Apple Watch Series 5 reviews: the ‘best’ smartwatch whose always-on display is a ‘must-have’

Apple Watch Series 5 reviews: the ‘best’ smartwatch whose always-on display is a ‘must-have’
[Photo: courtesy of Apple]

Apple’s newest wearable, the Apple Watch Series 5, goes on sale on Friday, but a few outlets have published reviews of the device a couple of days ahead of time, and they praise the Series 5’s always-on display and the built-in compass’s ability to improve maps.


Key features of the Series 5 include an always-on display, bigger storage at 32 GB, a new built-in compass, and new material builds, including ceramic and titanium. Lack of any new health features, like sleep tracking, have led many to say the Series 5 is an iterative update rather than an innovative one. However, reviewers say one of the new features alone—that always-on display—is enough of a reason to upgrade. Here’s what they’re saying:


There are two highlight features of the Apple Watch Series 5, and both are really useful. The first is an always-on display, and it’s now a must-have feature for me. It means that instead of turning off when you’re not looking at it, the screen dims down and still shows you important information.

I liked that I could always see the time—important for a watch—without having to tilt my wrist and activate the screen . . .

There’s now a new compass. I know what you’re thinking: Who cares? A compass? Well, sure, maybe it’s useful for people during hikes if you need to know where to travel. But, more importantly, the magnetometer that enables the compass also allows you to open Apple Maps on the watch and see which way you’re facing, just like on an iPhone. On models that don’t have this, you just see a dot showing your location. With Series 5, there’s a glowing arc showing exactly which way you’re looking. It’s super helpful when you get out of a subway and don’t know which way to walk.

The Verge:

It is about time that Apple added an always-on screen to the Apple Watch Series 5, but that’s not the best thing about it. Nor is it the LTPO technology that enables it or the new compass or the noise meter or any single one of the features I’ve brought up in this review.

The best part of the Apple Watch is that I’m able to talk about those features at all. Every other smartwatch I have used in the past few years (and, reader, I have used a lot) has failed to cross very basic thresholds of usability. Some don’t last more than 12 hours, some can’t seem to open apps in fewer than 10 seconds, some are hard to navigate, and some have really buggy software. . . .

It’s as if the Apple Watch is in high school and taking AP courses while everybody else is repeating the 7th grade for the third time. Sure, the Apple Watch Series 5 hasn’t reached anything close to its full potential yet, but right now, this thing is an overachiever.


Announced alongside a repositioned line of iPhones, the Apple Watch Series 5 doesn’t include any hardware additions quite as flashy as the LTE functionality and ECG (electrocardiogram) monitor it introduced with previous updates. There’s an always-on display and a built-in compass—as far as smartwatch features go, neither is the sort of thing that’s likely to win over longtime holdouts. But taken as a whole, the new features go a ways toward maintaining the device’s spot at the top of the smartwatch heap.


The overall design hasn’t changed, but the OLED screen functionality has, and the Apple Watch Series 5 embraces a feature we’ve been asking for since the beginning—an always-on display, so you can glance at the watch just like you can an analogue timepiece or most other smartwatches.

Rather than going black when not active, as has been the case since the first Apple Watch, the Watch now dims slightly, allowing you to conserve battery, but still see the information on the screen. The difference is stark especially if you’re one of those people who likes to keep an eye on the time without having to vigorously move your wrist every time you want to do so. Whether the screen is on or off the high-contrast screen really pops showing those vibrant colours be it your exercise rings or a message from a friend.


The standout new feature on the Apple Watch Series 5 is the always-on display. It’s a small change that impacts the usefulness of the watch in a real way. Finally: The Apple Watch is now a watch that always tells the time. Apple claims this display is the first of its kind in the industry; others, such as Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, and the ill-fated Pebble, have previously done always-on display smartwatches, but with different kinds of screens. Apple has taken low-temperature polysilicon oxide technology and integrated it into the Watch’s OLED display.