit for my workouts, which depresses me terribly and makes me less likely to exercise). I actually had problems with the watch stopping my workouts automatically for me; my main exercise is walking the dog and apparently that’s too inactive to be considered a workout (even though it’s uphill and I’m panting). I called Apple support and they had me make some changes in settings that seemed to help, but it still does it occasionally (overcompensating for battery saving because workout mode drains the battery too much, I guess).

    For me, the fitness areas of the watch are the most incomplete and useless feature; I still don’t know why so many people think it’s great for fitness. If you’re an athlete like Adam I suppose it makes more sense; for a sedentary slug like me, just emptying the dishwasher is a workout and I want exercise credit for that!

    If someone is wondering why I don’t wear a regular watch if I mainly use Apple Watch to tell time, I should say that I also use the notification features to see who is texting or calling or if a VIP email has come in. That’s not something I use constantly, but it is important enough to justify a smartwatch over a cheap Casio.

  5. I have an original Watch and I’ve been trying to justify moving to a Series 4. One problem for me is I need a metal watch band as the vinyl/rubber/cloth ones irritate my skin. What is the sport loop band made of? Alternately, I could just move my current metal loop band to the newer watch.

  6. I would just move the current metal loop and buy the cheapest watchband variant that has the features you need.

    The thing I like the most about the AppleWatch is the choice in bands, both Apple and third party, when I got my 5 the band I wanted wasn’t shipping for another month, so I got a sport band and used my old band till the brown leather strap was available. It also means I can give an unused band with the old watch when I pass it on to family etc.


  7. I went from an s4 42 to the s5 40, I know I got the smaller Watch this time, but I’ve gone from almost 48 hours of battery life to less than 24. That’s without any workouts… I was gps tracking 4 hour kayak trips with my s4 and still having more than 24 hours of battery. I’m afraid to even try that with the battery in my s5…

  8. I’m 66 with a knee replacement and a hip that’s been replaced twice. I consequently don’t have the balance i had 20 years ago and the fall notification feature in the 5, coupled with the ECG app, made upgrading from my 3 last September a no-brainer for this senior citizen. The fall app has detected each of several hard falls I’ve had and has offered to call 911 or my wife each time - happily not required, but great to have it in the background in case I ever need it. The GPS and cell capability mean it can call and identify my location if I don’t respond. Also like the larger screen, better exercise app and all the other improvements.

  9. Wow. That’s the opposite of my experience.

    I should mention, though, that i turned off “raise to wake” as I found that normal arm movements woke it up all the time and wasted battery. With always-on display, I don’t need raise to wake. If I really want to wake it up I have to tap the screen. This works great for me and battery life is terrific (9a-midnight with 50% left with typically about an hour workout walk each day).

  10. I upgraded from Series 2 to a Series 5, when my Series 2 watch broke. (Well, half broke. The motion sensor broke. So I had to tap the watch to wake it up, and when I went for a run it tracked the run with GPS but told me I’d taken zero steps.)

    I find the Always On feature the most useful change. I have a part-time job at a golf course where I need to look at the time frequently, or show people what time it is, and having to move my arm or tap the watch with the Series 2 was very annoying. Now I know I can just glance down at my arm whenever I want, just like those old fashioned unsmart watches. :wink:

    No one has mentioned the Noise app, which I think was new for Series 5. (?) I’ve found this to be both interesting and useful. (Although the microphone has issues in strong winds, thinking its very noisy.)

    I don’t use a lot of apps either, so didn’t really notice the performance differences. The larger screen and more complex watch faces are nice; I alternate between one with lots of details and complications, and one which just shows the time in big numbers!

  11. I am considering upgrading to a Series 5 from a Series 2, and like Adam, I was hoping to be able to see the larger display better without my reading glasses. Does anyone else have any comments on that? Also, what does the always on display show when using the Apple Workout app? I usually like to check my heart rate during workouts and the current raise to wake can become cumbersome. Thanks in advance for any advice.

  12. I have a hand me down series 1 and was wondering if it is worth upgrading, so the article has me thinking. Is having the built in gps helpful when tracking walking?

