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Apple Watch 5 vs 4 (2021): Is Upgrading to the Apple Watch Series 5 Worth It?

Released in 2019, the Apple Watch Series 5 was launched a year after the Cupertino-based giant rolled out its Apple Watch Series 4. How exactly are they different and is it worth upgrading to the latest Apple Watch? Whether you currently own an Apple Watch 4 and looking to upgrade or you are on the hunt for your next smartwatch, you’ll find our in-depth comparison of the two helpful.

Apple Watch Series 5 vs 4 Comparison Chart

ModelApple Watch Series 5
(GPS + Cellular, 40mm)
Apple Watch Series 4
(GPS + Cellular, 40mm)
 Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band 
PriceCheck Price Check Price 

276 Reviews 
DisplayRetina displayRetina display
Cellular ServiceYesYes
Sizes40mm, 44mm40mm, 44mm
Casing MaterialAluminum
Stainless steel
Stainless Steel
Always-on DisplayYesNo
Display Area759 sq mm759 sq mm
Screen Resolution324 by 394 pixels324 by 394 pixels
Dimensions40 x 34 x 10.7 mm40 x 34 x 10.7 mm
Weight30.8 g30.1 g
Storage32 GB16 GB
Water ResistanceIP68-rated, 5ATMIP68-rated, 5ATM
International Emergency CallingYesNo
Heart Rate MonitorYesYes
Calorie Burn TrackerYesYes
Swim TrackingYesYes
Battery LifeUp to 18 hoursUp to 18 hours
CompatibilityiPhone 6s with iOS 13 or lateriPhone 6 with iOS 12 or later

Major Differences

The Apple Watch 5 comes with an Always-On Retina Display, a built-in magnetometer, more casing material options, and shorter usage hours

apple watch 5 vs 4
Apple Watch users have been asking for the Always-On display feature

The major and much-requested upgrade of the Apple Watch 5 from the Apple Watch 4 is its Always-On Retina display. As the name implies, you can always see the screen without having to raise your wrist to wake the display, just like how a watch should be.

Another upgrade found in the Apple Watch 5 is its built-in magnetometer. While it doesn’t sound impressive at first, this addition paved the way for the Compass app and better navigation and location capabilities. The new Apple Watch 5 can identify your exact coordinates and elevation and give more precise directions. If you like to go on trail hikes, biking, camping, or are an outdoor enthusiast, you will appreciate this upgrade from the Apple Watch 4.

For Apple Watch users who travel a lot, the International Emergency Calling feature on the Apple Watch 5 (GPS+Cellular) will come in handy in times of emergency. This lets your smartwatch contact the local emergency services from your current location. Keep in mind though this service varies for every region or country.


The Apple Watch Series 5 Cellular + GPS comes in more material casing variants than the Apple Watch 4

Casing materials for the Apple Watch 5: stainless steel, aluminum, ceramic, and titanium

Offering more casing material options, Apple Watch 5 GPS + Cellular comes in stainless steel, aluminum, ceramic, and titanium. The ceramic and titanium frames look and feel exquisite, but they also come with a hefty price tag. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch 4 is only available in aluminum and stainless steel frames. For those with an active lifestyle, the lightweight aluminum frame is highly recommended.

Apart from offering more casing options, the new Apple Watch 5’s design doesn’t look any different from the Apple Watch 4. They both sport a curved profile and come in 40mm and 44mm frames. Their GPS + Cellular models can be easily identified through the red ring in the smartwatch’s digital crown.

The Apple Watch 5 in stainless steel with the Milanese loop (left) and the Apple Watch 4 in silver aluminum with the Seashell sport loop (right)

Furthermore, Apple offers a wide array of watch bands and loops so you can mix and match to your heart’s content. If you already own watch bands for the Apple Watch 4, they will work fine with the new Apple Watch 5. Among the most common Apple Watch bands are the sport loop, sport band, and Milanese loop.

Health and Fitness Tracking

Both Apple Watch 5 and 4 can run on the same watchOS and have the same health and fitness features

Both models of the Apple Watch Series 5 offer an array of fitness features

When it comes to what the Apple Watch 5 and 4 can offer for your health and fitness goals, they pretty much offer the same as they can use almost of the same apps. Where the Apple Watch 5 edges out the Watch 4 is with its 32GB storage capacity. That’s double the 16GB Apple Watch 4.

Among their health and fitness features include:

  • monitoring heart rate and rhythm through the ECG app;
  • getting alerts when the noise is too loud through the Noise app;
  • tracking menstrual cycle through the Cycle Tracking app;
  • setting fitness goals in the Activity app;
  • prompting you to get moving through the Activity rings and completing challenges with friends
  • tracking swims, sets, distance, and calories through the Pool Swim workout feature; and
  • detecting when you have fallen and automatically dial local emergency services when you don’t respond for 60 seconds.

Smart Features

Both the Apple Watch 5 and 4 use Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC pairing, but the Apple Watch 5 comes with a built-in compass

Outdoor enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy the Compass app and all the other navigation apps that need the magnetometer

While the Apple Watch 4 can pretty much run most apps available in the newer Apple Watch 5, the 4th gen smartwatch doesn’t support the Compass app. The Apple Watch 5 is equipped with a built-in magnetometer that can detect true North. This paved the way for the Compass app and allows the Maps app to display the direction you’re facing.

For outdoor enthusiasts (or people who were not gifted with a good sense of direction), the built-in compass will come in very handy. In addition, developers can take advantage of the magnetometer and create more advanced navigation apps. Another feature not available in the Apple Watch 4 is the International Emergency Calling option which lets you contact local emergency services when traveling abroad.

When it comes to connectivity features, both the Apple Watch 5 and 4 are equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 which translates to a better range and faster connectivity. They are also compatible with Siri and the “Raise To Speak” feature which alleviates the need to say “Hey, Siri” to prompt your voice assistant. You only need to raise your wrist and start speaking close to the smartwatch right away.

Battery Life and Additional Features

Both Apple Watch 5 and 4 versions can be submerged for up to 50 meters, but the Apple Watch 4 has a longer battery life

apple watch 5 vs 4 alway-on retina
The Always-On display of the Apple Watch 5 depletes its battery faster

As the Apple Watch 5 and 4 have 5ATM and IP68 rating, they are water-resistant for up to 50 meters. You can use the Apple Watch when swimming and track swims, sets, distances, and calories burned. While you can use them in the pool or the ocean, they’re not recommended for scuba diving, water skiing, or any other activities involving high-velocity water.

The Apple Watch 5 and 4 have the same advertised battery life of up to 18 hours. When you get the Apple Watch 4, you’ll end up getting a bit more than 18 hours of usage, but the same cannot be said for the Apple Watch 5. Because of its Always-On Retina display, the Apple Watch 5 posts shorter usage hours than the 4th gen Apple Watch. Using the LTE whenever your phone is not nearby also depletes the battery faster.


Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the upgrades found in the Apple Watch 5, but if you already have the Apple Watch 4, perhaps you should wait before upgrading

The upgrades found in the Apple Watch 5 that’s not in the Apple Watch 4 justify the price difference. Its Always-On Retina display, a built-in compass, International Emergency Calling, and more casing options are welcome and much-requested updates. If you also want the high-end ceramic and titanium frames, you should go for the Apple Watch 5.

However, if you currently own an Apple Watch 4, we recommend waiting it out before upgrading your smartwatch. Apart from the upgrades mentioned above, the Apple Watch 4 can deliver top-notch health and fitness features found in the Apple Watch 5.

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

Managing Editor and Team Leader at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about people, product comparisons, culture, and current events.