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Apple Watch Series 5 | Review as a sport's watch

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As every year Apple has been faithful to the appointment by presenting the Apple Watch Series 5 a few months ago. And as we are accustomed to, the range is renewed with small improvements but without a revolution in what it offers or in its design.

This test is focused on the sports use of the Apple Watch Series 5, and not from a purely smart watch point of view. For that there are many other pages out there that will tell you about the benefits as a smart watch, but few that will tell you what is the performance of its sensors or whether it is a watch that will meet your requirements for use in sports practice. Because that's what I'm talking about.

I have spent a few weeks with the Apple Watch Series 5 on my wrist, using it as a daily watch and also as a watch for all my workouts, a long time to see what the new Apple watch is capable of (and what are its shortcomings).

The unit I used for testing was not sold by the brand to perform the analysis, but was purchased directly by me from Apple.

If you like this review and find it useful to decide the purchase of your next GPS watch, please use the links you will find on this page (well, you can buy that GPS watch you want or anything else, everything goes).

You won't pay more than it's worth, but the seller returns a small percentage which helps to cover the cost of hosting the site and obviously my work. Or you can also become a VIP member..

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5

Overall operation - 8.5
Training possibilities - 6.5
Platform and applications - 8.5
Autonomy - 6
Finishes and comfort - 10
Price/performance ratio - 7.5

7.8

TOTAL

Apple has slightly renewed its Watch by adding slight improvements (such as the always on screen), but in general it's the same watch as last year. There is no doubt that the Apple Watch is the best smart watch on the market, but... Is he a good candidate also as a watch for sports?

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The good

  • There's no argument. It's the best smartwatch on the market... as long as you're in the Apple ecosystem
  • Many functions oriented towards health control
  • Unfaultless operation
  • Quality Construction 
  • Optical pulse sensor has flawless operation

The bad

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  • Remains weighed by low battery life (and reduced from Series 4)
  • No sleep metrics
  • GPS too filtered and always gives away extra meters
  • It remains compatible, exclusively, with iPhone. If you have an Android you won't be able to use it

What's new in the Apple Watch Series 5

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Apple Watch Series 5

Before attacking the head-on review, is it okay if I clarify what's new specifically for Apple Watch Series 5 2019? With regard to the Apple Watch Series 4 there aren't too many changes, so we'll end up pretty quickly:

  • The screen always stays on
  • Magnetic compass for use with map applications
  • The LTE version of the watch allows you to make emergency calls anywhere in the world

That, and nothing else, are the new features of the fifth version of the Apple Watch. As I say "minor" changes, although the fact of using a screen that always stays on can make a noticeable difference depending on the type of use.

Of course, these are the hardware specific news. Recently, other software features have also been added, but they depend on the firmware of the watch so they are present in both Series 5 and any other watch that has received the update. I mean, it's not something specific to Series 5.

Apple Watch Basics

As I have just indicated the change that has received the screen is not the only novelty, but nevertheless it is the most noticeable. 

For the first time on Apple Watch, your display can be set to always be turned on. But it won't always show the same information as there are two modes that will change as before, with the twist of the wrist or when pressing the screen or pressing a button; but it will always be showing something on the screen (although it is something that can be disabled from the options).

Apple Watch Series 5 - Always on display

Apple Watch Series 5 - Always on display

This is possible, among other things, by the use of a screen type LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide). To save battery life, even if there is always information on the screen, the refresh rate varies between 60Hz and 1Hz. This means that you can change the on-screen information every second or every 60 seconds. In addition, in this low-power mode it reduces the brightness of the screen to a minimum.

In principle, Apple promises the same battery life as before, although the fact is that it has a small impact on autonomy. It is not too noticeable because the watch still does not reach two days of autonomy with slack, so the usual thing will be to charge it daily as it has been before.

You mean... what's the news? My Garmin/Polar/Suunto has the screen always on, and the battery lasts a lot longer. True, but do not forget that the quality of the screen has nothing to do with it. The brightness and color of an OLED display is far from what a transflective display can offer.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Display Comparison

It's not that Apple has developed "the invention", others have already incorporated it beforehand, such as Fitbit with the Versa 2 or Samsung that has been offering it for a while.

Leaving the screen aside, the rest of the clock is what you already knew. It is operated via the touch screen and has a crown and a button on the right side.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Buttons

The crown also acts as a button, being the one we will use the most because it is the main one to make selections. The behavior of the buttons also changes if you press them twice or if you hold down, there are many possibilities in that respect.

But where it still stands out (at least with respect to models more focused on sport like those of Garmin, Suunto or Polar) is in that it has a built-in speaker and microphone. This opens the door to many possibilities of using as a smart watch, from having a conversation, listening to ringtones, answering messages in different applications, etc.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Message Reply

It is here that the Apple Watch shines with respect to watches of the brands I mentioned above. But of course, it's not that they don't want to implement it, it's what Apple and its tight control over what developers can access on their operating system allows (or in this case, it doesn't allow).