    Right now, with my series 1, I typically have 50% battery left by the time I put it on the charger when I go to sleep. With the always on feature will that get worse?


  13. That’s exactly what I love about always on display. It shows everything the workout app would show if the display was lit, except it is a little dimmer and doesn’t show the tenths and hundredths of seconds. They show up and the display brightens when you raise to wake or tap the screen. One other improvement I’ve noticed with the S5 over the S2 is that raise to wake seems to work a lot more reliably for me. .

  14. I think everyone is different, but if I don’t charge my watch during the day (I usually do when I am showering) I will go to bed with between 30 and 35%. I’ve never used it without AOD so I don’t know what the difference will be. However, I probably had a bit more with the S2 - probably about 40 to 50.

  15. Hmm… What to do. The easiest answer is nothing at all. :slight_smile: I got this Series 1 as a hand-me-down from a friend who upgrades to a Series 4. It’s more interesting than I thought it would be (I posted about it in my blog at and more recently at

    I wonder what more I would get out of the Series 5 than I do from the Series 5. I should go through a feature-by-feature comparison I guess.

    By the way, when you get the cellular version does that require an extra cellular data monthly contract?

  16. No. I have a cellular version but I have not activated cellular yet. So far I’ve seen no reason to - I always have my phone with me anyway.

  17. The Watch generally defers to the phone for almost everything when it’s connected. From what I’ve read, the AW’s GPS is only used when it’s not connected to the phone. So if you’re carrying your phone, it’ll be using the phone’s GPS anyway, so it’ll be no different.

    Generally, with always on I have about 40-50% left at the end of the day. Depends on what I’ve been doing and whether the phone has been left behind/is unavailable at some point. When it’s on its own the Watch uses more power.

  18. If you want to use it it does. I have Verizon. I think I’m paying $10 per month for the AW. It’s not a full line charge because it shares a number with your phone, and the only time cellular on the watch is used at all is if it’s not connected to your phone.

  19. I traded in my Series 1 for a Series 5  Watch last September. I love the much improved responsiveness when I tap a workout in the Zones app. And I love having more pixels on the display, even though I went from the larger S1 display to the smaller S5, which fits my wrist better. The Sport Loop is way better than the Sport Band. I got the $399 GPS-only model, which became $369 after the trade-in, which became $358 after the  Card cash-back. Definitely worth it.

    I will never have an  Watch with cellular unless Apple relaxes the restrictions on the choice of service provider. Currently, you have to have the same service provider as your iPhone, but my phone’s service is with Spectrum Mobile ($14 per month), which is not one of the choices for the watch.

  20. I can only speak for Canada and for me, no, I have no extra cellular charge. It piggy-backs off of my iPhone. I am quite glad I bought the cellular version because it means I do not have to pack my iPhone, now an Xr, everywhere I go or dig it out of a pocket to use Apple Pay. Especially lately here where we had a cold streak of -40˚ Celsius and digging for deeply buried pockets was a challenge.

    My first Apple Watch was a 44mm Series 4. I am a pretty big guy, 6’ 2" and about 230lbs on a good day so I needed the extra real estate the 44mm offered. I am senior and have had double cataract surgery so now have no ability to focus close up and the bigger watch face has proved the proper choice for me.

    The fall detection feature in the S4 was a main motivation for me to buy the S4. After fighting a number of health issues I struggled with maintaining balance a lot so knowing if I fell and could not get up that I could get help called was enormously reassuring. I know this was discussed a lot last year on TidBITS and I can say that I too had a few false fall alerts early on in owning the S4. It is almost unfair to call them false alerts because the times it occurred were when I had slipped rather severely and then regained balance and one, which was rather odd, when I had to park sideways on a rather steep sloping parking area with the driver’s door on the down side. Regardless, after a few early on false alerts the S4 seems to have developed a basic threshold and I have had no false alerts for well over a year.

    Being a Canadian the ECG feature was slow to gain approval here. I have to guess but think it would have been approved and available on the Apple Watch in April or May of 2019. While I have not had to put it to the test as far as using it to determine if I should get medical help it does appear to do the jobs it promised and gives me a certain level of comfort to see satisfactory results.

