Executive Editor, MacworldSEP 15, 2020 5:00 am PDT
As expected, Apple launched a new Apple Watch Series 6 at its Time Flies event, bringing a new high-end wearable to join an inaugural mid-range model and a brand-new service that’s powered by Apple’s iconic wearable.
But while it might not seem like the Series 6 is a huge upgrade, it’s actually bigger than it seems. Here’s why:
Apple’s Blood O2 sensor is better than Fitbit’s
As rumored, the Apple Watch Series 6 can measure the oxygen levels in your blood, thanks to a new sensor that uses red and infrared light to calculate the color of your blood and determine its oxygen level. Unlike Fitbit devices, which obly measure your blood-oxygen levels while you sleep, on the new Apple Watch you can take a Blood O2 reading in just 15 seconds at any time of day.
The display is better than ever
Apple launched a new, larger display with the Series 4, and an always-on option with the Series 5. With the Series 6, it’s even better. Apple says the always-on display on the Series 6 is 2.5 times brighter when your wrist is down, one of the complaints we had with the Series 5. With a new, efficient S6 chip, the battery life won’t suffer.
You (kind of) don’t need an iPhone to use it
While we’re still not quite at full iPhone independence, Apple has introduced a new way for families to set up Apple Watches for people who don’t have an iPhone, such as kids, parents or, we suppose, Android users. While those watches won’t work in quite the same way—for one, you’ll need a cellular connection—they’ll be able to enjoy most of the same features, including the App Store, Messages, Maps, Apple Pay, Music, and of course, fitness tracking. It even has a new Schooltime feature that displays a yellow circle in the watch face “for teachers and parents to easily recognize, signifying that access to apps is restricted and Do Not Disturb is turned on.”
The new faces appear very useful
Apple always offers up some new faces with every Watch launch, but this year’s crop isn’t just about cartoon characters and colors. A bunch of new watch faces will bring a slew of useful looks and styles, including:
GMT, which displays multiple time zones with a focus on where you are
Chronograph Pro, which adds a series of digital dials including a tachymeter for measuring speed
Typograph, which brings four new typestyles and scripts
Stripes, which lets you add any color combination you want
Memoji faces, and an animated and interactive collaboration with Geoff McFetridge
That’s much better than Woody and Buzz.
The watch is vital to Apple’s new service
Alongside the new hardware, Apple also launched a new $10-a-month Fitness+ service that offers 10 types of workouts (yoga, cycling, dance, treadmill walk and run, strength, core, hit, rowing, and cool down) and Apple Music integration. Fitness+ is “powered by the Apple Watch,” automatically syncing when you start a workout on an iPhone or Apple TV, and using the metrics recorded on your wrist to guide your workout.
There are actual colors now
With the Series 6 Watch, Apple isn’t just relying on the bands to bring character. For the first time, you can get the Apple Watch in a variety of colors, including blue and Product Red. There are also new gold and graphite stainless steel varieties.
The new bands are very cool
Along with the new Apple Watch Series colors, all Apple Watch users can take advantage of the new bands available for sale. There are the swim-proof and stretchable solo loop band and braided solo loop with no clasp, buckle, or overlapping materials that come in multiple colors, as well as the leather link band that uses magnets to adjust to your wrist.
You don’t have to pay for it up front
We never know what Apple is going to do with the prices of its new products, but the Apple Watch Series 6 starts at the same $399 as the Series 5. The 44mm model costing $429, and cellular adds $100. If you have an Apple Card, you can spread the purchase out over 24 months with no interest, so it could cost less than $17 a month. That’s a pretty nice perk.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.