Alongside the two new iPads, Apple also announced two new Apple Watches. And I have them both with me. This is the new Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE. I have been wearing the Series 6 for about the past 20 hours and here are my first impressions.
Not much has changed on the design front and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ll admit, I would have liked the display to stretch even closer to the edges, but the important thing is that Apple has found a design that worked and stuck with it. It is now one of the most recognisable watches in the world. You can spot it on someone’s wrist from across the room. I don’t think you say the same for any other smartwatch. Build quality remains impeccable.
According to the specs sheet, the new Series 6 is 10.4mm thick, which makes it 0.3mm thinner than Series 5. I can’t say I really noticed this at all. Case dimensions are unchanged, so you still get two options: 40mm and 44mm. The one I have is 44mm and it sits very comfortably on my wrist.
Series 6 is available in the usual aluminium, stainless, and titanium cases, but there are new finishes to choose from. For aluminium, joining Space Grey, Silver, and Gold, are the new Blue and (PRODUCT)RED finishes. While for stainless steel models, Silver is now joined by the new Graphite and an updated Gold (it's supposed to more closely mimic the look of yellow gold). As for Apple Watch Edition, you get two titanium finishes – Space Black and natural Titanium – but there’s no ceramic.
The gold stainless steel model that I have is supposed to mimic the look of 18k yellow gold and it mostly succeeds. But if I want to nitpick, I'd say that its hue is somewhere between that of yellow and rose gold. Certainly, it more closely resembles rose gold in dimly lit environments and more like yellow gold in bright or direct light. In fact, it reminds me of the unique honey gold material that high-end watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne uses for its most exclusive watches. At any rate, I think it’s a very interesting and eye-catching finish.
The display is unchanged. It’s the same size and resolution and has the same impressive maximum brightness of 1,000 nits. It’s a nice display for sure, and my only complaint is that it doesn’t quite stretch to the ends of the edges. On the bright side, thanks to the more efficient S6 processor, Apple is able to boost the brightness of the display even when always-on mode is enabled without negatively impacting battery life (still rated at 18 hours). However, I can’t really tell if this is true in my short time with it right now. I’ll report back on this in my full review.
The big news with Series 6 is the new health sensor that uses red and infrared lights to measure your blood oxygen level. This can be an important indicator of your overall health. I tried this out and it was a cinch to use. Simply enable it during setup and it shows you a reading in just 15 seconds. Series 6 can also give you an ECG reading – just like Series 5 and Series 4. Alongside the new features enabled by watchOS 7, this makes the Series 6 watch Apple’s most powerful watch yet for health-monitoring.
Apple also announced three new watch band styles for the Apple Watch. There are two new loop bands, one called the Solo Loop that’s made out of silicone and another called the Braided Solo Loop that’s made out of braided yarn. Finally, there’s a new Leather Link band that’s secures using flexible magnets instead of a traditional buckle or clasp. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see these in person for myself yet.
So far, my experience with the new Series 6 has been largely positive. The new S6 processor does feel noticeably faster but I'm not sure 100% convinced yet that it's a must-upgrade over last year's Series 5.
The Apple Watch Series 6 goes on sale tomorrow with prices starting at S$599 – that’s the same as last year’s Series 5.
Alongside the new Series 6, Apple also announced the Apple Watch SE, which I have here in Space Grey. It sits between the Series 6 and Series 3 in the Apple Watch lineup and aims to offer the “essential features” of an Apple Watch but at a more accessible price.
In terms of dimensions, the Apple Watch SE is identical to the Series 6. Build quality feels the same, which is to say, very good. The display is also mostly the same except that it doesn’t have an always-on mode – so it goes completely dark when your wrist is down. It only comes in aluminium and you only get three finishes: Space Grey, Silver, and Gold.
Its features and capabilities are also mostly the same. The Apple Watch SE has an optical sensor and it also gets built-in GPS and an always-on compass. It also gets all the new watches and sleep tracking, courtesy of watchOS 7. However, it is missing two crucial features:
Inside, the SE is also powered by the older S5 processor. And yes, as a result, the SE does not feel as snappy as the Series 6. But having said that, the SE is no slouch – it’s just that the Series 6 is noticeably faster now.
Also different is the price. Apple Watch SE will go on sale tomorrow with prices starting at S$419. That’s substantially lesser than the Series 6 but then quite a bit more than the Series 3. Stay tuned for the full review to find out the new Apple Watch SE is the value buy in this new lineup.