Question: I am considering a smartwatch and am looking at either the Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 5. I have an iPhone 7 - which would be compatible? I don't mind paying. It's not just for fitness, it's for everyday use as well. My friend said he has the Xiaomi Amazfit, which he thinks is good. I suppose I would be an Apple fan. I'm just not sure which one to get. - Joseph Beirne, via email
Based on what you say you want it for and your current phone, it's a fairly clear choice: you should get an Apple Watch over other models. And if you really don't mind paying extra, as you say, then the latest Series 5 model is indeed the best option.
Let me elaborate on this.
If health and fitness was your absolute priority, I'd be less firm in recommending the Apple Watch as your clear frontrunner. But as a generalist smartwatch for someone with an iPhone, Apple's model is untouchable as to the breadth and depth of its functions.
It mixes in a bit of everything and is both simple and powerful to use. That means lots of different health and fitness apps (including Apple's own programs), simple messaging alerts and controls for other things you might end up using (even stuff like boarding passes).
It also has the best display and the nicest, widest choice of straps.
I'm something of an omnivore when it comes to smartwatches. I own quite a few, including alternatives I'll mention below. But the one I generally rely on is the Apple Watch. I have both the Series 3 and the Series 5. I'll briefly mention the pros and cons of each.
Price is a factor. The Series 3 starts at €239 - around half what the newer Series 5 (€459) starts at. Size is an issue, too. The newer model squeezes more usable display from roughly the same sized unit. So instead of a 38mm or 42mm choice (Series 3), you have a 40mm or 44mm choice. You'll definitely want the larger size on the older model, but I find that either the 40mm or 44mm on the newer device works well on a man's wrist.
But the main difference with the Series 3, which looks almost identical to the Series 5, is that it doesn't have an 'always on' display. In other words, you only see the watch face (the time, a message, a health score or whatever) when you turn your wrist towards you. For many people that's just fine, even if they sometimes have to flick their wrist more than once for it to light up. The relative advantage to the 'always on' display is that you can glance at your Watch without moving your wrist (in company, for example). This may sound like a small feature but, as the owner of an Apple Watch since it launched, it's not. (Imagine if your traditional analogue watch only showed you its face if you turned it up in the right way.)
There are one or two other advantages to the pricier model, including a 'fall detection' feature that can contact emergency services if it thinks that you fell and you're unresponsive for a short period. And the newer model also has a compass.
Both models are fairly waterproof (including for sea swimming), a handy physical trait.
The main drawback to any Apple Watch is battery life. It needs to be charged every 36 to 48 hours, unlike many specific health-trackers.
There are lots of longer life battery options out there. For example, I also own a Huawei Watch GT2 (€235). It has a night-bright display and lasts about 10 days on a single charge. On the other hand, it does a small fraction of the things that the Apple Watch does. And I really like the Garmin Fenix 6 Sapphire (€799) I tried for an extended period a couple of months back. That has an always-on display and a battery life of around 12 days (or less if you're using active GPS when running or exercising). But again, while it's top of the range for fitness and health tracking (and does much more than the Huawei Watch, in general), it doesn't match the Apple Watch's features, despite being a lot dearer.
It should be noted that to use an Apple Watch, you really need an iPhone - it won't work satisfactorily with any other brand of smartphone.
Recommendation: Apple Watch Series 5 (€459 from Apple online store or Harvey Norman)
A post script to last week's answered problem. It concerned a reader who was experiencing inconsistencies with her Amazon Echo broadcasting BBC streams. Another reader has written in with an alternative approach to mine.
"There is a way round this problem," writes Michael O'Byrne. "You can deceive Alexa that you reside in the UK without using a VPN. Line up the stations that she wants which are geo-blocked. Then temporarily change the Amazon billing and delivery address to that in the UK. Now set up the routines on Alexa and then revert back your address to Ireland. It worked for me, at least with Scala [UK classical music station] and Magic [UK contemporary music station]."
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