Apple Watch Series 6 Review
The Apple Watch 6 has arrived—the latest in the series to bring Apple’s most up to date tech to the smartwatch space. Launched alongside a new operating system (OS7) for all models down to the Apple Watch 3, the new Apple Watch 6 comes with a new brighter screen, the long overdue addition of sleep tracking, and blood oxygen monitoring. Between its 10 case finishes and 45 strap options, you can count on some analysis paralysis when deciding on the aesthetics of your Apple Watch 6. If we also count the fact that there are two different case sizes (40mm and 44mm), that’s a total of 900 different combinations to choose from.
For smartwatch fans it’s being said that none of these benefits are really a ‘halo’ feature that the Apple Watch 6 hangs its hat on, but when you dig below the surface at the improvements and announcements associated with fitness, there’s quite a bit going on here. The big news for us is Apple Fitness Plus, a subscription-based service that’s looking to compete with the types of service seen from Peloton, NordicTrack, Echelon and several others out there. We’ve been waiting a while to see if a company like Apple, Google, or Amazon would be first to throw its hat into the category, and it looks like Apple will be first to the punch in that respect. We’ll dive into that in a moment, but first let’s look at the watch itself.
What To Know About the Apple Watch 6
In the grand scheme of things the changes brought forth to the Apple Watch 6 are mostly a matter of Apple keeping up with the competition and not leading the technology charge. Fitbit and others have already had sleep monitoring and blood oxygen level measurements in their repertoires for a little while now, and sleep tracking is nearly as old as the entire advent of fitness tracking. That said, blood oxygen monitoring is a great tag along feature for sleep tracking as a means of self-diagnosing potential cases of sleep apnea, and with the Apple Watch being so heavily focused on the notification and communication side of things for so long, it makes sense (to a degree) that the feature was ignored until now.
From a functional standpoint there are a couple other new tricks up Apple’s sleeve with the newest watch that lead to an improved experience, its altimeter now has an always-on function, allowing for more accurate data capture when hiking, running, or cycling. Next on the list is a serious boost in screen brightness to its latest Always-On Retina display. Especially when in use outdoors, the Apple Watch 6 remains crisp to the eyes. Apple claims a 2.5x brightness increase, and while this is not something easily measured without a light meter on hand, we can safely say that it performs better than the Apple Watch 5.
The last upgrade on the list is equal parts function and fashion—the new single-loop straps. Made of a combination of recycled yarn and silicone threads, these bands have enough stretch in them to ditch any use of buckles or clasps. At present the jury is still out on their comfort. Personally I struggle with this strap design in terms of finding the perfect fit/tension on my wrist, but some other reviewers are rapidly starting to swear by them. At the very least, it will be worth a quick trip to the nearest Apple Store to check them out first-hand.
Here are some of the key features and specs:
- Water resistant to 50 meters
- Automatic activity tracking
- ECG scanning capability
- Blood oxygen level monitoring
- Always-on altimeter function
- 3rd party app connectivity (Strava, Nike Run Club, etc)
- Mindfulness app (calm/breathing/relaxation)
- Noise app (monitors surroundings and warns of potential hearing loss risk)
- 18-hour battery life
- 24/7 heart rate tracking
- All-day activity tracking — steps, floors climbed, active minutes, & more
- Sleep tracking (Finally!)
- Automatic exercise recognition
- Smartphone notifications
For the Apple loyalists in the room, the Apple Watch 6 is the new best-in-class model out there, and it’s an overall leader in the smartwatch world to boot.
Structurally there’s nothing to report here, as in true Apple Watch fashion, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Between its touchscreen, rotating crown button and additional haptic control button, it’s the same sleek user interface that Apple Watch fans know and love, and one that’s simple enough for just about anyone to integrate into rather quickly.
Colors are the big win for the Apple Watch 6, not only in its myriad of 45 different strap choices, but also its assortment of case colors. To achieve a mixture of tones, Apple uses either stainless steel or aluminum as its case material, finished with either a PVD coating or DLC finish to achieve the color in question. As a general rule the more vibrant the color, the more likely the use of PVD, which between the two processes is the one that’s more susceptible to scratching. That said, the Apple Watch has been in the market for ages now, and so long as you’re not constantly bashing into things their finishes seem to hold up reasonably well. Both of the bright/colorful variants of the Apple Watch 6 (red and blue) will be the go-to options for those wanting something more bold from their Apple Watch this time around.