As for personalization of the dial, we can select from a lot of options through the iPhone Watch app.

But there is no possibility to install any of external developers, which I think is a mistake on the part of Apple as it could open the door to dial designs in the app store from Rolex, Omega or other traditional watch manufacturers who could charge an amount in exchange for one of their classic designs, and that I am sure they would be very well received by users.

The closest we can get to having a custom dial is having a photo of our gallery every time we look at the clock screen. Something is something.

The operation of the watch is impeccable at all times. Animations, scrolling through menus, visual appearance. If there is one thing Apple takes care of is precisely the user experience, and it cares that everything is beautiful and fluid above anything else. Something they meet perfectly.

As for the applications, what appears on the watch is the result of having previously installed the main application on the phone. In other words, if the application you have has its corresponding version for Apple Watch, after installing it on your phone it will also appear in the app menu of the watch.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Applications Menu

After the update of WatchOS 6 you can now also install applications directly from the store on the watch itself.

Apple Watch Series 5 - App Store

The procedure is the same but the other way around. Installing the app on the clock means that the main app is automatically installed on the phone, because one is associated with the other. 

But the truth is that the most important aspect of a smart watch is in the management of notifications. No doubt that is the most common use we are going to make. Few applications bring something really of interest, and the usual thing is that after receiving a notification of a particular application we end up consulting the mobile phone to see everything in greater detail on a screen that is much larger and comfortable to use.

The truth is that there are already many developers who are canceling their development projects because they are seeing that this is the behavior of their customers, so they derive all their efforts to the main application and it comes down to receiving advanced notifications on the clock, but without a strong application that can be Use on the watch.

Setting up and sports

Apple Watch in general has been going through many firmware versions over the years, but in terms of sport there hasn't been too many changes.

For this section I will focus exclusively on the default application that Apple offers on Apple Watch. Obviously we have many other options when choosing an application to train, but the vast majority will use only the one offered by the watch itself. Also, this is an analysis to Apple Watch and not to the apps available for Apple Watch.

As a configuration, we can customize sport profiles from the iPhone Watch app, where you will find a section called Training.

There are really not many options you can configure beyond an automatic pause and the metrics that will appear on the screen. 

When configuring profiles it is possible to view all data on the same screen or have only one data per screen (large size). 

Apple Watch - Set Up Profiles

For each sport profile you can configure the data that interests you. You must choose a maximum of five from this (short) list.

Apple Watch - Set Up Profiles

It highlights the metric "Pace of stretch", which is the pace of the last kilometer run (not the last kilometer lap). That is, it is constantly updated and is different from any other metric in that sense, especially interesting for long rides at a constant pace in which 1TP10You can easily see if you are going up or down the pace with respect to the initially marked.

On the watch we only have access to select a target for training (calories, distance or time). To do this we have to access the training application.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Training

By clicking on the ellipsis you will be able to access these options.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Training

And here you will be able to select your target.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Training objective

And that's it, that's all there is to set up (well, if we select swimming in the pool you can enter long distance). Very limited and, compared to any other specific training watch, too raging. 

Once everything is already selected and configured it's time to start training, simply selecting the desired profile. Apple continues to maintain the same behavior as usual, in which the moment you click on the profile starts a 3-second countdown to start the activity. 

But there is no prior time to get GPS signal, no correct data from the optical pulse sensor. And it is still a tremendous mistake, because what is achieved with this is that the start of any training (or worse, race) always has shortages both in track and in the recording of pace or distance.

That for the experience it is very nice to press the button and start training, all very fluid... but what less than having a configuration option in which, although it is not so elegant, have a preview screen that confirms GPS signal and pulse data.

Although the Apple Watch's optical pulse sensor works quite well (I'll talk about it later), there is a possibility to use an external pulse sensor via Bluetooth (it is not compatible with ANT+).

Apple Watch Series 5 - External Sensor

Once you have finished your training you will have a summary on the watch screen with the main data (which once you leave you will not be able to review again), and then after synchronization in the Activity app, under the Workouts tab. Here you can find your workouts (and in my case, as I have another application that synchronizes other platforms, also for example Garmin).

The information we have is quite limited and no online platform is available to access the training. There is also no possibility to export automatically to other platforms such as TrainingPeaks or Strava, for that you would have to use an application such as HealthFitwhich is fee-based.

In HealthFit, in addition to being able to export a FIT file to multiple platforms (also to an email), you will be able to see the same basic training information. It is definitely a mandatory application if you have an Apple Watch.

There are also no advanced training metrics, such as recovery times, training status, etc. Apple does not provide any of these possibilities. 

