Bright, always-on display
Great fitness tracking, including advanced sensors
Smooth, intuitive performance
Battery still average
Still no Android support
That’s not to say that Series 5 owners should upgrade this year. If Apple did “S” releases for the Apple Watch, like it used to for the iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 6 would be one of them. But in combination with the new WatchOS 7 software, the device takes everything that the Series 5 offered, and does it slightly better. The fitness junkies get the new blood oxygen tracker, the fashionistas get classy new colors, and everyone else gets an improved processor for faster performance.
If you have an older Apple Watch or no Apple Watch at all, the Series 6 is well worth considering. Like the Series 5 did before it, the Apple Watch Series 6 easily ascends to the throne as the best smartwatch money can buy.
About the Apple Watch Series 6
Setting up and using the Apple Watch is an absolute breeze—and because of that, the most difficult Watch-related task is figuring out which model to get. Do you save your cash and go for the entry-level model? You could, but that Stainless Steel model just looks so...shiny. Here’s a rundown of Apple Watch Series 6 pricing:
*40mm Aluminum Case with Sport Loop: $399
*44mm Aluminum Case with Sport Loop: $429
*40mm Stainless Steel Case with Sport Loop: $699
*44mm Stainless Steel Case with Sport Loop: $749
*40mm Titanium Case with Sport Sport Loop: $799
*44mm Titanium Case with Sport Sport Loop: $849
Head swimming yet? There are even more decisions to make. The prices above are entry-level, and if you want a fancier band, you’re going to have to shell out more cash. Then, there’s the fact that if you’re planning on leaving your phone at home from time to time, like if you go out on a run, you may want to consider the cellular model so you can still get calls and messages. That will run you an extra $100 for the Aluminum models—though, thankfully the Stainless Steel and Titanium models come with cellular connectivity by default, and there is no non-cellular option. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you get the cellular model, you’ll need to link it to your carrier’s plan, which usually costs around an extra $10-20 per month.
All the decisions you’ll make about models have to do with size and style, not the specs under the hood. All Apple Watch Series 6 models have the same actual specs. Here’s what you’ll get:
Display: LTPO OLED display with 1,000 nit brightness
Processor: Apple S6 64-bit dual-core processor
Connectivity: GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE and UMTS (on cellular models)
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
Audio: Microphone and speaker
Battery: Up to 18 hours
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, compass, always-on altimeter, blood oxygen sensor, ECG
What we like
Perhaps the best thing about the Apple Watch in general is how well it handles fitness tracking. No, it’s not a dedicated running watch, and if you’re looking for the best tracking and analysis of your runs, it’s probably worth getting something from the Garmin Forerunner series. But, if you’re an average person looking to stay fit, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a great device to help you do so.
The Series 6 brings on all the sensors and trackers from previous-generation models. There's GPS and a heart rate monitor, which both seem to be relatively accurate. There’s also an ECG sensor, like there has been in the past two generations, and it can be used to detect heart rhythm and even track signs of Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib.
The Apple Watch has had an altimeter since the Series 3 but, new for the Series 6, it’s now always-on. This means you can see real-time elevation information on some watch faces, and see elevation in the Compass app on the fly.
Perhaps the biggest new fitness-tracking feature is blood-oxygen level. You can track it manually, using the new Blood Oxygen app, or automatically throughout the day. Using the Blood Oxygen app requires you to place your arm still on a table, and it takes around 15 seconds.
The feature in general isn’t as dramatically helpful as the ECG was in the Series 4, but it will hopefully get more helpful over time, especially if Apple takes part in studies related to blood oxygen, like it did heart rhythm. It also helps cement the Apple Watch as a device for tracking overall wellbeing.
The fitness tracking apps on the Apple Watch Series 6 remain more or less unchanged, save for a few small tweaks that come from the WatchOS 7 software rather than the Series 6 hardware. The apps work really well, and there are a ton of workouts that you can track, including a new Dance workout. The device will get even more useful later in the year with the launch of the Apple Fitness+ service.
The always-on display
The Apple Watch Series 5 already offered an always-on display, but the Series 6 takes things to the next level. According to Apple, the always-on display is 2.5 times brighter than it was on the Series 5, and I believe it. It’s now bright enough to be easily seeable in all but the brightest of outdoor environments.