As we noted above, the new Single Loop straps are one of the only big change from a design standpoint on the Apple Watch 6. The stretchy woven material will appeal to some, both from a comfort standpoint and from the fact that they’re made from recycled materials. The flaw with this kind of material comes in questions of longevity—any sort of stretchy material will lose resilience over time—and in fitment/comfort. If your wrist is the magic size and these straps provide just enough tension for you, great. If not, don’t waste your time. We’re going to recommend that you don’t order this configuration without trying it on in person.
Sensors & Components
The Apple Watch 6 features all the fixings for solid fitness tracking. That includes:
- Optical heart rate monitor
- Altimeter (always on)
- Relative SpO2 sensor
- ECG Electrodes (in caseback and crown)
While most of these are ‘standard fare’ in the market, the integration of ECG (EKG, in proper medical terminology) is a bit of an anomaly. An EKG, or electrocardiogram, is a medical tool designed to look at irregularities in the human heartbeat. The ones you’ll find in hospitals use a set of several electrodes to take measurements, however Apple (due to obvious space constraints) relies on a pair of electrodes positioned on the caseback and on the end of the crown to take its measurements. This tech was first introduced in the Apple Watch 4, and numerous 3rd party tests have proven that the Apple tech is mighty accurate; it managed to detect a case of an ‘Early Heartbeat’ in a c/net writer which was then confirmed at their local hospital.
Fitness & Activity Tracking
In the grand scheme of things there isn’t much new on the tracking side of the Apple Watch 6. When it comes to activity tracking, it can track a wide range of workouts from indoor/outdoor running and cycling, swimming, yoga, functional strength training, and more. All workouts contribute to the Activity Rings seen on its display—these rings act as your daily motivator to reach a user-selected level of daily activity. The one factor that has changed in regards to tracking on the Apple Watch 6 is the addition of always-on altimeter function. This won’t always be useful or apply to your workouts, but it does help provide more accurate metrics (especially calorie burn) when it comes to running, hiking, cycling, and other cardio-based activities where elevation comes into play.
This is where things are about to get interesting. Launching at the end of this year (finally something good happening in 2020), Apple Fitness Plus is a streaming workout training service that encompasses 10 workout types, including treadmill running, treadmill walking, indoor cycling, HIIT, rowing, dance, yoga, strength training, core training, and mindful cooldown. Metrics are pulled from your Apple watch, and the training sessions can be streamed via any Apple device or service (including Apple TV). The service will set users back $9.99/month or $79.99/year, with three free months included with a new Apple Watch purchase. It will also be able to run/connect to every Apple Watch version from the 3 onwards.
We’ve already seen fitness manufacturers working on integrating Apple Watch metrics into their own programming (Peloton and others can sync up with an Apple Watch to add metrics to their programming), but with this move, Apple takes command of the training space, allowing users to capitalize on workouts regardless of what treadmill, exercise bike, or rower they choose to use. Gone are the days of having to splurge on a top-tier machine to get built-in tech, when you can instead follow along on your Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone (though the latter’s screen size will be a detriment for many).
Aside from Apple spending big money on personal trainers, the big advantage here comes with playlist selection. The Apple connection means your own music or the music of your choosing, rather than the soundtrack as offered by other streaming training services. This is a HUGE plus in the space thus far, as most fitness brands have bought rights to music that, while good, doesn’t deliver nearly the same versatility as we’re seeing here. The big question will be how well the system works when it launches, but knowing Apple, we’re excited to see where things go with Apple Fitness Plus.
This really took forever to land on the Apple Watch, which is quite shocking considering how Apple tends to operate in terms of building out features and functionality on other devices. Built in with the OS7 update, the feature will now run across Apple watches from 3 onward, though only the Apple Watch 6 will add blood oxygen monitoring to its sleep cycle data (as a potential detector of issues like sleep apnea). The good news is that sleep tracking is pretty simple and seamless on the Apple Watch 6, and fully configurable as far as what data you want to keep tabs on. The unfortunate issue though comes with battery life. Due to the painfully short 18-hour battery life on the Apple Watch 6, this means you’ll have to plan your day in a way that lets you charge the watch at one point or another. This may well be why Apple held off on launching their own tracking for so long, but it seems at this point the demand outweighs the inconvenience.
As it stands, regardless of the battery life. or of any other little nitpicks, the Apple Watch 6 is the top of the heap in the smartwatch segment for anyone who’s currently running an iPhone and/or other Apple products. Apple has built an empire of an ecosystem, and if you’re integrated into said system already, it’s hard to consider anything else. Do I think it’s worth the jump for those who aren’t already Apple loyalists? No, but that’s not Apple’s intended market in the first place.
Apple Watch 6
40mm / 44mm
Number of Available Colors
Type Of Display
Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display
Heart Rate Monitor
Water Resistance Rating
Max Battery Life
On-board music storage
NFC Touchless Payment