    Apps were definitely not top of the list for my Apple Watch but I do use a few 3rd party Apps, mostly health and/or sleep related, along with 1Password, Tile, Overcast, IFTTT and a control access for my home alarm system.

    I have stayed with silicone bands and have found them quite comfortable. I bought a few random, inexpensive bands on eBay to try some out without buying more expensive bands to only find I did not like them. I remain quite satisfied with my choice to buy that way.

    Mine is an aluminum model and I have had no issues with scratches or any other blemishes so would find it hard to justify the extra cost to buy a stainless steel model. At the moment I have no reason to upgrade and really can’t imagine what new feature it would take for me to consider an upgrade. Maybe by Apple Watch 6 or 7 I will change my mind.

    Another poster mentioned the Noise App. It is also available on the S4 and I do have it “on” and set to a 90 decibel threshold. I have never received a single Notification so may adjust the threshold.

  21. Continuing the discussion from [Upgrading from an Apple Watch Series 2 to a Series 5]:

    Thanx for your insight to the Series 5, and in particular its “always on” capability – I really, really wanted to upgrade from the Series 4 for “always on”, but now think I can remain happy with the Series 4 (and saving the $$).

    My biggest gripe with the WatchOS seems to be the total lack of a time display with selectable complications, that simply shows digital seconds. The only easily readable digital display I’ve found shows the Activity Rings, which are boring, boring, boring. I’m currently using a version of the Infograph, which shows a small character digital display and an analog seconds-hand. Tolerable, but I really don’t want the analog watch face. (Yuck!)

    I’ve tried checking 3rd-Party Apps for a better digital time, but have failed at finding anything there, either. If anyone can point me to a better idea, I’m interested in knowing!

  22. Wow, thanks for the great posts, everyone! I knew that my impressions and opinions were going to be specific to me, so I love hearing all the reasons that people have different ones.

    I realize after reading all this that part of the reason the Always-On screen doesn’t make any difference for me is because I don’t much care about the time. Since I work at home, I don’t have much of a schedule, and my Macs alert me to things that are coming up. So while I’m sure I do check the time on my wrist, it’s not why I wear the Apple Watch. (And before it came out, I didn’t wear a watch at all.) I’m much more interested in notifications and complications.

    Also, I hadn’t realized that the Workout app does support the Always-On screen because if I’m going to do any sort of workout tracking, I use Strava so the information isn’t siloed in the iPhone. And the main reason I’m actually using Strava on the Apple Watch is that (a) the app has improved sufficiently to be useful and (b) I’ve been injured and unable to run since June, so whatever exercise I do hasn’t been running. I’m just starting to come back from the plantar fasciopathy, and now that I can start to do a few miles here and there, I’ve immediately returned to my Garmin Forerunner 620 for tracking running workouts. The Apple Watch with Strava is better for indoor cycling on the trainer or weight workouts, though.

  23. I found this Apple page quite useful:

    Apple Watch faces and their features

    Personally I selected the Infograph face. It is easy for me to read and has the maximum number of Complications available which make accessing my most used features easy peasy.

  24. I went from a model 0 to a model 3, skipping the 1 and 2. I traded the 3 in for a 4 because I wanted to sever the “cord” between the iPhone and the Watch when I was jogging or fitness walking (or if I simply forgot to take the phone with me); otherwise, I would have kept the 3. I could see no tangible benefit, though, for trading the 4 for a 5; there was nothing new in the 5 that I wanted or needed.

  25. I turned off raise to wake today since you’re right, you really have to tap the screen to wake it up anyhow, at least I did, all raise to wake seemed to do is brighten the screen for me. I seem to be getting better battery life now, thanks!

  26. Regarding the cheap knock-off bands: I bought a sport loop assortment (not the exact one Adam featured) and a Milanese Loop-equivalent. I don’t have the Apple version of either of these so I can’t compare head-to-head but I’m perfectly happy with these. I can’t find anything wrong with the material or build quality of the Milanese Loop. The magnet is plenty strong to keep the loop from expanding when I move. Likewise, the material and quality of the sport loops seem top-notch.

