The annual update of the Apple Watch smartwatch, unlike the iPhone 12, came in time: the pandemic did not prevent the company from releasing the sixth generation of the gadget and the seventh version of the operating system. True, the differences between the new item and its predecessor were not so significant. But it is all the more interesting to figure out how successful the improvements that are here are, and at the same time to get acquainted with monobralets, which caused, perhaps, even more controversy than the watch itself.
But for clarity, here are the characteristics of the Apple Watch Series 6 in comparison with the previous generation.
|Apple Watch Series 6||Apple Watch Series 5|
|Screen||rectangular, flat, AMOLED, 1.57 ″, 324 × 394 (325 ppi) / 1.78 ″, 368 × 448 (326 ppi)||rectangular, flat, AMOLED, 1.57 ″, 324 × 394 (325 ppi) / 1.78 ″, 368 × 448 (326 ppi)|
|Material||stainless steel, titanium, ceramics (all – not available in Russia), recycled aluminum||stainless steel, titanium, ceramics (all – not available in Russia), recycled aluminum|
|Sensors||constant barometric altimeter, new generation accelerometer, new generation gyroscope, electric heart rate sensor, optical heart rate sensor, ambient light sensor, compass, pulse oximeter (SpO2)||barometric altimeter, next generation accelerometer, next generation gyroscope, electric heart rate sensor, optical heart rate sensor, ambient light sensor, compass|
|SoC (CPU)||Apple S6, 2 cores||Apple S5, 2 cores|
|Communication||Wi-Fi 5 GHz, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, Galileo, QZSS, LTE via eSIM (optional, not available in Russia)||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, Galileo, QZSS, LTE via eSIM (optional, not available in Russia)|
|Microphone, speaker||there is|
|Protection||5 atm (immersion to a depth of 50 meters)|
|operating system||watchOS 7.0||watchOS 6.0 (update available to watchOS 7.0)|
|Built-in storage capacity||32 GB||32 GB|
|Dimensions (mm)||40 × 34 × 10.7 / 44 × 38 × 10.7||40 × 34 × 10.7 / 44 × 38 × 10.7|
So, you can see that the screen remains the same in terms of characteristics as before, and the dimensions have not changed at all.
The main changes are in the sensors list: there is a pulse oximeter for measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood and a continually working altimeter. Wi-Fi supports 5 GHz (thanks to the new Apple S6 chip).
Apple Watch Series 6: Whats included in the package?
The watch comes in an all-white dust jacket with an embossed Apple logo and the word Watch.
Inside the dust jacket, there are two boxes: one contains the watch itself and a charger, the other includes a strap. In the kit that we had on testing, a regular silicone strap is presented, which does not differ from previous generations of watches.
The only difference between the Apple Watch Series 6 and Series 5 is the lack of a charging block. The manufacturer justifies this with concern for the environment – they say, why increase the amount of plastic if each user already has enough USB chargers. In principle, a reasonable argument. But, of course, a lot of outrage arose on the Web about the fact that Apple is trying to save money, hiding behind fashionable environmental arguments.
However, there is one definite plus in this: the packaging has become more compact. This means it will be easier to store.
Apple Watch Series 6 comes in with New straps
As in previous years, at the same time with new watches, Apple has expanded its choice of bands. For the first time in the company’s assortment, the so-called monobralets appeared, that is, straps devoid of any fasteners and fasteners. This decision is very controversial, since choosing the size clearly for your hand is an extraordinary task, especially when shopping remotely. But the manufacturer has provided many options for sizes (a total of 12) and carefully thought out instructions.
The user is invited to download and print a PDF page from which a strip with a size scale must be cut. In this case, the printer settings must indicate a scale of 100%. To check whether the image is printed 1 to 1 accurately, you can attach a credit card or driver’s license (a Troika card is also suitable) to the corresponding frame. If the card fits the frame entirely, everything is correct, and you can cut out a strip and then wrap it around your hand. The arrows at the wider end will point to one of the divisions, and the number indicated there is just the right size for the bracelet.
