There was no sign of the iPhone 12 at Apple’s big September launch event, which gave the Apple Watch the chance to take center stage. It barely broke a sweat under the spotlight, with a brand new option for smartwatch enthusiasts and an affordable alternative for everyone else. Here’s what you need to know about the new Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE, as well as an intriguing new family oriented Apple Watch service.
Apple Watch S6
The Apple Watch Series 6 looks much the same as last year’s Series 5, which is no great surprise. Apple has stuck with the same basic form factor since 2014’s Series 1.
There are plenty of improvements, though, and also a few exciting new features. On the improvement front, there’s a 2.5x brighter always-on display, a 20% faster S6 System-in-Package chip based around the iPhone 11’s A13 Bionic processor, and a next-generation always-on altimeter for tracking elevation changes. Good news for the hiking fans among us.
The most noteworthy new feature of the Apple Watch Series 6 is blood oxygen monitoring. Using four clusters of green, red, and infrared LEDs, this sophisticated tool measures the oxygen saturation of your blood in just 15 seconds, offering a deeper insight into your health and fitness. This data is a strong indicator of your overall cardiac health and could power research into asthma, heart failure, flu, and potentially even the Coronavirus.
Another feature to add to the ‘new’ list is the inclusion of the U1 chip that debuted in the iPhone 11. This uses Ultra-Wideband (UWB) radio to provide precise location tracking relative to other devices in the same room.
Apple also injected a little more color into its case options, with new blue and (PRODUCT)RED tints available alongside new Graphite and reworked Gold options. There are new band options too, most notably the Solo Loop, which flexes to fit on your wrist without any form of fastening mechanism, and fancy Hermès straps (pictured).
The Apple Watch S6 will ship with watchOS 7, which features sleep tracking, automatic handwashing detection, new workout types, and the ability to curate and share watch faces. The GPS model starts at $399, while the GPS + Cellular model starts at $499. It’s available to order today from apple.com and in the Apple Store app, with availability beginning Friday, September 18.
Apple Watch SE
Earlier this year, Apple gave us a new affordable iPhone in the iPhone SE (2020). Now it’s given us its first all-new affordable smartwatch in the Apple Watch SE.
For around $100 less than the Apple Watch S6 you get a device that’s externally very similar to the Apple Watch S4, with the same 40mm and 44mm display options. Internally it shares an accelerometer, always-on altimeter, and gyroscope with the brand new S6.
You don’t get an always-on display or the S6’s fancy blood oxygen detector, however, and the SE is powered by last year’s S5 chip. It also lacks an ECG function, which has been part of the Apple Watch package since the Series 4 in 2018.
Like the S6, the Apple Watch SE will come with watchOS 7 and its sleep tracking, automatic handwashing detection, new workout types, and watch face curation.
Prices start at $279 for the GPS model, while the Apple Watch SE (GPS + Cellular) starts at $329. Like the Apple Watch S6, the SE is available to order today from apple.com and in the Apple Store app, with availability beginning Friday, September 18.
Accompanying the affordable Apple Watch SE is a new software feature called Family Setup, which enables you to monitor and set up an Apple Watch for members of the family who don’t have iPhones. Think children, or elderly parents.
Parents can set custom Activity rings for their kids, as well as determine who they can contact, and limit access during school time. It’s worth noting that Family Setup will only work with cellular Apple Watch models.
With this latest round of Apple Watch announcements, Apple seems to be looking to hook people into its ecosystem from an earlier age. The Apple Watch SE is a budget-friendly way to grab a smartwatch, and the existing Apple Watch S3 remains in the lineup at just $199. Plus, with Family Setup kids don’t even need a costly iPhone to get up and running.