Apple Watch Series 6 | Still the Best Smartwatch Available

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 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.

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Apple Watch Series 5 | Adds an Always-On Display

The Apple Watch Series 5 adds an always-on display to show the time all the time. An added compass aids navigation and improves elevation readings. However, battery life remains a day and a half at best.

No new health features, and the watch lacks native sleep tracking. It needs an iPhone to set up and work, and it offers only Apple’s growing but limited selection of watch faces. Apple’s subtly improved watch adds a key overdue feature and improved software with this update, but it remains mostly the same great smartwatch as last year.

The Apple Watch Series 5 isn’t super affordable, starting at around $400+, and in many ways, it’s nearly the same watch that last year’s Apple Watch Series 4 was. But its always-on display delivers one of the key features I’ve been wanting. I notice it a lot because now I can glance at the time when I’m typing—or casually watching TV. Or driving. No more weird arm twists.

It’s a feature that’s long overdue: The Pebble, Amazfit Bip, Fitbit Versa 2, Samsung Galaxy Watch, and Google Wear OS have had always-on modes for years. Always-on doesn’t improve battery life — in fact, it makes things a bit worse. But among smartwatches, the Apple Watch stands as the most feature-filled, well-performing wearable in existence.

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