Speed Changes Things for Apple Watch Series 5

The Apple Watch for me has always been a disappointing device with so much potential. I owned a Series 2 before it cracked in the shower, and of course my life went on for a year without problems.

Then I decided to get the LTE version of Series 3, which admittedly was a lot more useful. I no longer needed to bring a phone “just in case I need to make an emergency call.” The absence of a 1lb object in your pocket was quite liberating when it comes to curbing temptations to browse away or staying lightweight when physically active. But I still could not recommend it to others.

The biggest problem I had with my previous watches was the speed. They should perfect for quick actions and glances, but if they take longer than a few seconds to perform those things, there’s no benefit to me to using the watch as opposed to just pulling out my phone. When everything else around me is blazingly fast in comparison, it’s hard to have patience as I stare at a spinning wheel on my wrist. Plus, keeping my arm in a pronated position (palm facing down when looking at a wrist watch) feels much harder than in a supinated (palm facing up when holding a phone) position. So for my previous watches, I only used them for passive glances such as activity tracking, calendar events, notifications, and time.

The new Series 5 feels to me like the jump from iPhone 3G to 3GS. The speed of which apps launch and run can make a huge difference in my daily experience. As the speed crossed that usability threshold, I now use my watch for a variety of tasks that I previously would not even try:

  • Logging habits such as how much water I drink (I have a problem of forgetting to hydrate).
  • Checking package delivery statuses.
  • Listening to guided meditations from Headspace’s watchOS app (Headspace did not even have a standalone watch app before watchOS 6).
  • Listening to music, podcast, or radio stations (previously, connecting to AirPods or browsing my music library was too slow and flaky to be enjoyable).
  • Checking traffic to certain locations and opening hours of places via Siri.
  • Other quick Siri queries (believe it or not, Siri seems to work a lot better on my Series 5 than Series 3).

But really, it’s the little speed bumps all over the user interface that make the entire experience a lot more responsive. It’s hard to feel the difference by reading my words, so if you own a Series 3 or earlier, I highly recommend that you give Series 4 or later a spin for a few days and try to stretch the watch’s capabilities.

I have had my Series 5 for about a month now and my experience has mostly been positive. I can confidently say that for someone who loves to deploy technology in their life, the Apple Watch went from “a small convenience that’s probably not worth spending money on” to “a great amount of convenience that you may want to pay for”. Still strictly not necessary, but if you love this kind of stuff, the quality of life upgrade is now more or less on par with what you expect to begin with. In other words, the Series 5 is a big step closer to the full potential of a smartwatch.

This is a good trajectory to be on. This device is only less than 5 years old, and if battery technology doesn’t pose a performance wall, the Apple Watch 5 years into the future could be an extremely competent personal device.

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