As I say, all this is based on the default Apple Watch app. There are other training applications that will offer different usage experiences. One of the most prominent is iSmoothRun (which I know you were going to ask me), another is Stryd if you have the race power meter.

But there's one thing you need to keep in mind, even though one of the novelties of Apple Watch Series 5 is being able to keep the screen always on, it's something that's not available for third-party applications. 

This is the screen you can see in the default Apple Watch app.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Training Display

That's the screen when you turn your wrist. You can tell her apart because she's got thousandths of a second and the doll upstairs is in motion. 

However, when the display is in low power mode, the thousandths disappear and the doll stops moving, but the rest of the data continues to update.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Energy-efficient training display

However, with any other application when the screen is not "active", it will simply display the time overlaid on top of the blurred training application.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Stryd

Apple Watch Series 5 - Stryd

This is not the product of the developer not complying with certain guidelines or that they need to update the application, simply Apple does not allow to benefit from the always lit screen for any other application that is not included in the watch.

Which is certainly uncomfortable because, although the display activates very quickly as it detects the wrist spin, it doesn't always do so the first time you turn your wrist.

Health and activity on Apple Watch

But make no mistake, Apple is not interested in pursuing the sports segment. He's behind the health segment. Which number is higher, the number of competitive athletes or normal people concerned about their health? You'll agree with me that the second group is much larger than the first. 

Not that Apple isn't able to compete with Garmin, Polar or Suunto, it's not something that interests him too much because he prefers to focus on a segment with many more millions of users. Look, I'm not saying that competing with those three is easy, much less.

As for tracking activity on the clock we have access to basic data of our daily activity, being able to see the classic rings in which our goal is to complete them.

Apple Watch - Activity Rings

Each ring corresponds to the following: 

  • Red: movement, basically steps taken
  • Green: exercise of any kind, whether in the gym, running or walking
  • Blue: Get up at least once every hour, for twelve hours

When you complete a ring, the watch will reward you for it, and if you complete all three it is already an absolute holiday.

By sliding down we have access to more detailed data of the activity of the day.

And scrolling to the right we can see different awards that we have achieved for completing the activity challenges that Apple Watch proposes.

Apple Watch - Awards

Of course all this data goes to the phone, in the application called Activity, where you can see it in all the details.

And just like on the watch, you can also see workouts, prizes won, or share the activity with friends (and set challenges with them). But logically and as on any other platform, such friends have to be Apple users.

And finally there is the Trends tab, one of the novelties of WatchOS 6. Theoretically it has to give you information similar to this.

Apple Watch - TrendsAnd yet what I have is this.

Apple Watch - Trends

- Why? - Why? Because Apple believes that in order to be able to display relevant information, it needs to have processed before, carefully... 6 MONTHS of complete data. Not one, not two, not three... to six!

Apple Watch - TrendsWhich I honestly find a bit absurd, because it's not that we're talking about information that needs a great background of data... which are minutes of exercise a day, distance traveled minutes on foot, etc. That with a month of data we have more than enough to have a pretty real average (and if you hurry me, with 1 week too). Even for the most complex TrainingPeaks algorithms we don't need to record data for so long.

But I have the feeling that the Activity app will end up disappearing in favor of Health, which is also new with iOS 13. Here we will find the same information as in Activity.

 

And interestingly here if we have trend information without needing to be accumulating data for six months.

In terms of activity monitoring is all quite similar to what any other platform offers, Apple does not stand out for better or worse. The interface is good, everything is fast and readable and the challenges it proposes are pretty good to encourage you to stay active, as well as being able to hold competitions with other friends who use the same ecosystem.

But if we move on to the health part proper, it's where Apple does shine above everyone else. Surely you have already heard about the possibility of registering the electrocardiogram (ECG) with your Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Series 5 - ECG

At any time you can get an ECG directly from the clock. It is a test that takes just 30 seconds in which you will simply have to put your finger on the crown. After finishing the test you will see the details on the watch screen, but of course it will be on the phone where you will have it in more detail.

Luckily, for the vast majority of users it will be a feature that you will use three times as soon as you buy the watch and after a social meeting when a friend asks you. That will be a sign that you have no heart problems and you have nothing to control. But if there is any heart issue you need to review, then Apple Watch will be a fantastic ally.

Health control is not limited to ECG, there are also another number of functions.

It is possible to save your health data so that, in case of need (accident, fainting, etc.) those who care for you can review important information such as blood type or allergies that should concern you.

You can schedule pulse alerts to alert you when there is an irregular rhythm or when the frequency is too high or too low.

Or the function of breathing, which will guide you through breathing exercises to relax.

Finally, we also have the environmental noise measurement, which will also warn you if you find yourself somewhere with excessive noise.

In short, in the health aspect Apple is far ahead of its competition, precisely because it is the aspect on which it has focused the most on its watch.

