Apple Watch Series 6 Review (Still the ULTIMATE Smartwatch)


The latest flagship Apple smartwatch is fantastic as always, but how much better is it compared to its predecessor? What new features are there?

Apple Watch Series 6 main screen

FEATURES:

  • New processor, better always-on screen
  • Blood oxygen tracker, ECG, noise monitoring, hand washing timer
  • New straps
  • Excellent integration of emails and texts
  • Great voice assistant, Siri
  • Informative watch faces

I have always lauded the Apple Watch Series 5 as the best smartwatch that I have ever used. I still believe that the Apple Watch is the ultimate smartwatch.

The Apple Watch Series 6 proves no different. I love it.

The Apple Watch is a marvel of a smartwatch. In a compact, 40mm watch case, you get a full-fledged smartwatch. No compromises on battery life or features. No other manufacturer has made such a compact watch that’s so feature rich.

It was really exciting to receive it. I loved the Apple Watch Series 5. Now, I wanted to know everything about the Series 6 because I know it’s going to surprise and delight me.

So much so that I downgraded from my top-of-the-line Samsung phone to the iPhone 8 just to do this review. Apple Watches do not pair with anything but iPhones, in case you don’t know.

Apple Watch Series 6 heart rate sensor blood oxygen sensor

What’s new?

I love going to the landing pages of products in order to find out what the marketing departments think of their products.

The highlights that I got from the Apple Watch Series 6 landing page is that the most important feature is the Blood O2 feature.

Flip the Apple Watch Series 6 over and you’ll notice four new LEDs. They’re red and they are meant to measure the blood-oxygen saturation.

Apple Watch Series 6 display

The marketing video that Apple has produced about the Series 6 is that it’s a tool from the future that helps you track many statistics to improve your health and lifestyle.  In order, it highlights its sleep tracking, irregular heart rates warning, noise monitoring, ECG, altimeter, activity coaching, SOS feature and blood oxygen level.

There are some other improvements including new watch straps (including the Solo Loop which does not have any latch/clasp mechanism). You also get the new S6 processor that’s faster, 5GHz WiFi and apparently a brighter always-on display.

Blood O2

It’s the flagship feature but one that has also caused a lot of talk from pundits.

The Blood O2 sensor shines light through your wrist and a sensor uses the data to determine your oxygen saturation.

The Blood O2 function runs in the background and periodically measures you blood oxygen saturation.

The first time I encountered this feature was on the Garmin Fenix 6. That watch uses it to measure how acclimatized you are to changes in altitude.

Apple has this to say about why it’s important, “Your blood 

oxygen level is a key indicator of your overall wellness. It can help you understand how well your body is absorbing oxygen, and the amount of oxygen delivered to your body.”

Apple Watch Series 6 blood o2 app

They also say, “Blood Oxygen app measurements are not intended for medical use, including self-diagnosis or consultation with a doctor, and are only designed for general fitness and wellness purposes.”

I couldn’t find any real direction as to what I could use this information for.

One pundit who I trust is Dave Lee who makes YouTube videos about tech. He says he didn’t find the wrist reading to be reliable. Cross-referencing it with a real pulse oximeter that reads off the finger, he observed that the Apple Watch Series 6’s reading is off. He says that the readings are more accurate on a meatier part of the body, such as on the fingertip.

I tried reading off my fingertip and then on the wrist and found the readings to differ about 2 per cent at max, and twice in my experiment I got the same number from a reading on the wrist as well as on the fingertip.

Always-on display

It strikes me as confusing that I have to write a section about the always-on display being a feature.

This is a bit like how widgets are a “new” feature in the iOS 14 when Androids have had them since time immemorial.

But even Apple’s new Apple Watch SE does not have an always-on display, while smartwatches running Google’s Wear OS have had them since I first started using them.

Not having an always-on display is a deficiency in this day and age.

Luckily the Apple Watch Series 6 has an always-on display that you can turn off if you want to go back to the Dark Ages.

I will never buy a smartwatch without an always-on screen. Simply because I want to be able to tell the time without having to jerk my wrist to wake the screen up.

The Apple Watch Series 6 has a new, brighter screen that allows you to see details better than its predecessor. That’s good, and I haven’t noticed any severe drop in battery life as compared to the Apple Watch Series 5.

Battery Life

Count on having a full day’s worth of battery power , stretching to a day and a half.

If you are using its internal GPS, you can cut that down to one full day.

The battery life is good and more or less runs within my expectations for a LED screen. Most smartwatches running these displays require daily charging and I would say the Apple Watch Series 6 is on par.

Display

My mother and my teachers have always warned me to not touch electronic switches when my hands were wet.

I never understood why. I kept doing it.

But recently, thanks to the Apple Watch Series 6, I learned why.

Because once the screen comes in contact with water, it goes all wonky and bonkers.

