The original Apple Watch turns five years old this October. There isn’t a whole much new here, other from the square display with a digital crown and the usual wrist bands. In its initial release, Apple tried to offer a $10,000 pure gold variant of the watch for a limited time. The earlier Apple Watches are now available for as cheap as $199, while the newer Watch SE models start at $279. In the meantime, the fashion executive hired to position the watch as a premium status symbol has departed the firm, and the watch is now being promoted as a health device instead of a fashion accessory.
In fact, the $399 Series 6 has received much of the attention because of its blood oxygen sensor. You’ll be able to track your sleep and handwashing habits with watchOS 7. Fitness+ subscription service will also be offered on previous models of the Apple Watch later this year.
Even though I rate the Series 6 as highly as last year’s model, I believe the less obvious under-the-hood improvements — faster performance, better display, quicker charging — will be more tempting to most customers. I’ve been testing the Series 6 since last week. It’s worth upgrading to watchOS 7 even if you don’t plan on selling your current Apple Watch in the near future, as it includes enough new features to make it worthwhile.
LTE and a wide choice of color and material options can make choosing a phone feel daunting, even though the Series 6’s design isn’t anything new or startling (and the pricing confusing). First things first: let’s clear it up.
With a 40mm aluminum case, the entry-level watch costs $399. $429 is the starting price for the 44mm variant. With a Product RED edition with a percentage of the proceeds going to HIV/AIDS organizations in Africa, you still have the option of purchasing it in familiar colors like silver, gold, and Space Gray. However, the Nike edition is available for the same price as a regular aluminum Series 6 at the same time.
For an additional $100, you can purchase the Series 6 with LTE. Reasons to switch to a cellular plan include the convenience of voice dictation, Siri translations, App Store downloads, messaging, and calling even when you’re not near your phone. Just keep in mind that you’ll also have to pay for data in addition to the additional $100 up front.
When it comes to a 40mm or 44mm stainless steel case, prices start at $699. Silver, a new gold tone, and “Graphite Gray,” which replaces Space Black, among the more serious colors available.
The titanium variant, the next rung up, costs $749 or $849, depending on the size you choose. The Hermes edition, which is likewise constructed of stainless steel but starts at $1,249, is the highest tier and out of reach for the majority of people. Even a luxury merchant like Hermes can get away with it because of the greater quality of the leather bands.
As always, no Apple Watch launch would be incomplete without the introduction of some new bands. Apple’s first band without a clasp or buckle is the Solo Loop, about which you’ve probably read the most. Apple had to release it in a broad range of sizes because to its lack of adjustability – nine, to be exact. A plain silicone version costs $49, while a recycled-yarn-braided version costs $99, and so on. Additionally, a new magnetic wristband, the $99 Leather Link strap, has been introduced for the 2017 season.
The Solo Loop’s perplexing sizing chart and onerous return policy gained as much attention as its minimalist design. When the Solo Loop was first released, Apple required customers who purchased an ill-fitting watch to return the entire package. To be clear, the Solo Loop is also available as a standalone product and may be used with prior models of the Apple Watch.) Since then, it appears that Apple has reversed course. Even still, it seems dangerous to purchase a Solo Loop online if you don’t have easy access to an Apple Store. Even if Daring Fireball’s John Gruber explains it in detail, there’s still room for debate.
For the most part, the Series 6 is a carbon copy of the Series 5. If you’re sporting one of the new case colors like I am, that’s the easiest way to tell (blue with a matching sport band). The always-on display is now 2.5 times as bright as last year’s model, at 500 nits. Even though the summer is over, the display was still easy to see on sunny days when out for a run or having a picnic.
In addition, a blood oxygen sensor detecting oxygen saturation has been added to the sensor array on the back side. SpO2 is the correct acronym, not VO2 Max (maximal oxygen intake, another common metric measured by high-end sport and smartwatches). One of the most important metrics for athletes to evaluate is their ability to distribute oxygenated blood throughout the body; however, SpO2 measures how well your lungs are doing this task.
One similar medical device you may be familiar with is the pulse oximeter, which uses a combination of LED red and infrared light to pass through your finger’s skin to monitor blood saturation levels. By placing your wrist on a desk or other level surface, you’ll get better results while taking the reading manually with a specialized phone app. Even while you’re sleeping, the watch takes regular measures in the background. To get historical data, you must open the iOS app, where you may also see some simple graphs. If you open the watch app, you’ll see your most current reading.
