Wrist-Y Business
HWM Singapore|January 2020
Smartwatches have taken on a life of their own, diverging from the path of smartphones. It’s every player for themselves, with proprietary hardware and software. In fact, there isn’t a single Wear OS smartwatch in our list this year.
Zachary Chan

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5 is largely similar to last year’s model, but small updates affect the product in very profound ways. case design and dimensions haven’t changed, and neither has the size of the display. However, the display now stays on permanently; achieved using an LTpO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) OLED with special controllers and light sensors so that refresh rates can be adjusted from as high as 60Hz to as low as 1Hz.

This is a big deal because it now means you can glance at your watch without having to do that exaggerated raising of your wrist action.

When the display does go to sleep, it doesn’t just show a generic watch face like some other smartwatches. It actually shows a dimmed version of the watch face you selected and customised. Some complications (like Date and Activity) will also show, but some others that require constant updating (like the new Noise and compass app) will go to sleep.

There’s also an option to mask sensitive information like your calendar appointments, mail and messages from being displayed. You can also turn the display off entirely in rest mode like older Apple Watches if you want.

Does the always-on display hurt battery life? In my experience, yes. I have about 35% to 40% of battery left after about 11 hours of use, slightly less than the 55% that the older Series 4 used to have in the same amount of time. regardless, the Series 5 will still need a daily charge, the only watch here with such a requirement.

Readers thinking of getting the more expensive and more capable cellular version will also be happy to know that there will be wider support for international emergency calling. This means the cellular Series 5 watch can call emergency services in over 150 countries even if you don’t have a cellular plan, a potential lifesaver for emergencies when travelling.

New to watchOS 6 are two health apps called Noise and cycle Tracking. One uses the watch’s built-in microphone to measure sound levels and warns you if things get too loud which might damage your hearing. The latter is a menstrual cycle tracker. Apple Watch Series 5 will also have EcG capabilities, and this time, which this time works right out of the box because it’s already approved by the Health Sciences Authority.

Another good thing is that prices are unchanged from last year, so the Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $599 for the basic 40mm GpS-only model in aluminium.

Fitbit Versa 2

The only other square watch in our shootout that’s often referred to as an Apple Watch Lite. The Versa 2 may not look it at a glance, but sports many major upgrades, and equally as many caveats. reviewing the Versa 2 is like a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ situation.

First things first, the sensor in the Versa 2 is pretty much still the same as in the Versa, for which I have no complaints. It was, and still is one of the most consistently accurate wrist-based heart rate monitors I’ve tried so far. It has all-day tracking, extended battery life that actually lasts up to five days, improved sleep tracking (though I personally still don’t know what to do with this metric). However, there is no built-in GpS, so the watch can’t be used on its own.

The Versa 2 has a slightly larger screen (1.4-inches vs. 1.34-inches), though that’s honestly not noticeable due to the presence of huge, chunky bezels. However, it does feature an AMOLED screen that’s really bright and sharp. The Versa 2 also has an always-on display like the Apple Watch Series 5 that you can toggle on and off, though expect to knock its 5-day battery down to about 3 days if you do enable it. Still, that’s longer than what the Apple Watch can achieve.

The watch has a built-in mic and Alexa integration, but no speaker. So you can dictate message replies or ask Alexa questions, but can’t actually hold a speakerphone call like the Huawei Watch GT 2, and you’ll need to read all of Alexa’s replies in text.

The Versa 2 is a fitness smartwatch that comes close to the Samsung and Apple in terms of customisations. I especially loved the animated Bitmoji watchfaces. However, you can only load and store a single watchface at anyone time, so you can’t switch on the fly. A future OS update (Fitbit OS 4.1) is supposed to increase this number to 5, but not at the time of this review.

The watch has built-in memory to store local songs (around 300), which is great, and it now has Spotify preinstalled, which is also great, but the Spotify app on the watch simply acts as a remote. You can neither stream from the watch, nor download your playlist to the watch.

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