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Apple Watch Series 6 starts at  ₹40,900 (Apple)
Apple Watch Series 6 starts at 40,900 (Apple)

Apple Watch Series 6 review: Update, not an upgrade

  • Starting at 40,900, the big new feature on Apple Watch Series 6 is the new Blood Oxygen monitor, but where the ECG and heart-rate sensors worked smoothly from day one, this one doesn’t
  • Other than the oximeter, new features on the Series 6 are quite iterative

As far as wearables are concerned, great app support, a vertically integrated ecosystem and rich features has usually kept the Apple Watch ahead of its competitors. But with companies like Huawei, Garmin and even Samsung gaining ground, the company has its work cut out for itself.

Based on the Apple Watch Series 6 though, that may be easier said than done. It’s still better than any other smartwatch today, and the only one iPhone users should even consider, but it’s hard to see this as an upgrade for most Apple Watch users.

The big new feature this year is the new Blood Oxygen monitor, but where the ECG and heart-rate sensors worked smoothly from day one, this one doesn’t. On the bright side, testing it against a finger-based pulse oximeter shows pretty much the same readings. But like those devices, the Series 6 isn’t a medical device either.

But dependability is a whole other issue. For instance, I wear a wrist supporter when I work out and have to push the Watch slightly higher up on my wrist. As a result, I can’t use the oximeter at the gym, because it needs to be at the usual watch-wearing position to get a reading.

Even when you have the Watch at the right position, the oximeter is unsuccessful three out of five times, which just doesn’t work. And most importantly, the readings aren’t available on demand, meaning you have to sit still for 15 seconds whenever you need a reading.

In the end, this is one of those few times when Apple introduces a new feature that doesn’t work from the get go. The company is going to partner with health institutes and conduct research using the Oximeter, which is great, but as a regular user I don’t really see how this is useful.

Other than the oximeter, new features on the Series 6 are quite iterative. You get a new processor and brighter display, which make very little difference in real world usage. Apple says the Always-On mode will be brighter on the Series 6, which is true, but the Series 5 was bright enough too.

The Series 6 being an iterative update, though, brings another point to the fore. Hardware upgrades may not be how Apple sees the future of its wearables, and that’s evident in two new things the company introduced this year - Family Setup and Fitness+.

While Fitness+ is a subscription-based fitness service available only in the west right now, Family setup makes the watch part of Apple’s iCloud family. With this, you can buy an Apple Watch for your child or someone else in your family without needing them to have an iPhone.

You can also set up restrictions on these additional watches, if you’re giving it to children, and it’s cheaper too since you don’t have to spend on an extra iPhone. It shows that Apple may be considering distancing the Watch from the iPhone, at least to some extent.

There may be very few families that will buy into Family Setup in countries like India, you can see where Apple’s going with this. It also opens up opportunities for new services, in education, raising kids and more. And if you really believe in a future where the Watch is at the center of service offerings then it’s likely that the newest one will last you the longest.

So, there are really only two reasons to buy the Apple Watch Series 6. The first is if you just have to have the newest watch the company makes, and the second, if you think the future of wearables is in service offerings. Apple’s close-knit ecosystem will help this grow much faster than Android watches.

On the other hand, from a pure new hardware point of view, Series 5, 4, or 3 users can keep their watches pat on their wrist for at least another year. Even if you’re entering the ecosystem today, the Watch SE is a more cost-effective solution.

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