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Home / Technology / Apple Watch Series 4: I hiked for 6 hours so you do not have to

Apple Watch Series 4: I hiked for 6 hours so you do not have to

  Apple Watch Series 4 with heart rate

Sarah Tew / CNET

If you want to buy an Apple Watch Series 4, you've probably heard of the new ECG function and case detection, but hopefully you will not need to use these two features daily. What you can use regularly are its fitness features.

The Apple Watch Series 4 has added better exercise equipment for athletes, automatic training detection and competitions to motivate you to close these activity rings.


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The Apple Watch Series 4 keeps its fitness promise


But these are mainly software features that you can get with the WatchOS 5 update to the cheaper predecessors (Series 1 and above). The cheapest 40mm model of the 4 Series with the aluminum frame and without LTE starts at $ 400, $ 120 more than the Series 3. (For international prices, see Apple Watch Series 4 Test .)

After Testing the Apple Watch Series 4 in addition to Series 3 for about three weeks, I've found two major advantages over its predecessors when it comes to training: screen size and battery life.


John Kim / CNET

Bigger, Braver, Better

When I got the Apple Watch Series 4 up and running, it struck me that it was much easier to read the numbers. It's one of those things you never notice until it's improved, and suddenly it was easier for me to measure my heart rate and check my speed and distance, without squinting at the screen and risking a trip.

The Series 4 has been completely redesigned by the previous Apple Watch models. The screen has been increased from 38 mm to 40 mm (for the smaller version) and 42 mm to 44 mm (for the larger version). In addition, the bezels are slimmer, so you have much more room on your screen, although the clock is not so big. This means that all of your data (including activity statistics) in Series 4 appear bigger and bolder, which makes a difference when you're on the move.

The Apple Watch Series 4 also has a slimmer body than its predecessor, and I found the little sensor belly on the bottom more comfortable when strapped tightly around my wrist.


John Kim / CNET

Battery Life

But where the Apple Watch Series 4 is really progressing is battery life. Apple claims that it can take up to 6 hours of continuous outdoor activity tracking compared to the approximately 4 hours you would get in Series 3. It's still much less than other specialized trackers on the market, like Garmin's and Polar's, but for long-distance athletes considering an Apple Watch, that's a big boost.

During the first week of testing, I have not noticed a big difference in battery life between the Apple Watch 4 and 3. I'd end the day with about 40 percent battery life on the Watch 4 after a normal day of use and maybe an hour of activity tracking thrown in there. Conclusion: I still had to charge it daily, so I was skeptical about the 6-hour claim.

To test it, I took both the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 3 on a 6-hour hike to Mount Tamalpais, about an hour from San Francisco.

Both watches were 100 percent off when I got out in the parking lot near Stinson Beach, California. Before I started, I put both into full-brightness airplane mode, with Series 4 on my left wrist and Series 3 on my right, and started a walking session.


John Kim / CNET

The walk from Stinson Beach to the top of the mountain is quite steep. You start between the redwoods, cross a stream with a few waterfalls on the way and there is even a point where you have to climb a ladder to continue. My speed might not be very fast, but I was always using GPS, altimeter and heart rate.

After an hour, I paused to check the battery and take a few shots of the screens: Series 3 was 75 percent and Series 4 was 87 percent.

Three hours later I reached the summit and chewed on a sandwich while I left (Stop was not an option for my test). Series 3 was 25 percent, while Series 4 was 65 percent strong. At this point, I began to worry that I would have to stay on the mountain after sunset.

I knew the way down would be faster, so I made some other trails on the top to lose some time before I started my descent. Exactly 4 hours later I got an alarm on the third series. I ignored it and went on, and then I saw that all my progress disappeared from the screen as the older clock switched to power reserve. Meanwhile, the Series 4 was still strong with about 45 percent battery.

It had already won at that point, but I was pushing to see how long it would take.


