Is The New Apple Watch A Game Changer? An In-Depth Review

“Apple’s watch could be as revolutionary as the first clocks” - Nicholas Carr, Time Magazine

 

“Scrub this way, now that way, rinse…”

Standing in front of the sink I suddenly feel a buzz on my wrist. Looking down, I see a notification on the small OLED display that says “Well Done” in a sudsy font.

Shaking my head, I think back on how far consumer wearables have come since the early days of simple step counting pedometers like the original Fitbit, or even the very first Apple Watch. Grabbing a hand towel to dry off, my brain tries to work out the magic of how the Apple Watch Series 6 knows I’m washing my hands.

It seems that on a yearly basis consumer technology continues to cram more and more features and sensors into our wearables. Some help us live healthier lives, others enable us to stay more connected to our family and friends. In September of 2020, Apple released their sixth, “S6” or “Series 6” smartwatch, and I decided to take it for a spin.

Could a wearable device that overlaps with existing products I already own and use prove to be useful to me? Has Apple really cracked the code for making wearable technology? Let’s take a dive into my experience using the newly released Apple Watch 6 and find out if this new smartwatch has what it takes to seat itself as the “king” of smart wearables in 2021.

Apple Watch Series 6 Review Summary

Pros:

  • Blood oxygen sensor
  • Always-on screen
  • A wide selection of colors/personalization
  • Fast enough to feel worthy wearing daily
  • Large ecosystem for expansion
  • More than just a biometric/fitness tool
  • Charges fast
  • Includes new Apple sleep tracking
  • Water-resistant

Cons:

  • Price
  • Apple only
  • Battery life
  • Stock biometric stats lacking
  • Needs iPhone nearby, unless upgrade to a more expensive model

 

Background

In the spring of 2015, Apple released the first Apple Watch, and since then over 100 million people are now wearing them. Being the tech-geek I am, I was on board as an early adopter. I picked up the very first Apple Watch in early January of 2016.

That watch fundamentally changed how I viewed wearable technology. Suddenly, an entirely new way of interacting with my technology opened to me. I wasn’t tethered to a smartphone anymore, I could wander around and still receive critical text messages, emails, and even phone calls.

The watch did everything my original Fitbit did, but also told the time and reminded me of meetings from my Outlook calendar.

My old Series 0 vs. Series 6 Apple Watch

 

The first Apple Watch had its problems though: it wasn’t water-resistant. The battery life was poor. The screen wasn’t terribly bright, and the processor inside didn’t seem powerful enough. Some apps beyond basic communication and fitness seemed to lag or get stuck. Having to take the watch off to shower, bathe or swim was an annoyance, and the terrible battery life meant I often forgot to take it off the charger and put it back on.

The first Apple Watch's sensors compared to the new Series 6

 

In the end, adopting and sticking to using the original Apple Watch – which is now known as the S0 or “Series 0” watch wasn’t something that I ended up doing. The idea behind it was solid, the potential was there, but it just wasn’t a device I could reliably commit to using day in and day out.

The original watch didn’t blend in seamlessly with me having to take it on and off so much.

I decided to wait. I knew being an early adopter meant I had taken a risk, and future models would only improve over time. I sat on the sidelines watching Apple release new watches each year, waiting for the right combination of features and performance to jump back in. With the release of the S6 Apple Watch, I felt that Apple had finally addressed many of the early issues that I had found so off-putting.

 

Update: YouTube Review Of This Product

If you prefer watching a YouTube review, check the video of David below:

 

 

What’s New?

What has Apple done with the Series 6 to make this smartwatch appealing to those who may already own a smart wearable, or who are looking to jump in for the first time? Let’s take a look at the standout features, and dive into them in more detail below.

Apple Watch 6 Features

  • Blood oxygen sensor
  • S6 Processor (20% faster)
  • Faster charging by 20% (90 minutes for an entire charge)
  • Brighter always-on display
  • Sleep tracking with watchOS7/iOS14
  • Hand wash detection (kind of creepy)
  • Always on altimeter
  • Family setup
  • Fitness + compatible
  • New colors/band

Blood Oxygen Measurements

For many, Apple incorporating the ability to give blood oxygen readings was something long overdue. Fitness wearables such as the Biostrap (code 10FERGUS saves 10%) have been able to do this for a few years now.