It has ended my workouts thanks to my wet sleeve. It has almost downloaded some app. It has customized my watch face for me.

Oddly enough, such a sensitive screen wouldn’t respond to my taps when I am wearing summer gloves (for protection while biking).

Sad but true.

I couldn’t tell the difference between the Series 6 and its predecessor. They’re both very sharp screens, bright and full of vivid colour. A bit like the day the pandemic ends.

Wash your hands

Talking about pandemic, did I tell you that Apple has the most impressive hand washing timer app?

Google’s Wear OS has a hand washing timer but it doesn’t activate automatically.

Apple’s does. And that’s very impressive because it’s so convenient. I have never used the hand washing app on the Wear OS because it’s too much hassle.

You also get data in the iPhone Health app on the average amount of time you spend per hand wash. I spend about 6 seconds each time, far shorter than the 20 second recommended, and I wouldn’t have known until I got the Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple Watch Series 6 texts

Apple Watch Series 6 sleep tracking

Sleep tracking

Sleep tracking is a feature that I really like to have on my smartwatches. I am a night person, most productive at 12am, but that is problematic because I work a day job. I need to sleep when it’s 12am.

What I need is a sleep coach, but I know of nobody whose role is to cajole you to go to bed earlier. But the Apple Watch Series 6 can coax you.

There’s this Wind Down mode which I find very useful. It suggests to you that it’s time to wind down. It reduces distractions and also turns on Do Not Disturb mode 45 minutes before your bedtime.

More than anything, it’s a good reminder to get off YouTube, Reddit, Facebook and Instagram.

Sleep tracking is good. It tells you when you started going to bed and when you woke up. Unlike other smartwatches, the Apple Watch does not tell you about how deep your sleep is. But it does keep tabs on your heart rate 

ECG app

All Apple Watches since the Series 4 have had access to the ECG app. So, this means that, of the watches that Apple is selling currently, the Series 3 and Apple Watch SE do not have these features.

It’s not really a feature that can help me improve my life but hey, it’s nice to have. Also, this feature is not available in all countries.

The ECG app uses an electrical heart sensor on the side of the crown and checks for irregular rhythms or atrial fibrillation (aFib). I have gotten the safe outcome, which is called sinus rhythm, but if you have any signs of aFib, the app will tell you and you can take this information to a doctor.

Also, if your heart rate suddenly skyrockets while you’re inactive, it will send you an irregular rhythm notification.

Cellular

The latest Apple Watch also comes with a cellular option that you can buy. With cellular connectivity, you can do make calls, use Apple Music and other tasks without being connected to WiFi or without tethering onto your smartphone’s LTE connection. It’s all very amazing because this means your smartwatch is now a cell phone with more power than any phone from the 2000s. Amazing.

Texting on the Apple Watch Series 6

Texting on the Apple Watch Series 6 is a real delight. Emails are even better.

I love how I can see images in my texts whether it be from Facebook Messenger or from iMessage. Few platforms can display images in texts like the Apple Watch can.

I like that because that saves me the hassle of taking my Apple iPhone out to look at the message.

What I love even more is how fast everything is. When I reply to a message, it takes almost no time to go into the speech to text mode.

Apple Watch Series 6 input methods

The speech to text mode is the most important input method on a smartwatch. I can never be bothered to draw letters or use a keyboard to type in a custom message. I would much rather just use my phone at that point.

And sometimes, the pre-composed messages just don’t cut it.

One of the best things about Apple Watches is how fast they enter into speech to text mode. It’s almost instantaneous. Apple’s system also has the advantage of being one of the most accurate transcribers out there which takes context into consideration. 

Sometimes, I would see that the Apple Watch has the wrong word, but once it considers the full message, it will change into the correct word. A real sigh of relief there!

Apple Watch Series 6 emails

Emails

Emails are even better. I don’t know of any other smartwatch that does it so well.

One of my biggest gripes with the Wear OS, Fitbit OS and Samsung’s Tizen OS is that they’re just not good at displaying emails.

You get plain text emails with those platforms. No formatting. You’ll be reading a blob of text with titles, subheadings and the main body all crumpled into one.

Whereas with the Apple Watch, you can actually see the email as it would be displayed on your phone — images, formatting and layout — all included.

That’s great because I believe if a smartwatch can help you get things done quicker, without needing to reach for your phone, it has successfully accomplished its role.

Apple Watch Series 6 calls

Phone calls

Speakerphone is one of the best things ever.

It allows me to continue doing my work while talking to a colleague. It allows me to check on other things while having a casual chat.

Now imagine if the speakerphone were on your wrist. That’s so convenient.

Lugging a massive phone around is a pain. With the Apple Watch Series 6 strapped on your wrist, you will always be able to hear and chat on the phone.

