A wave of Apple Watch Series 4 reviews were published this week, ahead of it going on sale on Friday, and largely, the reviews have been positive! But there’s a “remarkable contrast” among different reviewers, as a few have have noticed. There are effusive endorsements, and then there are reviews so exhaustive they make you wonder if the editor was on vacation. Other reviewers disagree about the impact the watch will have. The resulting noise makes it tough to determine if you should spend $400-$800 on one.

In an attempt to nail down a definitive assessment, I punished myself by reading 16 high-profile reviews, totaling about 31,000+ words. I scored each review 0-10, and determined the average of the scores. Hopefully, the result is a useful composite score that can be applied to the Apple Watch Series 4.

From each review, I looked for an answer to questions that would be key to anybody looking to spend money on a new Apple Watch:

  • Should you upgrade from the Series 3 watch?
  • How’s the design when you’re wearing it?
  • What’s the bottom line, the verdict, the final word?

But fist, here were a few key trends within most reviews:

  • Most reviewers called for an always-on watch face, which seems like a good idea the first week you have any new piece of tech. Something tells me that after a few weeks, they’d all switch back to the default mode.
  • One reviewer memorably notes that anybody with a non-Apple smartwatch will probably be annoyed at the relatively short battery life compared to the staying power of a Fitbit or Garmin watch. Those do less but they stay on for longer. There’s a trade-off.
  • Even though the watches are a few millimeters bigger, every review said it wasn’t noticeable.
  • The loudness of the speaker — 50 percent! — was largely well-received, though some observed it wasn’t that big of a deal. Tiny speaker gets louder.
  • Several reviews — and one reviewer noted first-hand — that this watch would be helpful for older users, especially those with poor eyesight, or those who risk falling down or with heart problems. It’s not a smartwatch for old folks; it’s a smartwatch that older people will find useful — at least that seems to be message from Apple if you just look at the new features.
  • Reactions to Siri remain inconsistent. Some found it much-improved for quickness in response, others experienced the AI assistant replying with “hang on.”
The debut of the Apple Watch Series 4 on September 12, 2018, included this promotional video narrated by the company's Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive.

If you don’t have time to read the 31,000+ words, below are four fabulous reviews worth reading, even if you have no intention of buying a Series 4.

  1. Buzzfeed News’s Charlie Warzel offered varying experiences that took you on a journey through the first week. It includes helpful real-world comparison photos, and one moment of real drama that might make a reader gasp involving a doctor’s office.
  2. The Verge ‘s Dieter Bohn expertly matches specifications and details with an immensely readable conversational style. The companion video
  3. For Hodinkee, Stephen Pulvirent has a 4,879-word review of the Apple Watch Series 4 that felt breezy and fun. Enough said.
  4. Madeline Buxton at Refinery 29 matches her approachable writing style (sub-head example: “Call Me, Definitely”) with a vision expertly that takes readers into the weeds. At one point I was in a Settings > navigation and didn’t realize it.

Here’s a breakdown of each prominent review of the Apple Watch Series 4:

Buzzfeed News

Word Count: 1,292

Design Quote: “…a perfectly polished little skipping stone on your forearm”

Summation: Buzzfeed News sums up its review this way: The Apple Watch Series 4 is a luxury. “And for all its potential utility, that’s what the Apple Watch Series 4 is: a luxury. As such, I’d recommend it most for those who can afford a glimpse at a potential future, rather than those looking for maximum utility in the present.” It’s an attractive option but not necessary. For that a 7 seems like a fair score.

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 7


CNBC

Length: 4 minutes

Design Quote: The amount of apps that can fit within the watch face is “really cool” and the larger size “doesn’t feel bulky.”

Summation: Todd Haselton says in his review that owners of the Apple Watch Series 3 should stick with their watches but anyone who owns a Series 1 or 2 should definitely upgrade.

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 7


Hodinkee

Word Count: : 4,879

Design Quote: “I half expect the optical heart rate sensor to glow red and for the watch to start singing “Daisy” to me out of the speaker on the left side of the case (which is 50% louder, FYI) before jettisoning me into deep space.”

Summation: Readers of Hodinkee — “the preeminent resource for modern and vintage wristwatch enthusiasts” — will appreciate this relevant piece of context about the Apple Watch Series 4, from reviewer Stephen Pulvirent: “There are also days where it’s good to have a little extra info at hand and leaving that vintage sports watch in its box at home for a few hours isn’t the worst thing in the world.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 7


iJustine

Length: 14 minutes

Design Quote: “Color me freaking impressed!”

Summation: The glowing review of Apple Watch Series 4 from iJustine shows how its various features work. “I’m having so much fun with it, I would say that my favorite thing is how incredible the screen size is,” says Justine Ezarik in her review.

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: Yes

Estimated Score Out of 10: 10


iMore

Word Count: 4,635

Design Quote: “…an Apple Watch casing that’s thinner but more spacious, bigger in surface but smaller in volume — you know, that trick Apple’s industrial design team just keeps on pulling.”

Summation: As its name might suggest, iMore might have a vested interest in the success of Apple as a company, in that the better stuff Apple makes, the bigger its audience potential. This quote sums up a 4,600+ word review of the watch that iMore takes pains to say can save your life, thanks to its health-tracking features: “If you don’t have an Apple Watch yet, you should get one. And probably this one. Yes, it may seem expensive and extraneous if your already have an iPhone and maybe an iPad and laptop or whatever, but here’s the thing: It can save your life in a way none of that other stuff can.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: Yes

Estimated Score Out of 10: 10


Refinery 29

Word Count: 1,131

Design Quote: “The other new faces are less about efficiency, and more about aesthetics. Some are so pretty, they almost make it worth not seeing the weather at a glance.”

