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Apple Watch Series 5 teardown reveals the new watch isn’t identical to the Series 4

Published Sep 25th, 2019 4:29PM EDT
Apple Watch 5 vs. Series 4
Image: Apple Inc.

Apple launched a new Apple Watch model alongside the iPhone 11, with Series 5 replacing last year’s Series 4. The new device has the same design as its predecessor, which itself delivered the first significant redesign in Watch history. Series 5 does pack new display tech that allows Apple to bring always-on functionality to the smartwatch, although you wouldn’t know by looking at it that the Series 5 is a brand new model.

When it comes to hardware, we recently learned that the new S5 processor that powers the new devices is similar to the S4, although it packs twice the storage and includes components that enable the new compass feature of the handset. Of course, only a teardown would reveal all of the Series 5’s secrets, and the usual suspects found that the internals of Series 5 and Series 4 are actually different. Also, the new model has a slightly bigger battery.

iFixit, which recently helped answer our biggest questions about the iPhone 11, dismantled Apple’s newest smartwatch this week. The site explains that Series 5 has the same overall design as Series 4.

The new LPTO display that is able to operate at just 1Hz when you’re not actively using the Watch doesn’t reveal any secrets to the naked eye. Everything is built right into the screen.

Image source: iFixit

The ambient light sensor is also new and uses a “very tiny gyroscope.” The battery is “a hair bigger,” which translates into a 1.4% bump on the 44mm model over the same Series 4 device.

The teardown says that while Series 5 is very similar to Series 4 on the inside “Apple has made enough minor changes to that many parts are not interchangeable, thanks to redesigned connectors on the taptic engine, display, and battery.” In other words, if you were thinking about using Series 4 parts for the Series 5, or the other way around, to repair your device or someone else’s, the bad news is that these components aren’t interchangeable.

The teardown also inspected Apple’s claim that the aluminum is of the “100% recycled” variety:

While using recycled materials is great, the truth is most of the world’s aluminum is already recycled, and recycled aluminum is dramatically cheaper than the freshly-mined variety. The real question is whether Apple uses any recycled aluminum that wouldn’t have been recycled anyway. And after analyzing Apple’s statements on the matter, the answer seems to be no. Apple is in line with industry standards, and isn’t remaking the field. Recycling all the lithium or cobalt in their batteries would be a true leap forward, and Apple may well be working on something like that, but using recycled aluminum isn’t much to get excited about.

As for repairing a broken Series 5, iFixit gave the new Watch a 6 out of 10 repairability score. Your best bet is, of course, having it repaired by Apple professionals than attempting to go at it yourself.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.