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Apple Watch Series 4 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Which smartwatch should you buy?

We weigh up the design, features and specs so you know which of the latest Apple Watch Series is best for you

It’s that time of year again and Apple has announced the latest iteration of its smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 5. While the Apple Watch 4 offered significant changes and improvement over the Watch 3, however, the differences between the Watch 4 and its successor are more subtle.

Standout new features include an always-on display and a built-in compass, but, trying to decipher the other differences between the two models isn’t as straightforward as you might expect. But, fear not, because that’s where we come in. On this page, we give you a full breakdown about what separates the Watch 5 from the Watch 4, so you can decide which smartwatch is right for you.

Buy the Apple Watch Series 4 from Carphone Warehouse

Apple Watch 4 vs Apple Watch 5: Design

For the most part, the Apple Watch Series 5 has kept the same overall design as the Watch 4, which means it’s just 10.7mm thick and has the same 368 x 448 pixel display (on the 44mm model) as its predecessor. We didn’t expect much change here, as the Apple Watch 4 represented a total overhaul compared to the Watch 3.

Having said that, the Watch 5 sports is available in more finishes than ever before with aluminium, stainless steel, titanium and ceramic models. As you’d expect, these vary considerably in price, and if you don’t fancy forking out loads more, there’s also a new gold variant of both the aluminium and steel models.

Winner: Draw. Although there are more finishes to choose from when buying the Apple Watch 5, the overall design and user experience hasn’t changed in any meaningful way. As such, we’re scoring this as a draw. Neither model is any better than the other.

READ NEXT: Apple Watch Series 5: everything you need to know

Apple Watch 4 vs Apple Watch 5: Features

The standout new feature on the Apple Watch 5 is its always-on display. This means you can now check the time and other complications at a glance without having to flick your wrist to wake the device. We’re yet to test it, but this could have a significant impact on the user experience.

As for health and fitness features, both watches rank similarly high in this regard. They can both perform an ECG test from your wrist and alert the emergency services in the event you have a fall, but the Watch 5 boasts a built-in compass for the first time, complete with a new dedicated Compass app that shows information such as direction, latitude and more at a glance. The Watch 5 also offers period tracking and Activity Trends as part of watchOS 6, for which Apple has since announced that they will be releasing with the existing Watch 4 and Watch 3 smartwatches, so these features should become available for the earlier models as well.

The other main standout new feature on the Watch 5 is that the cellular variant is equipped with international emergency calling – a handy safety feature that lets you get help at the press of the button wherever you are in the world.

Winner: Apple Watch 5. If health and fitness are important to you, you can’t wrong with either generation of smartwatch. However, thanks to its always-on display, compass and international emergency calling, the Watch 5 is the clear winner when it comes to features.

Buy the Apple Watch Series 5 now

Apple Watch 4 vs Apple Watch 5: Specs

Apple Watch Series 4Apple Watch Series 5
Processor64‑bit dual-core S464‑bit dual-core S5
Size44mm/ 40mm44mm/ 40mm
Screen368 x 448 / 324 x 394 LTPO OLED, 1000 nitsAlways-on 368 x 448 / 324 x 394 LTPO OLED, 1000 nits
Battery lifeUp to 18 hoursUp to 18 hours
Water resistance50 metres50 metres
SensorsBarometric altimeterCompass and barometric altimeter

The Watch 5 doesn’t improve on the Watch 4 as much as you might expect as far as core specs are concerned. However, it’s powered by an all-new S5 chip, which should deliver improved performance and there’s also now twice as much storage – 32GB, to be precise – as standard. And despite its new always-on display, Apple claims the Watch 5 can still deliver the same 18-hour battery life as the Watch 4. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen, but we’ll be sure to put it through its paces as soon as we have the chance.

Winner: Apple Watch 5. It’s more of an incremental upgrade than anything truly groundbreaking, but the fact the Watch 5 comes with a new processor and twice as much storage as its predecessor means it’s a comfortable win for the new device as far as core specs are concerned.

READ NEXT: Apple Watch 4 vs Apple Watch 3

Apple Watch 4 vs Apple Watch 5: Verdict

Prices for the Apple Watch Series 5 start from £399 depending on what model you choose, and although Apple is no longer selling the Watch 4, you can still buy it from selected retailers from £379.

Considering the new model convincingly wins two of the three above head-to-heads, that makes it the obvious choice if you’re trying to pick between the two models. You’ll get more features for your money and almost certainly an all-round better smartwatch.

The only caveat to this is that Apple has now slashed the price of its Watch 3 to just £200. Although it’s not mentioned in this comparison and omits even more features compared to the Watch 4, the older device is well worth considering if you’re on a strict budget.