    I bought the Watch (it’s my first) the week after Christmas at an Apple Store and they were out of most bands so I was stuck with buying the silicon sport band. After we checked stock on the bands I would have preferred and found they weren’t available, the Apple salesperson actually suggested that I go to Amazon to get less expensive bands!

  27. I can recommend the stainless steel Milanese Loop Apple sells as it has the comfort benefits of the nylon Sport Loop while not absorbing sweat and other particles.

    I use the Milanese Loop during the day and the Sport Loop for sleep tracking. The Sport Loop needs washing about once a month to keep irritation to a minimum. The Milanese Loop doesn’t irritate my skin at all.

  28. Yes, that is the one I have and for the same reason. I understand it will fit the larger Series 4 watches.

  29. The article inspired me to alter my Nike band. (BTW the extra holes allow finer adjustment.) The tab through the hole irritated my skin. A little Velcro glued on eliminated that.

  30. I’ve had my S5 about 6 months. It has THOUGHT I have fallen 2 or 3 times. I think each time was when I was doing something like moving boxes around.

  31. I went from the S2 to an S5 (both 44) and it’s great. My fat fingering now hits what I aim for.

    Once or twice a month it tells me my heart rate was at or below 38 for more than 10 minutes. Each time it has corresponded with a “near” nap.

    I have always had a lower than normal heart rate so I’m not really worried but I’ll ask my doc at my next physical.

  32. What makes the Garmin better than the Watch for running?

  33. The screen is easier to read in bright sunlight and is always available—no waiting for it to appear. Plus, the Garmin has real buttons that can be pressed to start and stop and pause and take laps without looking at the screen, not to mention configurable displays that show more information.

    It’s not much of a competition. The Apple Watch will record runs if that’s all you want, but serious runners who run speedwork or are aiming for training paces or need to run timed intervals need a real running watch.

  34. No argument on the rest of your points, but with the S5 and AOD this one is no longer an issue. As for bright sunlight, I’m back from two weeks in the Caribbean and I had no issues at all seeing the display when I was out for a run.

    I’d also add battery life as a plus for the Garmin running watches. You won’t need to charge the watch daily.

  35. Well, if you’re using the Workout app, I gather. All other apps are replaced by the time when your wrist is down and for that split second as you raise it. Just enough to annoy me every time. Since I log my runs and rides in Strava, I don’t use the Workout app.

    I haven’t been running seriously due to injury since I got the Series 5, so it may be better. The Series 2 was a problem in bright sun for me, compared to the Garmin’s LCD screen.

  36. Wait, I thought they first outsold Swiss watch makers years ago?

    And I wasn’t aware that Swiss watchmakers are trying to make smart watches. Years ago when my daughter wanted and acquired one, Swatch made simple little watches that served more as fashion accessories, and the other Swiss watchmakers I’ve heard of so far as I know make overpriced mechanical marvels (that I have zero interest in owning).

    I don’t know of anyone that can compete with Apple in smart watches. From what I’ve read Android Wear is a poor substitute. I own a Garmin Fenix 5+ which has some smart watch like features (notifications, Garmin Pay) but it’s really a pale imitation of a real smart watch like my AW5. The reverse is also true; my AW5 could never be my only (or even a) fitness device, while the 5+ is perfectly capable of being that if I needed it to be.

  37. If I remember correctly, they had previously sold more than any single Swiss watch maker. This article now says that they are outselling all of them combined.

    Of course, it’s not a fair comparison, since Swiss watch makers are selling luxury timepieces, not electronic accessories. Aside from the prices and the fact that both are worn on a wrist, there really isn’t much these two markets have in common.

  38. Wait, I thought they first outsold Swiss watch makers years ago?

    Apple Watch bested Swiss smart watches almost immediately after they were first introduced. Overtaking sales for the total sales of all Swiss watches is an even more significant milestone.

    And I wasn’t aware that Swiss watchmakers are trying to make smart watches.