Apple has long relied on sensors that use shine green light in a process known as photoplethysmography (or PPG). In order to collect blood oxygen data, higher resolution sensor data is needed.

Biostrap’s blog explains why red LED sensors are more accurate for collecting data such as blood oxygen:

“Our bodies do not absorb red light well which is actually a good thing; it allows the transmission to penetrate 10x deeper into multiple tissue layers in order to obtain a number of biometric signals (such as hydration, muscle saturation, total hemoglobin, and more) that a green light sensor can never see. Additionally, tattoos, freckles, and melanin in the skin do not affect readings by red light sensors.”

Apple has now incorporated both red and green sensors into the Apple Watch 6, functionally giving it the higher resolution capacity found in devices such as Biostrap, while also keeping the green sensors as a fallback for readings such as pulse rate.

Why would you want to track blood oxygen levels? A few reasons spring to mind: low blood oxygen while sleeping could be an indicator of sleep apnea, and some respiratory illnesses can lead to decreased blood oxygen levels.

 

 

The Apple Watch Series 6 allows users to passively take reading on-demand, or passively in the background. In my testing, I’ve found that the S6 Apple Watch will take passive blood oxygen readings every 30 minutes if my wrist isn’t moving. Similar to the Biostrap, readings are best taken when there is no motion detected by the device.

 

While not a new feature to the Series 6 Watch, the device also allows users to take ECG or electrocardiogram, a reading that measures the electrical changes in the heart. These changes can be used to detect abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation. Apple’s specifications state:


“With the ECG app, Apple Watch is capable of generating an ECG similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram.

Electrodes built into the Digital Crown and the back crystal work together with the ECG app to read your heart’s electrical signals. Simply touch the Digital Crown to generate an ECG waveform in just 30 seconds. The ECG app can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation — a serious form of irregular heart rhythm — or sinus rhythm, which means your heart is beating in a normal pattern”

The watch also gives users the ability to set up notifications in the event an abnormal heart rhythm is recorded, allowing a person to get in touch with their healthcare provider to see if there’s any cause for concern.

These tools combined allow users to gather on-demand readings of biometrics that were exclusive to a hospital or doctor’s office only a few years ago. While some wearables such as the Biostrap can collect blood oxygen levels, there are far fewer devices on the market that can provide an ECG on demand. For those interested in an alternative to the Series 6 for ECG readings, the KardiaMobile might be an option.

S6 Processor

Previously I lamented on the anemic processing power of the original Series 0 Apple Watch. Times have certainly changed! In the past opening up a music player, weather app, or a calendar often took quite a bit of time, leaving me feeling like the product wasn’t really ready for prime time.

I can unequivocally state that those issues are a thing of the past. Not only is the Series 6 a snappy performer, but its S6 chip is also touted as being 20% faster than its predecessor the Series 5 watch. For the tech-inclined, here are the detailed specifications on the new S6 processor from notebookcheck.net:

“The Apple S6 is a 64-Bit dual core processor for the Apple Watch Series 6 (40 and 44mm). It integrates a GPU, 32 GB flash memory, Bluetooth 5.0, 1 GB RAM, 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 and 5 GHz WiFi and satellite positioning (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS). According to Apple the SiP has two CPU cores based on the Apple A13 and offers 20% more performance than the old Apple S5 in the Watch Series 5.”

In contrast, my Series 0 has a 32-bit processor with only 512MB of RAM. What this means in the real world is that the brain of the Series 6 Apple Watch is lightyears ahead of where it all started. Apps open and close without issue, and the watch blends seamlessly into daily life. It’s amazing to me that people were so receptive to the original “Series 0” watch when it debuted back in 2015.

To build on that fact, with each iteration of the watch, Apple has made steady processing power improvements while actually improving battery life (which I will touch on in a bit).

 

Faster Charging

The original Apple Watch took about two hours (120 minutes) to charge, whereas the new Series 6 Apple Watch can achieve a full charge in about 90 minutes. Shaving off 30 minutes might not seem that huge, but the S6 Watch can actually achieve about 80% of a charge in an hour – something that most people can manage while getting ready in the morning before heading off to work.

Apple’s own specifications indicate that users can expect up to 18 hours between needing a charge. Of course, these numbers depend on the amount of usage and types of usage. Having the screen brightness turned all the way up or using the watch for workouts will reduce the time between charges.

