You can still see important information, but the display is dimmer to conserve battery life.
Although Fitbit's Versa 2 also has an always-on display, Apple has a critical advantage: the watch faces are optimized to work in always-on mode, unlike Fitbit's. That makes the transition feel much more seamless since you're essentially looking at the same content on-screen when moving between always-on mode and standard mode.
This worked pretty seamlessly during my brief hands-on, but I did notice that it worked best when I raised my wrist slowly.
It's not just the watch faces that are optimized to work when the Apple Watch's display isn't activated. The workout app also takes advantage of the watch's always-on functionality.
When you're running a workout, for example, the screen will dim and the watch will pare back certain details to conserve power. In always-on display mode, for example, the milliseconds next to your workout timer will disappear. But when you raise your wrist, the screen will light up and the workout app will appear the same as usual.
For the first time, the Apple Watch is available in a titanium casing, which comes in natural and space black color options. The titanium version feels incredibly lightweight, much more so than the stainless steel and new ceramic version. It feels almost as light as the entry-level aluminum Apple Watch.
The ceramic Apple Watch has a glossy look that's reminiscent of Apple's classic white plastic MacBook. The company also says the ceramic finish is scratch-resistant.
During my brief time with the watch, I saw how the built-in compass can be used to make navigation apps more useful. For example, in the Maps app, the compass will make it possible for you to see which direction you're facing, right on your wrist. There's also a stargazing app that uses the compass to display the precise direction of specific constellations.
Features like a built-in compass and an always-on display are definitely welcome additions that make using the Apple Watch more convenient. And the fact that the cellular version can now be used to contact emergency services internationally just boosts its usefulness when it comes to safety.
But upgrades like this suggest that the smartwatch market is maturing in a similar way as the smartphone industry — that's to say that wearables are now so advanced that there are only minor ways to improve them. The major leaps — like standalone cellular connectivity in a sleek form factor — may be behind us.
Now, we're just waiting for Apple to make two other important improvements: native sleep tracking and battery life that lasts for multiple days.