Why Watch 4 de­serves to be more ac­ces­si­ble

SEES ONE OF THE MOST AMAZ­ING PROD­UCTS OF ALL TIME IN AP­PLE WATCH SE­RIES 4, BUT THE AP­PLE ECOSYS­TEM HOLDS IT BACK

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Quick, let’s get the ele­phant in the roomed pushed out of the in­ex­pli­ca­ble ele­phant-sized door this room ap­par­ently has. The iPhone XS launch was su­per dull. Faster, bet­ter cam­eras, brighter screen… Ap­ple for­got the ‘S’ fea­ture that makes these one-year-on mod­els worth buy­ing. I’d say it’s the dullest up­date since the 3GS, but that was more ex­cit­ing, be­cause the speed bump it­self was trans­for­ma­tive back then.

But Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 4? Now we’re cook­ing. Not be­cause it’s thin­ner or has a big­ger screen (I’m not con­vinced more in­for­ma­tion on dis­play at once is what the Watch needs at all), but be­cause it’s start­ing to look like the most in­cred­i­ble prod­uct for per­sonal health ever. Even more pre­cise heart rate mon­i­tor­ing, an ECG and fall de­tec­tion (on top of the ex­ist­ing SOS fea­ture) make it feel less like an ex­ten­sion of your phone that no one re­ally needs, and more like a prod­uct that you’d be crazy not to have for the price.

This hits home for me even more deeply: a close mem­ber of my fam­ily has been di­ag­nosed with atrial fib­ril­la­tion, but with­out a con­firmed cause. It could come back any time and pose a real dan­ger to them, but how are they to know that it’s the fib­ril­la­tion that’s re­turned rather than just a virus or other ill­ness that man­i­fests sim­i­larly? The fact that their Watch could of­fer se­cu­rity by telling them feels like a weight off my shoul­ders. I’m ac­tively ex­cited for them to get that Watch and… never ac­tu­ally have to use that fea­ture, ide­ally. It’s a weird con­tra­dic­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, the heart con­di­tion (and gen­eral age­ing) also puts them at risk of falls. They wouldn’t like to think of them­selves as be­ing in that age bracket, but the fact re­mains. This is the least in­tru­sive way to stay safe in that sense.

Here’s the thing. I’m happy to buy them a Watch Se­ries 4, but I’m less happy that I’ll also have to buy them an iPhone. They’ve never wanted a smart­phone. It’d be eas­ier to com­mu­ni­cate if they had one, but it’s their choice. I can buy them a cheap-ish sec­ond­hand 6S or some­thing, but that comes with war­ranty con­cerns. And, more than that, the main thing they’d ac­tu­ally use a phone for is tak­ing pho­tos, but I could get a new An­droid phone with a much bet­ter cam­era for around the same price as a used 6S. I re­sent that.

Even shortly af­ter the event, I know lots of peo­ple in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. They have pen­sioner par­ents for whom Watch Se­ries 4 would bring great peace of mind, but those on fixed (not very high) in­comes have of­ten bought bar­gain An­droids.

Ap­ple knows it has a health revo­lu­tion on its hands here, and no doubt fu­ture mod­els will have sim­i­larly huge fea­tures. But it has to be for ev­ery­one, not just those who’ve splashed out on a higher tier phone. I hope it will bring a Watch app equiv­a­lent to An­droid, even if it’s stuck with re­duced func­tion­al­ity com­pared to on iPhones, be­cause this is far too im­por­tant for these lim­i­ta­tions.

Watch Se­ries 4: an in­cred­i­ble prod­uct for per­sonal health

ABOUT MATT BOLTON

Matt is the ed­i­tor of Fu­ture’s flag­ship tech­nol­ogy mag­a­zine T3 and has been chart­ing changes at Ap­ple since his stu­dent days. He’s scep­ti­cal of tech in­dus­try hy­per­bole, but still gets warm and fuzzy on hear­ing “one more thing”.

Place a fin­ger on the Dig­i­tal Crown to form a cir­cuit and get a med­i­cal-grade check for an ab­nor­mal heart rhythm.

The more sen­si­tive mo­tion sen­sor in the Se­ries 4 can de­tect short, sharp falls and will call the emer­gency ser­vices if you need help.

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