What this means in the real world is that users don’t have to take the watch off as often to charge, and when they do they can have it back on their wrist at 80% in about an hour. For me, this meant that I didn’t find myself forgetting to put the watch back on and leaving home without it.

 

Brighter Always On Display

The first few generations of Apple Watches didn’t have an always-on display. The screen would turn on when you raised the watch to look at it or stayed off unless you interacted with it. With advances in display technology and batteries, Apple has enabled their watches to always display information without needing to raise or tap on the watch.

Is this a ‘killer feature’? I personally don’t find the always on-screen to be that important to me, but if you have a nice custom screen setup it does improve aesthetics a bit. One advantage of having an always-on display is the ability to interact with the watch while your wrist is in your lap. This might come in handy if you need to interact with the watch while in a meeting, dinner engagement, or working out.

I don’t have a Series 5 Apple Watch to compare the Series 6 to, so I can’t really confidently comment on the brightness improvements, which Apple claims are up to 2.5 times brighter. I do think it’s impressive that Apple was able to boost the screen output while simultaneously keeping battery usage at a reasonable level.

 

Sleep Tracking

 

With the Series 6 Watch running WatchOS7 and iOS14 on the iPhone, Apple has now officially entered the world of sleep tracking, done natively on the Apple Watch platform. For years 3rd party software developers have created sleep tracking apps for the Apple Watch, but Apple has now incorporated this feature themselves into the watch.

I’ve seen a lot of contentious comments about Apple’s sleep tracking. Many people find the lack of detailed sleep metrics disappointing. I believe there’s a disconnect between what people expect, and how Apple has approached and decided to tackle sleep.

Over the last half-decade, we’ve seen an explosion of devices that can track sleep, some providing more information than others. The Biostrap (discount code 10FERGUS saves 10%) and Oura for example can provide “readiness” or “recovery” scores to users each morning, with detailed graphs showing stages of their sleep.

Biostrap users can see each data point that was captured overnight. Apple has gone in a completely different direction in its approach to sleep, and it shows in how sleep is tracked.

With the prevalence of so much sleep data being made available to users, researchers have coined a new term “Orthosomnia” when that data leads to negative outcomes.

A case study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine details Orthosomnia:

 

“These three cases demonstrate that sleep trackers may pose unique challenges in CBT-I and reinforce sleep-related anxiety or perfectionism for some patients. Each patient was seeking treatment due to perceived insufficient sleep or periods of restlessness or light sleep.”

“For example, all three patients were spending excessive time in bed in attempts to increase the sleep duration reported by the sleep tracker, which may have exacerbated their insomnia. Given that these devices tend to overestimate sleep, they may have served to reinforce poor sleep habits by encouraging extending time in bed.”

 

Spend any amount of time in the Facebook groups for Oura or Biostrap, and you’ll see dozens of examples of people obsessively pouring over their sleep data, offering suggestions as to why one night was reported as ‘better’ than another.

The researchers behind this case study found that despite the ability of consumer technology being unable to provide truly accurate information, people believed their devices:

 

“Despite multiple validation studies that have demonstrated consumer-wearable sleep tracking devices are unable to accurately discriminate stages of sleep and have poor accuracy in detecting wake after sleep onset, we found patients' perceptions difficult to alter.”

Taking that into account, it helps support and makes a case for why Apple has chosen to go in a completely different direction with sleep. Apple has decided to work on helping users set and achieve realistic sleep goals, with an emphasis on routine and consistency.

There’s an old saying about investing: “Time in the market beats trying to time the market”. I believe Apple’s approach is similar. Instead of trying to manipulate individual biometric readings overnight, Apple is trying to coach users into holistic lifestyle changes, using psychology on the front-end, instead of providing a diagnostic report for users upon waking.

One of the tools that Apple is using to tap into the psychology behind better sleep is a feature called “Wind Down”. Users can use the watch and iPhone in combination to set relaxing bedtime routines around a scheduled set time, including smart features like launching a meditation app, dimming lights, or playing relaxing music.

After a bedtime schedule has been set, the watch and user’s iPhone also will give bedtime reminders, and go into “do not disturb” mode when it’s time for bed. The always-on screen will go dark and offer only minimal functions.

