It's been a number of years – three and a half, to be precise – since Apple unveiled the company's first smartwatch. The aptly named Apple Watch was just what users had been waiting for; an extension of their favourite device, the iPhone, strapped to their wrist.
In the intervening years, we've seen three updates to the device, with the introduction of LTE (mobile data) connectivity to the Series 3 model proving a standout feature and a boon for fitness fans, who could now hit the road without needing their iPhone to keep their Watch alive.
Now, a few short years later, the recently released Series 4 model, along with watchOS 5, packs as many software improvements as hardware, and comes with a number of features, that, while not exactly 'secret', certainly make Apple Watch a contender for the wrist of those undecided about committing to the big A.
With each new iteration of iOS and watchOS, Apple beefs up the smarts of its on-board Artificial Intelligence, Siri. This version of watchOS is no different, integrating Siri in a number of interesting ways.
With the help of the new app, Shortcuts (iOS 12), where Siri was previously able to handle basic verbal requests within native apps, users can now create verbal commands to execute within a wider range of apps.
Plus, with the larger screen area of Apple Watch Series 4 comes full display of content that users would normally hand over to their iPhone to view, such as emails and embedded images.
For example, you can now use verbal Shortcuts with Apple Watch to:
- Check flight details
- Reply to an email
- Start a workout and fire up your favourite playlist
- Display your boarding pass
- Control podcast playback
- Log food and drink in a meal diary
- Buy and sell stocks
- Book a hotel room
With each new model, Apple Watch is now keeping you off your phone and more engaged with your day.
While a lot of fanfare was devoted to Apple Watch's new ECG (electrocardiogram) feature, Australians won't be able to access this function until it receives approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
That said, Apple Watch still has a new function that can prevent a potentially life-threatening cardiac episode; low heart rate detection.
Continuous heart rate monitoring now occurs in the background, with the user alerted if their heart rate drops below a set rate for 10 minutes, which can be set in the Watch app on your iPhone.
Along with elevated heart rate detection, introduced with watchOS 4, Apple Watch now monitors for heart irregularities and alerts you should you need it.
Help when you need
Two new features, fall detection and emergency SOS, may appear targeted at less-than-mobile users, but the reality is they could save anyone's life. By taking constant measurements of the upgraded accelerometer and gyroscope, Watch can now detect a hard fall and take emergency action.
First, if the user is motionless for one minute after a fall, an alert will request the user to respond if they are okay. If no response is forthcoming, Apple Watch will then call emergency services, Triple 0, and message your emergency contacts with your location.
If you're a fan of solo hiking, running or mountain bike riding, this could potentially be a life-saving feature.
At a glance
Other new features for Apple Watch Series 4 include:
- Auto workout detection: Watch will now prompt you to record, pause or stop your workout if you forget
- Walkie Talkie: just tap and speak to send voice messages between Apple Watches
- Siri Watch face: automatically populate your Watch face with activities and info for the day ahead
- Privacy: health and all personal data remains encrypted on your devices and in iCloud, and never sent to Apple
- More Workouts: Now access yoga, rowing, elliptical and hiking programs in the Workout app
Take a browse through the gallery of accessories above to get the most out of your new Apple Watch.