First Impressions of the Apple Watch Series 4

It’s finally in my hands, or on my wrist, the Apple Watch Series 4 and while I’ve only had it about 24 hours my first impressions of it are positive.  In fact, this might turn out being the first 5-star rating smartwatch I’ve reviewed yet.  But my very first impressions were more subdued.

I think after watching a dozen reviews of the watch on YouTube, I thought I knew what to expect.  It was like opening a Christmas present when you already know what’s under the wrapping.  So, when I picked up the watch at Best Buy it was a rather ho-hum affair.

Yes, the watch looks pretty much as I expected.  I’m sporting the aluminum GPS gold version in the 40mm size.

I had hoped I picked a color that I’d be happy with long-term.  Black is usually my choice since it goes with about anything I wear including jewelery but the gold of the Apple Watch 4 has a pleasant tone to it.

It’s not the bright yellow blingy gold but a more classy pinkish rose gold that will match well with a number of different color straps.

The size of the watch surprised me a bit because it’s smaller than I had imagined.  It’s very similar in size to the Amazfit Bip which I have worn and reviewed but the rounded edges and thin profile make it seem smaller.

I think I could have chosen the larger 44mm and it would have looked okay on my wrist but I’m happy with the 40 mm.  It’s very tasteful in size for those of us with smaller wrists.

A major advantage to smaller watches is that they’re less likely to get damaged.  Some of the large watches I’ve reviewed, like the Ticwatch Pro, are easy to bang up against things because of their size.  I like the Ticwatch Pro a lot but I have knocked it up against a few walls.

But back to the Apple Watch Series 4.  Here’s some features I’m really enjoying and ones that surprised me.

Battery Life

Apple lists the battery life for the Series 4 at 18 hours so I was expecting to have to charge the watch constantly and worry about running out of juice when working out but it’s very efficient.

This morning it was charged to 100% at 8:23 AM and at 2:04 PM it still has 90% remaining and that’s after several notifications and a phone call I took through the watch.

Last evening I used the GPS for a walk and the battery held up very well through that as well.

I still need to do more testing but so far I’m very surprised by the battery life.  I should easily be able to get a full day out of the watch, even if I use it quite heavily.  It loses very little battery when I’m not interacting with the watch. Even after a couple hours, it can literally not lose a single percentage point.

I think might be able to get 2 days out of it and for a full-featured smartwatch that’s good!

Mic and Speaker Quality

This is the first watch that I’ve taken a phone call through in which my husband didn’t ask whether I was talking through one of my watches again.  The sound quality for the mic seems to be very good and the speaker on the watch is plenty loud enough.  The speaker has been increased by 50% in loudness over the Series 3.  Also, the mic and speaker are now on opposite sides of the watch to minimize echo.

GPS

Although I haven’t really put it through tough GPS tests yet.  It is quick to connect to my location…I mean extremely fast, like Garmin Fenix 5s fast.  The Series 4 has access to several satellite systems which should mean the watch will detect your location quickly, not lose your position in fairly challenging environments like forests, and give accurate distance estimates.

But much more on this later.  If you’ve read my in-depth reviews you know that I test the GPS of every watch thoroughly.

Health Features

While the AFib detection isn’t yet available (it’s supposed to be before the end of 2018) other health features are and I’m not sure how many of these were available on the Series 3 but I’m most impressed with the HRV estimate.  HRV stands for heart rate variability and it’s an important metric for analyzing heart health.  I’ll be writing much more about why this is important but I do like seeing that score through the Apple Health app.

Generally, the higher the HRV estimate, the better.  My average so far is 54 and if that is accurate that is average for my age.

Of course, resting heart rate is also given and that is another important metric to know for your heart health.

I haven’t tried the fall detection but from other people’s reviews, either the watch is smart enough to know when you’re faking it or it’s not picking up falls like it should.  We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

Basically if the watch detects that you have fallen, it will send a notification to you asking if you’re okay or need assistance.  If you don’t respond within a short period of time, it will automatically summon help.

So, the Apple is really aiming for those wanting or needing more medical features.

Watchfaces

Apple Watch Series 4 and the Samsung Gear Sport
Apple Watch Series 4 and the Samsung Gear Sport

Coming from the Samsung Gear Sport, which has hundreds and hundreds of third-party watch faces to chose from, I was surprised to discover that Apple doesn’t allow third-party watch faces so you’re limited by whatever Apple provides.

Luckily, I really like the Mickey Mouse watch face.  Hey, I am a Disney and the watch face tells me the time out loud if I tap on it and in Mickey’s voice.  Who wouldn’t like that?

Charging Cable

One thing I don’t care for about the Series 4 is the charging cradle.  It seems cheap and if the watch isn’t placed precisely in the right spot, or it gets bumped without you realizing it, the watch might not be charging.  I’ll likely be switching to a third-party option later.

Sports Modes

These are the sports modes that are currently supported on the Apple Watch Series 4:

  • Outdoor Walk
  • Outdoor Run
  • Outdoor Cycle
  • Indoor Walk
  • Indoor Run
  • Indoor Cycle
  • Elliptical
  • Rower
  • Stair Stepper
  • High Intensity Interval Training
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Pool Swim
  • Open Water Swim
  • and Other for whatever doesn’t fit into any of the above categories

Hiking and Yoga was made available in the WatchOS 5 software update that is available to most earlier Apple Watches.

I’m really glad hiking was included since that’s something I particularly enjoy doing.  I’ll be doing a number of these activities to try them out on the watch.

This is a review I’m going to work hard on getting to you quickly.  I’ll be testing the GPS and heart rate accuracy, battery life, Bluetooth connections, step tracking, and much more.

But so far, it looks like the Apple Watch isn’t just hype.  It really is good.  We’ll just have to see how good it is stacked up against the competition.