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[REVIEW] The Apple Watch Series 6 Smashed Our Expectations, But Is It Worth The Hype?

Million dollar question.


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[REVIEW] The Apple Watch Series 6 Smashed Our Expectations, But Is It Worth The Hype?
In this digital day and age, a lot of us are turning to technology to help us live a healthier life.

We are now relying on apps to tell us if we're sleeping better, or eating healthier, or even if you're burning enough calories so that you don't have to feel so guilty about chowing down on two slices of burnt cheesecake during tea time.

Our need for such apps have inadvertently made smartwatches or fitness trackers the must-have gadget for any fitness junkie.

And one of the more popular ones is none other than the Apple Watch.


The multi-billion tech company announced the sixth iteration of the Apple Watch back in September 2020, and it quickly broke sales records around the world.

With a more powerful chipset, new features and refined functions, the Apple Watch Series 6 has set itself up as the smartwatch to beat.

After using it for a couple of weeks, we came to a conclusion that the Apple Watch Series 6 is arguably the one of the most all-rounded smartwatch you can throw your money at.

Let us explain.

Expectation: Better Apple Watch to date


Before we got our hands on the Series 6, this writer was an owner of an Apple Watch Series 1. Yup, we're talking about the OG Apple Watch that was launched back in 2016.

We know it's unfair to compare both these models because, well, times are different, but we have to say that it is really impressive to see just how far Apple Watch has come in terms of technology and performance in just four short years. 

While the OG Apple Watch Series 1 was slow and clunky, the new Series 6 is impressively speedier and snappier.

Thanks to the new S6 chip, the apps respond better to the touch, launching almost immediately after we tapped on it. Apple says that  everything is 20 per cent faster with the new chip, and although we don't usually believe any of the marketing talk, we would have to agree that there is truth to that after using it for a couple of weeks.

In fact, we even tried slowing the Apple Watch down by tapping on all the apps on the watch, have them run in the background and switching it back and forth to see if that will affect the performance of the watch. We are happy to report that it passed with flying colours. You win this round, Apple.


The biggest upgrade, in our opinion, with the Series 6 is the battery life. We consistently got more than one-and-a-half day of usage before we need to charge it.

To put the battery performance to the test, we fully charged the Series 6 and started our day at 10am on a Tuesday, and we put it through its paces the entire day. We tracked our work out session and sleep for the entire day, finally got a 10 per cent warning at 3.26pm - on Wednesday!

At 10am on Wednesday -- which marks the 24th hour in our battery test -- we still had 35 per cent of battery life left.

Now, you may get a different number depending on how you use your watch (we turned off all the notifications because we don't like getting messages or Facebook notifications on our wrist), but having the watch last more than one and a half days with Always On Display running is super impressive.

We found that sleep tracking usually eats more or less 10 per cent of battery life, while work out tracking consumes eight per cent tops. With the sensors always running to track the time as well as your heart rate and have only eight per cent deducted from the overall battery life? Tell us that's not impressive. 


Even if the battery runs out, charging your Apple Watch up doesn't take really long.

Once, we popped the Apple Watch on the charger with a dead battery, took a shower and came out from the bathroom with 40 per cent battery life already charged up and ready to go.

Based on our experience, we typically manage to charge our Apple Watch Series 6 from dead flat to 100 per cent in about an hour or so, which is pretty awesome for someone who hates charging things.

Expectation: Making smartwatches look less meh

As with Apple products, you can expect them to be premium, and the Apple Watch Series 6 is no different.

The Series 6 comes in two types of cases: aluminum and stainless steel. Despite being the 'cheaper' one compared to the stainless steel one, it doesn't feel cheap at all.

Our space grey Apple Watch Series 6 has a gorgeous and lustrous quality to it. From certain angles, the space grey gives the Apple Watch a matte finishing, and we love how the screen elegantly curves into the metal body. The Digital Crown with a distinctive red ring completes the classy look of the watch.

Nobody would say that the Apple Watch Series 6 is an ugly-looking smartwatch, that's for sure.


Despite opting for the slightly-too-big-for-our-wrist 44mm Apple Watch, we can appreciate the fact that the smartwatch is actually pretty lightweight.

Apple says the 44mm Series 6 weighs in at only 36.5 grams, and that certainly seems to be the case as we never felt that the watch was weighing down our wrist. In fact, we sometimes forget that we had it on.

This makes a big difference when you're wearing the smartwatch while working out, and we can definitely appreciate just how lightweight the watch is.

