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Apple Watch Series 4 review: the health-oriented connected watch

by Philippe Baudoin © Copyright (publishe 26/09/2018)
Apple Watch Series 4

An ultra-complete connected watch for the city and sport that offers an ECG. Smashing!

After the Apple Watch 3 Cellular, offering 4G telephony, Apple surprises us again with this new connected watch completely redesigned to be an ally of your well-being. It offers innovative functions for health and fitness monitoring, including an electrocardiogram and a fall detection with automatic call to an emergency number. The brand announces many other improvements: 2 times more powerful processor, larger screen with thin edges, improved components (2ndgeneration optical sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, digital crown, more powerful loudspeaker)... Hard to find a better multi-purpose connected sports watch!

Buy Apple Watch Series 4

Features of the Apple Watch Series 4

30.1 g (40 mm model) and 36.7 g (44 mm model)
Case dimensions
40 x 34 x 10.7 mm (40 mm model)
44 x 38 x 10.7 mm (44 mm model)
324 x 394 px (40 mm) and 368 x 448 px (44 mm)
Retina OLED LTPO 1000 nits
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS (Michibiki)
Recommended activities
Running, hiking, swimming, skiing, yoga + downloadable apps
Activity tracker
Topographic maps
No (but display via app)
iOS 5. Bluetooth 5.0 wireless transmission, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 4G (cellular model)
Cardio-frequency meter
Yes (wrist)
Payment system
Telephony / 4G
Yes, on Cellular model
Barometric altimeter
Interchangeable bracelet
16 GB
eSIM, 4G connectivity and 4G radio on Cellular model, built-in micro and speaker, mp3 player, Apple Pay payment, electrocardiogram (ECG), fall detection and SOS call, induction charging.

The Apple Watch 4 is a sporty connected watch with activity tracker. It is equipped with GPS compatible with American (GPS), Russian (GLONASS), European (Galileo) and Japanese (QZSS/Michibiki) satellite systems. This new Series 4 model offers a new second generation optical reader and an electrical heart rate sensor capable of producing an electrocardiogram. There are the main sensors useful for outdoor or indoor sports (altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope) as well as intelligent functions like Siri, an assistant who listens to you and obeys your orders. The Watch offers 16GB of memory to store workouts, health data and over 1000 music tracks. On the Cellular model, a 4G chip and an eSIM card allow you to make or receive phone calls, communicate with other Apple Watch users, send emails and access various types of information without a smartphone.

The Apple Watch 4 is a completely rethought version of the Apple Watch. It offers new health features, improved components, a new sensor to perform an electrocardiogram and interesting new features

Apple Watch Series 4: the new features

Released in September 2018, the Apple Watch Series 4 is the fourth generation of Apple's connected sports watch, a watch designed for sport and everyday life. It is full of sensors and offers many features, including sports, activity monitoring, mp3 player, payment function, intelligent assistant that listens and talks. Read our detailed description of the Apple Watch 3 features for the basic functions of the Apple Watch 4.

This Series 4 model has been redesigned in terms of design, performance and functionality. In particular, it offers new functions to stay connected, be more active and monitor your health.

Cases 40 and 44 mm
The Apple Watch 4 is available in 2 case sizes (40 and 44 mm) and a screen 30 

Design: more beautiful, a screen 30% larger and less energy consuming

The Apple Watch 4 is available in 2 sizes, as for the Apple Watch 3, but with a slightly larger (40 and 44 mm instead of 38 and 42 mm) and thinner (10.7 mm instead of 11.4 mm) case. The 40 mm case is designed for a wrist circumference of 130 to 200 mm. The 44 mm is suitable for wrist circumference from 140 to 210 mm. The small case is more suitable for thin wrists.

Apple has refined the edges of the watch and rounded the corners of the screen to follow the shape of the case. The result is a 30% bigger screen with higher resolution and a great look! The maps are more readable, the calendar more detailed and practical, the images larger. The fully customizable screen can now display up to 8 shortcuts and the interface has been redesigned to display more information.

thin case seen on the edge
The case is slimmer by 0.7 mm and presents a superb look. The digital crown becomes"haptic".

The retina OLED display is now LTPO (Low Temperature Polycrystalline Oxid) technology instead of LTPS (Low Temperature Polycrystalline Silicon). This technology consumes 5 to 15% less energy and is more suitable for high resolutions and flexible screen design (rounded edges).

Finally, the Digital Crown evolves to become"haptic", a clever term to say that it provides a more mechanical feel (as on watches with winding mechanism). It offers more precision for easier navigation.

A new electric heart rate sensor and electrocardiogram (ECG)

Electrocardiogram displayed on the Apple Watch
A new heart rate sensor allows to obtain a very rudimentary electrocardiogram and detect a possible heart problem

A major innovation of this model, a new electric heart rate sensor (in addition to the optical sensor) equips the Apple Watch. It is used to quickly and accurately measure the heart rate value and provide an electrocardiogram (ECG) similar graph. The idea is to identify atrial fibrillation (a severe irregular heart rhythm) with potentially serious consequences (such as stroke). The application has even been certified De Novo by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). De Novo certification is designed for"new" medical devices that do not have substantial equivalence but have a low risk profile.

