Apple announced the new Apple Watch Series 5 today, bringing the one thing that many have wanted from the Apple Watch since its launch: an always-on display. In addition to the new screen, the Series 5 adds a new titanium finish option as well as the ceramic option that was available on prior models but disappeared for last year’s Series 4.
Aside from the new always-on screen and optional finishes, the Series 5 is a dead ringer for the Series 4, with the same 40 and 44mm sizes, same size screen with rounded corners, and same Digital Crown with the ability to measure EKG readings.
Of course, the ability to always see the time without having to do a convoluted arm gesture is a big deal, and it finally makes the Apple Watch a competent timepiece. It works just as you’d expect: you can see the full watchface at a dimmer brightness all the time and at full brightness when you lift your wrist up. The watchfaces are even able to show all of their complications and data in the always-on mode.
You can also just slap your hand down on the watchface to immediately dim it, which is something I do all the time, and it’s weirdly more satisfying to do on the Series 5 than earlier models since it changes the mode instead of just turning off the screen.
I was impressed with the compass mode, too, although a few of the models here in the hands-on area had a rough go making it work. When it does work, it has a really neat feature that’s like a “cone of confidence,” showing how accurate the Watch believes its directional reading is. That cone shrinks as it gets more accurate, and it works in both the compass app and in Apple Maps.
There is a silly number of different types of finishes: aluminum, two titanium, steel, and ceramic. I don’t go in for spending extra on all those finishes, so fortunately for me, the matte finish on the basic aluminum model looks good.
The Series 5 Apple Watch is available for preorder starting today, and it will be hitting stores on September 20th. We’ll have more impressions to share, including how much the always-on display affects battery life, in our forthcoming review.