Hands-On With the New Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE
Today's the official launch date for the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE, both of which Apple announced on Tuesday. We picked up a couple of the new models and thought we'd give them a quick look for MacRumors readers thinking of ordering a new watch.
When it comes to design, both the $399 Series 6 and the $279 SE look just like the Apple Watch Series 5 with the larger, thinner display introduced with the Series 4 and 40 and 44mm size options, so there are no surprises there.
We couldn't get one of the new colors delivered on Friday, but the Series 6 aluminum models come in new blue and (PRODUCT)RED aluminum shades along with the standard silver, space gray, and gold options. You can't get those new colors with the Apple Watch SE because it only comes in silver, space gray, and gold. The SE also isn't available in stainless steel or titanium like the Series 6.
Neither of Apple's new watches comes with a 5W power adapter for charging, so hopefully you have a few already on hand. You do still get the 1m charging cable, though. Apple said when introducing the watches that the power adapter was removed for environmental reasons, and we're also expecting to see the power adapter nixed from the iPhone 12 boxes too, based on rumors.
The new Apple Watches look like the Series 5, but there are some differences between them. The Apple Watch Series 6 has the same Always-On display that was in the Series 5, but it's brighter outside. We had a hard time telling a difference, but it may be more obvious in some conditions.
The Always-On display in the Series 6 also lets you use Control Center and check notifications without having to raise your wrist. The Apple Watch SE has no Always-On display at all, so it's the same old blank screen when your wrist is down that you may be used to from prior Apple Watches.
Both watches have new Always-On altimeters for hiking, skiing, and other activities that involve elevation changes. You'll see the altimeter in real-time on the Series 6 thanks to that Always-On display.
There's a faster A6 chip in the Series 6 while the SE has the same S5 chip that was in the Series 5, and there's a noticeable jump in performance when using the Series 6. It feels faster and more powerful when navigating through the watchOS operating system.
If you flip the two watches over, there's a difference when it comes to sensors. The Series 6 is equipped with green, red, and infrared LEDs to support the new blood oxygen monitoring feature which is the big new health change. Blood oxygen monitoring and ECG are Series 6-exclusive features.
The LEDs and infrared light in the Series 6 shine light onto your wrist and photodiodes detect the color of your blood to determine the oxygen percentage. Bright red blood is well oxygenated, while darker blood has less oxygen. The Apple Watch reads all of that information and provides an oxygen level reading between 70 and 100 percent.
It can be a little tricky to get a blood oxygen reading because you need to make sure to hold still. You can get readings on demand or the Apple Watch will occasionally take measurements in the background. It's neat to have the option, but it's not really clear what we're supposed to do with blood oxygen levels.
Healthy people are going to have a SpO2 level that ranges from 95 to 100% and rarely fluctuates, so like ECGs, this may be a feature that most people aren't going to take much advantage of. For those who don't feel the need to have the specific ECG and blood oxygen monitoring capabilities, the Apple Watch SE does just about everything else the Series 6 does at a more affordable price point, which makes it a good value.
You still get key health features like the optical heart rate sensor, fall detection, noise level monitoring, and emergency SOS, and it has the same general health and fitness functionality outside of the blood oxygen detection and ECG.
Apple also introduced new Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop bands with the Series 6 and SE, and we picked up a Solo Loop. These bands have no clasps or buckles and are meant to stretch to slide over your hand. Apple sells them in nine sizes, and you have to measure to make sure you get the right fit. MacRumors videographer Dan ordered a size 10 which ended up fitting his wrist well, and he said it's "incredibly comfortable." The rubber of the band stretches quite a bit, which makes it easy to get on and off.
All in all, if you have a Series 5, there may be no need to upgrade unless you really want the blood oxygen monitoring capabilities and the faster S6 chip, and if you have an older watch and don't need ECG or blood oxygen monitoring, the SE may be the better choice for you.
We'll be doing some more in-depth videos on the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE next week, so make sure to stay tuned to MacRumors.com and subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel.