But there is one important omission - sleep. Apple Watch doesn't offer any function to record what your sleep is like at night for one simple reason: its autonomy doesn't allow it. With a battery life of about two days (hopefully), Apple hasn't even thought about it yet, and this is something the whole competition is doing.

Apple has the excuse to offer its own bedside accessory and that is compatible with the entire ecosystem, the Beddit sleep monitor. But it is an additional accessory of 149€ (to add to the price of Apple Watch, which is not cheap at all).

Apple Beddit

In fact, the Health app is prepared to display sleep data (in this case, they come from the integration of other platforms -Garmin Connect- with the Health API).

Undoubtedly, this is Apple's pending subject, because as I say it is something that the rest of its competition is doing and that Apple Watch does not have. And if there is something that tremendously affects health, it is precisely the quality of sleep.

Optical heart rate sensor

Apple Watch Series 5 - Optical Pulse Sensor

It's time to talk about the optical pulse sensor we have on the Apple Watch. It is naturally located on the back of the watch and consists of different elements. This sensor was renewed with the launch of the Apple Watch Series 4 (which, when integrating the electrocardiogram register, needed to add an electrode) and has different types of LED lights.

Apple Watch - Optical Pulse Sensor

On the one hand, infrared LEDs are used for heart rate recording at rest or when we are not doing any sports activity.

Secondly, the green LEDs are the ones that are used while playing sports. 

Apple Watch Series 5 - Optical Pulse Sensor

The difference between the two is that infrared has lower battery consumption, while green ones are more reliable when recording heart rate during activity.

Before comparing you with other devices, I'd like to recall some basic aspects of optical sensors.

Keep in mind that a wrist heart rate monitor does not work the same way on all bodies. We're all different, and if we put things in the equation like skin tone, tattoos, body hair... the difference from person to person can be quite big.

In my tests it is not that the spectrum of users is very broad: it is me, myself and I. So what works well for me might not do it for someone else, or it might be better.

But the most important thing to keep in mind is that you have to follow some guidelines to wear the sensor. It should be tight (but not cut off your circulation), enough to keep the watch from moving freely on your wrist, leaving a separation of approximately one finger from the wrist bone. By following these details you will ensure that you get the best results that your conditions can offer.

I will start with a training of fartlek (rhythm changes), in which I repeat three times 2km running smooth and 1km running stronger.

Along with the Apple Watch Series 5 I am accompanied by a Garmin Venu and a COROS APEX Pro, paired with the Polar H10 external sensor. Garmin Venu, Apple Watch Series 5, COROS APEX Pro - Sensor de pulso óptico

To see the details more easily I will separate the training into three blocks.

In this first block we have a good start by the optical sensor of the Apple Watch and the Polar H10, while the Garmin Venu needs a few seconds to start recording correctly.

However, in the middle of heating there is a very strange peak for which I have no explanation whatsoever. The optical sensor of the Apple Watch and the Polar H10 chest sensor paired with the COROS coincide with this peak.

The Garmin Venu remains stable, which is what it has to do, and as much as I review the activity I find no reason at that point to explain that sudden increase, which, of course, does not correspond to the reality of the exercise.

A mystery because there are also two graphs that match. As for the first interval of one kilometer there is not much to stand out, the three sensors perform the reading correctly. Garmin Venu, Apple Watch Series 5, COROS APEX Pro - Optical Pulse Sensor

Let's go to the second block. During the two smooth kilometers everything is stable, except for a few peaks in the Venu graph (which occurs because it is marking one more pulsation than the other two). Something normal considering we're talking about a pulse up or down.

When it reaches the highest intensity kilometre the Apple Watch behaves perfectly, both in the rise and in the fall of heart rate, without presenting any kind of delay. In this case Venu makes it worse, because in addition to having some moments in which the heart rate drops, when it reaches the rest period the Garmin registers the descent with the greatest delay. Garmin Venu, Apple Watch Series 5, COROS APEX Pro - Optical Pulse Sensor

The third block is very similar to the second. There is some error in the soft interval on the part of Garmin, but the behavior of the Apple Watch is once again blameless in both the rise and the drop in intensity. This time Venu is delayed again, but much lighter than before.

Garmin Venu, Apple Watch Series 5, COROS APEX Pro - Optical Pulse Sensor

Let's go now with a pure and hard series training. This time we have the HRM-Tri sensor paired with a Garmin FR945 , and a Polar OH1+ recording data by itself.

It is a winter training, so as usual the sensor on the chest encounters problems during the first few minutes, recording much higher than the correct data. Once the sweat begins to moisten the electrodes its reading stabilizes.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Optical Sensor

Apple Watch also has an erratic start, fruit of Apple's mania to start recording the activity as soon as we click on the sport profile without waiting to confirm that both the GPS signal and the pulse have already been fixed.