Users can still “wake up” the watch and use the device, but by default, the device is in a semi-locked out state. In a way, it’s a subtle psychological reinforcement that you should probably be in bed, not fiddling around on your phone. Similarly, the iPhone will also enter the same “limited functionality” mode as well. This might be a good thing for people who find they have a hard time putting their devices down or disconnecting for the night.

That’s not to say that there’s zero sleep data collected by the watch. Total time in bed versus total time asleep is graphed in the Health app, and the iPhone will give positive reinforcement for meeting set sleep goals. 

 

 

Overnight heart rate data is also captured and available as well. Each morning if you’ve hit your sleep goal, you’ll be notified. Depending on the settings users choose, the watch can vibrate as a silent alarm.

 

Handwashing Detection

A seemingly small, yet relevant new feature of the Series 6 is the auto-detecting handwashing timer. The first time I used this feature I was a little bit spooked out. How did it know I was washing my hands?

After doing a little bit more research, it appears that Apple is using the motion sensors inside the watch along with the built-in microphone to listen for running water and soapy squishing sounds.

When the watch thinks it's detected handwashing, a 20-second countdown timer begins. If you wash for a complete 20 seconds, the watch will vibrate once and display a “Well Done” message.

You can even review your average time spent hand washing inside the Health App on the iPhone if inclined to see if you’re actually hitting the recommended 20 seconds by the USA’s CDC consistently (and how often you are or aren’t washing!).

It may seem a bit gimmicky at first, but I found a practical upside to the feature; I’m not wasting time washing longer than I need to. It’s a small feature that users have the ability to turn on or off, but I’ve found it does a pretty good job detecting handwashing despite my best attempts at trying to fool it. I’m sure I’ve looked ridiculous trying to rub my hands together and make soap sounds without actually washing them!

 

Always-On Altimeter

Apple has upped their altimeter game in the Series 6, not only enabling it to always be on but reworking how the sensor is built and takes readings. Apple’s specifications state:

 

“The always-on altimeter provides real-time elevation all day long by using a new, more power-efficient barometric altimeter, along with GPS and nearby Wi-Fi networks. This feature allows for the detection of small elevation changes above ground level, up and down to the measurement of 1 foot…”

 

This is good news for hikers, climbers, or those that like to take the stairs for some extra exercise. I noticed that since the altimeter is barometric, many other health readings taken by the watch include this metric.

I’m not sure at this time if taking barometric pressure into account would make HRV, SPO2, or other biometric readings more accurate, but it’s something that Biostrap and Oura aren’t including in their data that’s fed into the Apple Health App.

 

 

I could also see a case being made that a more accurate altimeter could enable much more precise location information. By cross-referencing altitude information with GPS coordinates and mapping data, making running data and navigation more accurate.

 

Family Setup

While not an exclusive new feature to just the Apple Watch 6, with its launch came the ability for “Family Setup”. When Apple launched the S6 Watch, WatchOS7 was released that enabled families to outfit members with a watch without having to have it paired to their own individual phones.

The Family Setup requires an Apple Watch 4 or higher, and the latest WatchOS and iOS on the devices. With a family setup, parents reluctant to give their children iPhones can opt to give them a watch instead. The watch can be used to make phone calls, send messages, and see the location of the person wearing the watch.

This wasn’t a deciding factor for me when looking into the new Apple Watch, but it may be a feature that some parents appreciate, and give new life into an older Series 4 or 5 watch they’re replacing with the new Series 6.

 

Fitness+ Compatible

Fitness+ is Apple’s all-new at-home workout and exercise training ecosystem. Announced at the Series 6 launch, Fitness+ allows users to use their Apple Watch 3 or later to display live, real-time heart rate data overlaid on top of a virtual exercise routine.

 

Fitness+ isn’t exclusive to the Series 6 watch, and it’s such a big platform unto itself that I feel an entirely separate review would be needed to truly do the new service justice. The Series 6 Watch comes with a complimentary 3-month trial of Fitness+, and setup is intuitive and easy. In my testing, I can see why Apple is hailing it as the “Future of fitness”.

With so many people deciding to workout at home, Apple’s launch of Fitness+ strategically places them in a great spot. The platform has numerous workout types such as HIIT, yoga, core strength, dance, biking, and rowing. New workouts in varying lengths, trainers, and music styles are being released regularly to build the platform’s library.

