Apple Watch Series 1 vs 5 (2020): Which Smartwatch is Right For You in 2020?

The release of the Apple Watch Series 1 was wildly successful and Apple’s smartwatch easily became one of the best-selling wearables in 2015. Fast forward to 2019 and the Cupertino-based giant rolled out the Apple Watch Series 5 with all the bells and whistles. Is it worth paying more for the latest Apple Watch or is the Apple Watch Series 1 good enough for your fitness needs? Find out through our in-depth comparison below.

Apple Watch Series 1 vs 5 Smartwatch Comparison Chart

ModelApple Watch Series 1
(42 mm)
Apple Watch Series 5
(GPS + Cellular, 40mm)
Apple - Apple Watch 42mm Space Black Stainless Steel Case - Black Sport Band (Renewed) Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band 
PriceCheck Price on Amazon Check Price on Amazon 
DisplayOLED Retina display (450 nits)LTPO OLED Always-On Retina display (1,000 nits)
Resolution312 x 390 pixels324 by 394 pixels
Cellular ServiceNoYes
GPS EnabledNoYes
ChipsetS1 ChipS5 Chip
Storage8GB32GB
Sizes38mm, 42mm40mm, 44mm
Dimensions42.5 x 36.4 x 10.5 mm40 x 34 x 10.7 mm
Weight30g30.8 g
Casing MaterialAluminum
Stainless Steel
Aluminum
Stainless steel
Titanium
Ceramics
Water ResistanceIPX7IP68-rated, 5ATM
International Emergency CallingNoYes
Heart Rate MonitorYesYes
PedometerYesYes
Calorie Burn TrackerYesYes
Swim TrackingNoYes
CompassNoYes
Fall DetectionNoYes
Wi-FiYesYes
Bluetooth4.25.0
Battery LifeUp to 18 hoursUp to 18 hours
CompatibilityiPhone 5s with iOS 11 or lateriPhone 6 with iOS 12 or later

Major Differences

The Apple Watch 5 comes with more storage, faster chipset, better screen, thinner bezels, and can support more apps than the Apple Watch Series 1

apple watch series 1 vs 5
Space Gray and Space Black variants of the Apple Watch 5 (left) and the Apple Watch Series 1 (right)

As the Apple Watch Series 1 and the Apple Watch 5 were released five years apart, it is expected that the Watch 5 delivers better performance and offers significantly updated features.

From the comparison chart above, you may have already noticed how vastly different their features are. We’ll discuss their differences in more details later, but in a nutshell, here are the major upgrades found in the latest Apple Watch 5 from the Apple Watch Series 1:

  • The Apple Watch Series 1 uses the S1 chipset while the Apple Watch Series 5 is equipped with a much faster S5 chip. Using them side by side will show a noticeable difference in the loading speeds.
  • Their profile, size, and casing material options are slightly different.
  • The Apple Watch 5 (or Series 5) comes in GPS and GPS+Cellular models.
  • Their internal storage is 8GB for the Apple Watch 1 and 32GB for the Apple Watch 5. This means you can download more apps and music in the latest smartwatch.
  • The Apple Watch 5 is equipped with a built-in compass and is waterproof while the Apple Watch Series 1 cannot be submerged in water.
  • For those who travel a lot, the Apple Watch 5 has an International Emergency Calling feature.
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Design and Display

The Apple Watch Series 5 sports bigger screen sizes, thinner and curvier screen, and more casing material choices than the Apple Watch Series 1

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

While the Apple Watch Series 1 comes in aluminum and stainless steel casings, the Apple Watch 5 adds high-end casing materials to the mix, ceramic and titanium. They look and feel more elegant, but they also come with a steep price tag.

Listening to its users’ suggestions, Apple released bigger screen sizes in its Apple Watch 4 and 5. The Apple Watch Series 1 comes in sizes of 38mm and 42mm while the Apple Watch 5 is available in 40mm and 44mm. This change made it easier to read texts and see apps on the watch. Their screen resolution is remarkably different, too. Running on 1,000 nits, the Apple Watch 5 delivers brighter, sharper colors than the Apple Watch Series 1 that runs on 450 nits.

Apple Watch Series 1 vs 5
Gold aluminum variant of the 42mm Apple Watch Series 1 (left) and 40mm Watch 5 (right)

The new Apple Watch 5 also boasts the much-requested Always-On Retina display. This means the watch face is always turned-on so you can see the screen without having to raise your wrist to check the time. This is particularly helpful when you’re biking, driving, or doing similar activities.

Another noticeable difference in their design is the GPS+Cellular models of the Apple Watch 5 has a red ring on its digital crown with haptic feedback. As the Apple Watch Series 1 doesn’t have GPS or cellular models, none of its variants come with the red ring.