    They’ve been making smartwatches for decades, mostly in response to early smart watches from Japanese companies like Seiko, as well as what was then personal consumer electronics powerhouse, Casio. At the time, Apple did develop a very interesting fitness tracking and entertainment product, the Nike+ iPod. Surprisingly, it’s still alive and kicking:

    But the Swiss efforts were few, far between and barely even half baked. In hindsight, they virtually ignored what was evolving into a global trend, perhaps because of headlines like these in the fashion/entertainment press around 2-3 years ago:

    Let’s Face It, Smartwatches Are Dead:

    “A trifecta of bad news for smartwatches means that it’s time for the consumer electronics industry to face reality: There’s simply no sizeable market for watches with apps on them, and users don’t want to have yet another screen nagging them about unread emails.”

    Until the last 2-3 years, just about nobody in any of the big watchmaking companies took smartwatches or the viability of consumer electronics companies in the business seriously at all.

    Years ago when my daughter wanted and acquired one, Swatch made simple little watches that served more as fashion accessories, and the other Swiss watchmakers I’ve heard of so far as I know make overpriced mechanical marvels (that I have zero interest in owning).

    Swiss watchmakers banded together to develop the fashionable, reasonably prices Swatch brand, which was wildly successful. And in what was then a shocking reversal in marketing/advertising trends for Swiss watches, they promoted buying multiple versions of the low priced watches in different colors. After just a few years, they sold the brand to a Japanese watchmaker.

    I don’t know of anyone that can compete with Apple in smart watches. From what I’ve read Android Wear is a poor substitute.

    Many brands have been trying, but so far nothing resembling a big success.

  39. Apple rocked the entire watch industry by selling Watch as a luxury item and electronic and healthcare accessory. Actually, it was more like detonating a nuclear bomb. While the super expensive solid gold edition of the first round of Apple watches was priced at $10,000+ was a disaster that contributed to the exits of Angela Ahrendts and Jony Ive, the problem with the model was one that Tim Cook had big reservations about. It’s a problem with the business model for ultra expensive watches that the Swiss Watch manufacturers did not foresee and are still struggling to find a solution to, and it’s very possible there might not be any. Apple releases new Watches with compelling new features every year, and app developers are constantly releasing new products and updating existing ones.

    The traditional upscale watch strategy is that when someone buys a $20,000 Rolex or Movado, they are buying a watch they will want to keep for life and hopefully pass on to future generations. It is not upgradable, and features do not change much, if at all, from year to year, or even decade to decade. There are no apps or in app purchases. Over 10, 20, 30 or more years, there will be repeat Apple Watch purchases by many current and future Watch users, along with app and in app purchases, as well as recurring revenue from subscriptions. Apple Watches can even be used to pay for items in stores, including with Apple Credit Card. Watch helps sell ancillary Apple products like AirPods, and it will probably integrate with the VR/AR glasses we’ve been hearing about for years. Over 5-10 years, the average Apple Watch buyer will generate significantly more income for Apple than a Rolex or Patek Phillipe buyer will for their brand.

  40. I’ve read many reports on this looking for more detail: all they say is Apple is way higher in quantity (estimated, since Apple doesn’t break out sales numbers), but there’s no mention of how they compare revenue-wise.

    Since many Swiss watches are expensive luxury pieces, their average selling price is higher than Apple’s, so even even the whole industry is less, perhaps their revenue is greater? That’s what I’d like to see.

  41. From April 2016 (a year after the first Watch was released): BGR: Apple Watch ‘flop’ outsold Rolex by about $1.5 billion

  42. A once heavily used but still working, original first generation Apple Computer built in Steve Jobs’ parents’ barn and including its manual and a letter from Steve Jobs, went for $671,000 in 2013:

    Antiques Roadshow also appraised a hardly used first generation Mac, keyboard and LaserWriter. It has an unverified signature from Woz, and if verified, the Mac would go for about $18,000.

  43. The problem for the watch manufacturer is that the best they get out of sales like this is a tiny bit of good publicity, not even 15 minutes of fame. Apple Watch customers tend to contribute to Apple’s bottom line on a long time, regular basis.

  44. I don’t think there is a problem. You’re comparing two markets that really don’t compete with each other, no matter how much the press would like you to believe otherwise.

    Someone who wants a piece of high-tech on their wrist is not going to be satisfied with a mechanical timepiece. And someone who wants a piece of designer mechanical jewelry is not going to be satisfied with a wearable computer.

