Apple Watch Series 6 review: An upgrade only needed by some

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The Apple Watch is a stellar smartwatch. It truly is the perfect addition to an iPhone user’s life. I wear mine all day everyday (and night) and love that it tracks and collects all the data and I need it to. Most importantly, it provides me all the information in a comprehensive manner. I’ve been using the Apple Watch for about two years now. Since the Series 4, Apple has made updates to the Apple Watch but the issues that their upgrades might just not be good enough to compel someone.

The Apple Watch Series 6 come into being last month along with a new iPad and iPad Air. The headline feature on the new Series 6 is the Blood Oxygen measurement. Starting at the same Dh1599 price, is the Apple Watch Series 6 worth your time? Let’s break that down.

Apple Watch Series 6

Body and Build

On somebody’s wrist you wouldn’t notice an Apple Watch Series 6 unless they’ve bought the new Blue or Red colours or you saw the red light shining from under the watch from the SpO2 monitor. It comes with the same square shape with rounded corners. It’s got the same Digital Crown on the right side with the Power Button below it.

Only on the bottom you would notice a difference in the new Apple Watch. The heart-rate sensors are now positioned along with the blood oxygen sensors in a sort of octagon under the Apple Watch. There still remains a bit of a bump where the sensors are and this corner dust get real dirty with daily doses of sweat and the UAE’s dust.

Weighing somewhere in the 30+ grams range (depending on size and metal quality), the Series 6 is also 5ATM certified. So if you need the Apple Watch to be there when you’re swimming, that won’t be a problem.

While the lack of any sort of change on the design is a bit of a bummer, it’s also a situation where if it ain’t broke, don’t change it. Available in 40mm and 44mm sizes for varying wrist sizes, the Apple Watch Series 6’s body still does the job and pretty well if I might add. The body is comfortable on the wrist (even at night) and doesn’t really nag the hand in various positions.

All this begin said, I’m a pretty clumsy user and constantly bang my wrist on walls and doors as I walk along. So I did make the extra investment of getting myself a RhinoSheild bumper for my Apple Watch all the way back with my Series 4. Thanks to Apple’s lack of design innovation, it works perfectly well with my Series 6 too.

Display

The display on the Apple Watch Series 6 picks up where the Series 5 left off. The gorgeous OLED display is crisp, clear and an absolute pleasure to look at. As an OLED, it produces some amazing contrast between the black and colours.

The Series 6 display also comes with Always-on like its predecessor. This makes it easier and faster for you to view the time or any notification whenever you want.

When I moved from my Series 4 to Series 5 (where the featured was introduced), I noticed a lot of battery-drain thanks to the feature. That seems to have been addressed on the Series 6. Looking at time at a glance is definitely easier and quicker. If you’re not an Apple Watch (or any smartwatch user) I understand if you’re cynical about this point but trust me, it makes a huge difference.

The one issue I have with the feature is that the display in it’s dimmer always-on mode isn’t as dim as you’d think. In darker scenarios it’s still pretty bright and in most cases you need to use theatre mode to get the display off for a bit.

Fitness

Now a huge reason you’re going to consider an Apple Watch (or any smartwatch for that matter) will be the fitness features. The Apple Watch along with watchOS in my opinion is one of the best overall fitness experiences you can get.

Blood Oxygen Monitor

Now while the Blood Oxygen (SpO2) sensor on the Apple Watch is its headline feature, it’s nothing something to buy the Apple Watch Series 6 for. I do understand it’s importance of Blood Oxygen measurement in sport as well as for people with certain ailments, but Apple themselves doesn’t advertise the Apple Watch as a medical product.

You can measure the level of oxygen in your blood manually through the watch or check the Health app for measurements taken through the day. What’s most important about this feature is the data it provides and nothing more. If you do find fluctuations in your measurements (for example, if you blood oxygen level drops below 95% regularly), you can make the decision to go meet your doctor and find out what is causing the same.

Also, I would find this feature much more useful if I would’ve received notifications for measurements as well as anything alarming in my SpO2 level.

ECG

Now the Apple Watch recently received approval from the Ministry of Health & Prevention here in the UAE as medical devices as far as the ECG feature and irregular heart rhythm notification are concerned.