We got the third size, one of the smallest (yes, the author has a skinny hand). But “fours” came to us for testing. As a result, the bracelets did not fit snugly on the wrist, and the watch had to be moved higher to keep it from dangling. The moral of this fable: firstly, you do not need to take the bracelet “with a margin,” fearing that the chosen one will not fit on you, and secondly, if you have a non-standard hand, be prepared that not all offline stores will have a size for you.
Nevertheless, in principle, we can quite evaluate monobralets. There are two types of them according to the kind of material. One is textile, made of large threads (pictured above). “Recycled elastic strap with woven silicone threads,” according to Apple’s website. The price is an impressive 8900 rubles. However, both its appearance and convenience leave pleasant impressions. A more affordable option is a silicone elastomer bracelet.
It looks very similar to a regular silicone bracelet (except without a clasp) and costs the same (3900 rubles), but its material is much more elastic. You can stretch it a lot to put it on your hand. The textile bracelet also stretches well.
We add that silicone is very pleasant to the touch. Perhaps even more enjoyable than a standard silicone bracelet. However, maybe this is the effect of novelty.
To summarize: monobralets are an exciting idea; however, their choice should be taken especially carefully (not guessing the size will be very offensive). The price for the textile version still seems overpriced to us.
Apple Watch Series 6: Elegant Design
The design of the watch itself has not changed much compared to Series 5. The dimensions of the case are entirely identical. The location of the microphone, speaker, buttons, and materials and screen are all identical.
The only way to demonstrate to others that you have a Series 6 is to buy a watch in a new blue or red color. The blue version was just for testing, and it looks cool. It is a deep and noble shade that goes well with both jeans and a blue suit.
Well, the main design difference, which directly affects the functionality, but inaccessible to prying eyes, is the sensors’ location on the back of the watch. Previously, there was only one eye on the optical heart rate monitor – in the center of the circle. Now there are four of them, and between them, there are also four light emitters. All this is needed for the operation of the blood oxygen level meter (pulse oximeter).
We repeat that it is impossible to see this when the watch is on. In all other respects, the Series 6 case is identical to Series 5, Series 4, and even Apple Watch SE.
Apple Watch Series 6: Screen size and other features
The watch is available with two display sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm – the same as last year and the year before. Their resolution also remained unchanged: 324 × 394 and 368 × 448, respectively. We had a watch with a screen diagonal of 44 mm.
The screen’s front surface is made in the form of a scratch-resistant glass plate with a mirror-smooth surface curved to the edges. On the outer surface of the screen, there is a special oleophobic (grease-repellent) coating (effective, much better than that of Google Nexus 7 (2013) ), so fingerprints are removed much more comfortable and appear at a slower speed than in the case of ordinary glass. Judging by the reflection of objects, the screen’s anti-glare properties are better than that of the Google Nexus 7 2013 screen.
The screen of the Apple Watch Series 6 is darker (the brightness in the photos is 106 versus 110 for the Nexus 7). There is no doubling of reflection, which indicates no air gap between the layers of the screen. When the white field was displayed on the whole screen, the maximum brightness value recorded by us was 675 cd / m² (with a bright backlight on the screen), the minimum was 5 cd / m² (the first stage of adjustment, complete darkness).
Apple promises a brightness of up to 1000 cd / m², but it is impossible to verify this. When measuring the brightness, the light sensor partially overlaps, and the brightness is automatically reduced, and this function cannot be disabled. So we could not confirm the numbers promised by the manufacturer, but we have no reason not to trust Apple.
As already mentioned, the automatic brightness control by the light sensor always works. The user can only make adjustments to the operation of this function by choosing one of three levels. There is modulation with a frequency of 60 Hz at any brightness level, but its amplitude is small, so flickering is not visible. The graphs of brightness (vertical axis) versus time (horizontal axis) illustrate the above (three brightness levels):
This screen uses an AMOLED matrix – an active matrix on organic light-emitting diodes. A full-color image is created using subpixels of three colors – red (R), green (G), and blue (B) in equal numbers.