Top Rated Comments
“Initially I wanted for the ECG and O2 measurement but then when I researched it more those 2 are totally useless for me. I'm not in the risk category (60+) and overall its more marketing thing. Anyone interested with the topic, you can google doctors talking or measuring ECG and talking specifically how not useful it is at this point.”
Yeah, sure, you can google doctors saying it’s not helpful. You can also google doctors saying it is helpful. You can google doctors saying anything — they tend to have full vocabularies. I bet you can even google a doctor talking about how the ECG app was created by the deep state and thats why Epstein died, because he knew that there’s a kill switch, hidden in a underground bunker somewhere in Montana, and the government can use the ECG app to assassinate political enemies by causing their Apple Watch to deliver a high voltage surge that causes them to go into instant cardiac arrest.
The ECG app is aimed more towards afib — there have been numerous examples of an Apple Watch catching afib in a patient and potentially saving their lives. Those doctors should tell them how its only marketing, though, and not useful.
“Like ECG for example - Watch has only 1 measure point whereas any hospital has around 6-7 (or more).
No offense, but you’re quite misinformed about how the watch ECG works. For starters, the ECG isn’t one lead, it’s two. It forms a closed circuit between your finger on the crown and the the bottom of your wrist, so it gives a more accurate reading of your heart rate. I’ve been developing issues with tachycardia over the past few years, so I keep a log for my doctor, and we review it and make adjustments, from it as well as other data points. (or at least we did, before COVID shut down in-person VA appointments indefinitely).
Here’s an example: Last winter, I noticed my heart rate was spiking in the late afternoon, around the same time every day. I showed my doc the readings, she switched me to an extended release version of my blood pressure medicine, and it fixed the issue.
Yeah, it’s only two leads, but that’s two more leads than I had a year ago, and I like knowing that I’m in a nice sinus rhythm. Also, anytime I’m at the doctor — or, more specifically, when I was in the hospital for surgery this past March — I compared my watch ECG/heart rate to what they recording on their monitors, and there was virtually no difference.
“...Giving user false positive also creates issues not only for the person but also for the health care system so overall its not a reason to upgrade.”
*********. Show me the numbers. I want to see some real data, demonstrating how the Apple Watch having an ECG is creating a strain on the health care system. You made the assertion, back it up with some data. And what do you mean giving the user a “false positive”? A false positive what? Are you worried it’s going to say that you have a heart rate, when you really don’t, and that you’re actually dead?
“Those interested please research it as you will be amazed how much complex the issue truly is and not what Apple wants us to believe.”
You put your finger on the crown for 30 seconds while It measures your heart rhythm. Then it tells you what your average heart rate was, and if you were in a sinus rhythm. That‘s what it does. It’s pretty simple, and it doesn’t claim to do anything more complex.
I bet people said the same stuff when you became able to take your own temperature or take your own blood pressure. Hell, they probably said similar stuff when scales became affordable and you could weigh yourself.
I dunno, buddy. I guess don’t buy the watch if you don’t want to buy the watch. it’s your money, your choice. I bought it for a lot of reasons; the ones stated above, the fitness tracking, etc. But I mainly bought it because I‘m a nerd who likes gadgets and tech. It’s amazing what Apple has been able to cram into a freaking watch. Stop fighting the future and come ride the wave with us?
***any typos or grammatical errors are the fault of my wiener dog, and not me.
I had heart rhythm abnormalities in my 20s and had surgery to correct it. These rhythms were impossible to detect at the clinic because everything looked fine whenever I was there. It was the most frightening and frustrating period of my life. Having this technology back then would have been a huge benefit for me — not just for the information to share with my doctor, but for even the slightest peace of mind it would have given me.
Is the ECG feature as robust as the one offered at a clinic — no, and Apple isn’t saying it is. I see it as a feature to recognize and record patterns that you can then share with your doctor to determine if you should investigate further.
Heart rhythm abnormalities are scary episodes. If an Apple Watch feature helps detect this or another problem by even 1%, it would be worth the cost to me — because I feel like I’m worth it.
Please add that to the article above if you’re wondering why anyone would need this feature.