Phone call quality is good on both sides of the call and that’s pretty impressive because of how small the watch is.

Apple Watch Series 6 apps

Apps

The Apple App Store is huge. It really rivals the Wear OS’s Google Play Store in terms of variety.

An interesting thing here is that you can get both Google Maps and Apple Maps. But unlike Google Maps on the Wear OS, you can’t really do much on the Apple Watch. You can’t browse or search for places. 

Whereas Apple Maps gives you all of those abilities. I haven’t had much experience with Apple Maps so I can’t speak as to whether it’s good, bad or satisfactory. All I know is that I’d rather use Google Maps.

Apple Watch Series 6 Siri

Siri is a great voice assistant

Siri is GREAT.

It understands you most of the time. It’ll start timer. It’ll start a workout. It’ll tell you the weather. You can ask Siri for directions. 

And unlike the Wear OS, it reliably responds to “Hey Siri” commands. You can also raise your watch to your mouth and give it commands.

This is great. It’s like having a virtual assistant.

Siri also has different accents you can choose from. South African, Indian, Australian, American or British. Male or Female. These are really amusing and gives Siri a personality.

If you throw Siri some random question, like “What is the Planck constant?” Siri will search the web for you. I asked Siri some inane questions like, “I want to know what love is” and indeed, Siri gave me the Wikipedia entry for Foreigner’s song. But if you throw it lyrics from Linkin Park, “I wanna run away, never say goodbye”, Siri just said “I’m sorry.” It’s amusing how Siri interprets different contexts.

Apple Watch Series 6 workouts

Workouts

I really enjoy using the Apple Watch Series 6 to track my workouts.

The main reason I love it is because I find the interface to be so attractive.

The Fitness app on the iPhone is just so pretty with its colourful interface. The data you get is just OK.

You don’t really get much analysis from your workout. For example, the Workout app doesn’t tell you which heart rate zones you’re in. Nor does it have some coaching functionality like the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 has (it has a running coach).

Apple Watch Series 6 exercise choice

Apple is set to roll out Fitness+ soon. It’s a subscription service which employs the Apple Watch as a tool for coaching purposes. It’s a haze right now but soon we’ll know.

The Activity rings are also very attractive. They’re hot pink, green and cyan rings that track your progress in accomplishing your move, exercise and standing goals. They even give you badges to commemorate achievements! 

The Apple Watch Series 6 is water resistant enough that you can take it for a swim. I took it into the ocean and it seems fine.

Apple Watch Series 6 watch faces

Verdict

The Apple Watch Series 6 is an excellent smartwatch. I love it so much I’d go a few more days suffering the iPhone 8.

Siri was very impressive. The email and texting abilities of the WatchOS were fantastic. The integration between smartphone and smartwatch was excellent.

The watch is also very attractive. I love how it looks.

However, I have also used the Apple Watch Series 5 and I really have to say, I can’t find anything significantly different between the Series 5 and the 6. 

The new health features are nice to have but I don’t find them that useful. I definitely wouldn’t buy the Series 6 if I could buy the Series 5. The blood oxygen tracker is nice to have but I don’t know what to use it for.

But yes, you can’t buy the Series 5 anymore, so Series 6 it is. 

Overview
  • Design
  • Ease-of-Use
  • Battery
  • Comfort
  • Features
  • Speed
  • Price
4.6

FAQs

Are the Apple Watch Series 6 waterproof?

Yes, they are water resistant to 50 metres.

Can the Apple Watch Series 6 make calls?

Yes, they can. In fact, the call quality is really good and you’ll enjoy having this feature for when you’re away from phone and need to answer a call.

Can the Apple Watch Series 6 work with Android?

No, Apple Watches do not work with Androids and neither does the Series 6.

Can the apple watch series 6 pair with iPhone 6

No. The new Apple Watch Series 6 is not compatible with the iPhone 6 because its OS is too old.

Can the Apple Watch Series 6 track sleep?

Yes, but it’s not as good as some platforms which tell you whether you’re in REM, deep or light sleep. The Apple Watch only tells you the amount of time you’re asleep.

Does the Apple Watch Series 6 come with a charger?

Sort of. You get the wireless charging cable but not a power adapter/wall charger with a USB outlet.

Comparisons

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5

While I know there are some differences between the two, when it comes to day to day use, I can’t tell where the differences are.

Yes, I read that there’s a brighter screen, a new blood oxygen sensor and other new snazzy features on the Apple Watch Series 6, but replying to messages, calls and apps all feel the same.

If you can get the Apple Watch Series 5 for cheaper, it’s great value for money. If not, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a great smartwatch for iPhone users.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Fitbit Sense

They’re both great smartwatches but if you are using an iPhone, I really don’t think the Fitbit Sense will be able to beat the Apple Watch.

