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We’ve gotten to test the watch for 24 hours ahead of its official launch, and have put together this FAQ to tell you everything you need to know about the Series 6. This includes our impressions of the hardware and software so far, and our advice on whether or not you should upgrade from a previous model.
Keep in mind these are our first impressions, based on a very limited amount of time with the watch. We’ll have a much more comprehensive review once we’ve had additional testing time.
What New Features Does the Apple Watch Series 6 Have?
The new Apple Watch’s biggest exclusive feature is its Blood Oxygen Sensor, which uses a cluster of four LEDs and four photodiodes (extremely small lenses). The sensor sends a light that shines through your skin, and can determine how effectively oxygen is being carried from your lungs and heart through the rest of your body. A low blood oxygen level can be a sign of respiratory diseases like the flu, but Apple has explicitly said this sensor is meant for fitness and “wellness” tracking, not disease identification or prevention.
You can take a blood oxygen reading in 15 seconds by using an app that comes preloaded on the Watch. It takes 15 seconds to take the test, and you have to keep your wrist horizontal and perfectly still — it even suggests keeping it on a table. I’ve taken a couple of tests, and the process has been quick and painless. The Apple Watch will take readings randomly throughout the day, and send you an alert if its unusually low.
Like heart rate tracking, this is a nice-to-have health feature that used to require a larger, single-use piece of equipment. The Apple Watch Series 6 also has a built-in altimeter, which continually measures your elevation, so it’ll know when you’ve climbed stairs or gone for a hike, and factor that in when calculating your blood oxygen saturation.
On the tech side, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a brighter always-on display, which makes it easier to check the time at a glance without raising your wrist. I’ve had no problem reading the watch whether my room was bright (in natural and artificial lighting conditions), or dark. The watch’s face is still fairly dim when you’re not using it, but gets bright immediately when you raise and turn your wrist.
The watch’s always-on display, which was introduced with last year’s Apple Watch Series 5 brings the smart watch a lot closer to analog watches because you can actually check the time (and other information) in a split second. The Apple Watch Series 6 is also the first model that can connect to 5GHz Wi-Fi signals, which means it can download new information more quickly if you have the right router a fast connection.
Is the Apple Watch 6 Better Than the Apple Watch 5?
Yes, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a new processor called the S6, which the company says is 20% faster than the one found in the Apple Watch Series 5. In real-world use, the Series 6 feels incredibly fast: Apps load more quickly, Siri feels more responsive, and animations (like the ones that flash on its display when you complete a fitness ring) look a lot smoother.
What is the Battery Life on the Apple Watch Series 6?
The Apple Watch Series 6 gets the same 18-hour battery life as the Series 4 and Series 5, but it charges a lot faster. Apple says the Apple Watch Series 6 can be fully recharged in one and a half hours; the Series 5 needs two hours to get a full charge.
The amount of usage you’ll actually get out of a Series 6 Apple Watch will depend on the apps you use (fitness tracking software is notoriously power hungry) and screen brightness setting. I haven’t had the change to really push the battery yet, but it’s at 39% after some general use, and one night of sleep tracking.
If you’d like to ensure your Apple Watch Series 6 never runs out of juice, check out our guide to the best Apple Watch chargers.
How Much Does the Apple Watch 6 Weigh?
The Apple Watch Series 6 is still available in the same two 40mm (millimeter) and 44mm sizes that Apple has been offering since the Apple Watch Series 4. Series 6 watches are available in an aluminum, stainless steel, or stainless case, and weigh roughly .2g (grams) – 1g less than Series 4 and Series 5 watches depending on which model you get. This difference will be imperceptible in everyday use. If you’re concerned about the weight of your watch, consider the material (stainless steel is heavier), size (bigger is heavier), and watch band (metal straps are heavier) when making your decision.
The only physical change Apple has made to the Apple Watch Series 6 is aesthetic. Aluminum models are available in a blue or red finish, while stainless steel models are available in a gold color (not made out of solid gold).
Can I Use my Old Apple Watch Bands With the Apple Watch Series 6?
Yes. The Apple Watch Series 6 is compatible with all first and third-party bands going back to ones designed for the original Apple Watch in 2015. If you’re having trouble picking out bands, we’ve collected some of our favorites to help you out.
That said, Apple has released two new bands alongside the watch: the Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop. I’ve had the opportunity to try both of the new straps out, and they’re definitely among the nicest ones I’ve tested. The Solo Loop is made out of a single piece of durable, stretchable custom liquid silicone. The Braided Solo Loop has the same levels of durability and stretchiness, but it’s made out of yarn.
Both straps are light, and feel extremely soft on my wrist. Each one fits securely, but has enough give that my wrist doesn’t feel constricted or uncomfortable. Apple offers these bands in a variety of sizes, and has a printable sizing guide on their site, so you can get one that suits your wrist.
The standard Solo Loop feels like a smooth plastic, while the Braided Solo Loop has a little more texture, like the sleeve of a sweater. I prefer the Solo Loop in my early testing, but neither feels quite as good to me as the Milanese Loop band, which has a magnetic clasp to fit perfectly on my wrist. While older Apple Watch bands will work on newer watches, Apple’s new Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop are compatible with Apple Watch Series 3 devices or newer.
Does the Apple Watch Work With Android Phones?
This one gets a little tricky, and it depends on your situation. Apple has introduced a new feature called Family Setup, which allows one member of a family to pair more than one Apple Watch with their iPhone. This feature is exclusive to new Apple Watch models that have a cellular plan attached to them. If you have an Android phone, or even an iPad, you cannot set up an Apple Watch on your own.
How Much Does the Apple Watch Series 6 Cost?
The price of your Apple Watch Series 6 will vary based on its size, material, band, and whether you’d like it to have cellular connectivity. It starts at $399 for a 40mm Aluminum GPS version with a Solo Loop, and goes up to $1,499 for a 44mm cellular Stainless Steel model with a Hermes watch band.
These watches may be priced $1,100 apart, but the cheaper one has the exact same internal features (minus cellular connectivity) as the more expensive one. Stainless Steel Apple Watches do have a more durable screen, though, which is something to keep in mind if you’re very active.
Where Can I Buy the New Apple Watch?
The Apple Watch Series 6 is available for preorder at Best Buy, B&H, Walmart, Adorama, and Apple.com, and will begin shipping as early as Friday, September 18th. Availability will be limited at launch, so you may have to wait for the particular model you’d like to be in stock.
Is the New Apple Watch 6 Worth It?
The Apple Watch Series 6 is faster, brighter, and more fitness (or “wellness”) focused than any of its predecessors, but the differences will be a lot more subtle if you already use a Series 5 watch, which already has an always-on display and pretty fast chip.
If you own an Apple Watch Series 4, there won’t be an upgrade in screen size, but the always-on display is a game changer, and the added health features certainly won’t hurt. I own an Apple Watch Series 4, and can tell you it does feel a lot more sluggish compared to the Series 6.
If you have an Apple Watch Series 3 (or earlier), upgrading will get you a substantially faster watch with a bigger (always-on) display and a lot more health and fitness features. In this case, you should make the upgrade with no reservations.