The measurement is made by means of two electrodes, one located under the watch case and in contact with the wrist, the other on the digital crown. The user simply has to place a finger on the crown and wait 30 seconds, the time of the measurements.

The ECG obtained is however limited compared to a real electrocardiogram which takes into account many more measurements. The sensor will only be able to measure the heart rate to know if the heart beats regularly or not, which already makes it possible to detect certain problems. However, it will not allow a true diagnosis to be made. Also be aware of measurement inaccuracies that can create false positives. This tool should therefore be used with caution and can in no way replace a consultation with a cardiologist!

Note that this feature will only be available towards the end of 2018 and only in the USAs. For the other countries, it will be necessary to reach that Apple obtains the authorization of the competent authorities.

Fall detection with SOS alert triggering

The Apple Watch can now dial an emergency number and transmit the GPS position in the event of a prolonged fall.

SOS display
Apple Watch 4 can call an emergency number and transmit GPS coordinates in case of a prolonged fall

Apple combines the use of a new gyroscope and a new, more powerful accelerometer (it can detect accelerations up to 32 g instead of 16 g) to detect falls (only sudden movements are taken into account). In the event of a fall, the watch emits an increasingly loud audible warning and displays an emergency call button (SOS). If the user does not cancel the alert within 60 seconds, the watch automatically dials an emergency number, transmits its GPS position, warns a pre-defined list of emergency contacts and displays a medical form on the watch screen for emergency physicians, all without a telephone (with the GPS and Cellular versions of the Apple Watch).

New components and significantly improved performance

Apple is strong with this new model by replacing a good part of the components with new generation components and by integrating a chip twice as powerful without altering the battery life.

  • S4 chip up to 2 times faster : Apple further improves its processor with a new S4 chip (fourth generation) with a 64-bit bicœur processor twice as fast ! This significantly improves navigation, fluidity and app usage. The S4 chip is a SiP (Silicon in Package) that gathers the entire electronic system of the watch, including the processor.
  • 16GB of memory: the memory capacity is now 16GB on both models (GPS and GPS & Cellular), 8GB more than on the GPS model of the Apple Watch 3, so you can store more data and always 1000 music tracks.
  • 2nd generation optical cardio Apple designs and manufactures its own optical sensors for its Apple Watch and these are renowned for their reliability. The one on the Apple Watch 4 is a new and improved version. In addition to this technical change, the watch now detects certain cardiac abnormalities such as a temporarily weak pulse or arrhythmia and generates alerts. The data are also transmitted to the Health app and can be consulted in the form of a balance sheet.
  • Improved cellular connectivity: new too, the watch back is made of ceramic, which facilitates the passage of radio waves and therefore offers better cellular reception.
  • Larger speaker and 50% more powerful : The Apple Watch 4 is equipped with a larger speaker and 1.5 times more powerful than the previous one. It offers much better audio quality, especially for telephoning, using Siri or the new "walkie-talkie" function.
  • Microphone : to reduce echo during phone calls, the microphone has been moved away from the speaker.
  • Other enhancements: The watch is Bluetooth 5.0 compatible and its operating system is upgraded to WatchOS 5 which includes all the latest news and fixes. It is equipped with a new gyroscope and a new, more powerful accelerometer (8 times more measurements than before) for more complete and more accurate measurements.
Display of 8 shortcuts and topographic maps
Apple Watch 4 offers many technical improvements and embeds new generation components (screen, optical sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, processor), hence better performance, a more complete and readable display and greater measurement accuracy.

Enhanced sports features

The Apple Watch 4 offers more data and displays to athletes. Improvements to the gyroscope, accelerometer and altimeter provide greater measurement accuracy and allow new types of training such as yoga and hiking to be added. You can also benefit from new third-party applications for training in sports such as skiing, yoga (over 180 training sessions available), resistance training or to obtain nutritional advice, follow the activity or challenge other athletes.

For running enthusiasts, the watch's autonomy increases to 6 hours for outdoor outings. The watch indicates the cadence. It displays the speed on the previous kilometre (practical to know if you are on time). Rhythm alerts have been integrated.

The Apple Watch 4 automatically detects the exercises and invites the user, by an alert, to launch a recording without losing the data measured so far (retroactive credit). So you can forget to start a recording: the watch reminds you.

Finally, the Apple Watch can be coupled to compatible devices (tapis de course, stepper, elliptique.php, speed sensor, etc.).

New functions to encourage you to lead a healthy life

New apps have been designed to help you maintain good habits or achieve your goals: reminders to drink water, take a break or relax, tips to improve sleep or better manage diabetes, etc.).

Improved activity monitoring

The Apple Watch 4 not only tracks your daily activity (calories burned, number of steps, distance, sleep analysis, etc.), it encourages you to move in various effective ways!