At least according to Apple, a usual rating is between 95% and 98%. Though some apparently healthy reviewers have reported variable and/or frighteningly low ratings, this is where all of my ratings fell. It took my coworker Valentina Palladino a few tries to get the idea of how to hold her wrist and how far up her arm she should place the sensor.
There are a number of factors that may influence a person’s SpO2 value, including altitude, skin temperature, wrist posture, and skin perfusion (local blood pressure). The sensor did exactly what it was supposed to do in my testing, and I didn’t have to make any special adjustments to the watch. I scored between 95 and 100 percent, with 94 percent as my lowest score. It was interesting that those rare occasions coincided with times when I hadn’t eaten for an extended period of time.
However, as I mentioned at the outset of my review, it’s the little things that add up over time. Powered by a new S6 CPU, the Series 6 is 20% quicker than last year’s S5, according to Apple, which also says that the S6 is 20% faster than the S5. It’s safe to say that Valentina, who owns both a Series 5 and a Series 6, can vouch for the Series 6’s superior performance when it comes to both app launches and swiping through watch faces.
As a result, the watch’s display is 2.5 times brighter than it was last year, without sacrificing battery life. Apple really claims a minor increase in battery life: an additional hour of audio (locally stored music) or an additional hour of workout tracking. Up to 11 hours of audio or indoor workouts are included in the package (up to seven hours outdoors with GPS, and six if you use LTE). A typical day included an 11-hour workday, a 35-minute run, and 61 percent of my body’s capacity remaining at the end.
Also promised by Apple is speedier charging: zero to 80 percent in 60 minutes and a full charge in 90 minutes. Compared to Series 5, that’s a 33 percent (30-minute) improvement. After a half-hour of charging, I witnessed a 51% boost in my battery capacity.
The Series 6 contains an U1 chip that enables 5GHz Wi-Fi, which completes the list (as opposed to just 2.4GHz bands). It also has a standard in automotive industry for ultrawideband antennas (UWB), allowing for remote locking/unlocking of a vehicle using an ultrawideband antenna on your watch. Finally, the Apple Watch has had an altimeter since the Series 3, but now it’s always on and there’s a new complication to go with it, as well.
Apple did not promise any enhancements to the GPS, yet the tracking of runs appeared to be significantly more precise. New always-on altimeter may have improved your watch’s location accuracy, or the firm may have secretly tweaked its algorithm.
With the exception of those minor hardware modifications, watchOS 7, which will work on watches as ancient as the Series 3, is the majority of what makes the Series 6 feel different. However, keep in mind that iOS 14 requires an iPhone 6s or newer to run.
New features include a hand-washing timer, which begins a 20-second countdown when it recognizes certain hand movements and the sound of running water.
Whenever the timer starts or stops, you’ll get a haptic tick to let you know. As a smart design choice, if you stop washing your hands before the timer has run out, you can’t just sit there and stare at the clock for 20 seconds. When I washed the backs of my hands, I noticed that my efforts didn’t always seem to “count.”
You’ll need to go into the Apple Watch app to enable the handwashing feature, which has been disabled by mistake. If you like it, you can enable reminders if you haven’t washed your hands for a long period of time.
A long-sought sleep tracking feature is also included in watchOS 7. The problem is that it’s not much use at all. There is no information on the quality of your sleep provided by the watch, so you can’t tell how much deep, dreamy sleep you experienced versus how much light sleep you got. Using heart rate data, Fitbit and Samsung are ahead of Apple in this area, as Cherlynn Low noted in her evaluation of Apple’s Watch SE. Moreover, the watch itself is surprisingly pleasant to wear in bed.
Apple appears to have spent its efforts on so-called “wind-down” and “wake-up” routines instead of developing new products. You may use the Health app to set objectives, such as how much sleep you desire or when you want to go to bed each night. Go into your phone’s settings and turn on Do Not Disturb and put your phone to sleep automatically when Wind Down time begins. If you’d like, you can choose to have your phone and watch show the time even when they’re in sleep mode, and you may also choose to receive sleep reminders.
Wake-up alarms have a more soft sound by default, as well as a haptic buzz. This is mostly for your own benefit, but it may also be beneficial to your sleeping partner. To set an alarm for every day of the week at once (hey, 7am Saturday wake-up call!) and to deactivate one for a day other than today was a little too easy and difficult.