  45. Said camera manufacturers about 15 years ago.

  46. The market share of people who want wearable computers on their wrists, which is currently dominated by Apple Watch, continues to increase exponentially while the market share of traditional watches is being exponentially cannibalized. Headlines like this have been dominating the watch industry for the last few years. The annual trade fair for watches is so desperate that they just began opening it to the public:

    And they have begun marketing products like this watch that is designed to look like a smart watch though it can’t behave as one, and they are charging £274,852 for it:

    Talk about shooting oneself in the wrist.

  47. “high-end horology”? Unless it has an atomic clock inside, it’s not high end. That’s the problem for Swiss watchmakers. Their mechanical watches aren’t high end anymore, easily defeated in accuracy and precision by an Apple Watch or even a $10 quartz crystal watch. Anything that regularly uses ntp and/or GPS is bound to be a better timepiece than anything that tries to stand alone.

  48. I would suggest the demise of the wristwatch market has been happening since before Apple introduced their Watch. Ever since the rise of the smartphone, and maybe even “feature” mobile phones, people (at least people I know) have stopped wearing watches altogether. When asked, the answer is always “why should I when I’m always carrying my phone?”

    The fascinating thing about smart watches (especially Apple’s) is that people are wearing them while carrying phones at the same time. But I think quite a lot of that is due to the fact that most smart watches double-up as fitness trackers, not because people want timepieces or to have yet another device alerting you to social media posts.

    I am one of those rare holdouts that still wears a watch, but it’s as much about fashion as it is being able to tell time. I’m surrounded by clocks all the time, thanks to my phone, iPod, iPad, computers, kitchen appliances, my car, TV, etc. About 10 years ago, I switched from a cheap Timex digital watch to an analog (quartz movement) wristwatch primarily because it looks better on my wrist, not because of its functionality. Since then, I replaced my no-name brand watch for a Citizen Eco-Drive entirely because I no longer have to worry about changing batteries (and it looks a bit nicer).

    I think that’s where the wristwatch market is now. People are buying them as fashion accessories and not for any other reason. Which means the overall market has shrunk enormously.

  49. Is high end defined by accuracy and precision? By whom?

  50. By price. Money talks.

  51. Good grief, how else would you define it? They’re timepieces (look up the definition of horology), not fashion accessories. The fact is that no mechanical watch can match an Apple Watch so far as accurate time over long periods. (Yes, the Apple Watch cheats by periodically consulting atomic clocks. That’s the point.) Yes, there are prettier bracelets, but so far as timepieces go AW is high end and mechanical Swiss watches aren’t any more. (That silly device that the Wired link went to was simply hilarious.)

  52. I respectfully disagree. Nobody spends thousands of dollars on a designer watch (or a smart watch) simply because they need to know the time. You can get that capability in products that cost orders of magnitude less.

    This is no different from any other designer/fashion accessory. Sure, a $6000 Versace bag is capable of carrying your groceries, but that’s not the reason anybody buys them and Versace is not competing (in any meaningful sense) with the no-name companies making reusable grocery bags.

    Similarly, an Apple Watch (or any smart watch) can tell you the time, but that’s not why anyone buys them. People buy smart watches as a platform for running mobile apps. Displaying the time is a relatively minor feature.

  53. The New Oxford American Dictionary (in the Dictionary app in macOS) defines high-end, “denoting the most expensive of a range of products.”

  54. OK, let’s shut this discussion down—we’re arguing semantics and to no useful end.

  55. (Whoops, sorry. Didn’t read through to the end of the thread before replying. Delete if you feel it necessary, Adam.)

    I think you gravely misunderstand how Swiss watchmakers advertise their watches and why people buy them. Of course they’re fashion accessories.

    On Rolex’ front-page, I am greeted by a picture of Martin Scorsese wearing a Rolex. On the Patek Phillipe home page, I am told to “start your journey by exploring our hand-finished timepieces, the history of our brand, and the savior-faire of our artists and craftsmen.”

    Both of those have nothing to do with precision time-keeping and everything to do with positioning the watches as luxury fashion accessories.

    And thanks, I know the definition of horology.

