Watch Series 5 reviews: Apple ‘nails’ the fifth generation

Critics hail the smartwatch as the best money can buy but ‘niggles’ remain

Watch Series 5
(Image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 11 may have stolen the headlines when it made its grand debut last month, but the Google Pixel 4-rivalling smartphone wasn’t the only new product added to Apple’s line-up.

A fifth-generation version of the Apple Watch was unveiled at the end of the company’s September product keynote, introducing its latest S5 smartwatch chip and a new “always on” Retina display.

Since its original launch back in 2015, the Apple Watch hasn’t received nearly the same level of hype as the iPhone. That, however, doesn’t mean that the smartwatch isn’t a vital part of the firm’s product line-up.

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In July, the results for Apple’s third financial quarter revealed that wearable devices, including the Watch, along with smart speakers and accessories, were driving sales amid a loss of interest in the previous iPhone XS range.

So will the Watch Series 5 continue Apple’s ongoing success in the wearable tech world? Here’s what the critics think:


“Out of the box the Watch [Series 5] is near indistinguishable from its predecessor,” Stuff notes. The watch’s dimensions are identical to that of the Series 4 model and Apple is “still doing absolutely nothing to appease those who prefer circular watches”.

But once you switch on the Series 5, the differences become far more apparent. “The new Always-On Retina Display never actually sleeps,” the tech site explains, nor does it appear to have any major impact on battery life. Users can expect the device to hold its charge for most of the day, so long as it was charged overnight.

While Stuff says the new display is “hardly essential”, Tom’s Guide thinks otherwise. It says it is a “stark” difference over the old model, as it will continue to show users their bespoke watch face’s complications even when the screen is inactive.

Another key improvement is the Maps app, which now comes with a compass. It may seem unnecessary, given how detailed digital maps are, but the tech site says the feature is “incredibly useful” for adventure seekers exploring vast nature parks.

There are a few “niggles” that were apparent on previous editions and are still present on the Series 5, according to Wired. For example, it has issues recognising when a user starts exercising, and there’s still no first-party sleep monitoring app from Apple.

That said, the tech site admits that the Watch 5 firmly retains its position at the top of the smartwatch pile. The competition is “so far behind, and seemingly so dispirited at the gulf in market share that continues to widen”.

The Guardian agrees, saying that Apple has “nailed it” with its fifth-generation watch.

“Simply put, the Apple Watch Series 5 is the best smartwatch you can buy right now. You might just need to also buy an iPhone to get it,” the paper concludes.

Price and release

The Watch Series 5 is available to order now.

Prices start at £399 for the entry-level aluminium version, which rises to £699 for stainless steel models. There are countless accessories, from straps to docks, available as well, which can easily bump the price over the £1,000 mark.

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