The spectra are typical for OLED – the areas of primary colors are well separated and look like relatively narrow peaks. There is little cross-mixing of colors.
Accordingly, the coverage is noticeably wider than sRGB. It is almost equal to DCI.
Therefore, typical images (with sRGB coverage) on an Apple Watch screen have increased saturation.
Recall that in the case of previous versions of Apple Watch, all images were displayed in sRGB mode. Apparently, in this version, the manufacturer changed the algorithm of work. The pictures began to somehow depend on the type of images (JPG or PNG files) and, probably, on the copying method. The white and gray field’s color temperature is approximately 7260 K, and the deviation from the spectrum of a black body (ΔE) is about 6 units. The color balance is right. Black is just black at all angles. It is so black that the contrast setting is not applicable in this case. The uniformity of the white field is excellent when viewed from a perpendicular view. The screen has perfect viewing angles with much less brightness drop when looking at the screen from an angle compared to LCD screens, but at larger angles, the white fades a little too blue.
Apple Watch Series 6: Functionality
The main innovation of the Apple Watch Series 6 is the measurement of the amount of oxygen in the blood. Those who used the previous models of Apple smartwatches will surely pay attention to the new icon among the pre-installed applications – in the form of two lines forming a circle: red and blue.
By clicking on the icon, we see the last measurement results, and below them – the button “Start” allows you to make a new test. The measurement takes 15 seconds, during which you should not move your hand or move the watch. But although we tried to meet these requirements carefully, about two out of three measurements were unsuccessful.
Why this happens is a mystery. In watches from other manufacturers, which also had a function for measuring oxygen in the blood, we did not encounter such problems. But the big and, apparently, so far unique advantage of the Apple Watch is that this operation takes place here automatically, in the background. The watch determines when a person is at relative rest, and the back of the device fits snugly against the hand, after which measurements are taken. It was fascinating for us to check how this happens.
Let’s make a reservation that these results are hidden in a very creative way in the Health application. From the main screen of the application (“Overview”), click on the menu item “Show all medical data,” then scroll down three screens – only after that we will see the line “Oxygen in the blood.”
It is unclear why it was necessary to hide it so profoundly that this is a crucial feature in the new flagship product of Apple. But, in fairness, we note that you can click on the “Change” button opposite the “Favorites” heading in the “Overview” section and their mark with an asterisk “Oxygen in the blood.” Then it will be shown on the main screen of the application.
What conclusions can be drawn? First, measurements are taken approximately every hour. But there are missed hours. These are the periods when the user, for example, rides in transport or walks, and the watch cannot catch the moment of complete calmness. Secondly, the scatter of results is a little surprising. For example, the screenshots above show that the watch has repeatedly determined the amount of oxygen less than 90%. Strictly speaking, if it were so, the author would have been lying with an artificial respiration apparatus and not writing this article (we spit over our shoulder three times and knock on wood).
Moreover, several measurements show that the author has 100% oxygen in his blood. Which, to put it mildly, is also impossible. And all this during the same day. The range for a healthy person is 95% -98%.
The reason for this weirdness is that the watch is not a medical device. Therefore, they receive data but do not analyze it in any way. Simply put, if they had the appropriate certification, then if suddenly the measurement shows less than 90%, they could signal to the user that either he is unwell or the watch is not sitting correctly on his hand (for example, too close to the bone). But the absence of such certification makes it possible to carry out measurements and not interpret them in any way.
The ideal scheme should look like this: if repeated reaching the alarm threshold, the watch should warn the person. And in the event of a critical fall (below 90%), automatically send a request to medical services or relatives (similar to fall recognition introduced in Apple Watch earlier). In the current realities, this would be a precious option: it is known that a person who is sick with COVID-19 can begin to lack oxygen literally within a couple of hours, which will lead to confusion or even loss of consciousness.