I personally haven’t had to use the feature or had any alerts for the same but the Apple Watch Series 6 is the only device in the region to come with the approval (as of 20/10/2020) and might just be a life-saver for you if you’re suffering from a heart condition and in some cases, even if you’re not.

Other features

Now the the exercise catalogue, GPS and heart rate sensor on the Apple Watch Series 6 (and others available) should satisfy most active users. For example, most runners and cyclists I know prefer a Garmin and that is understandable. It’s way more precise and comes with the glitz and glamour of the Apple Watch.

Now while the Apple Watch’s accuracy can be contested, I don’t mind its minor inaccuracies as someone who just exercises to stay fit. For example, when worn in comparison to a Huawei GT2 during a recent Badminton game, I found that the Apple Watch considered me to have had a much more strenuous game (which I didn’t).

Fitness+

By the end of the year Apple is said to announce Fitness+. Yet another subscription-based service from the company which will offer Apple Watch users the option to get customized workouts with ‘personal’ trainers and much more.

I only mention this in my review because I genuinely think this is something to look forward to for Apple Watch Series 6 users. For more details on Fitness+, click here.

WatchOS 7

Now while I won’t delve into all the new features of WatchOS 7, there are a whole lot of new additions I love.

Firstly, I love that your iPhone now shows you a notification when your Apple Watch is fully charged.

Secondly, sleep tracking is a good addition. Now I’ve used the AutoSleep app for 2 years now. It’s tracking of my sleep has been incredible and the details are immense but the app is extremely difficult to use and comprehend. Apple’s integrated sleep tracking doesn’t have the same amount of detail but it definitely makes going to sleep an easier task.

For example, my sleep time is set from 1AM to 8AM. At 12AM, the Apple Watch and iPhone go into Do not disturb mode. The DND settings can obviously be customized in the settings. I don’t know about everyone, but my wind down time has definitely gotten better since using the feature.

Lastly, hand-washing detection. Now this is a highly gimmicky feature and barely works 4 out of 10 times but when it does, I did like the little nudge to wash my hands properly and for longer. In these crazy times, it’s a cute little bonus.

For for a complete look at the new features of Apple WatchOS 7, click here.

Updated sensors on the back of the new Apple Watch Series 6 (From left to right: Apple Watch Series 6, Series 5 and Series 4)

Battery life

Now my biggest bone to pick with Apple is about the battery-life on the Apple Watch. The battery on the Apple Watch Series 6 lasts me over the promised 18 hours by the brand at just under 24 hours but this is not enough.

While brands like Huawei and Fitbit have moved to almost 1 week batteries, the Apple Watch remains far behind. Now there’s a reason why this happens. Apple wants you to have a smartwatch that provides you everything you need at all time. This is where I feel that Apple needs to give some battery-saving options for us battery-obsessed nuts out there. A few features switch offs or a little customization to enable at least 2-3 day battery-life.

Listen, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got a full-scale schedule now and am practically never out of battery (specially in these heavily indoor times) but these came with adjustments. For example, I never leave my house without either my Apple Watch charger or my Apple Watch battery-pack (oh yeah! I have one of those!).

To summarise, give us more battery on the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple!

Should you buy one?

Beyond all the nitpicking, the Apple Watch Series 6 is an amazing smart watch. The smart watch comes with a great display, an immense collection of fitness trackers and an abundance of apps on its own App Store.

If you’re an intense athlete or are looking for the Apple Watch for serious medical conditions, I would suggest sticking with industry specific tech. I also don’t suggest the device for anyone with the Apple Watch Series 4 or 5. I don’t it’s a worthy upgrade unless you’ve got a major issue with your current one.

For anyone outside of the above mentioned reasons, the Apple Watch Series 6 is definitely a worthy purchase. If you’ve got the Apple Watch Series 3 or below, upgrade. If you’ve got an older smartwatch or maybe want to upgrade from a fitness band, upgrade. if you want a smart watch that syncs absolutely perfectly with your iPhone, get one.

The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at Dh1599 and is available in Apple.com and all major leading retail outlets in the UAE.