Apple (AAPL) on Tuesday announced new versions of two of its most popular products: the Apple Watch and the iPad. Called the Apple Watch Series 5 and iPad, the devices follow the unveiling of Apple’s latest iPhones, the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.
Available Sept. 20 and starting at $399, the Apple Watch Series 5 brings a new always-on display and built-in compass feature. The iPad, meanwhile, gets a larger display and will launch Sept. 30 for $329.
I got to check out both devices following Apple’s announcement, and they look like worthwhile upgrades for most users.
Apple Watch Series 5
The biggest change to the Apple Watch Series 5 versus its predecessor is its display. It now stays on all the time regardless of whether you’re looking at it or not. This always-on display allows you to check the time, as well as complications like distance walked or the weather, without having to raise your watch or tap its display.
Surprisingly, Apple managed to get the same amount of battery life out of the Series 5 as the Series 4. To achieve that, the company says it created a new kind of screen for the watch called a low-temperature polysilicone and oxide display. The Series 5 watch also gets an ultra-low power display driver and new ambient light sensor. All of that essentially means that the display uses less power than previous versions of the Apple Watch.
So what’s it like the use the always-on display? Pretty fun, actually. When not in use, the always-on display runs at a lower display brightness and loses features like the second hand. But raise the watch, even slightly, to your eyes, and the display lights up. It actually felt like the display activation was faster than the Series 4, which makes sense considering the Series 5 also gets a new, more powerful processor.
Apple says that it has optimized its various watch faces for the new always-on display, as well as the Workout app. That means you’ll be able to see your workout progress without having to lift your watch all the way to eye level or tap the display, which can be difficult during certain exercises.
Other smartwatches already offer always-on displays, including Fitbit’s new Versa 2, but the Apple Watch’s display doesn’t turn to grey scale when not active, so your apps will still have color.
Apple has also added a new built-in compass to the Apple Watch, which makes tracking your exact location on the Maps app on the watch easier. If you’re a serious outdoors enthusiast who’d rather keep their phone at home, the compass should be a welcome addition to the watch.
The biggest news of all about the Apple Watch, though, is that the Series 3 model is now $199. That’s an incredible deal for the watch, and all but sure to draw in users who have held out due to the device’s price.
Apple’s new iPad takes the guts of the 6th-generation 9.7-inch iPad and puts them into a package with a larger 10.2-inch display. The new screen size is slightly smaller than the 10.5-inch iPad Air found on the iPad Air.
Outside of the new screen, the 7th-generation iPad packs an A10 processor like the one found in the 6th-generation iPad. It also gets the same amount of storage options. It’s really all about the screen here, and boy does it make a difference. I use a 9.7-inch iPad fairly often, and the new 10.2-inch model certainly feels more substantial.
That extra screen real estate makes for a larger canvas to use multiple apps in iPadOS, and better looking games and movies.
Apple has also included the company’s Smart Connector with this iPad, so you can connect it to a Smart Keyboard, rather than a Bluetooth keyboard. The Smart Keyboard has its detractors due to its key feel, but not having to charge a keyboard to use it with your iPad is certainly helpful.
Like the 6th-generation iPad, the 7th-generation gets Apple Pencil functionality, though, you can only use the first-generation Pencil, not the second generation model.
We’ll bring you more on the Apple Watch Series 5 and 7th-generation iPad when we review them in the near future.
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Email Daniel Howley at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.