I've been using the new Apple Watch Series 6 - here's what I noticed right away
- Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 6 on Tuesday, introducing blood-oxygen monitoring among other improvements.
- The watch also comes in new blue and red colour options.
- Overall, the Series 6 seems like a modest improvement over the Series 5, but broadens Apple's health ambitions.
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Apple finally unveiled its anticipated Apple Watch Series 6 on Tuesday, a refreshed model that comes with a faster processor, a slightly brighter always-on display, and the ability to measure blood oxygen levels, among other features.
The Series 6 is Apple's new flagship model, which it launched alongside the Apple Watch SE — a less expensive model that lacks features like an always-on display, an ECG monitor, and the blood oxygen reader.
Overall, the Series 6 appears to be a modest upgrade from the Series 5 that builds on Apple's efforts in health and wellness. The new ability to measure oxygen saturation is the biggest health-oriented upgrade to come since Apple introduced the ability to take an ECG on your Apple Watch with the Series 4.
But Apple isn't the first to offer such a capability; devices from Fitbit, Garmin, and Withings do, too.
Here's a closer look at the Apple Watch Series 6 in the limited time I've used it so far.
The biggest update coming to the Series 6 is the ability to measure oxygen saturation in the blood.
The Apple Watch does this through a new sensor and app. The watch shines red and infrared LED lights through your skin onto the blood vessels inside your wrist.
Photodiodes on the back of the watch determine the colour of your blood, which indicates its oxygen levels, by capturing light that is reflected back from the LEDs.
But the Apple Watch isn't meant to be a medical device, Apple says.
Like the Oura smart ring, which measures pulse and skin temperature and has been used in studies researching whether it can detect COVID-19 symptoms early, the Apple Watch's oxygen saturation readings shouldn't be used for any medical diagnosis.
But it could help wearers keep closer tabs on their general health and potentially get a better understanding of when it's time to see a doctor.
A normal blood oxygen range is between 95% and 100%, and a saturation below that could be a sign of an emergency, according to The World Health Organization.
Taking a blood oxygen reading on the Apple Watch is easy.
Just press the digital crown to launch the app screen, and tap the blood oxygen app icon, which looks like a red and blue circle. Then press "Start," and you'll notice that the watch will begin a 15-second countdown as it takes a reading.
The Apple Watch Series 6 also comes in new colours, like red and navy blue.
Apple is adding two new colors to the Apple Watch lineup with the Series 6: blue and red. These additional colors are available in the aluminum finish only.
I've been trying the blue version, which I've found to be a more colourful option for those who want a watch that's a bit bolder than the silver or space gray option but not quite as loud as red or rose gold.
Apple also debuted a new Solo Loop band for the Apple Watch, pictured above. The band is essentially a stretchable and more malleable version of the traditional Sport band that's been made from liquid silicone rubber.
It's comfortable and makes the process of putting on your watch a bit quicker and more convenient since it doesn't have any buckles or loops. I could easily see this coming in handy when rolling out of bed in the morning before quickly jumping into a workout.
But since it's not adjustable, I did have to move it around on my wrist before finding the area where it fit best.
The Solo Loop is compatible with the Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 4 and newer.
The Series 6's always-on display is brighter than the Series 5's.
The screen on Apple's new watch can shine a little bit brighter when idle.
The company says the display on the Series 6 is up to 2.5 times brighter when in always-on mode compared to that of the Series 5.
This was slightly noticeable during the short time I've spent with the new watch so far. When viewing the two screens side-by-side in always-on mode, numerals on the Series 6's display looked a bit bolder and crisper compared to those on the Series 5.
But I had to really pay attention to notice this change; it's not something that would have been immediately apparent without viewing the two side-by-side.
I imagine this difference could be more obvious when using the watch outdoors, which I'll be testing once I've had more time with it.
Overall, the Apple Watch Series 6 seems like a modest upgrade from the Series 5.
Apple is clearly expanding its health ambitions with the Series 6, but it's also improving the watch in more rudimentary areas. In addition to the brighter display, Apple says the Series 6 should be able to charge faster and offer faster performance. It's also the first Apple Watch to come with the company's U1 chip, which will eventually turn the watch into a digital car key.
Taken together, the changes combined with Apple's plans to launch a new digital fitness service called Apple Fitness Plus provide further evidence that Apple's vision for the watch is all about health.
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