It’s a really nice change, and it didn’t seem to impact battery life much at all. Apple still rates the Series 6 as offering 18 hours of normal use, and I routinely ended the day with over 50 percent of the battery remaining. That seemed to be true regardless of watch face too -- I tried using a range of different watch faces on each day to see if there was much of a change, and there wasn’t.
Software and user interface
The overall user interface remains more or less the same on the Apple Watch Series 6 as it has for years -- but it’s still great and easy to navigate. WatchOS 7 brings more watch faces, hand washing, new workouts, sleep tracking, and more. You can customize different watch faces for different situations, and easily swipe between them on the go. The Digital Crown on the device is a great way to interact with the software too, and there’s a range of third-party apps.
One of the most important uses for the Apple Watch is as a way to get notifications without having to pick up your phone. Notifications in general are pretty easy to read straight from the device, and if you’re willing to use your voice, they’re also easy to reply to.
The accompanying Watch app on the iPhone unlocks extra customizations, too. While you can create and customize watch faces on the Apple Watch itself, it’s a little easier to do so on the iPhone—plus that’s where you’ll be able to dictate which podcasts and songs sync with your device. You can also delve through a list of apps on your phone that have accompanying apps, and whether or not you want those apps installed on your device.
Generally, the WatchOS software works great, and in classic Apple fashion, the device works seamlessly with other Apple products (and not at all with Android). From using your Watch to unlock your Macbook, to automatically connecting your Beats or AirPods headphones, existing within Apple’s walled garden is a better experience than ever with the Apple Watch.
A huge ecosystem of accessories
Apple is great at building a full ecosystem of first- and third-party accessories, and there are thousands of watch bands available for both sizes of the Apple Watch Series 6.
New for the Apple Watch Series 6 is the Solo Loop, which is basically a stretchable band that doesn’t have a clasp at all—it just slides over your hand. I didn’t love it, though. It looks a little strange, and after a few days of use it seemed slightly loose. If you’re interested in buying one and are between two sizes, you’ll probably want to go for the smaller one, especially if you want to use it for workout tracking, which requires a snug fit.
What we don't like
Battery life is still so-so
Let’s get this out of the way right now: the Apple Watch Series 6, like Apple Watches before it, will last you through a long day. If you’re used to charging every day and you don’t mind doing so, you won’t really run into any issues.
But Apple has also been launching new features that could make you want to keep the Watch on your wrist all day and all night. With the addition of sleep tracking in WatchOS 7, it can be hard to find a time to properly charge the device, and it may take some time to get used to doing so. The software makes things a little easier, allowing you to set charging reminders for before you go to bed, but it would still be nice if the battery could last at least a few days of use, like Samsung's Galaxy Watch 3 and Active 2.
Still no Android support
This may go without saying but, although you can take the cellular version on the road without your iPhone (provided you've got a data plan) you'll still need one to get things going. And just like every other Apple Watch, if you’re an Android user, you’ll simply need to look elsewhere. Maybe someday this will change, but don't hold your breath.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you're ready to upgrade, this is the best around
If you’re in the market for a great smartwatch, this is the way to go. You’ll have to be an iPhone user, unfortunately, but the Apple Watch Series 6 takes the already-awesome Apple Watch Series 5, and makes it slightly better.
That said, if you already have the Apple Watch Series 5, it’s probably not worth upgrading. Many of the new features, like sleep tracking, will be available to you through a software update, so unless you really want blood oxygen tracking or the brighter always-on display, you’re probably safe to skip this generation. That’s especially true given the fact that Apple may have a bigger refresh in store next year, as it seems to do every three years.
If you want an Apple Watch but don’t want to spend the cash on the Series 6, the Apple Watch SE (review coming) is worth considering. It doesn’t have the always-on display, blood oxygen sensor, or ECG sensor, but it’s only $279 and still offers great fitness tracking features in a classy design.
Ultimately, however, the Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch money can buy. If you’re an iPhone user that has a relatively old Apple Watch model, or no Apple Watch at all, the Series 6 is easily the device to go for.
Meet the tester
Christian de Looper
Originally from Australia, Christian has long had a passion for gadgets and consumer electronics. Christian has experience reviewing products in all areas of the consumer tech world, and is dedicated to helping people find the best products for their lifestyle.
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