I started wearing watches when I graduated from college (#adulting)—and by watches, I mean one gold, oversized Michael Kors timepiece (aka, the “it-girl” accessory of 2009) that I wouldn’t be caught dead without. After a long run, I retired the watch a few years ago, because my style evolved and the chunkiness started to feel *too* heavy. Plus, it didn’t play nice with my active lifestyle. When smartwatches began to crop up, I honestly wasn’t a fan, because I love the look of a classic timepiece and I was not 100% sure I constantly wanted to be connected. Everyone around me was buying Fitbits and Apple Watches and I refused to pull the trigger.
As you have probably heard, Apple just released a brand new watch two weeks ago, and it’s already making waves. In addition to streaming music, chatting with friends, tracking workouts, being able to measure your heart rhythm with an EKG or ECG test (and calling 9-1-1 if you’ve fallen down and aren’t able to get up within a minute), the Apple Watch Series 5 (from $384; amazon.com) now boasts a pretty amazing feature for women: cycle tracking. Yep, a watch can actually can help you keep track of your period, so you’re not scrambling to find a tampon at the last minute.
Even as a Health editor, I never thought sporting a smartwatch would be in my future, but I took Apple up on its offer to test their newest watch to see if it really was worth the hype.
First things first: The game-changing feature, by far, is the new app called Cycle Tracking. It allows you to conveniently record and track information about your period like timing, flow level, symptoms, spotting, and even the results from ovulation prediction kits. The watch uses your data to not only notify you when your period is coming—so you’re not caught off guard—but it also estimates when your fertility window is, which is helpful whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not get pregnant.
While cycle tracking is nothing new in the app world (hello, Eve, Clue, and Flo), Apple’s newest app makes it easier than ever to keep track of your period. Sure, you don’t need a watch to enjoy the app (you can use it on your phone), but it does make it pretty convenient being able to access that information quickly on your wrist, especially during an appointment with your ob-gyn.
Even though I can expect the same exact questions at my annual from my doctor (I should really be prepared by now), I always seem to get the deer-in-the-headlights look when my gynecologist asks me, with clipboard in hand, for the first day of my last period. I frantically start digging in my purse for my phone, and then either have to scroll through my calendar and guess at a date or look through an insane amount of apps for my period tracker and pray that I remembered to log my period. Needless to say, being able to track my cycle, symptoms, and any irregularities easily from the watch will certainly help me have a much more informed and less awkward chat with my ob-gyn going forward.
Being able to record symptoms during my period—cramps, bloating, mood swings, breast tenderness, acne, headaches—is also a great way to keep tabs on my health, so if I experience anything unusual, I can make a note of it and discuss it with my doctor. “Knowing more about your menstrual cycle gives you a window into your health, from simply ensuring you are prepared to understanding your personal patterns and regularities,” said Sumbul Desai, MD, Apple’s VP of Health, at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference.
What I also ended up loving about the new Apple Watch Series 5 is the always-on display, which makes it feel much more like a modern watch since the face is illuminated 24/7. I can discreetly glance at the watch and see information without having to raise my wrist in an obvious way. When I’m not looking at the watch, the display is dimly lit but still on—unlike the watch’s predecessors—so it’s not bothersome in meetings or blinding a stranger as I hold onto a subway pole. This feature also makes it a great companion for workouts, because I can view the timer without raising my wrist while holding a plank, or can subtly glance at my watch in downward dog to see how much time is left in my hot yoga class.
And I don’t have to worry about charging the watch during the day to compensate for it always being on. The Apple Watch Series 5 uses low-temperature poly-silicon and oxide (LTPO), which in plain-speak means the display can stay on all the time without killing the battery life. However, if I want to turn off the always-on mode, I can. As for being constantly connected at my wrist, I actually find it extremely convenient, since I don’t need to have my phone in my hand—I can skip through songs on my headphones by simply tapping my watch, reply to texts when connected to WiFi, and view my calendar, all hands-free. When I want to feel a little less connected, I just adjust my notifications in the settings so that I don’t get unnecessary alerts.
Another cool update, the watch now has a built-in compass. Whether you’re outdoorsy and like to hike or if the closest you ever get to nature is on your commute to work, this feature really comes in handy. Once you launch the Maps app, a small needle shows you what direction you’re facing, as well as which way to walk once you enter your destination address, like on the iPhone. It’s also great for exploring and sightseeing in a new city, since it helps to keep you from getting lost. On top of the direction needle, there’s also a new Compass app, which provides your longitude, latitude, elevation, and more—which is great for hiking, camping, and skiing enthusiasts.
To buy: Apple Watch Series 5 with Sport Band (from $384; amazon.com), Apple Watch Series 5 with Milanese Loop Band (from $730; amazon.com)
Okay, confession: I had some serious concerns about the typical aesthetic of smartwatches, because a technical-looking watch with a velcro or silicone band is just going to clash with my outfit. There, I said it. But Apple pleasantly surprised me. When I took the watch out of its box the first time, I saw that it came with the chicest chain band. (Okay Apple, I see you!) The gold body and band made it much more of a sophisticated and versatile fashion accessory, rather than a typical smartwatch. A blue sport band was also included in the test kit, so that I could swap it for a workout. I was pleasantly surprised by how well-designed and minimal the silicone strap was—it was, honestly, very cute.
I rocked the watch with the gold band to the office and to post-work events, and got so many compliments. It was professional enough for my 9-5 and dressy enough for nighttime events. I then swapped the gold mesh band for the sport band to see if it could stand up in my workouts, and it didn’t disappoint. From cycling to boxing to yoga, the silicone band remained comfortable and secure, and never felt sweaty, slippery, or gross.
What is *so* great about the new Apple Watch Series 5 is that it’s completely customizable. For the first time ever, you can combine any case (think: aluminum, stainless-steel, titanium, and ceramic) with any band—leather, metal, silicone, or a two-toned canvas sport loop—as opposed to being limited to pre-selected combinations. Because switching out the watch bands is so seamless, you can also choose to invest in multiple so that you always have a stylish yet understated option, no matter the occasion.
I now totally understand why people like these types of watches: you have access to health and fitness features (and much more) at the flick of your wrist— literally. I may have not been a smartwatch person before, but after using the Apple Watch Series 5 for the last two weeks, I can honestly say that I can’t go back to wearing anything else.
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