After upgrading from the Apple Watch 3 to the new 44mm Apple Watch 4 (GPS+Cellular). This article is an introduction of the new features from a runners perspective.
However some of the new features for the health side will be released in the coming months, so a long term review featuring these elements will follow this article in a few months.
Beyond fitness: The first thing to note is the new watch is moving towards health tracking and isn’t just a smart watch that does fitness.
So starting with the heart, the watch has the potential to help detect health problems in this area, through the following features:
Heart rate: Beyond just monitoring checking resting and walking heart rates, the new feature is able to detect low heart or high heart rates following approx. 10 minutes of inactivity. A future addition in upcoming updates will add detection for irregular rhythms and provide notifications for them.
Highlighting irregular heartbeat: This feature is coming later this year, and I will feature this in my follow up review. Essentially the watch features a electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and monitors Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) simply known as a irregular heartbeat that could lead to heart-related health complications. The benefit is that wearers can be warned of abnormal heart rhythms associated with atrial fibrillation.
Fall detection: Using the accelerometer and gyroscope it can measure up to 32 G-forces. The watch can detect if you’ve either had a slip or a fall. If you don’t move for a full minute after falling, it can contact the emergency services, and also send a message to your emergency contact, with a pined location notification of where you are. This feature is automatically turned on for users over 65, and has to turned on manually for younger users.
Activity sharing: The first feature I’m excited about, is taking the existing activity rings and being able to share it with friends and family for motivation. Or you can share it with your coach/personal trainer to track your daily progress. It allows you to encourage each other to close all three rings, via direct messaging in the app. Furthermore there is a 7 day competition feature if you want to ramp things up.
New running features: For runners it’s introduced three new features, cadence, pace alert, and rolling mile pace. The latter gives a more real time view of your effort above, current or average pace for the following reasons.
Current pace is always changing by spikes or deceleration in your pace, and will change from uphill or downhill running for example. As such it isn’t an accurate way to gauge your pace over a set distance, due to the fluctuations.
Whilst average pace gives an overview of the whole run. It doesn’t take into account, the difference in running paces over an entire training run. For example if you had 2 warmup miles, then you changed to race pace for the next few miles. Your overall average pace during these faster miles will be skewed by the slower warmup miles.
So the benefit of rolling mile pace is it will provide, your current mile pace wherever you are at in your run. So practically your rolling mile pace for example would measure from mile 3 to mile 4, providing your mile splits at any point in your run. For these reasons this is my favourite update for the new running features.
Depending on your preference you can set a target pace for either rolling mile pace or average pace.
Intervals: Similar to the Apple Watch 3, interval segments are recorded by touching the screen at the moment. This feature still needs to be revised, to set either time or distance goals before, but not during the workout. The reason is when I’m doing a workout of say 20x 1min on and off intervals, I’m working hard focusing on giving 100% effort for the “on” sections, so having to stop and tap at a minute is counterproductive because it momentarily makes me less aware of the ground conditions, and I subconsciously slow down as I’m clock watching to the countdown. This would be my only recommendation for improvement in future software updates.
Automatic workout detection: It happens, you start running and a couple minutes into it you’ve forgotten to start your tracking the run! Especially on early morning runs.
So the new automatic workout feature senses when you’re beginning a workout, it will then suggest to start tracking it, and best of all, it will add the minutes you missed at the start. Also when the workout is over it will detect that and automatically end it.
New Apps: There’s a fair number of new apps coming out, but these are the ones I’ll be looking at initially using and reviewing in my upcoming long term review:
10% Happier: In terms of sound mind and body this app encourages mindfulness and meditation.
App in the Air: With integration with Siri, it keeps you upto date with your flights, and provides other relevant travel info and tips.
Connectivity: This watch has 4G connectivity, in the U.K. this can only be accessed through the network EE. This will allow you to make a call, send a text and stream from the watch without your phone, which will be useful example for training runs, and not having to carry a phone.
Technical fact: The rear of the Watch is now ceramic instead of metal which allow for a better wireless signal.
Screen: The screens are bigger, the body is thinner. In compression to the earlier models the screen also goes closer to the edges of the Watch than before, including the rounded corners. This allows you to use more of the watches features especially in the infograph mode.
Furthermore there’s some beautifully made watch faces that show animations such as fire, water, liquid metal etc. Additionally the mindfulness feature has a watch face (below). It’s easy to swipe through different watch faces for different moments during the day.
Watch bands: The new watch can use existing watch bands which are fully compatible with the new sizes.
Walkie talkie feature: Whilst not a new feature, I think this is one I’ll have a lot of fun with, as it reminds me of my youth, with old school walkie talkies.
So this feature is on the OS 5 upgrade and will work for watches from series 2 upwards.
For it to work, you need a WiFi or cellular connection. This feature shows off the improvements to the boosted speakers to provide more volume. It is louder than the Apple Watch 3 and the sound quality was good, when I tested it.
Digital Crown: In the Apple Watch 3 when you scrolled previously there wasn’t any feedback. What I like in the new watch is the digital crown has haptic feedback, so when you spin the crown, you feel little ticks that precisely correlate to what’s happening on the screen.
Final points: So to sum up moving from series 3 to 4, the new features make a great smart watch better. The key steps forward are in monitoring health beyond fitness, it’ll be exciting to see how this develops. And I look forward to testing it out in a future review.
Finally the Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS) starts at £399, and Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS+Cellular) starts at £499 and can be purchased from Apple.com
If you have any questions about this article please let me know.