Additional watchOS 7 features include Family Setup and face sharing.. Not your face, but the option to share watch faces you like by e-mail or text message. As if that wasn’t enough, watchOS 7 introduces additional watch faces, including as Stripes, Typograph, and my current fave, Artist. Animated Memoji faces, which enable you choose from a wide range of basic characters, may also be of interest to you. These include a cat, poop-filled pig, extraterrestrial, unicorn, and many more. Alternatively, you can use any of your pre-existing mobile avatars. Count Up and GMT Chronograph Pro, on the other hand, sport an analogue aesthetic. Finally, additional color filters can be found in the Photos face, as well as Shortcuts and Sleep difficulties.
The majority of these faces are compatible with Apple Watch Series 4 and earlier, with the exception of Stripes, which is compatible with Apple Watch Series 3 and before.
Dance, functional strength training, core training, and “Cooldown” are all new sorts of workouts in the fitness industry. Using the mapping app, you may also find out where to go for a bike ride. Additionally, the Apple Watch Series 4 includes all of the previously available health and safety features, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), menstrual cycle tracking, an emergency SOS, emergency international calling, fall detection and a hearing health feature to monitor exposure to dangerously high decibel levels.. etc…
What’s yet to come
Despite the fact that watchOS 7 is a small upgrade, some of the most ambitious features are still on the way. Apple intends to include alarms for low VO2 Max detection (aka a low cardiorespiratory fitness level). Additionally, Apple will introduce Fitness+ later this year, a subscription service similar to Peloton that offers exercises and classes for $10 per month or $80 per year. Rather than relying on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV to keep up with the show’s progress, you can simply use your watch to do it. If you have a Series 3 watch, you can use this service.
|Apple Watch Series 6||Apple Watch SE||Apple Watch Series 3|
|Price||$399 and up||$279 and up||$199 and up|
|Display||LTPO OLED Retina, always-on||LTPO OLED Retina||LTPO OLED Retina|
|Processor||Apple S6||Apple S5||Apple S3|
|Storage||32 GB||32 GB||8 GB|
|Sizes||40mm, 44mm||40mm, 44mm||38mm, 42mm|
|WiFi||802.11b/g/n, dual-band||802.11b/g/n, 2.4 GHz||802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz|
|GPS||GPS, GNSS, compass||GPS, GNSS, compass||GPS, GNSS|
|Health sensors||Heart rate, blood oxygen, ECG||Heart rate||Heart rate|
|Water resistance||5 ATM||5 ATM||5 ATM|
|Battery||Up to 18 hours||Up to 18 hours||Up to 18 hours|
|Operating System||watchOS 7||watchOS 7||watchOS 7|
Comparing the Apple Watch to Fitbit and Samsung’s competing smartwatches is a useless exercise: For iOS users, the Apple Watch is the obvious choice. It’s a given that you’ll need an iPhone to use it. In addition, if you do, the Apple Watch will feel better integrated with the rest of your experience than the $400 Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or the $330 Fitbit Sense, both of which provide more functionality to Android users.
If you’re interested in tracking your sleep, I’d recommend the Sense, but if you’re not, you can have both watches. In any event, why would you pay $400 on a device if parts of its capabilities were limited from the start? However, that doesn’t diminish the value of Samsung and Fitbit, but they excel when targeting Android users, a demographic that Apple isn’t even bothering to reach.
The $199 Series 3, the $279 Apple Watch, and the $399 Series 6 are all excellent options for iOS users looking to upgrade their smartwatch. The Series 3 is excessively slow and won’t be eligible for watchOS upgrades for a long time. If you’re just getting into the world of timepieces, the Watch SE is a solid option, but it’s best suited for those who are just getting started. A lot of people will be buying it as a holiday present this year.
However, if you’re buying for yourself and have the means, I’d suggest the Series 6. I’m not saying this because I think you need a blood oxygen sensor, but rather because if you plan on using this watch for a long time, you should go with the one that is far speedier and quicker to charge. There’s an ECG test, a more important health monitoring tool than even the blood oxygen sensor, in the Series 6 model.
Even if Apple isn’t claiming any improvements in GPS tracking, I’d argue that it appears to be more accurate. The aspects of the Series 6 that I enjoy the most are often hidden from view, and I don’t think Apple had in mind when it held its recent launch event. Despite the fact that it doesn’t make for the most exciting unwrapping experience, this is an excellent purchase.