While testing out a dance workout with my three-year-old daughter, I can see how Apple’s approach to an immersive, digital workout platform might really be appealing to those stuck at home or who would rather ditch the expensive gym memberships.

Compared to a traditional brick and mortar gym, Fitness+ costs users $9.99 a month, or $79.99 a year. The ability to easily cancel a subscription to the service at any time is a real plus in my book. Those that have tried to cancel a traditional gym membership will understand why I appreciate this!

 

New Colors/Bands

This year Apple has released the Series 6 in Blue, Gold, Graphite, and Apple Watch Product Red (with blue being a new color). Apple also has released two new bands: the ‘Solo Loop’ and ‘Solo braided Loop’. These new bands are a solid piece of stretchable silicone without buckles or fasteners. The potential upside is that users won’t have to fumble around with adjustments, as the watch can just be slipped on and off.

Of course, Apple still is partnering with Nike to produce the ‘Nike Edition’ watches. These watches are functionally identical to all others, with the exception of Nike Edition sport bands being available. Also, the Nike Edition watch comes with a few Nike-inspired watch faces, as well as a tiny Nike “swoop” logo on the underside of the watch.

Apple offers a wide range of combinations, allowing users to spec out their specific watch to any number of possible combinations.

Some watch colorway combinations can run upwards of $1,299 for stainless steel watch case and leather strap from high-end fashion house Hermes. I would imagine the demand for such a watch is not the norm, which leads us to pricing on the Watch Series 6.

 

Pricing and Models

The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399 for the 42mm GPS-only enabled version and $499 for the GPS + cellular version. The larger 44mm Series 6 starts at $429 for GPS only and adding the cellular option pushes the price up to $529.

One thing to keep in mind: opting for cellular functionality on the Apple Watch will use more battery power and can incur additional cellular charges on your monthly cell phone plan.

These two reasons were the deciding factor for me, and why I chose to go with a GPS-only version of the Series 6. I did not feel that I left the house or wandered far enough from my phone to warrant the extra expense of cellular-enabled data on the watch itself, and with my carrier Verizon I’d have to pay an extra fee each month to have it activated.

 

My Real-World Experience

As I just mentioned, I opted for a GPS-only version in the 42mm size. I also decided to go with the Nike Edition, as I found the sport band appealing. One of the nice things about all Apple Watches is the ability to easily swap out bands. New wristbands from 3rd party companies are easy to come by and range in price from inexpensive to premium. I found the color combination of the grey/black Nike band to compliment the silver aluminum watch case well, and I like how it looks when I’m wearing it.

Apple has made significant improvements over the Series 0 watch that I initially picked up and used years ago. I find that the watch has become a seamless extension of my iPhone, blending into my daily routine without any fuss.

The battery life is good enough that I find I only need to charge it for an hour or so each morning while I shower and go about my morning routine. The ability to have certain iPhone functions on my wrist at all times has become so natural that I don’t think I’d go back to not wearing an Apple Watch. I’ll give some specific real-world situations where I find the Apple Watch Series 6 valuable.

Notifications: I’ve set up my watch to only display texts, calendar information, and a few other important bits of info to keep myself from being overwhelmed. The notifications and alerts I do have enabled ensure that critical bits of information aren’t missed or forgotten; I’m reminded the night before of an early morning meeting for example.

A text from my partner isn’t unseen during a team meeting where I can’t access my phone. A weather or traffic alert before I leave the house is seen while I’m putting my messenger bag together.

Quick replies: The Apple Watch allows users to send quick replies to text messages, and even allows users to create their own custom quick replies. When responding to a text message on the watch, you can choose to scroll through the list of available quick replies with the digital crown.

Some of these are perfect for acknowledging a message when that’s all that’s required. Sending a simple “Got it!” or “Sounds good” when you’re too busy to pull out your phone, unlock it, open the message, type a reply is a time saver for sure.

Phone calls: While not the most frequently used feature of the watch, I do appreciate the ability to take a phone call from my wrist if I need to. I’ve found myself on several occasions with my hands full, or dirty (cooking), and unable to grab my phone. Being able to answer an important phone call without having to set something down, or dry/wash my hands off has been pretty useful.

Car auto start: While not something that Apple includes on a factory-fresh watch, I’ve downloaded the mobile app for my car’s auto start. I can now remotely start and warm up my car from the Apple Watch. It’s a convenient feature when living in a cold climate!

