In its presentation at the launch of the Series 5 watch, Apple didn’t make any mention of performance improvements over Series 4. That’s because both editions run the exact same processor and GPU.
Essential reading: Apple Watch Series 5 vs Series 3 – should you opt for the pricier model?
The Cupertino outfit has obviously hit the pause button on Apple Watch performance specs. Pretty much the only hardware difference between Series 5 and Series 4 is the always-on display, compass and double the storage memory (32GB).
This was revealed by iFixit which awarded the Series 5 watch a 6 out of 10 in terms of repairability. There’s also a slightly bigger battery (1.4% larger in the 44mm model) which does not really serve to increase battery life much above the 18 hour mark.
The repair site was hoping they would get a glimpse of the new technology that allows for the always-on display, but much of it is not visible to the human eye. They did spot a new ambient light sensor embedded under the OLED panel, though.
All off this serves to confirm by information found last week in the last version of Xcode.
According to Xcode, Apple Watch Series 5 has the same generation CPU/GPU as the Apple Watch Series 4; I guess the only changes are a gyro and 32GB of NAND? The plus side of that is that we won't have to worry about watchOS being slower on the Series 4 than on a brand new model
— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) September 18, 2019
On its website, Apple says the latest watch runs on a “64-bit dual-core S5 processor”. And that this is “up to 2x faster than S3 processor”. But the same was claimed of the Series 4 with runs the S4 chip. The S5 processor refers to the entire System on a Chip (SoC). This includes the display controller and built-in compass which have been upgraded, the CPU hasn’t.
This means there should be no difference in performance when running WatchOS and apps. So Series 4 owners installing WatchOS 6 can take comfort in knowing their watch runs the new operating system just as well as those purchasing the latest edition.
That’s also one less reason to consider upgrading from Series 4 to Series 5. Unless the always-on display makes a huge difference to you, there not much point in selling your device and purchasing a new one.
While a great fitness tracker and an even better smartwatch, both the Series 4 and 5 come with the same battery life and features. Apart from the screen, pretty much the only differences are the compass and widening the incident detection functionality to more countries. Let’s face it, that’s not going to make much of a difference to most.
If this is the first time you are buying an Apple Watch then it does make sense to go for the latest version. The other option, of course, is to opt for the Series 3 device. It sells for less than half the price of Series 5 and remains one of the best smartwatches out there.
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