Apple Watch Series 6, analysis and opinion

The Apple Watch has become in its own right the big benchmark in smartwatches. Apple's smartwatch reaches its sixth generation without major advances, although it does come up with enough new features to improve the user experience.

Five years after its release, it seems clear that the Apple Watch has reached maturity. As for its design, it is very difficult to improve it, at most Apple could try to extend the screen by reducing the frames, reduce the thickness, or look for an alternative to the digital crown as a means of interaction, although it does not seem necessary.

The narrow scope for action to improve the design and positive feedback of users in terms of UX makes for a couple of generations the improvements of the Apple Watch have to look for them inside.

Among the innovations of the Apple Watch Series, 6 that we analyze today stands out its S6 processor, which according to the company is 20% faster than the latest version and more energy efficient, a brighter screen and two new colours: red and blue, although without a doubt the most striking is the presence of the new oxygen sensor in blood, one more step of the company in its goal of making the Apple Watch the most complete health device on the market.

A design with little room for improvement

It is certainly impossible to distinguish this Apple Watch Series 6 from previous models, the quality of the materials, the perfect finish or exquisite touch, everything is the same. At the design level, the Apple Watch Series 6 is identical to any Apple Watch from Series 4 onwards, including the new economical Apple Watch SE model.

As usual, it is available in two sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm, and the arrangement, size and operability of all elements are maintained. Except for the absence of Force Touch on the OLED touch screen, nothing changes in the way we relate to the watch: the digital crown pressable to move around the menus without touching the screen, access the app tile with one press or invoke Siri with a long press, and the on/off button that also allows you to access the multitasking or access the Wallet for mobile payments with a double press.

It's at the back where the subtle news is centred. Under the rear protective glass are the sensors for heart rate control and electrocardiogram monitor (ECG). Also, if we compare it with the previous version we find the four groups of LEDs and four photodiodes for the recording of the blood oxygen level.

It has a weight of only 36.5 grams in its largest version of 44 mm making it really light and very comfortable to carry. It is ISO 22810 certified, or what is itself, is water-resistant and allows swimming and descending to a depth of up to 50 meters. Despite this, Apple recommends not using it for "diving, water skiing, or high-speed water activities or deep dives."

Apple Watch 6 is available in gold, silver, graphite, and space grey, plus two new colours: blue and red. For our analysis we have had a blue unit, very elegant although personally, I find something off, I would have liked more a more light-hearted tone that would be farther from the sober space grey view.

Same screen with different costumes

The main element of any watch is its dial, or in the case of smartwatches its screen. The Apple Watch Series 6 maintains the same OLED display in terms of size and resolution, although it improves substantially when it comes to brightness, both in the overall operation and in "Always on" or always-on mode.

I've never had a screen complaint with the previous model I've been living with every day for almost a year, according to Apple the Watch Series 6 screen is up to 20% brighter than that of the Apple Watch 5 and is something that is certainly evidently perceived, especially indoors, in sunlight the difference is more subtle, although it looks significantly better.

It is very comfortable when you are performing a task in which it is not advisable to separate your hands as riding a bike or even while driving since you can see the notifications without having to make the gesture of looking at the time.

One of the most significant changes in the absence of Force Touch, Apple decided to remove this functionality from watchOS 7, that is, it no longer works if you have upgraded your watch to the latest version of the operating system even if you physically have it. The on Watch 6 has directly disappeared, a gap that has been used to integrate a larger battery and a more powerful Taptic Engine (vibration warnings are now much more noticeable).

Those who have had previous versions as is my case will be much missing the Force Touch that showed menus and settings when you press the screen with your finger.

Now, much of the functions that were previously accessible by pressing the screen still exist by swiping your finger or digital crown until you reach, up or down, an on-screen button. For example, to clear notifications we now have a "Delete All" at the top of them.

Don't let your oxygen go away

It is the star function of this Series 6 and the great differentiating element concerning its predecessor. A sensor known as SpO2responsible for measuring the oxygen level, for them have been added a set of four LEDs at the bottom: green, red and infrared, which project light into the blood vessels of the wrist, plus four other photodiodes responsible for measuring the amount of light reflected so that you are frightened if suddenly your wrist is dyed green.

Oxygen measurements are somewhat "outrageous," so with notifications turned off or if we're in movie mode they're not done, even during the night unless we have sleep tracking turned on.

The blood oxygen level (or saturation) refers to the body's ability to absorb the necessary oxygen and how it distributes it through the bloodstream.

SpO2 or Peripheral Oxygen Saturation sensors are not something new, nothing Apple has invented, all devices used for high-altitude sports are present, and even inactivity bracelets like the Fitbit Charge 4 or consumer smartwatches like the Huawei Watch GT 2e or Honor Magic Watch 2, although we already know that when something reaches the Apple ecosystem it is magnified, like Big Brother's house.

For a more accurate measurement the watch itself advises us to perform a manual measurement with the arm resting on a surface for about 15 seconds, also we can activate the measurements in the background that are performed periodically throughout the day during periods of low activity and sleep, allowing us to get an idea of our average values over time in a range ranging from 70% to 100%.

The data can be consulted from the iPhone health app, in my case the values range from 89% to 100%, which corresponds to normal results, at least according to Apple information that sets the ideal ratio between 95% and 100%, the only guidance data we have to interpret the results.

And it is already noticeable with the Electrocardiogram (EGC) function, the great novelty of the Apple Watch Series 5 and that is also available in this Watch Series 6, both functions are merely indicative and should not be taken as a medical value, but as a simple indicator of possible respiratory conditions such as hypoxia that should be diagnosed by a specialist.

Don't go for the branches

It is another novelty, not because of its presence in itself but because of the way it is used. The altimeter of the previous generation was activated only during the development of certain activities or in specific apps. Now the data can be consulted in real-time thanks to the joint work of barometer, GPS and WiFi antenna, we even have the option to include it in a widget within our sphere and see how it increases to the value just by placing the arm above the head or lowering it to the ground.

Apple Watch even in bed

It was one of the most demanded functions, well, in reality, his absence was used more as an argument for his detractors than anything else. The sleep log reaches the Apple Watch but unfortunately in a rather timid way.

The metrics are extremely simple: Average time in bed and Average time sleeping, in addition to heart rate and blood oxygen measurements, if we have it activated. For example, Fitbit can detect the time we spend in each of the sleep phases: light, deep and REM, although I guess it's something that will come sooner or later.

Sleep logging doesn't work if the battery charge is below 30% - although the battery consumption of sleep of about 8 hours is about 13% according to my tests - this ensures that an alarm will sound.

An alarm that is triggered on the clock if we continue in bed or on the iPhone if we have already got up, you can also record sleep without alarm, set different sleep times for each day of the week and schedule that minutes before going to sleep triggers a period of "technological detoxification" to get more relaxed to bed.

A mother on your wrist who reminds you of good manners

The handwashing function would not cease to be an anecdote if we were not in the current situation. It is a fun way to gamify an act that we must now more than ever perform frequently.

It certainly works quite well, although it does not apply to the typical quick wash until we take about 5 seconds with the faucet open and the hand movement (the two conditions must be given, so for the hydroalcoholic gel it is not worth) will not start the countdown. By default, it is 20 seconds, although it can be changed, and the seconds before activation are neglected, so it is normal for the account to start at 15/16 seconds.

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