Apple Watch Series 6 is a welcome update to the reigning smartwatch champ

"I'm blue da ba dee da ba daa"

Apple Watch Series 6

The first thing I noticed about the Apple Watch Series 6 Apple sent me to review is it’s extremely blue.

I’m not afraid of colourful devices and in fact, would probably say that the ‘Yellow’ iPhone 11 is one of my favourite smartphones of the last few years, but I was a little shocked at how deep and not subtle the Series 6’s new ‘Blue’ hue is.

Apple Watch Series 6

In a way, it makes the smartwatch look a little cheap, unfortunately, but of course, how you feel about the colour will come down to personal preference. There’s also ‘Gold,’ ‘Silver,’ ‘Space Grey’ and ‘Product Red’ versions of the Series 6 that come in the usual Aluminum and Stainless Steel variants.

Beyond just its look, there are other upgrades under the hood with Apple’s latest smartwatch. First off, there’s the Series 6’s blood oxygen monitor feature. I tested out the functionality by launching the blood oxygen monitor app — which took me a little bit to find — and it failed during the first detection, likely because I was moving around too much. On my second attempt, the blood oxygen level detection worked, giving me a reading of 97 percent. It’s also possible to have the Series 6 ambiently detect your levels.

Apple Watch Series 6 rear

While there are other wearables out there capable of monitoring blood oxygen levels, it’s great to see the functionality make its way to Apple’s already very feature-rich smartwatch. It’s worth noting the tech giant is positioning blood oxygen monitoring as a “wellness” feature and emphasizes that the sensor shouldn’t be used as a medical diagnostic tool.

The other hardware addition this year is a new altimeter accessible through the Compass app. This informed me that I am 133m above sea level, which I’m not entirely sure is information I’ll ever find useful given how I personally use the Apple Watch, but is still interesting nonetheless.

There’s also a new, more powerful processor, the S6, which marks the first time Apple has upgraded the Apple Watch’s chip since the Series 4. Since I only use Strava on the Apple Watch when it comes to third-party apps, this uptick in power won’t mean much to me. However, if you use a lot of Apple Watch apps, the processor power bump will likely be very welcome.

The other prominent new feature this year relates to upgrades to the Series 6’s display. The new screen seems much brighter than the Series 5′s always-on display like Apple claims. It isn’t easy to know for sure that it’s precisely 2.5 times brighter, however.

Apple Watch Series 6 front

Other features I haven’t been able to test out yet include that the Series 6 can charge up to 40 percent faster than the Series 5. Given the smartwatch is designed to be worn at night now thanks to watchOS 7’s new Sleep Tracking, this is a welcome and much-needed upgrade.

It’s worth noting that the Series 6’s box only includes a USB-A cable with Apple’s magnetic Apple Watch charger on the other end. There isn’t a charging brick in the box this time around, confirming earlier rumours. Apple says it made this shift for environmental reasons, which, while likely correct, hasn’t resulted in a minor reduction in price being passed along to consumers. It’s true a lot of Apple Watch owners likely have a power brick sitting around somewhere, but if you don’t, you’ll need to purchase one separately.

watchOS 7 brings with it several new, interesting Watch Faces like the wacky ‘Artist’ Face, additional activity tracking, the already mentioned Sleep Tracking and more. I’ll be taking a closer look at these new features in my review of the Series 6.

Overall the Apple Watch Series 6 is a very iterative update to Apple’s smartwatch line, further securing it as by far the best smartwatch currently available — as long as you’re an iPhone user. That said, if you already own a Series 5, there likely isn’t enough here to warrant an upgrade. However, if you’re still rocking a Series 3 or Series 4 and have been longing for the Series 5’s impressive always-on display, the new Series 6 could be worthwhile.

MobileSyrup will have more on the Apple Watch Series 6 in the coming days.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is available on September 18th and starts at $529 for the GPS version.

For more on Apple’s fall hardware event, check out my early impressions of the iPad (2020) and Apple Watch SE.