The Apple Watch Series 6 feels like it has perfected many of the features I liked about its predecessor. It has a brighter always-on display, a more powerful processor, faster charging, and two new color options to choose from. But the feature I was most excited to try out was its new sensor that measures oxygen saturation in the blood (aka SpO2) with the tap of a screen.
But unlike the ECG feature on the Apple Watch, which has been tried, tested, and cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration, along with the irregular heart rhythm notifications, SpO2 on the Apple Watch still seems to be in its early stages. Navigating all this new data can be daunting for anyone who’s not a medical professional.
Much like a pulse oximeter, Series 6 uses red and infrared light from its new sensor to determine the percentage of oxygen in the blood. But instead of shining the light through your fingertip, it uses the light that’s reflected from the blood vessels in your wrist to determine your oxygen levels based on the color of your blood.
During the setup process, you’re asked whether or not you want to activate SpO2 tracking, which I did, but you can always go back and disable it in the settings after the fact. The first thing I did after strapping on the Watch was open the Blood Oxygen app. It gives you a few tips on how to get the best result, and you need to rest your arm on a table or flat surface while the Watch is taking a reading.
Learn more in my complete review below
Product: Apple Watch Series 6
Warranty: Hardware 1 year limited / 90 days of complimentary support
Note: AppleCare+ plan is available for purchase
My rating: 9.5/10
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Series 6 New colors, brighter screen
Aside from the sensors on the back, the Apple Watch Series 6 could pass for a Series 5. They have the same body and similar always-on display. It wasn’t until I put them side by side that I noticed a difference. While the screen on the Series 5 dims when not in use, the Series 6 almost looks like it’s still on, which is especially helpful when you’re outdoors. Apple says it’s 2.5 times brighter, and it shows.
It’s also the first Apple Watch to add to the traditional silver, space gray, and gold finishes. This year’s Apple Watch models come in aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium, with Apple introducing new blue and (PRODUCT)RED color options for the aluminum models. Stainless steel Apple Watch models come in silver and a dark gray graphite shade, while titanium models come in silver and space black.
I like the red, but I think I’d still stick to a more neutral tone for the frame and spice it up with a watch band instead.
Apple also announced a new type of silicone band with no clasps or buckles called the. It looks and feels similar to the silicone sports band, but with no overlapping parts. The material feels stretchy and slightly smooth to the touch. It is important to get your size right.
This will require you to measure your wrist before you buy it. And for this, you’ll need a measuring tape, which I personally don’t always have on hand. It’s also expensive for a band that I’d worry would stretch a bit over time. It’s $49 on its own, the same price as the silicone sports bands.
I think it would be a good alternative for kids, which Apple is now targeting with its new Family Setup because it’s less cumbersome to put on and take off.
The new Family Setup feature allows you to set up a second Apple Watch that doesn’t need its own iPhone. You can program location alerts from the parent’s iPhone, designate which contacts they can communicate with, and limit use during certain hours with the School Time mode.
There are also new ways to customize the watch face with a new Animoji andthat you can create directly on the watch. I can see this being popular with kids too.
Series 6 Faster processor
The other key upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 6 is the faster processor: Apple’s S6 chip is based on the A13 Bionic chip found in the 11 Pro. The Watch feels snappy loading apps, displaying messages, and showing stats in real-time. But the Series 5 already felt fast, and so far, I haven’t noticed a huge change in my day-to-day use.and
The Series 6 is also the only Apple Watch to include Apple’s new U1 chip for ultra-wideband support, improving spatial awareness between devices. This new U1 chip’s benefits may not be obvious right away but eventually will enable features such as, which allows you to use your device as a key.
I also haven’t noticed much of a change in battery life compared to the Series 5, which is disappointing — now the Apple Watch can track your sleep, you’ll want to use it 24/7. The silver lining is that it’s now better at managing battery life during certain workouts, and it exceeded Apple’s 18-hour claim in my testing.
The Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE will charge 100% in 90 minutes than their predecessors’ two-hour charge time, helping speed your day along. And you better have a wall charger at home because Apple doesn’t include them in the box anymore. You get the cable with the magnetic puck.
Real-time elevation and cardio fitness alerts
The entire Apple Watch line will also get new fitness features with WatchOS 7, including dance tracking and core training. Still, only the Series 6 and Apple Watch SE include a new always-on altimeter. It provides real-time elevation monitoring you can use during an outdoor workout.
The Apple Watch also uses the Vo2 max reading (maximum oxygen consumption during exercise) to monitor cardio fitness levels. Eventually, it will let you know when your levels are too low with a new notification feature launching later this year. According to Apple, this metric can be an important indicator of overall health.
Apple Watch Series 6 Summary
The jury’s still out on whether blood oxygen tracking becomes a must-have feature. However, with the Series 5 discontinuation, it’s now your only option if you want that always-on display and ECG app. Those are the big selling points for the Series 6.
The question now is whether that will be enough to sway people to spend the extra $130 when they now have a compelling alternative in the, which shares many of the same features for less.
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