I remind you that two different ways of measuring pulsations are used, so even though the watch is recording the pulsations throughout the day, the moment we start the sport profile is when the green LEDs are turned on.

In this case, it took about 30 to 40 seconds to start recording the keystrokes correctly. Meanwhile, as you see, the chest sensor has not done a good reading throughout the warm-up.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Optical Sensor

Let's go with the first block of series. Very good behavior on the part of the Apple Watch and OH1+, without having excessive delay in the rise or lowering of beats.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Optical Sensor

There will always be some delay, because the optical measurement is based on a mathematical algorithm (so first there must be values to then get a result, it is not a direct reading), but in this case it is quite fast and accurate.

As for the rest period between blocks of intervals, there is little to highlight. Constant pacing is a staple for any optical pulse sensor and is usually the easiest thing to achieve a good measurement. 

The second interval block is very similar to the first, but where I do find a fault is in the third block. In the third interval of this block there is a sudden drop of beats by Apple Watch that is not present in any of the other graphs.

 

Apple Watch Series 5 - Optical Sensor

It is a short failure, and quickly returns to the correct measurement.

Another brief example. As I said earlier, if there are no sudden changes in intensity (intervals, fartlek, ups and downs, etc.), an optical sensor is just as reliable as a chest sensor. You can see it in this training.

Apple Watch Series 5 - Optical Sensor

Although in this case it is worth noting, again, those first seconds in which the measurement of the Apple Watch is again incorrect because it has not yet begun to record keystrokes.

We change third and go cycling. Optical pulse sensors in watches usually work almost perfectly in most people for continuous running. They usually do moderately well in changes in intensity, but cycling has always been their pending subject.

However, Apple Watch surprises in this facet. I leave you this example of a recent output in which there is a bit of everything: 

  1. Short but butt-top sprints
  2. High intensity in the hunt for a "getaway".
  3. Coffee stop
  4. Back to training, pulling the group and drafting
  5. Period at a smoother pace and crossing a city
  6. Back to the top of the group and to receive relays

Apple Watch Series 5 - Cycling Optical Sensor

The result of the Apple Watch was magnificent, at the height of the Polar OH1+ on his forearm (which is much easier to record the heart rate correctly) and almost at all times calming the chest sensor.

It is not perfect, but very reliable at almost all times. It really surprised me because it improves the result of any other watch, and I remember that Apple Watch is not at all focused on cycling. 

I leave you each of the enlarged areas so you can see how well it has done (I don't put segment 3 because it doesn't really have much to do).

Apple Watch Series 5 - Cycling Optical Sensor Apple Watch Series 5 - Cycling Optical Sensor Apple Watch Series 5 - Cycling Optical Sensor Apple Watch Series 5 - Cycling Optical Sensor Apple Watch Series 5 - Cycling Optical Sensor

In short, the optical pulse sensor of the Apple Watch is good, VERY GOOD. It is at the same height as the Polar OH1+, which only confirms the good result it offers.

But it could be better, especially if Apple had a pre-workout screen where it could confirm both the GPS signal and the optical pulse sensor. That usually causes the first 60-100 seconds of training to not have correct heart rate data.

GPS Performance

If there's something I don't like about Apple Watch it's the way it treats GPS data. It's not that the record is bad (which it isn't, it's in the average), but that Apple filters the data to have nice graphs so that everything stays within what they expect from their ecosystem: a paradise where everything is fluid, clean and precise.

But unfortunately GPS tracks are never smooth, clean or accurate. Apple pushes the filtering of tracks to the limit so much that we end up with tracks that are not real. But if we look at the analysis in the phone application and don't zoom in too much, we have the impression of being in front of the most accurate clock in the world.

As you can see, what's your impression of the Apple Watch's GPS? Well, that it works very well and at no time does it deviate from what the route has been. In a sense, it's a trap they're playing on the user, because they're trading accuracy for a smooth, fluid line.

But the truth is that the less demanding user will not look at the GPS graphics in excessive detail beyond seeing where he has gone and certifying that yes, that has been his route and little else. But he will not get to zoom in to see that the graphics are so filtered that it cuts out absolutely every turn we make.

From a technical point of view it is an aberration, it doesn't have another name, but this only happens if we use Apple's default application, if we use those of some other developer then it won't filter the data. I give you this example below, they are the same place recorded on two different days. 

The image on the left corresponds to what was recorded with the stock application. The one on the right corresponds to what was recorded with the Stryd application.

Again, as I have indicated above, the graphs of the comparisons that I am going to show below are made with the default application.

Just like the optical sensor tests you saw earlier, the GPS comparisons are done the same way: with the watches accompanying me in my regular workouts, wearing both the Apple Watch and other models, and checking where the problems appear.

I do not have any defined path to establish a score for the simple reason that there are other external factors that we should never forget. Things like clouds, leaves on the trees or simply the position of the satellite can alter the GPS results from one day to the next.