The problem is that medical certification is required to implement such options. Another thing is that it is necessary to somehow correct the situation with measurements manually. After all, why is this feature useful in smartwatches? It is unlikely that a healthy person will buy a specialized device for no reason – a pulse oximeter. But if suddenly, God forbid, he gets sick, and there is a suspicion that it is COVID-19, the ability to immediately measure the amount of oxygen in the blood will be precious. Now let’s imagine a situation: a person, feeling inadequate and all on nerves, makes one measurement – unsuccessfully, the other – unsuccessfully… Will this help him?
However, the very fact that Apple is introducing this feature, and even more so trying to make it automatic, is significant. Algorithms, sensors, and software can be improved, but now it will be the de facto standard for everyone. And if you use this opportunity, it is essential to follow Apple’s guidelines for wearing the watch on your wrist as close as possible. They should sit tight enough, not dangle, and not pinch the hand and not rest against the bone. Then the measurements will be more accurate, and the watch will take them more often.
The second hardware feature of the Apple Watch Series 6 is an always-on altimeter. In theory, this should be useful when hiking in the mountains or doing any activity in large open spaces. The altimeter, for example, detects inclines when cycling.
True, we are not sure that the previous generation of watches’ altimeter works worse in this particular mode. They determined the rise to the floors (what is needed in everyday life) without problems. In any case, this is still a specific innovation.
Other exciting options, such as new watch faces, hand washing, and sleep tracking, are available in any Apple watch that is compatible with the latest watchOS 7. Therefore, we will talk about them in the Apple Watch SE review.
Apple is different in that it strives from year to year to maintain (or even slightly increase) the battery life of devices – despite the increase in display size, the emergence of new functions, sensors, etc. So Apple Watch Series 6, according to the manufacturer, should work the same as Series 5.
In general, this is how it turns out in reality: two to three days – depending on the availability/duration of training. Of course, this is without using the Always-On function, but with constant heart rate measurement and the amount of oxygen in the blood, sleep tracking, and notifications enabled.
Conclusions: Should you buy Apple Watch Series 6?
The main hardware innovation of the Apple Watch Series 6 is the introduction of a pulse oximeter. And so far, this is the only watch on the market in which the amount of oxygen in the blood is measured automatically, in the background.
Our testing has shown that the watch manages to find, almost every hour, a moment when it is possible to take a measurement that requires rest and a snug fit of the watch to the hand. However, the accuracy of these measurements is still questionable. Perhaps this is an individual feature of the author, but it should be borne in mind that it is impossible to rely on these results incredibly in any case.
However, it is worth remembering how the heart rate measurement function developed in smartwatches and bracelets. At first, she worked on many devices only with manual measurement. But gradually, the manufacturers taught their products to check the pulse in automatic mode regularly. The error also decreased. Now there is no longer any skepticism about this possibility: it can be used to monitor the general condition of a person and non-professional sports. Probably, after a while, the same will happen with the measurement of oxygen in the blood. Apple has taken an essential step towards this.
Hypothetically, OS updates may well fix the situation – the problem is probably software, not hardware. However, one cannot speak of this with certainty. And it turns out that compared to Series 5 and Apple Watch SE, the new flagship has almost no advantages. Perhaps the next generation processor (but in a watch, it is not as noticeable as in a smartphone or tablet), and an Always-On screen (Series 5 had it, but it is not in Watch SE). And an improved altimeter still needs to be figured out how to use it in everyday life.
So there is no point in upgrading from Series 5 for sure. But whether to buy a Series 6 or Watch SE depends, first of all, on design preferences. Five colors are available for the flagship, including a lovely blue. For a cheaper model, only three. On the one hand, it seems strange to overpay for a color.
On the other hand, the watch has always been a sign of the owner’s status. So if you need to demonstrate that you are at the forefront of progress and can spend the extra money, take the blue or red Series 6. If not, take a closer look at the Apple Watch SE.