Apple’s latest smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 6, gives us almost every feature you could ask for in a training track while confirming Apple Watch’s position as the funniest, most connected and complete smartwatch experience.
To be fair, the Apple Watch Series 5 also held these distinctions in its day. You could argue that the same is true of annual releases later in Apple Watch history. But with the Series 6 addition of native sleep tracking and blood oxygen measurements to complement the already solid training foundation, there is not much more you can ask for in a training track or smartwatch at this time. So, to sweeten the deal, Apple finally gave us some fun colors to keep our eyes wandering. And at the company̵
With the Series 6 and SE sitting alongside the even less expensive and still available Apple Watch Series 3, we now have a hard time telling anyone to buy another smartwatch instead of one from Apple. Instead, the more pressing question in 2020 is “Which one?”
All around improved performance and a little much needed flare
Apple Watch Series 6
As Apple does every year, it promised a full 6 hours of battery life, and as always, even with the introduction of new features, the company delivers. The whole day means about 18 hours for Apple, and in my experience – with exercise, sleep tracking and moderate use – it can easily meet the 24-hour mark.
It is with the inclusion of two improved features that are always on – altimeter and the now brighter always on the screen. The previous generation altimeter was only activated during specific activities or apps, but now it keeps track of the background around the clock for “more accurate calculations,” says Apple. As for the always-on screen, which was first introduced in the Series 5, the Series 6’s outdoor brightness is amplified to 2.5 times brighter when the wrist is down, making a significant difference for information about a moment, be it workouts or just to see the time, compared to Series 5.
Fortunately, Apple has achieved this while not only maintaining battery life all day, but also reducing charging time and achieving 20 percent faster processing speeds during Series 5. This improvement comes thanks to better efficiency on Apple’s latest S6 system-in-pack (Nippe) . Faster processing speeds will not be something you are likely to notice, but you will appreciate the faster charging times of the Series 6. Apple says that the Series 6 now takes 90 minutes to charge from zero to 100 and an hour to recover from zero to 80 percent, as opposed to the two-hour zero-to-100 charge needed for Series 5.
This is on a par with our experience, and turns off a little over half an hour of charging time from the previous generation. It may not sound like much, but getting an almost full charge from death to 80 percent in an hour or leaving 30 minutes more to fill up, makes me like Series 6 much more. Swiping the battery just before bedtime or a dead clock just before you need to run out the door is no longer the case.
When it comes to charging, you may have heard that Apple Watches will not come with a 5-watt wall adapter this year. If this is the case, you will need to grab your own USB-A-equipped adapter to connect the charging cable Apple is sending you. Apple’s thoughts here are, of course, to create less waste. So in general we are on board with this – it is highly likely that you have one (or many) of these lying somewhere, anyway.
We are all for more performance, improved battery life and saving the world, but one of the first things that will attract some people to this watch is the new colors. Our navy blue test unit has an informal look that can be more or less muted with different band matings. (PRODUCT) RED aluminum bag highlights a sexier, sportier aesthetic while still being decently versatile.
Of course you also have the classic aluminum options space gray, silver and [rose] gold (the latter is listed as gold, but it is definitely pink) as we have seen before. Stainless steel options in graphite, silver and gold, as well as titanium offerings in gray and silver are still available. This provides the highest number of color options ever for the Apple Watch series, with 10 custom colors.
Although these new colors bring the Apple Watch aesthetic to a little much-needed (especially in red), it basically looks like the first Apple Watch launched five years ago, which at this point at least looks uninspiring. Although this aesthetic has become synonymous with the brand, it is still no prettier on the wrist than any of the favorite rides or hybrid smartwatches, mainly due to the square shape that has been largely unchanged since 2015.
Customization via the extensive strap options has always been Apple Watch’s strong suit, and the new Solo Loop straps provide another alternative to the wardrobe. They come in either pure silicone or silicone wrapped in woven polyester, and these have a simple, continuous band that simply extends over the hand when you want to put it on or take it off. I am someone with relatively large hands, but bone-thin wrists, and the material Solo loop slides relatively over my hand while I stay quite comfortable on the wrist.
These bands come in integer sizes from one to 12, and Apple offers a print size tool on the website. The tool only recommends a size five when I am pulled around the wrist as close as possible, but of course you do not want the watch to fit you like that all the time. Luckily, Apple sent me a size six, which is perfect for use around the clock. I can move it up and down in my wrist, between two and three inches, but it stays where I place it quite comfortably.
I prefer almost no movement when I train, so this is where the included sports band we know from previous years is useful. In fact, I would recommend using this strap or another that only fits one more smoothly than the Solo loop, if you want the most constant oxygen monitoring of blood. The sensor only measures when the clock fits correctly. For my needs, the sensor has given me enough measurements throughout the day, but knows that there are some gaps in passive measurement, probably due to less than ideal fit.