Volume control: When listening to music, podcasts, or watching videos on my iPhone, I can use the digital crown on the watch to adjust the volume. This seems like a really small feature, but it’s become a very handy way to adjust the volume without having to fish around in my pocket for my phone.

ApplePay: I’ve had ApplePay on my iPhone for quite some time. Even my old trusty iPhone 6s had Apple Pay, but I rarely used it. I never saw a need for it. I could pull my wallet out in the same amount of time it took to pull my phone out. With the Apple Watch, double-tapping on the side button enables ApplePay. It’s a quick and convenient way to pay for small things in a contactless way.

Apple Health integration: While the sleep metrics out of the Apple Watch Series 6 aren’t nearly as detailed as other devices, the Series 6 dumps quite a bit of other data into the Apple Health app. If enabled, the watch can use its built-in microphone to sense loud noise and show if you’re exposing yourself to levels loud enough to damage hearing.

Daily activity tracking goes far beyond steps; step length, walking asymmetry, and speed are also captured. I find that the Series 6 populates gaps in my Apple Health data that both Biostrap and Oura miss. Conversely, if you have an Oura Ring, the activities and workouts from your Apple Watch can be automatically imported into the Oura app.

 

How Does It Compare?

Pictured: Biostrap EVO, Apple Watch Series 6, Oura Ring

 

I guess the big question is how does the Apple Watch Series 6 compare to other health-oriented wearables? This, it turns out, is a much harder question than it would appear at first glance. Oura, Biostrap, Whoop, Garmin, and others can track many of the same metrics the watch can.

Yes, many of these alternatives are cheaper. And yes, a few of these options may even provide the user with deeper data. With that said, however, I really feel that fitness-centered biometric wearables such as Oura and Biostrap are really in their own category, with the Apple Watch spilling over into their territory.

It’s hard to really stack the Apple Watch Series 6 up against the Oura and Biostrap because of the potential use-cases. When you buy an Oura or a Biostrap you’re buying a product for a narrow range of uses. Track sleep, track workouts, give health data in a few key areas. The Apple Watch expands upon this and allows integrations far beyond just those simple areas.

Take for example the ability of the Apple Watch to allow 3rd party applications/software. Users can go onto the AppStore and download one of the thousands of new apps to expand the capabilities of their watch.

If Apple’s native sleep tracking isn’t enough for you, apps such as Pillow or Sleep++ are available to download. Apple even suggests these programs inside their own Health app, leaving it up to the user if they want to expand the capabilities themselves.

Take for example HRV; the Apple Watch Series 6 can and does measure HRV, however, this data isn’t easily accessible from either the watch or the iPhone it’s paired to. With an optionally downloaded app from the AppStore, you can configure your AppleWatch to take HRV readings all day long, allowing you to graph and see your heart rate variability over time.

With the right applications loaded onto an Apple Watch Series 6, one could easily match or exceed all the functionality of both Oura and Biostrap. The hardware can take all the same biometric readings (except for body temperature with Oura). Oura wins hands down with battery life of course, and when compared to the Biostrap EVO, I’d say I’m getting about ¾ of the battery life.

The Apple Watch (any series) also integrates into a plethora of fitness software and apps, with Apple’s new Fitness+ platform, the watch becomes a real-time heart rate monitor for workouts.

I think in the end it comes down to what you want out of wearables and how much you want to spend. Do you want a device that can mirror many of your phone’s functions, and act as a fitness tracker? Do you not care about all the expanded functions the watch offers and only care about capturing detailed biometric data? Both Biostrap and Oura can fulfill the latter -- and do it well.

 

Who Is It For?

I think the Apple Watch Series 6 has features and functions for nearly everyone: from busy mothers to adrenaline junkies who like skydiving. The watch’s expansive feature set and tight integration with Apple’s ecosystem make it a slam-dunk for anyone who’s already inside the world of Apple.

And that’s the rub: it’s an Apple-exclusive club. You have to have an iPhone to use the Apple Watch, which means if you use an Android or don’t have a smartphone you’re out of luck. Is it worth switching from Android or another platform? I don’t have any experience with Samsung’s line of smartwatches to really answer that question.

I would say that for iPhone users, the Apple Watch pairs and compliments the phone well, and works equally well on its own.

