Apple Watch Series 6: Worth the upgrade? | Tech/Gadgets

A new blue watch case is a nice addition to the colour choices and was probably meant to match the new Pacific Blue iPhone. — Pictures by Erna Mahyuni

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — The Apple Watch, like the iPhone, has become a reliable staple. Like we know new phones are coming, we can always expect a new smartwatch.

This year we got two though arguably the Apple Watch SE is just a rebranded older watch and the really “new” device here is the Apple Watch series 6.

What is new, really? Is there enough here to persuade those with the Apple Watch Series 5 to upgrade? Will it persuade those who keep thinking of getting one but never do?

As usual I spent some quality time with the new wearable and here are my impressions.

Some things old, some things new

Apple has kept the form factor while the familiar watch case sizes of 40mm and 44mm remain, and a choice between stainless steel and aluminium.

You get a lot more finish colours here ― the steel case comes in gold, silver and graphite while the aluminum now comes in space grey, silver, gold, red and blue.

While a titanium option also exists, it isn’t sold in Malaysia and neither is the Hermes edition but you can buy the Apple Watch Nike edition, or buy the Nike watch bands separately.

Apple has even added a new strap type, the Space Loop that is basically a single loop without buckles or straps which comes in either liquid silicone or a braided fabric.

There’s also a new Leather Link strap that relies on magnets to maintain a nice fit, no pesky buckles required.

Of course you get a faster chip, the new S6 Series in Package (SIP) that is, according to Apple, faster than last year’s. What Apple touted most, however, is a new sensor that measures your blood oxygen.

How does this new sensor work? An array of LED lights are positioned on the back of your watch, periodically shining through your blood vessels and getting readings. The readings determine the percentage of oxygen your red blood cells are carrying from your lungs to the rest of you, a measurement Apple says can help you “understand your overall wellness.”

It was occasionally unnerving to glance at my wrist and see the lights fire up; the Watch auto-tests your blood oxygen levels like it measures your heart rate though you can also manually take readings with the Blood Oxygen app whenever you feel like it.

The usefulness of the feature is debatable and Apple does state it’s not meant to be the replacement of a medical device; it’s basically a nice-to-have but not enough a reason to buy kind of feature. Am still waiting for the ECG function to finally be available on the Watch.

Like the other data the Watch tracks, you can look at what’s been measured on the Health app on your phone.

The new Solo Loop is snug-fitting and not that hard to take off and put on.
The new Solo Loop is snug-fitting and not that hard to take off and put on.

Very familiar

If you thought the new chip might mean better battery life, alas I would say it is the same as last year’s. While you can tweak the battery life by turning off the Always On display, I still find myself needing to recharge the watch by the end of the day, just to be able to wear it while I sleep at night.

Software-wise, Apple’s included new watchfaces and complications ― the better for you to customise your Watch experience. It’s a pity there isn’t an option for third-party watchfaces unlike for Wear OS.

Everything seems to load the tiniest bit faster and for the most part it felt like the old Series 5 but I have to say the software was very buggy. A few times, I was unable to swipe up to access the Control Center panel and it would take a reboot of the watch for it to start working.

The recent Watch OS 7.1 update seemed to fix it for the most part so if you’re getting a Series 6 make sure you update to the latest version for the best experience.

Now, should you get this? If you still have the Series 5, I frankly don’t think the Blood Oxygen feature is a reason to switch up. Now if you’re on an older Watch (series 3 and older) this will give you a much faster experience with better battery life and performance.

Budget-conscious? There’s the cheaper Apple Watch SE that is basically a cheaper Series 5, minus the Always On display, or the Series 3 which is a lot cheaper but has an older processor and doesn’t have certain features such as fall and noise detection.

While the Series 3 is cheaper, I’d argue if you want a budget option the SE would be the better bet  but if you want the best Apple-compatible smartwatch right now the Series 6 is still it, especially if you’re an iPhone user.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is available now, with cellular variations, available from Apple resellers or the official online store with prices starting from RM1,749.

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