This is why I prefer to make this type of comparison instead of having a predefined route and assess it from this one.

I will start with this good comparison between four devices of four different brands, where I have combined areas where I go and return by the same route, and others where I make a circular route. In addition to the Apple Watch Series 5 that I had on my right wrist, we have the Garmin Venu on the left wrist (the purple graph), Suunto 9 in the left hand and Polar Vantage M in the right hand.

Before starting to expand we can already notice that there are some sites where there are different tracks registered, which is not usually the case.

Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch

Let's go to the beginning of the route. In the case of the Apple Watch it is more complicated than in the others, because by not waiting to have a GPS signal before starting the activity (there is simply a three second countdown) in many occasions it will not have a signal until seconds after having pressed start.

In addition, at the beginning of the route I run next to a fairly tall building, which makes signal reception difficult. The Apple Watch doesn't behave badly at all, but we're beginning to see its tendency to round up everything it finds.Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch

At this point we have return routes, so in total there are 8 tracks (4 in one direction, 4 in the other). I have marked the turning point to enter the promenade, where I make two quick 90º turns to go from the sidewalk to the promenade.

All watches do it more or less correctly, but the Apple Watch invents a "chicane" after filtering the GPS signal.

Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch

This is the point I have highlighted before in the comparison of the normal application with Stryd's. As you can see it is a change of direction very similar to the entrance to the promenade, but with the advantage when analyzing it of being a very narrow route so we can quickly see the errors.

The Apple Watch goes to work, filtering both turns to present a nice graph, while both the Suunto 9 like the Garmin Venu perform the turn more or less correctly.Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch

Turn around Puerto Banus in a coverage area complicated by narrow streets.

The direction of travel is what I mark on the arrow. The Polar Vantage M is having a bad day (possibly because it's going in the hand, distorting the received signal) and both Suunto and Garmin are behaving moderately well.

The Apple Watch graph... well that, by making filtered turns.

Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple WatchBut we don't use the GPS exclusively to see tracks at the end of the training, it's also what we use to mark the pace we're running and the distance we're going.

Looking at the graphs, what we could think is that, by cutting out all the turns, the Apple Watch is eating meters, which would lead us to the fact that it is setting lower rhythms than the real one and that the total distance will be less than the one we have actually traveled.

However, the Apple Watch is always the one that records the most distance, in this case about 70-80 meters more than most have recorded (except for the Vantage M which we have already seen was not very reliable in this case).

Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch

That is, we have a deviation of about 1% which is obviously not much.

We go to a similar route but passing through different streets. The Polar and Suunto leave the comparison and the COROS APEX Pro enters the scene.

From the beginning you can see that there is an area with big problems and a first point with some discrepancy.

Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch - APEX Pro Chorus

This is the first problem point. The one that is in error is the COROS APEX Pro. The Apple Watch (this time in purple) still shows an apparent good behavior, as long as we don't look too much into the turns.

Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch - APEX Pro Chorus

Many changes of direction in the picture below. There is a river crossing by a bridge, which the CHOIR arrives at already badly situated.

I have highlighted a point that must be done as the Garmin Venu has done. You must save an area of stairs, so on the way back (the track parallel to the river), when you reach the end of the street you must turn right, go two meters and then turn left, that is, exactly what you see in the graph of the Garmin.

However, that turn has not existed for either the Apple Watch or the CHOIR, which have simply made the turn directly and have not had time to appreciate that rapid change of direction.

Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch - APEX Pro Chorus

Let's go with the very irregular area that we had seen at the beginning. It's a complicated point because I'm running under a row of trees and surrounded by buildings. I usually have signal reception problems here, but this day has been a real disaster.

And yet, of all the graphs, the one with the best performance is the Apple Watch. Its excessive filtering makes the average of the locations place us on the right path, which does not mean that the measurement ends up being the right one in pace and distance (as we have seen before).

Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch - APEX Pro Chorus The whole area of the avenue has been just as bad in all cases. Even later the Apple Watch also moves several metres off course. Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch - APEX Pro Chorus However, the pivot point, which I do in a totally open area (where the start and finish of the Marbella Ironman), is not as much of a problem for any of them, even though the Apple Watch is eating those meters again and is not reaching the turning point. Garmin Venu GPS Comparison - Apple Watch - APEX Pro Chorus

But there's one thing you should remember, these charts are what the Apple Watch produces as long as we don't have the iPhone on us. If the watch is paired with the phone and is in range, it will use the phone's GPS by default to save battery power.

With some exceptions, when we go for a run on the road most of us don't carry our phone with us. However, when we go for a bike or a trail, the most normal (and recommended) thing is to carry it with us, because in those cases all the GPS data will come from the phone, so it will be important that it is well placed (for example in the back pocket of the jersey).