The Apple Watch Series 6 has so many features (some new, some old) that it makes writing a comprehensive review difficult. Quality of life features like the ability to use the watch as a ‘flashlight’ come in handy in unexpected situations. How do you detail all those tiny little features that Apple has included?

If you already have an Oura or Biostrap and an iPhone, and only care about biometric data and not workouts – your needs are basically already met. You won’t gain a tremendous amount by adding an Apple Watch Series 6. If you like to work out -- the Apple Watch Series 6 offers a host of features and potential uses. Apple is arguably one of the most valuable companies on Earth, and possibly of all time – and the sheer volume of resources they’ve poured into the Apple Watch shows.

Are there limitations? Yes. Are there areas where the watch could be improved? Absolutely. With all that said, if you own an iPhone and don’t have a wearable, the Apple Watch Series 6 makes a compelling case.

 

Should You Buy It?

With all things being equal, there are some downsides to the Apple Watch Series 6:

Price: Yes, it’s more expensive than an Oura or Biostrap, but you’re getting expanded functionality. I’ve listed this as a “con” but it really depends on how you value the additional features of the watch.

Battery: 18 hours under optimal conditions isn’t fantastic, and Oura users might scoff and remind everyone their ring can last three-plus days easily. Then again, I can’t call someone or start my car with my Oura.

Apple only: I think out of all the downsides to the watch, this would be the biggest. Unless you already are an Apple user or are willing to switch the watch won’t be usable for you. Apple makes a big deal about a tight, unified ecosystem with its products and I don’t see a standalone Apple Watch being made compatible with Android or any other platform.

Needs an iPhone: To really get the most from the watch, you need a phone nearby. Yes, the watch can be put into airplane mode to conserve battery and disconnect all wireless transmissions, but it becomes an expensive digital watch. Having the watch paired to a nearby iPhone or opting for the more expensive cellular-enabled watch gives you access to most of the same functions of your iPhone, on your wrist.

The above are all valid points to consider when deciding if you should purchase an Apple Watch Series 6, but I think most of them are perfectly understandable considering what the device inherently is. It’s more than just a sleep/workout tracker, it’s literally a tiny iPhone you wear on your wrist.

Also, consider that Apple doesn’t seem prone to changing the overall physical design of the watch year-to-year. A user can rest assured that an Apple Watch Series 6 bought today, will look as ‘in style’ in years to come. If you’re on the fence about buying your first Apple Watch or thinking about upgrading, I’d say it’s the perfect time to do so.

 

Final Thoughts

I’m excited to see where the Apple Watch goes for Apple. The launch of Fitness+ promises to open an entirely new world of at-home workouts. With each generation, Apple has built upon their feature set, and with the inclusion of blood oxygen readings, faster processing, sleep tracking among others – the Apple Watch really seems to sit nicely inside an all-inclusive health/wellness lifestyle.

The more I wear and use the watch, the more details I notice. Features like the aforementioned “flashlight” are an example of Apple’s obsessive attention to detail. Everything from the way the watch bands are swapped out to how the watch charges are well-designed and just work.

I haven’t yet come across any wonky or half-baked features that feel rushed. The experience of using the watch feels natural, and navigation around the watch feels fluid and smooth. Menus and icons are placed where you’d logically expect them, and I’m sure that even a tech-novice could quickly acclimate to the device.

 

 

Both active and sedentary people alike can find something of value with Apple’s watch. The device isn’t a singularly focused product, and its price and feature set do reflect that fact. The ability to load up the watch with add-on apps makes the watch somewhat unique in the wearable space; neither Oura, Fitbit, Whoop, or Biostrap allows users to expand the core functionality like Apple.

There are rumors swirling around that Apple is looking at implementing even more advanced health features in their next, Series 7 watch. Rumblings exist that Apple may actually include a sensor for blood glucose monitoring, enabling people to track their blood sugar levels through the day. If Apple can pull that off, it would be a monumental addition to an already impressive list of features. 

In the meantime, I'll continue to try and trick my Apple Watch into thinking I'm washing my hands, mystified and a little bit in awe that a piece of wearable consumer technology can detect it!

 

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This blog post was written by David Baker. David has years of biohacking experience with an emphasis on testing gadgets. He's also got 15 years of amateur bodybuilding involvement.

 

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