Apple today announced the Apple Watch 6, a refreshed flagship wearable with blood oxygen (SpO2) monitoring, brighter always-on display, and a $399 starting price.
The Apple Watch 6 offers incremental upgrades over its Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch Series 4 predecessors. Though you’d struggle to distinguish the new model by design, Apple has queued up key internal advancements for the Series 6 that reinforce the company’s reputation for releasing the best smartwatches around.
Starting price: $399 (GPS), $499 (GPS + Cellular)
Sizes: 40mm, 44mm
Battery life: 18 hours
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
Music storage: 36GB
Sensors: ECG, SpO2, heart rate, altimeter
While the slimmed-down Apple Watch SE misses out on marquee features like ECG tracking and an always-on display, the Apple Watch 6 gets them all, and then some. Its standout advantage is SpO2 monitoring, although the new S6 chipset with 20% faster performance certainly helps its cause.
The watchOS 7 software update brings more tools, too, including Apple Watch sleep tracking. There’s a slew of new watch faces and watch bands, too.
Here’s everything else you could want to know about Apple Watch 6, including pricing, pre-order information, and new features.
Apple Watch 6 price and pre-order
The Apple Watch 6 starts at $399 for the GPS-only model and $499 for the GPS + cellular variation. The larger 44mm model, meanwhile, will start at $429.
Apple Watch 6 pre-orders begin today, with shipments beginning September 18.
One thing to note, the Apple Watch 6 will not ship with a power adapter as part of the company’s new sustainability initiatives.
Apple Watch 6 design and display
The Apple Watch 6 looks like the last few Apple Watch models, squircle shape, Digital Crown, and all. It looks as sleek as we’ve come to expect — there are still few competing smartwatches that sit as flush to your wrist like an Apple Watch. It comes in colorful blue and Product Red finishes, too.
A rumor switch from OLED to microLED displays didn’t materialize, although the screen once again offers an always-on setting that lets you catch the time at a glance. Apple says the always-on setting is 2-and-a-1/2 times brighter this time.
As a result, the days of raise-to-wake have been pushed farther into the distance.
Apple Watch 6 blood oxygen (SpO2) monitoring
Blood oxygen sensors can measure the oxygen saturation level of blood. As a form of pulse oximetry, SpO2 monitoring in the Apple Watch 6 will let users know when their blood oxygen falls below a certain concentration. A measurement of 95%-100% is considered ideal.
Below-normal levels of blood oxygen concentrations are often indicative of underlying health issues such as sleep apnea. It can also be a symptom of silent hypoxia, a life-threatening condition that can escalate the effects a respiratory illness.
Apple is by no means the first company to integrate SpO2 monitoring into its health features, but you can bet if it’s ready to release its own implementation, the company believes it got it right.
Apple Watch sleep tracking, new fitness features, and other watchOS 7 updates
The watchOS 7 software shipping on the Apple Watch 6 introduces native sleep tracking to the Apple Watch at last. We’ve already tested Apple Watch sleep tracking, and it’s lived up to the hype, more or less. It’s not as insightful as Fitbit’s snooze-monitoring software, but it successfully emphasizes the idea of setting sleep goals and establishing a bedtime routine.
Where Apple is gaining an edge over the best fitness trackers is in its preset workout library. WatchOS 7 adds Dance, Functional Strength Training, Core Training, and Cool Down activity tracking to the Apple Watch arsenal.
A hand-washing timer, mobility metrics and watch face sharing are among the other notable watchOS 7 upgrades.
Apple Watch 6 battery life
The Apple Watch 6 has the same 18-hour battery life as the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 5 before it. We would have liked to see some improvement in this area, but we’ll have to hope a better performance and display quality justify the daily charge.
On the bright side, the Apple Watch 6 can charged to full in 90 minutes.
Apple Watch 6 outlook
We need to test the Apple Watch 6 to see how it lives up to all its claims, and if that S6 results in obvious performance improvements. We’ll want to gauge the accuracy of the new SpO2 monitor, too.
Otherwise, there’s not much different from the Apple Watch 6 vs. Apple Watch 5. Thanks to its clean software, slim design, and seamless ecosystem integration, the company can get away with these gradual Apple Watch upgrades. Customers don’t seem to care if Apple isn’t first to every feature, so long as the continued convenience is there.
The competition is more convincing than ever, though. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and the upcoming Fitbit Sense are just a few of the recent Apple Watch alternatives worth your consideration.