Summation: Refinery 29 technology editor Madeline Buxton praises the watch, endorsing it all around this way: “The bigger display, improved speaker quality, gorgeous watch faces, and advanced health and fitness features make the $399 starting price seem worth it.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: Yes

Estimated Score Out of 10: 8


Runner’s World

Word Count: 1,467

Design Quote: “…the Infograph face, a rather awful design with a slew of small dials exploding in a rainbow of colors, crams a lot of data into one spot. Thankfully, there are a number of other faces you can choose from.”

Summation: Runner’s World offers a review from a perspective that’s more senior and naturally, focused on running. For younger runners, it suggests putting the $120 difference between the Series 3 and 4 Apple Watch toward a pair of new running shoes.

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 7


Sydney Morning Herald

Word Count: 929

Design Quote: “The screen on the Apple Watch 4 has been redesigned with a bezel-free, edge-to-edge display that fits more on the screen.”

Summation: Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Wells praises the 4’s improvement over the 3 this way: “Those wanting year over year drastic improvement need only look at the Apple Watch, which shows no signs of slowing down.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: Yes

Estimated Score Out of 10: 8


Tech Radar

Word Count: 5,128

Design Quote: “The larger screen and more rounded edges are much nicer to look at and offer more functionality,”-

Summation: In his massive 5,000+ word review of the watch, Gareth Beavis notes this watch will make a great gift for a loved one, but stops short of saying it’s the sort of thing you might buy for yourself. There are caveats to buying this gadget that has “nice upgrades to an already decent smartwatch.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 6


TechCrunch

Word Count: 1,984

Design Quote: “Apple stuck with the squircle (it’s a real geometry term, look it up) this time out. The design was a bit polarizing early on, but I suspect most users have since come to appreciate the things it affords, including the ability to fit more text on the screen.”

Summation: Brian Heater, like other reviewers of the watch, writes that it looks like the best is yet to come for Apple Watch, a fact apparent by the new features that hint at what watches could do later.

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 6


The Independent

Word Count: 1,965

Design Quote: “it is the most achingly beautiful Watch yet from Apple. It takes my breath away each time I raise my wrist and the screen quickly fades up in full, colourful glory.”

Summation: The Independent’s review of the watch, though not as evangelical as iMore’s, shows its critic has been charmed by not just the Apple Watch, but by this latest generation of the watch, a distinction from other reviewers who suggested maybe you don’t upgrade. “If you’ve held back from getting an Apple Watch because you thought it wasn’t quite there yet, well, it is now,” writes David Phelan.

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: Yes

Estimated Score Out of 10: 9


The New York Times

Word Count: 1,463

Design Quote: The “… enlarged display makes everything on the watch look better, including text.”

Summation: The Times’ verdict on whether one should upgrade depends on if you desire an incremental improvement from the previous generation of Apple Watch. “I tested the new Apple Watch for a week and found it incrementally better than the previous version.” Later, Brian X. Chen writes, “Now is a good time to get the older one.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 7


The Verge

Word Count: 2,964

Design Quote: “…the square display on my Series 3 look dumpy and cramped by comparison”

Summation: Dieter Bohn writes, “This year’s Apple Watch is incredibly good. If you use it just for notifications and step counting, it’s probably overkill, but it’s able to handle more advanced features better than any other smartwatch I’ve tested.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 8


USA Today

Word Count: 1,104

Design Quote: “…one reason I’m seriously thinking about an upgrade comes with an edge-to-edge display”

Summation: Seemingly writing for an older audience, Edward C. Baig of USA Today, comments that the new watch is a “guardian for your health, and that is arguably the most important reason to buy it.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 6


Wired

Word Count: 1,385

Design Quote: “…the larger screen feels as significant as going from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6.”

Summation: Writing for Wired — and giving the new watch an 8/10 rating — Scott Rosenfield observes in his review: “I think most people will remain satisfied with their Series 3s. That’s not a knock on what Apple has achieved here — it’s a testament to how good the Apple Watch has become.”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: No

Estimated Score Out of 10: 8


Women’s Health

Word Count: 963

Design Quote: “The design is sleeker.”

Summation: “I could not be more thrilled that the Watch has evolved into a powerful health and fitness accessory. I award it all of the gold medal emojis. 🏅🏅🏅”

Worth upgrading from a Series 3?: Yes

Estimated Score Out of 10: 10


Apple Watch Series 4 Review Totals:

Based on those reviews, the Apple Watch Series 4 gets an average score of 7.75/10, good for a 78 percent rating. If you wanted to boil it down to a number — which nowhere that I have seen has done yet — it might be that one.

Another way to look at it: Of the 16 highly read reviews (which all surface among the first results in Google, indicating they are influential on buying decisions) 10 of the reviews explicitly stated or indicated that the Apple Watch Series 4 is not worth buying for people who already own the Apple Watch Series 3. The six reviews that endorsed buying the Series 4, based on my careful reading of the reviews, were by iJustine, iMore, Refinery 29, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Independent, and Women’s Health.

Correct me if you think I’m wrong! Did I miss your review or one you think should be counted? I’m at nick@inverse.com.

Photos via Apple