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
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.