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Health and Fitness Tracking

The Apple Watch 5 offers more health and fitness features than the Apple Watch Series 1

If you want to use your smartwatch for swimming, the Apple Watch 5 is the obvious fit for you

More and more users are getting an Apple Watch for its topnotch health and fitness features. While the features of the Apple Watch Series 1 aren’t as impressive and updated as the Apple Watch 5, it is still one of the excellent smartwatch options today.

Here are the health and fitness features available in the Apple Watch Series 1:

  • set and track fitness goals through the Activity app
  • set and track steps and running distances
  • prompt you to get moving through the Activity rings and complete challenges with friends
  • monitor heart rate and rhythm and get alerts if there are irregularities
  • set-up your Medical ID in the Health app so first responders and responsible clinicians in the emergency room can see your medical records without the need for a passcode
Your watch will alert you of irregularities in your heart rate and rhythm

With more advanced chipset, heart-rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and a built-in compass, the Apple Watch Series 5 can do all of the above and the following:

  • monitor heart rate and generate ECG through the ECG app
  • get alerts when the noise is too loud through the Noise app
  • track menstrual cycle through the Cycle Tracking app
  • track swims, sets, distance, and calories through the Pool Swim workout feature
  • detect when you have fallen and automatically dial emergency when you don’t respond for 60 seconds
  • dial emergency services in the country where you are travelling as needed (for the Apple Watch 5 GPS + Cellular model)
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Smart Features and Connectivity

The Apple Watch Series 1 uses Bluetooth 4.2 while the Apple Watch Series 5 comes with Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, cellular technology, and a built-in compass

If the user is above 65 years old, the Fall Detect feature is automatically turned on in the Apple Watch Series 4 and 5

As mentioned earlier, the Apple Watch Series 1 loads and boots noticeably slower than the Apple Watch 5. As it is only equipped with Bluetooth 4.2, pairing and setting up the Apple Watch 1 also takes longer than the Bluetooth 5.0-equipped Apple Watch 5. Apple’s latest smartwatch also comes in GPS and Cellular + GPS variants for better connectivity and navigation.

A feature found in the Apple Watch 5 that the Apple Watch 1 and the rest of the smartwatches are missing is its built-in magnetometer. This addition allows the Compass app to detect true North and display the direction you’re facing. Outdoor enthusiasts will find this incredibly helpful. In addition, developers can take advantage of the magnetometer and create more navigation apps.

Another significant upgrade found in the more recent Apple Watch 4 and 5 versions that’s not in the Apple Watch Series 1 is fall detection. Thanks to its next-generation gyroscope and accelerometer, the Apple Watch 5 can tell if you fell and dial local emergency services if you don’t respond within 6 seconds. More and more people get an Apple Watch 5 for their elderly family members because of this feature alone.

Battery Life and Additional Features

The Apple Watch Series 1 has longer usage hours than the Apple Watch 5, but the Watch 5 has better IP rating and more compatible third-party apps

Third-party app developers can design better apps with the Apple Watch 5’s advanced hardware

As the Apple Watch 5 have 5ATM and IP68 rating, they are water-resistant for up to 50 meters. If you go swimming a lot and want to track your distances, sets, and calories burned, the Apple Watch 5 is for you. Despite its high IP rating though, they’re not recommended for scuba diving, water skiing, and similar water activities.

Meanwhile, the Apple Watch Series 1 only has an IP7 rating. This means you can wear your smartwatch during heavy workouts, get drenched in the rain, or wash it in the sink without issues. Just don’t submerge them in water.

While the Apple Watch Series 1 and 5 have the same advertised battery life of up to 18 hours, the Watch 1 can last longer than the Apple Watch 5. This is because the Always-On Retina display of Apple’s latest smartwatch tends to deplete the battery faster. If you get the Cellular + GPS model of the Watch 5, expect even shorter usage hours.

Verdict

The Apple Watch 5 offers significant and helpful upgrades from the Apple Watch Series 1

If the budget allows and you own an iPhone 6s or later models, the Apple Series Watch 5 GPS+Cellular is a worthwhile purchase. Its health and fitness features, faster chipset, bigger screen, waterproof rating, fall detection, International Emergency Calling, bigger storage, and built-in compass will give you your money’s worth. For a more affordable option, you can get the Apple Watch 5 GPS+Wi-Fi only which is typically a hundred dollars cheaper than its GPS+Cellular counterpart.

The Apple Watch Series 1 is still an excellent smartwatch overall despite its slower speed and limited features. However, a brand new one is hard to come by these days. An Apple Watch Series 3 will probably be a better purchase and will give you a better bang for your buck than the Apple Watch Series 1.

Last update on 2020-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Rhodaline Escala-Phelps
Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

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