In this guide, we discuss the key differences between the more affordable Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 3 watches to help you choose the one that’s right for you.

  • Friday 15 February 2019 at 17:43

The Apple Watch Series 4 is packed with new features, including an electrocardiogram, faster processor, and improved display and speaker performance. But perhaps the best thing about Series 4 (429 euros) is that it has made the Apple Watch Series 3 even more affordable (299 euros). The previous generation of Apple’s connected watch shares many of the features of the Series 4 and costs 130 euros less. So, which one’s right for you?

Design and Ergonomics

At first glance, the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 3 seem to share the same basic design: square dial with rounded edges, interchangeable straps and a variety of metal finishes to choose from in two sizes. You have to look closer for differences.

The Series 4 housing is thinner, but its screen is actually 35% larger than the 38 mm version of the Series 3 and 32% larger than the Series 3 in 42 mm. The screen of the Apple Watch 4 extends almost edge-to-edge with rounded corners, contrasting with the thicker borders and square corners of the Series 3. This means you’ll have more room to interact on the touch screen of the 4 and a wider choice of dials. The Series 4 takes advantage of this larger display to add more complications to some of the dials. The screen also looks brighter and sharper than the previous model and is easier to read in direct sunlight.

Despite the slight difference in size, the two watches still use the same size straps, which you can exchange for a totally different look. Audio is generally better on Series 4. Its speaker is larger and 50% more powerful, according to Apple. The microphone position has changed. It is now located between the digital crown and the welcome button, improving call clarity.

You will also notice a slightly different feeling when using the digital crown. Series 4 adds a haptic effect when scrolling. The feeling is slightly more satisfying, but it’s not a revolution either.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 4

Performance

The Series 4 features a 64-bit S4 processor which, according to Apple, is twice as fast as the previous version. In theory, this translates into a slightly smoother and faster operation. But to be honest, we didn’t notice too much difference for most of the basic tasks like activity tracking and notifications. All Apple Watches, with the exception of the first generation, have received the WatchOS 5 update. The update added a handful of new features such as automatic workout detection, Siri shortcuts, a walkie-talkie application and the ability to play your favorite podcasts.

Winner: Draw

For sport

If sport is your main goal, there are two reasons to choose the Series 4: the larger screen and its longer battery life. For example, the larger, brighter display is convenient for viewing your heart rate while running. With the Series 3, it’s a little harder to do without stopping. And the same goes for almost all other outdoor sports, such as cycling or swimming, where quick access and visibility are essential.

That said, both watches share the same running and fitness functions offered by WatchOS 5, including rhythm alerts and automatic training detection.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 4

Autonomy

After wearing Series 4 and Series 3 for a day’s work, we didn’t notice any real difference in range. In general, at bedtime, there was still about 40% battery life left, with a few percentage points more for the 4.

On the other hand, it is in doing sport that we have seen a real gap. According to Apple, Series 4 offers about six hours of continuous exercise compared to Series 3, which lasts about four hours.

We verified this by taking a 6-hour hike with both watches. Series 3 stopped a few minutes after the 4 o’clock mark, while Series 4 continued well beyond the 6 o’clock mark. We were able to complete the 6 hour and 20 minute hike and still had enough battery life left to make the 30 minute drive home before it shut off.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 4

Health Functions

Series 3 shares with Series 4 excellent heart health features. Both can alert users if they detect abnormally high or low heart rates during a period of inactivity. With the WatchOS 5 update, even the oldest Apple watches (Series 1 and newer) have irregular heart rate notification. This function examines the space between heartbeats and can signal whether it is an indication of atrial fibrillation.

The other great health feature unique to Series 4 is the fall detection. It has an improved accelerometer and gyroscope that allows it to detect when the user has had a bad fall. If the user doesn’t respond within a minute, Apple Watch automatically calls emergency services and reads a message that the user has fallen and shares his or her current position. It also warns of emergency contacts, if they have been pre-programmed.

Winner: Apple Watch

Conclusion

When it comes to watches in particular and technology in general, there is no universal answer. It really depends on what each person needs. If you’re young and healthy, the Apple Watch Series 3 will be just right for you and will cost you less. For example, you could take advantage of the savings to invest in the LTE version so that you can do without your smartphone to go running or give yourself an extra wristband.

But if money isn’t an issue, then don’t hesitate to opt for the Series 4, which offers you a more comfortable screen, greater battery life and unique health features. This last argument may be of particular importance for senior citizens, who will feel reassured by the fall detection function. In either case, you can’t go wrong because both Apple Watches are excellent options.

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