That's why I don't put any track of the Apple Watch during cycling or trail, because I wouldn't be analyzing the satellite reception of the clock but it would be from my iPhone 11 Pro.

In short, the GPS performance is normal, but it is "penalized" by software that filters its signal excessively. However, it has gone up many steps since the Apple Watch Series 2which was the first Apple Watch to have a GPS receiver.

As I said earlier, what Apple does is forget about accuracy in exchange for offering nice, reliable-looking tracks. And it does so because, in their opinion, the average user of this watch is not going to over-check the tracks beyond seeing where they've been running. And they're probably right, but the reality is that they're offering fake tracks.

However, this filtering is only present in the standard application, so if you want to use any of the ones in the App Store you don't have to receive this same treatment (or yes, that will depend on the developer).

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Apple Watch Series 5 Review

The Apple Watch Series 5 is the best smart watch around, there's no doubt about it, but just because it's the best doesn't mean it's the best choice for everyone. You have to be an iPhone user to begin with, as the Apple Watch is not compatible with any other operating system.

Then we have the next catch, the price. It's not a cheap watch, but the introduction of a new model always brings a discount on the previous model -because unlike Garmin, Apple launches the new product in the same price range and reduces the price of the previous one, instead of going up 100 euros with each launch. 

This is a detail that we cannot forget either, the presentation of the new model is not that it has come loaded with novelties. The novelties are quite modest (screen always on and compass). The screen, although it is the current trend, does not bring me much. But that is because the detection of the turn of the wrist works perfectly. And I can not help but remember that the use of the screen always on is only for the operating system or Apple applications, external developers can not make use of it.

When it comes to health and activity monitoring, the Apple Watch is also the best option available today. At least when it comes to health, no other manufacturer has as many features as Apple offers in its Smart Watch. 

However, where the Apple Watch is lame is on the sports aspect, something that Apple has not focused much attention on, which is a relief for the rest of the manufacturers (at least for the time being).

Garmin Venu - Apple Watch

The Apple Watch covers the most basic aspects of sports practice, but is very sparse in functions. Its application does not allow interval training, there are hardly any configuration options for the data screen, there is no further analysis or online platform beyond what you save in your own phone, there is no direct synchronization with external platforms... (Training Peaks or Strava, for example).

Yes, it's a smart clock and it allows you to install applications (that can perfectly cover those defects), but it's up to you to find an application that fits you. And it will probably be more than one, because what you get from one doesn't come from the other and vice versa, it's not as comfortable as what comes standard on the clock itself.

And in a sense it's a pity, because in the section of sensors the Apple Watch is very well served, especially if I talk about the optical pulse sensor. I could say that it is the best integrated sensor in the watch that is currently on the market. Neither Garmin nor Polar have a sensor with the level of reliability that Apple offers in its watch, including more complicated sports such as cycling.

The GPS is around average, but it is penalized by the filtered recording it makes in its default application and because it doesn't wait to get a signal before starting to train, which can create problems that can drag on during much of the training.

But we must not forget that those of us who do sport more or less intensively or competitively are a minority, while those who do it simply for health reasons are several million more. Apple knows this perfectly well and focuses its product on that market. That does not mean that if you run competitively it does not allow you to train for a race, you can do it without a problem. But other watches do it too, natively and even at a lower price. Not to mention more specific cases such as triathlon or ultra-deep, aspects for which the Apple Watch is not an option.

It's a great watch for everyday use and health monitoring, but if you want a training watch that you can use on a daily basis, the Apple Watch may come up a little short.

And with that... thanks for reading!

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28 Comments

  1. Hi, Eduardo,
    A little doubt. I have an Apple Wach 4 that I'm very happy with. But there's an aspect of the optical sensor that I don't understand. It's always said that the Apple Wach has 4 green sensors to take the pulse during training, but actually, if you look at it, it only uses two.
    Just connect all four when you use the Breathing app and I don't understand why I don't take advantage of all four sensors during training.
    Did you check it out?
    Thank you and a greeting.
    Emili

    1. Yes, that's right, it's simply for autonomy, that's why when doing sports (which lasts "a little longer") it only uses two LEDs. And seeing the results, it is more than enough.

  2. Hi Eduardo, great analysis. I have a question, comment the following: Activity application, under the tab Trainings. Here you can find your trainings (and in my case, as I have another application that synchronizes other platforms, also for example those of Garmin).
    What application is this? I know that with healthfit you can pass the trainings of the apple watch to other platforms, but the other way around you can see in the app activity what you do with your suunto or garmin how it is done?
    Thank you very much in advance and best regards.

    1. If you give write permission to the Health application from the applications, then the trainings will appear there. No other application is needed.

