What watchOS 5 tells us about the Apple Watch 4


While we’re still waiting for the Apple Watch 4, we do at least now know lots about the software that it’s likely to run, namely watchOS 5.

Apple announced this at WWDC 2018, and while the new software will be coming to most Apple Watches, adding things like better exercise tracking and improved watch faces in the process, aspects of it give us clues about what we might see from the Apple Watch 4.

So, while nothing is official yet, the following things may well be features of the Apple Watch 4, based on what we’ve seen in watchOS 5.

A better watch for runners

The Apple Watch has long been positioned in part as a health and fitness device, but it looks like that aspect could be getting a big push with watchOS 5, which suggests the Apple Watch 4 could push the fitness angle even further.

watchOS 5 is adding the likes of cadence tracking, a pace alarm and a rolling mile pace metric, things runners have been crying out for in terms of having their Apple Watch compete with the likes of Garmin.

These features won’t be reserved for the Apple Watch 4, but they show that Apple is taking fitness seriously, so we might see additional hardware features in the Watch 4 that further benefit runners and those who do other types of exercise.

That could mean even better GPS and heart rate monitor accuracy, sensors to track your blood oxygen levels or respiration rate, or just a general ‘smoothing’ of the accuracy of what’s already there.

A better speaker

There’s also some evidence that the Apple Watch 4 could have a better speaker than the Apple Watch 3.

For one thing, Apple’s new Walkie-Talkie feature will need better audio to work correctly, and the new iOS 12 / watchOS 5 update brings FaceTime audio to your wrist, meaning you might find yourself talking to your Watch more often, and, more importantly, listening to it.

watchOS 5 also includes various other new audio features, such as bringing Apple’s Podcasts app to your Watch, giving developers the ability to enable offline playback for music, audiobooks and mediation sessions in their apps, and adding the ability for third-party apps to play audio in the background while you do something else on your Apple Watch.

So there’s a good chance the speaker will be improved to better facilitate all that. Of course, for many of these things you’ll mostly be using earphones, but it’s nice to have options, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple gives sound a boost.

Better battery life

The Apple Watch 3 already has good battery life by smartwatch standards, but there’s plenty of room for improvement, and watchOS 5 might well be more of a drain, since one of the new features is the ability to activate Siri just by raising your wrist.

That’s going to mean Siri will be listening out for commands a lot, even when none are coming, so there’s a good chance Apple will work to either stick in a bigger battery or make the hardware and software more efficient, so Siri doesn’t drain the Apple Watch 4 too much.

A bigger focus on LTE models

One of the potentially more fun watchOS 5 features is Walkie-Talkie, which allows you to send a voice message through your Apple Watch to a friend who also has an Apple Watch.

This feature, of course, requires some kind of connectivity, and while it works over both Wi-Fi and LTE it will be far more useful with an LTE model, since you’ll be able to use it anywhere, rather than just when you have a Wi-Fi network.

With that in mind, we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple puts a bigger focus on LTE for the Apple Watch 4, perhaps offering additional LTE features to make it more useful or reducing the cost of the LTE model relative to the standard one.

You never know, Apple might even include LTE as standard with the Apple Watch 4, though we doubt it will go quite that far.

No third-party faces

Third-party watch faces have been rumored for a while, but they’ve not been announced as part of watchOS 5 and if you were hoping they might be saved for the Apple Watch 4 you’re probably out of luck.

That’s because, aside from the fact that we’d expect to see them announced as a core part of watchOS 5, Apple has made some other watch face announcements, notably improving the Siri face.

If third-party watch faces were coming we probably wouldn’t see Apple put so much focus on continuing to develop and highlight its own, and with third-party apps able to integrate with the Siri face, there’s arguably less need for them from Apple’s perspective, though third-party faces is still something we hope to see.

Three years of updates

The original Apple Watch won’t be able to update to watchOS 5, which – as it came out in April 2015 – means that it got roughly three years of updates.

If Apple sticks to that cut-off for all its wearables then if you buy the Apple Watch 4, assuming it comes out this year, you’ll probably get updates until sometime in 2021.

  • We also now know lots about iOS 12