  56. I just noticed this article today on MacDailyNews:

    In there’s a quote from Financial Times:

    The one solace for Swiss watchmakers is that they still generate more revenue: $21bn to Apple’s $11bn. But on current trends Apple will overtake the Swiss on that measure, too, by 2023.

    This answers the question I was curious about, how Apple Watch revenue compares with the Swiss watch industry. As I suspected, the Swiss are still ahead overall, but not for much longer.

  57. I upgraded from a Series 1 to a Series 5 in July, and I was so grateful to have read this review before I decided to make that purchase. In the end, I love my new 5, but I would have been bitterly disappointed by the ruse of the “always-on” feature had I not read this first and adjusted my expectations.

    Unlike you, @ace, I do like and generally prefer the analog faces. But I have to say I’m disappointed by many of the complications for the newer analog faces, and I’m surprised I haven’t heard/seen people making fun of them. I don’t know which OS first featured them, so even if they’re not new to the Series 5, they are new to me.

    I’m perplexed by a complication that shows me today’s day and date but also shows me the dates of yesterday and tomorrow. In that tiny little space, do I need those two extra numbers displayed all the time? It’s terribly busy. I’m already fairly familiar with the way dates increment by 1 each day. And even if I weren’t entirely acquainted with that concept, I know for sure that I wouldn’t ever have any need to know, at a glance on my watch face, what yesterday’s date was.

    I don’t need to know — at least not on my watch face every time I look at it — what the temperature was 8 hours ago, and while I appreciate knowing the predicted high temperature for the day, I’m never in any great need of a graphic representation of where I am on the journey from the low temperature this morning to whatever the high temperature is supposed to be. The air temperature is not a daily goal I’m striving toward. It’s just a state I want to check right now, before I walk out the door in this stupid coat I’m wearing. Why not also have a complication that tells me what time it was 8 hours ago and what time it will be 3 hours from now?

    I don’t need a timer that shows the time counting down plus a little shrinking line right next to it. The numbers really do provide more than enough information here. I’m the one who set the timer. I know how long it’s been running. I can figure it out. I don’t need a cartoon line to help me.

    And they can include all of that superfluous eye candy in those complications, but they can’t combine the current temperature and a little current conditions icon into one complication? The rain complication includes an umbrella, a numeric percentage, and a cartoon progress line. But I have to use up two complication spaces to see the current temperature and the current conditions on one face.

    And I can’t add the seconds to a Modular or Infograph Modular face, but I can on the Activity face. Why?

    That rant aside, I really am enjoying the Series 5 with my familiar old Utility face (which does manage to pull off the miracle of displaying a corner complication that has the current temperature and the current conditions).

    I got the cellular version, and I like being able to leave my phone at home when I’m out on my bike.

    The performance improvement over the Series 1 is a joy, and I still notice and celebrate the difference after two months.

    I also really like the bigger screen of the 44. I was afraid it might seem too large on my wrist, but that was never an issue.

    I’ve also been surprised by how much I like the sport loop. I was very happy with my black silicone sport band on the Series 1 and only at the last second decided to order a surf blue sport loop for the Series 5. I figured I could always just replace it with my black sport band if I didn’t like it, but I’ve never looked back, even though a surf blue watch band is pretty radical for an old grump like me.

    So thanks, @ace. Now, if you could please move on to convincing me that I need to replace my 2012 MacBook Pro with one of these new 27-inch iMacs, I would appreciate it.

  58. Glad you found this article so useful! And yeah, some of the face limitations are just frustrating. I get by with Infograph and complications for stuff I really use, but I seldom bother to look at the other faces. But that’s just me…

    As to your final question, see:

Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum


Avatar for ace Avatar for silbey Avatar for raykloss Avatar for romad Avatar for schinder Avatar for gswg Avatar for FlyHighandGoDeep Avatar for duanewilliams Avatar for scifionea Avatar for ddmiller Avatar for papagordie Avatar for raleighthings Avatar for anthony.craine Avatar for xdev Avatar for fearghas Avatar for MMTalker Avatar for doug2 Avatar for morwen Avatar for jajvj1 Avatar for michelle Avatar for richfbrown Avatar for Shamino Avatar for Mgrad92 Avatar for michael.poplawski