The telltale sign of a smartwatch is that its display will turn off when you’re not looking at it. However, while this saves battery, it also makes the watch look and feel somewhat unnatural as far as timepieces go. Always-on displays have been done before, but few have been able to achieve a balance between keeping the display on all the time and providing enough battery life.

That’s what Apple set out to do with the Series 5 Apple Watch. The primary update this year is the fact that the Apple Watch Series 5 has an Always-On display but still manages to deliver the same 18-hour battery life it always did. Well, in our usage so far, the company’s claim stands firm.

With the Always-On display, Apple also had to redo some of its software features. For instance, the ‘complications’ on watch faces, which are tiny spaces to add information on a watch face, appear differently when your watch is in the always-on mode. Apple allows you to customise these, so you chose whether calendar should be displayed on the watch face when your hand’s by your side or not, and so on.

Similarly, notifications will not show up till you raise the watch to see it. That’s pretty much the same as the ‘raise to wake’ function, but happens without the screen being actually turned off.

While complications had to change, if you happen to use photos on the watch face the Apple Watch will simply dim the screen’s brightness.

The 2019 version also uses the magnetometer to tell you which direction you’re travelling in, something you can use while on a hike etc. But none of these really make for an upgrade.

Essentially, the Series 5 becomes the ‘flagship’ Apple Watch, while the Series 3 becomes a more budget option. While neither is particularly cheap, the Series 5 is Apple’s no compromise smartwatch, while the others lose some features here and there. If you have an Apple Watch older than a Series 3, this will serve as an update, but you can hold on to your Series 3 and 4 watches for a few more years.

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