  3. Hi, Eduardo!
    I am surprised with the optical sensor, I did not imagine it would be so good. I have a polar watch that I like a lot (polar vantage M), but the reality that for convenience (especially work), the issue of notifications and other goodies that apple has are very useful. I'm hesitating whether to change, but I don't want to make a mistake. Leaving aside the "smart" part, is it worth it? Basically I do indoor activities, I am a spinning teacher, rockcycle (it would be like soul cycle, high intensity intervals on indoor bike) and I practice crossfit. Thanks a lot for everything!

    1. If you mainly do indoor activities and don't need the platform features (which are many... but you have to use them) that you have with Polar, the Apple Watch is a good option. That is, if you only want to keep track of exercise times and calorie consumption the Apple Watch is more than enough. If you want more control over training, intensity, sleep, etc... all that you have in the Polar you won't be able to have it in the Apple Watch.

  4. how can i do that while i train on the tacx platform i can see the pulse rate of the apple watch on that platform? so far i have to put the apple watch on the indoor bike to see the heart rate and also the tacx app on the cell phone where it shows me distance and power but not heart rate. thanks.

      1. Zwift allows it, I use the Apple Watch as a frequency monitor for a Tacx roller and see the pulse information on the PC screen.

  5. question, do you think apple can be the undisputed king of high-end wearables? because it is obvious that in other areas can dominate, I do not know, if in top of the range laptops, tablets, as a Netflis in the world of online movies, I do not know much about the subject and therefore the question, although I wanted to buy a smartwatch and did not know whether to spend a lot of money on one or if there are some good but cheaper ones.

  6. Loved the review. I already have an imac and ipad and I'm thinking of switching totally to the Apple "ecosystem" with an Apple watch and an Apple phone... I have the Vivoactive 3 music. If you had to compare it with this "Apple watch series 5", which one would be your favorite if you were not a runner and practiced crossfit and cycling type activities but nothing professional/amateur?
    Thank you for all that you share.

    1. If the main use is going to be as a smartwatch and you want to use it sporadically to record workouts with no other interest than having that data, the Apple Watch is a much better option.

      1. Thank you very much. I was surprised by the "reliability" of the optical sensor, as the Vivoactive, especially on a bike is quite disappointing, even taking into account the characteristics of this type of heart rate monitor. What I didn't know was that it didn't have the sleep log, but of course, with that battery life, it's impossible to record it... Thanks again!

  7. I have a question: I have a Series 4 and I can't get a map of the route I do. When I finish the workout, I press OK and I get data of the split times, etc, but not the map. Is there anything to configure?
    Thank you very much.

    On the other hand, as a training curtain, it seems to me that the Apple Watch leaves much to be desired: its battery lasts little and outdoors (bush area) its GPS makes considerable measurement errors (he spoke of a 10-15%).

    1. If you have the location disabled on the iPhone, the GPS of the Apple Watch is also turned off and therefore does not record track and the pace and distance record is poor.

  8. The defects and virtues of this watch cannot be better explained!
    I practice running 3 times a week , about 10km the day I go out , right now I have a suunto 9 baro and I give a lot of importance to the instantaneous pace .. track and others I do not give more importance ....
    Comparing it with your own running watch and after testing several sports watches for the analysis, what is your opinion about the Apple Watch ?
    Thank you in advance for your response.

    1. The instantaneous rate is very dependent on the GPS reception. If the reception is good there should be no problems with the displayed rate and it will be the same as for the Suunto.

  9. I have been asking friends who have the watch and who are loyal to Apple; none of them have answered the questions I had despite the fact that they use it daily and do sports with it regularly. Searching the net I found this review, and I sincerely can only thank you for the excellent and extensive analysis. Although it has not helped me to decide whether to buy it or not hehehe. Congratulations!

  10. Hello, in your analysis you say this: "However in cycling or trail the most normal (and recommended) is that we do carry it. In those cases all GPS data will come from the phone, so it will be important that it is well placed (for example in the back pocket of the jersey)".

    Isn't it possible to carry the iPhone with you and have the watch use its own gps?

    I always go out with my iPhone, but often in a belt under my warm clothes.

  11. What do you think the WorkOutDoors application for the Applewatch would make up for the shortcomings it has with respect to garmin?

    1. For individual sports it is sufficient. The problem is that it doesn't have a multisport profile (and I don't know if any application has already come out that contemplates it), and on competition day you should separate the recording of all segments.

  12. Hello, good analysis.
    Only comment that the AppleWatch synchronizes very well with Stryd, and that both form a tandem that makes the AppleWatch a very competent sports watch (yes, for running). The screen of the Stryd application is very good, and the accuracy of the accelerometer is amazing; 1m in a lap of an athletics track, and surely the error comes from my part for not going where I should at some point.
    Unfortunately, due to the success, Stryd has gone up the ladder and they now charge for access to all the "post race" metrics.
    I comment this because Stryd is complicated to sync with other watches but with the Apple it's a breeze (and Strud then automatically dumps to Strava).

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