First look: Apple Watch Series 5

New features in the Apple Watch Series 5 include an always-on display and a built-in digital compass.
New features in the Apple Watch Series 5 include an always-on display and a built-in digital compass.PHOTO: REUTERS

Announced last week during the iPhone event in Cupertino, the Apple Watch Series 5 looks exactly like its predecessor save for one thing - its always-on display (AOD). Unlike the display of the Series 4 that fades to black when not in use, this display constantly shows the time in a dimmed state.

The AOD is useful when, say, you are carrying heavy groceries. Instead of having to do "weight-lifting" and raise your hand to wake the display, you can tell the time just by turning your wrist and glancing at the watch screen.

There are new watch faces that will dim to show only the hour and second hands. And when you raise or turn your wrist, the display will brighten up to show the entire watch face.

Apple said that even with the AOD, the Series 5 will continue to have an all-day battery life.

Another new feature in the Series 5 is its built-in digital compass, which also shows elevation readings. This feature will be handy for those who enjoy hiking.

It was able to pinpoint the north and elevation pretty quickly when I tested it in the underground hands-on area in the Steve Jobs Theatre at Cupertino.

Hikers will also like a new feature that allows for international emergency calling (in over 150 countries) without needing an iPhone. This emergency calling feature is supported only by the Series 5 cellular models and works even if there is no cellular plan activated.

Simply press and hold the side button to call the emergency services of the country you are in. This feature could be a life saver in accidents and mishaps.

The Series 5 comes with new case materials. Apart from aluminium and stainless steel watch cases, there are now titanium and ceramic watch cases.

The ceramic watch case comes only in white, while the titanium comes in a natural brushed finish and a space black finish with diamond-like coating.

I love the finish of my old Titanium PowerBook and thus was drawn to the titanium model with the natural brushed finish.

However, the titanium model is more expensive than the stainless steel models, with prices starting at $1,159. But it is cheaper than the ceramic model, which starts at $1,899 and is the most scratch-resistant model in the Apple Watch Series 5 range.

The Apple Watch Series 5 retains all the fitness and health features of the previous series, including the step-tracking, electrocardiogram-reading and heart rate monitoring features.