Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5 Price Range: $529 – $1049 CDN
New Features: Always-on Display, Built-in Compass, International Emergency Services (to all cellular models).
Technology: Apple S5 chip which contains a 64-bit dual-core processor. 32 GB storage increased from 16GB in previous models.

I’ve been thinking about a smart watch for a long time now. Is it worth the money? Will it be beneficial or just another piece of tech? Can I track myself and my activities? Or am I being tracked and, if so, how much data am I sharing with the big corporations? I have been wearing and testing the Apple Watch Series 5 for over two months now and my final answer is—yes. It is worth the money. It is beneficial for tracking my health and activities. And, yes: Maybe I am being tracked more closely—but only by corporations and app developers that I allow to see/translate data based on my settings.

The watch is available in several different casings and with different tech specs. The base watches are around $529 CDN for GPS-enabled and $900 CDN for GPS and cellular enabled. With its Always-on Retina display, myriad of potential faces and sensors that remind me to move, stand and breathe, this is the most advanced piece of wearable technology on the market. I can also track my activities, select my music and stay in communication even without my phone present (cellular models only).

Wearing my Series 5 I have gone snowboarding, nordic skiing, swimming laps, paddleboarding and desk jockeying. I have even tried it out on the treadmill as not all days can be outdoor adventures. Compared to other watches I have tried, the activity tracker in the Series 5 is detailed and accurate with distance and altitude both indoors and out.

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Indoor pool lap, stroke and time tracking. Water resistant to 50m
Capturing distance, avg. speed, time and types of strokes.

One of my top requirements for a smart watch was that I could wear it while swimming and paddleboarding. Many companies have provided either an IP or ATM rating. The Apple Watch Series 5 (and back to the Series 2) spec page states that it is water resistant to 50 metres. This would be equivalent to the 5ATM rating. The main thing to remember here is that although the watch can withstand the atmospheric pressure of a 50m depth, the water they are testing in is still.  As soon as you have added pressure, such as swimming strokes, the resistance changes. So although the Series 5 is great for swimming, paddleboarding and many other things in and around water, I do not recommend you take it waterskiing, cliff jumping or anything where there is potential for pressure greater than it can withstand. While swimming laps at the local pool it kept an accurate count of not only my laps but also average pace, stroke, overall distance and hear rate. And I found the Always-on display completely readable underwater while mid-stroke.

GPS Tracking

For paddleboarding, snowboarding and nordic skiing I wanted accurate GPS tracking. Previous devices would capture distance accurately but fail on altitude. Some were the opposite and others failed at both. The Series 5 is able to record my adventures showing accurate speed, distance and duration combined with average heart rate and altitude. And though Apple has provided an amazing piece of technology with built-in apps, several companies have also created apps for specific sports.

Strava App tracking a nordic loop

Strava is the best in my mind as a multi-sport app. The app works both on the phone and watch, tracking my adventures and when combined with the internal GPS and proper settings it takes your traveled route and then overlays it on a map, showing the route taken. The app also offers a deeper analysis of your workout, providing all the information in one place. As with many apps a subscription plan is available allowing you to see even more data.

Activity Tracker showing information recorded with the Paddle Logger app

For paddleboarding I chose the Paddle Logger app.  Again both with a free version and a subscription version, Paddle Logger tracks your time on the water showing wind speed and direction and laying out your route on a basic map. (Satellite imagery is available, however, you need to subscribe for that.) I just wanted to know how far I was going and the duration of the paddle. This is provided with the free version. This data is then fed into Apple’s Activity Tracker and there I can see the route overlaid on a map with all the data.

Health Tracking

The heath tracking features of Apple’s Series 5 watch are incredible. From constant heart rate monitoring to manual ECG reporting, this watch seems to be able to provide everything and more. But it is the little things I like the most. Sure it can count my steps but it also reminds me to stand, something I don’t do often enough. It can also guide me through a minute-long breathing cycle. And it will check audio decibel levels and warning me if the environment I am in is unhealthy for my hearing.

Battery Life

With all tech, I like to keep the running apps to a minimum in order to preserve battery life.  For the first month, and while swimming, I used the Always-on display and questioned how often I would have to charge it while using other functions. With the quick-charge technology, the Series 5 is able to charge up to 80% capacity in 1.5 hours, with the remaining 20% taking another hour. I found that within the first month I was removing and changing my watch every 16 – 18 hours. After turning off the Always-on display and combining that with my computer-driven, desk-riding lifestyle I found that I could get between 22-26 hours of battery life, allowing me to track my sleeping patterns and recharge at some point during the day.

Even with all its power, it is the small things I appreciate the most. Haptic notifications of incoming messages and phone calls allow my phone to be silent. And being able to hide my phone and remotely trigger the camera, I can capture images I would never have captured before.

Boston Oriole - iPhone triggered with Apple Watch
Remotely triggering my iPhone as it sat beside the feeder.