The watch analyses 3 categories of movements and displays the progress for the day in the form of coloured rings:

Well-being displays
Advanced activity monitoring, setting goals to achieve, monitoring progress, challenging friends Apple has everything planned to get you moving, inform you and keep you healthy !
  • Move: the watch counts the calories expended during the day (kitchen, garden, shopping, stairs, etc.)
  • Training : the number of minutes of sustained activity is counted. The idea is to achieve a given goal, knowing that 30 minutes a day significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and weight gain.
  • Me lever : the watch encourages not to sit still to reduce cardiovascular risk and diabetes, help lower blood pressure and restore energy. Ideally, you should get up at least one minute an hour and 12 times a day.

In addition to being able to share its activities with friends, the watch now allows to launch challenges! To do this, simply invite a friend from your Apple Watch. A challenge lasts 7 days. The idea is to accumulate more points than the invited person and win trophies that will appear on your iPhone. The watch sends alerts to indicate if you are ahead or behind the competitor score.

No change for autonomy: always 18 h

The black spot of the Apple Watch remains its autonomy which does not exceed 18 hours or even clearly less according to the use made of the watch (telephony, music, GPS recording, etc.). This is a little, if not very fair, if you do sport except for short trips (less than 5-6 hours). However, preserving 18 hours of autonomy was already a feat for Apple in view of the improvements made to this watch. It is thanks to the optimization of its components, particularly the screen, that the apple brand has been able to reduce overall consumption and maintain the same autonomy.

Enhanced connected features

The Apple Watch already offers advanced connected functions, such as 4G telephony (Cellular version), an intelligent Siri assistant that understands and answers your oral requests, an mp3 music player to listen to songs stored on the watch or streaming, contactless payment via Apple Pay. Apple brings some improvements, in particular:

    Talkie Walkie app
    Communicate with your friends wearing an Apple Watch 4 thanks to the Talkie Walkie application !
  • A Talkie-Walkie application: allows you to communicate with a person wearing an Apple Watch 4 by simply pressing the watch screen to talk and releasing to listen.
  • Emergency calls: In case of a prolonged fall, the watch calls an emergency number (see our description above).
  • An improved Siri assistant: Siri, the intelligent assistant who obeys the voice, no longer needs to be said "Say Siri" to activate himself. All you have to do is lift your wrist and speak to make yourself heard. Siri also gets to know you and makes appropriate suggestions at the time and place.
  • Event management: The new Apple Watch allows you to manage your reservations (restaurant, etc.), a parking space (for example to extend the parking time via the PayByPhone app) and much more.

New bracelets and styles

Apple offers a new gold stainless steel finish with a matching Milanese bracelet (the other finishes are aluminum) and announces a new collection of bracelets that will be released this fall. All bracelets remain compatible with the older generations of Apple Watch.

Our opinion

The Apple Watch 4 represents a new advance for Apple and its versatile watch designed for everyone, sports or not, provided you have an iPhone (the watch does not work with other Smartphone brands). It provides much more than just an improvement to the Series 3. After 4G telephony, here are some new health-related features. Apple is committed to the well-being of its users with medical certification for its electrocardiogram (ECG) and a fall detection and emergency call system that both aim to save lives. And that's not all : clever new features allow you to motivate yourself to move, challenge friends or get the right advice.

But this watch also brings important changes to the components: processor 2 times faster for more fluidity and reactivity, larger and more precise screen, better sound and communication quality, increased number of measurements, new sensors, better measurement accuracy, improved design, all without altering the watch's autonomy.

If you have to choose between Series 3 and Series 4, apart from the price (130 € minimum difference), there is no photo: we would choose Series 4 and especially the GPS + Cellular model for the 4G LTE chip and associated functions.

That said, with regard to health and well-being, these functions seem to us to be especially useful for the less athletic who need encouragement to move or who wish to be followed in their activity. Safety devices (fall detection) and ECG, although potentially useful for everyone, are more appropriate for older people. But probably not many of them buy an Apple Watch.

However, we chose the Series 4 rather than the Series 3 for the technical improvements and additions of sports and fitness features (app enrichment). We particularly appreciate the more harmonious design, the new screen size which allows more shortcuts and more readable maps and photos to be displayed, the fluidity and performance linked to the new processor, better measurement accuracy thanks to the new components.

Now, if the budget does not allow for investment, the Apple Watch 3 remains a very good model.

Note that to use the Apple Watch 4, whether it is the GPS or GPS + Cellular model, you will need an iPhone. The Apple Watch Series 4 GPS + Cellular requires an iPhone 6 (or later model) with iOS 12 (or later version). The Apple Watch Series 4 GPS requires an iPhone 5s (or later model) with iOS 12 (or later version).

We liked
  • Health and well-being functions and monitoring including fall detection and ECG
  • Fluidity and reactivity thanks to the processor 2 times faster
  • Improved and more accurate components
  • 30% larger screen
  • Improving sound quality and cellular connectivity
We would have liked
  • More autonomy (18 hours only)
  • The ability to use the Apple Watch with a phone other than the iPhone

Price and availability

The Apple Watch 4 is available since September 21, 2018 from 429 € (GPS model) and 529 € (GPS + Cellular model). The price of the Apple Watch 3 is lowered and is now available from 299 €. Apple also offers "luxury" models with more stylish designs (leather straps, etc.) at prices of up to 1500 €.

Philippe Baudoin
Copyright © Sport Passion

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