Six hours and 20 minutes, 12.75 miles and 2,570 meters later, I finally decided to call it a day and finish the hike. I still had about 5 percent battery on the Apple Watch Series 4. After shutting down the activity tracking, I had enough strength to get myself into the car and drive home for an hour before going into power reserve.

Needless to say, Apple submitted the 6-hour activity request and then some. Sure, I had no cell signal and I did not play any music, but it was at maximum brightness and it definitely overtook the Series 3 by at least 2 full hours. This means that Series 4 will probably take you through a full marathon.

And while battery boosting is mainly about tracking activity, upgrading athletes may be worth it.

But if you do not want to sign up for marathons or 6-hour hikes, many of the fitness upgrades are also available for older models.

WatchOS 5 makes the Apple Watch a better training partner

With the update to WatchOS 5 the Apple Watch can now tell you when you're exercising, regardless of whether you remember it or not give him a heads-up. Within minutes of launch, you will receive a warning and vibration prompting you to begin tracking, and it will continue to nudge you until you accept or decline. If you accept half of your session, you will receive a retrospective credit for everything you did until you received the notification.

And it knows what kind of activity you are doing. I have not tried everything, but it can theoretically differentiate between running (indoors or outdoors), running (indoors or outdoors), swimming (19459705) (open or pool), elliptical trainer and rowing machine, though there is no cycling yet. You'll also know when you've finished training, and remind you to end your session with a push and a message no matter what kind of exercise you're doing.

This is a feature that Fitbit devices have been using for some time, but it's nice to finally have it on the Apple Watch.

My only complaint was that she always wanted to record my run to work as a run. The first few times I gave a passport because I ran legitimately, but I figured after a week's layoff, it would also find out I was not really running, just running fast and sprinting between stoplights.


Yoga Tracking

WatchOS 5 has not only added walking, but also added yoga to the activities you can choose on the watch. Granted, you could always track under the category "Other" and then label it in the "Activity" app, but if you have a specific category, it means the tracking algorithm has been adjusted for that particular sport.

Activities that are tracked in the Other category are tracked like a brisk walk, and I've found that now more calories are burned during the hikes (not just the 6-hours).

Runner Training Equipment

If you're a runner like me, you'll also get a new set of tools to help you achieve your personal record. You can now track the cadence (steps per minute) and rolling mile tempo (how fast you've covered the previous mile) while you're on the move. My favorite feature is the tempo movement alarm, which makes the clock vibrate when you fall below or below the target pace. It definitely stopped me from slipping on my usual 4 mile running track and I can really see it's beneficial for races.

You can also compete against your friends. WatchOS 5 adds competitive tracks to the Sharing tab in the Activity app, allowing you to challenge your friends to a seven-day Ring Closing contest.

You get one point for every percent of the completed ring. The winner will receive an award that is unique to your competition.

Let's be honest, if you share your activity with your friends, you probably already got some competition. I know it was me. This is just one way for Apple to make it official and increase the stakes. It definitely motivated me to step up my game and close my rings more often than before, but I'm also crazy about winning this virtual medal during those seven days.

The Judgment

Like its predecessors, the Apple Watch Series 4 is a worthy fitness companion for all levels. The longer battery and better screen are great incentives for distance runners who are waiting to jump to an Apple Watch or just upgrade from an older model. But 6 hours of tracking is still miles behind other dedicated fitness watches that can go for days for a fee.

The biggest selling point of the Apple Watch is that it offers much more than just fitness. With the extra cell connection, you can leave your phone on the slopes comfortably and still have all the important things: music, news, calls or car service.

And with the Series 4 you have new health features such as the ECG, irregular heart rate notifications and fall detection. Take a look at our current rating before making a final decision.

Originally published on October 11th.
Update, October 14 : More details have been added to notifications at the end of training

Apple Watch Series 4 review in progress : Our recent impressions.

The new ECG function of the Apple Watch : Take cardiac monitoring to a new level.

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