A first look at the new Apple Watch with a bigger display, a built-in electrocardiogram and more

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A first look at the new Apple Watch with a bigger display, a built-in electrocardiogram and more

  • The Apple Watch Series 4 has a larger screen and a built-in electrocardiogram.
  • CNBC's Todd Haselton checked out some of the new features.
  • The watch can even detect if you fall and call emergency services.

Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 4 during its news conference Wednesday. It's a considerable step up from even last year's model, and you might want to consider it even if you have a relatively recent version.

There are two models, a smaller version and a larger version, but the screens are 30 percent bigger than last year without either watch feeling too bulky. This is the highlight for me, since it means I can see more on the watch without squinting.

It also makes room for more so-called complications (they're sort of like apps) on the screen. These let me see how much more I need to move throughout the day to hit my calories-burned goal, the temperature outside, when my next meeting is, my heart rate and more, all from the same screen. It's pretty wild.

Apple Watch Series 4
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Apple Watch Series 4

I love the new watch faces, which Apple said are only available on the new model since they take advantage of the bigger display. There's a "breathe" watch face that you can use to slow down your breathing and recenter yourself. I love how this works to help calm me down sometimes, and now it's front and enter. There are other fun ones, like a fire and water watch face that takes over the display and just looks really cool, even if it has no real purpose.

Apple Watch Series 4
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Apple Watch Series 4

The elderly and folks who tend to be a little klutzy (like me) will like a new "fall detection" feature. If the watch thinks you just fell, it'll bring up a notification asking if you want to place an emergency call. I didn't get to test this yet, but you can bet I will soon as winter approaches.

Apple Watch Series 4
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Apple Watch Series 4

There's a built-in FDA-approved electrocardiogram (EKG) that can detect irregular heart rhythms. You don't use the sensor on the back which tracks your heart rate, but rather the new crown button on the side of the watch. Hold your finger to it and it will create an EKG, which is saved as a PDF you can send to your doctor.

Apple said the EKG function is not available at launch and didn't let me try it Wednesday, but it's coming. In the same fashion, Apple can now tell you if it thinks your heart rate is too slow. Previously, it could detect a higher heart rate.

Apple Watch Series 4
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Apple Watch Series 4

They're still expensive, starting at $399, but I think the Apple Watch remains the best wearable you can buy. If you're focused on your health, or just like getting notifications on your wrist, it's pretty much a must-have. The Series 3, which launched last year, is the only smartwatch I've continued to wear. I think the Series 4 will replace it, so long as the battery life is good.

Apple Watch Series 4
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Apple Watch Series 4

It won't come cheap. Pre-orders begin Friday and the lowest price is $399 for the GPS-only aluminum model. Once you step up to stainless steel and cellular connectivity, the price increases significantly.