Review: Apple Watch Series 5 with cellular

Apple brings the cellular version of its Apple Watch to New Zealand.
The Apple Watch Series 5. Photo credit: Newshub.

Apple fans in need of some Christmas cheer might be pleased to know its new watch has hit our shores.

What's more, New Zealanders can now use the cellular version. Sure, we're two years behind most other places in being able to do so but let’s not complain. It's here and ready to use... as long as you're a Spark customer with a compatible plan.

I've had a preview of the Apple Watch Series 5 to test out its features, in particular its cellular capabilities.

For once, I didn't have to jam my phone in the waistband of my leggings when taking my dog for a walk, which made for, shall we say, a 'freer' experience. I was still able to answer a couple of calls and send a text.

I also went to the shop and bought some milk sans phone and via my watch, which certainly raised an eyebrow or two. This time, to make a call, I popped in my AirPods which enhanced the experience greatly as though I love using my watch to talk to people, I've always felt a bit of a poser when having to lift up my wrist.

A useful feature of the cellular version of Apple Watch (although I have to admit, I didn’t try this one out) is its international emergency calling which, as the name suggests, alerts emergency services anywhere in the world just by pressing the side button. 

Kiwis can now buy Apple Watch Series 5 GPS and Cellular.
Apple Watch Series 5 officially goes on sale in NZ today. Photo credit: Newshub.

But the Apple Watch Series 5 isn't just about its cellular functions, there are plenty of other features. 

While it doesn’t look that different from Series 4, there are some snazzy new finishes. I've been sporting a gold coloured stainless steel one which is rather elegant looking. By the way, the only external giveaway that the watch is a cellular version is a red ring on the crown.

The 'always-on' display of the Series 5 watch is very useful. Basically, the display never sleeps so the time and complications are always visible. This is shown off to good effect with faces such as Meridian. The face is white when I raise my wrist to look at it and black when I lower my wrist.

The display never gets too bright or dark as it has an ambient light sensor which can tell how bright the environment is. To save battery the 'always-on' display can also easily be turned off but I like the fact that I can tell the time easily no matter what position my wrist is in.

Another handy feature of Series 5 is the built-in compass which works well with the Maps app which now clearly shows me what direction I'm facing in. The new Compass app features a needle pointing true north as well as a direction indictor. It's also easy to see incline, elevation, latitude and longitude.

New watch straps have been released along with Apple Watch Series 5.
New Apple Watch bands have been released at the same time as Apple Watch Series 5. Photo credit: Newshub.

When paired with all of the features of Apple's latest software, watchOS6, this is a hard watch to beat for rivals like Samsung, Garmin, Huawei and Fitbit.

The features include the Noise app for monitoring decibel levels, the new independent Watch App Store, the Calculator app (which has a built in tip calculator which is great for overseas travelling) and the new Cycle Tracking App, which lets you log all sorts of information to predict a fertile window or prevent pregnancy.

I'm slightly disappointed that Apple doesn't have its own built-in sleep tracker, but at least there's some good third-party apps out there. Speaking of which, if you're after some third-party app recommendations, here's my summer pick:

  • NextThere - public transport app in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch
  • Outcast for Watch - standalone podcast player for Apple Watch
  • GoSUP - Stand-Up-Paddling tracking app 
  • WaterMinder - water intake tracking
  • Streaks - to-do list app
  • SWEAT - workouts by Kayla Itsines
  • MySwimPro - advanced swim tracking app 
  • Dexcom - type 1 diabetes glucose monitoring app 
  • AutoSleep - sleep tracking app 
  • Lose It! - nutrition tracker

An Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular) costs about NZ$929.00. Spark customers get unlimited data, and shared calls and texts (from an eligible primary plan) for an extra $12.99 per month. Not cheap.

It's worth noting that Apple Watch Series 3 is also now available here in a cellular option which gives people a more affordable option if they don't want the latest, greatest and most expensive Apple has to offer.

You're probably asking, do you really need a cellular version of the watch to make your life complete? In all honesty, probably not, at least not yet.

But if you’re an Apple fan in need of a new watch, and if you’re a Spark customer or willing to become one, and the added cost doesn't put you off - it might be fun to give it go.

My gripe, no doubt shared by many others, is that I won't be able to use the watch long-term without changing carriers as no one else in Aotearoa has come to the party. Let's hope that changes in the not too distant future.