Both smartwatches have the same type of look. A nice, curvy, compact look with a lot of modern features. They’re also very comfortable to sleep while wearing because of their compact size and curved bottoms.

The major difference between the two is their price, then the ability to respond to calls and messages, which are not possible on the Fitbit when paired to an iPhone but possible on the Apple Watch Series 6.

Oh, and on the Fitbit Sense, you are able to measure your electrodermal response (a stress measurement) and also your skin temperature. Very edgy metrics, but also very hard to find a use for these metrics too.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Fitbit Versa 3

The Fitbit Versa 3 offers great value for money. It’s a scaled down version of the Fitbit Sense. Much of the Fitbit Sense’s pros apply here, except it doesn’t have the EDA function and does not measure skin temperature. It’s honestly better value for money.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Ticwatch Pro 3

The new Ticwatch Pro 3 is a marvel of a Wear OS smartwatch with features like blood oxygen monitoring, noise measurement and sleep tracking. Its features are really up there with the Apple Watch Series 6 except that it doesn’t have an ECG app.

That said, the Ticwatch Pro 3’s dual layer screen gives it really good battery life. It will outlast the Apple Watch Series 6.

Unfortunately, the Ticwatch Pro 3 suffers from the typical issues that non-Apple Watches have when paired with iPhones. Calls cannot be answered on the watch (besides, the Ticwatch Pro 3’s sound quality isn’t that good), nor can you reply to messages and emails.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Suunto 7

The Suunto 7 is a sports focused watch which I really like. Its crowning feature is its offline maps and its Suunto app. The offline maps really make kayaking in the sea or mountain biking a lot easier because you will always have a map with you on your wrist. Having the Suunto app also gives you a good idea of how intense your workout was.

But because you will probably be paired to the iPhone, it means the Suunto 7 loses a lot of the reason why I like it. For example, I enjoy exercising and being able to reply to messages without using my phone as it’s tucked away in somewhere a bit hard to access. When paired to an Android, this isn’t a problem.

The Suunto 7 is also commanding Apple Watch money without being as good, so if I really wanted a sports smartwatch, I would look to the Garmin Fenix 6.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Garmin Fenix 6

The Apple Watch Series 6 and the Garmin Fenix 6 are two different beasts.

The Garmin Fenix 6 has offline maps, a super long battery life and a great app that can analyze your workouts and give you coaching for your next race, but it has no touchscreen, no speaker, no microphone and basically just loses dearly to the Apple Watch Series 6‘s productivity features.

I still wear the Garmin Fenix 6 often because it’s an amazing smartwatch. However, if I had a watch that I had to wear for day to day productivity enhancement, it’ll be the Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Polar Grit X

The Polar Grit X is for people who want a watch that is 100% geared towards sports, particularly running. The Polar Grit X comes with many useful features like a VO2Max measurement feature, running plan generators and great battery life.

The downside is that it’s not very good at enhancing your productivity. The Polar Grit X included a weather app and that was the extent of its productivity improvements in this generation of Polar watches. I think most people will be happy with the Apple Watch Series 6 unless you’re at the bleeding edge of athleticism and need a watch to push you further.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Ticwatch C2/E2/S2

The Ticwatch C2, Ticwatch E2 and Ticwatch S2 are pretty much the same watch and right off the bat, they are all very affordable.

They tell the time, have decent productivity features and gives you access to Google Assistant. They also have about a day’s worth of battery life. Good!

The Apple Watch Series 6 can do all of that, but better. Having better hardware and better integration with the iPhone, you can do more and at a more comfortable pace. These Ticwatches have lag issues sometimes because their hardware is pretty old and outdated.

Overall, the Ticwatch C2/E2/S2 are great smartwatches for the entry level consumer. I’d still go with the Apple Watch Series 6 though.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle

The Fossil Gen 5 series are really good smartwatches that come in different styles and I like that Fossil has considered that. The hardware is adequate and the features from the Wear OS operating system is great.

Same ol’ issues, though. When paired with an iPhone, you can’t reply to messages or emails. But Fossil has managed to get the Fossil Gen 5 watches to be able to accept and answer calls (but not make calls) on the watch, so you can talk without having your phone nearby.

Still, the Apple Watch Series 6 is much better. I’d go for it.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Fossil Sport Smartwatch

The Fossil Sport Smartwatch is an amazing smartwatch for its price because it runs the Wear OS and therefore gives you access to a lot of great productivity features and useful apps.

The Fossil Sport’s biggest problem is its poor battery life. It won’t even last a day if you have the always on screen turned on or if you use any battery intensive feature for even the slightest amount of time (for example, software updates).

I would not recommend the Fossil Sport to anyone but the most budget conscious person. It’s a great watch hampered by its lack of ability to last through a day. Then it becomes a regular watch only capable of telling the time. Luckily it’s also very small, light and compact as a traditional digital watch would be.