The gamechanger for the Apple Watch Series 6 is, however, the introduction of the new Solo Loop bands. Apple introduced two variants of the solo loop band: one made out of liquid silicone rubber like the sport band that comes in the box, and a Braided Solo loop made out of polyester yarn filaments.

We love how the solo loop band provide a tighter fit compared to the default pin-and-tuck-type sport band. The tighter fit means better pulse and oxygen blood readings, and it also means that the watch won't be moving around too much when you're working out. 


However, our only issue with the Solo Loop band is its durability. When you try it on for the first time, the loop is so small that you literally had to squeeze your hand into it.

But just a few weeks of taking it off and wearing it back on, we found that our Solo Loop has lost its elasticity. From sitting snugly on our wrist, our Apple Watch now hangs slightly loose a couple of inches from the top of our wrist.

Also, getting the fit right is kinda tricky, so we recommend getting a Solo Loop that is one size smaller. 

Expectation: Better functionality and improved features

Unlike your other gadgets, there's really nothing much you can do with a smartwatch.

The Apple Watch Series 6 suffers from that too, because, well, what do you expect to do on a smartwatch, right?

However, we are pretty impressed by some of the features Apple has decided to pack into the new Apple Watch.


One of the biggest improvements in this year's version is the screen.

The OLED screen on the Series 6 is noticeable sharper and brighter too. Apple says that the new screen is 2.5 times brighter than the Series 5, and it shows. Even under the bright sun, we had no problems telling the time due to how bright the screen is. 

The Always-On display on the Series 6 allows the watch to display the time, complications, and other information to be continually visible even when you're not looking at it. The watch face dims when your wrist is down, but the hands on the clock (if you're using an analog face) remain somewhat visible if you want to peek at the time.

When you raise or flick your wrist, it brings the display back to full brightness. 


Some of the most useful health features from the Series 5 return in the Series 6. The Series 6 now boasts a second-generation optical heart rate sensor, which is capable of measuring metrics like calorie burn and resting heart rate, while the electrical heart rate sensor can be used for taking electrocardiograms.

When the Apple Watch detects an abnormally low or high heart rate, a notification will be sent to your phone to alert you.

The built-in accelerometer and gyroscope allows for more advanced safety and health features, such as the fall detection -- which, to be honest, is a feature that we would get an Apple Watch for.


As 2020 is the year of COVID-19, Apple also included a pretty cool hand-washing feature on the Series 6.

Using the built-in motion sensors and the microphone to listen to the sound of soap and running water, the watch can detect when you're washing your hands and when it does, it will automatically launch a 20-second timer (the WHO-recommended hand-washing time) to encourage you to keep going.

Once the 20 seconds are up, your watch will flash you a bubble thumbs up. Cute!


Also new to the watchOS 7 is the sleep tracking feature. As its name suggests, wear it to bed every night and it will track your sleep.

Sleep Mode turns on simultaneously on your iPhone and your Apple Watch when it's time for you to go to bed, and that automatically turns off your watch's Always On display and mutes all notifications from your phone.

However, do not expect the Apple Watch to give you super detailed sleep data, though.

While it gives you an overview of the length of your sleep and how many times you might have woken up at night, it doesn't give you important data like sleep stages or sleep apnea like a Fitbit would.


We can't believe we've almost made it to the end of the review without mentioning the Series 6's biggest feature: the Blood Oxygen app.

There's a reason for that, and it's this: it's not a feature worth buying the Apple Watch Series 6 for.

Using the red and infrared light from its new sensor, you can use the Blood Oxygen app to measure the oxygen level in your blood. A healthy adult would usually get a reading of between 90 to 100 per cent, so if your blood oxygen levels are constantly below that range, you need to consult a doctor immediately.

To be honest, during the three weeks we've been testing out the Apple Watch Series 6, we've never really paid attention to the Blood Oxygen app. 


On certain occasions where our fingers are itchy, we would just switch it on just for the fun of it. In between not being able to detect our bloody oxygen levels two out of three times (trust us, it happens a lot!) and occasionally getting a measurement of 89 per cent, we do not know what to use the app for.

Do we have to rush to the emergency room if we get a reading of, say, 70 per cent? Are my lungs healthy if my reading is always 100 per cent? Should I breathe in more so that my blood gets more oxygen? 

We feel that Apple Watch users would have to have certain knowledge about blood oxygen and what it does for your body to really appreciate the feature, and average consumers like us who just wants a cool smartwatch would not know what to do with the app.

Verdict


The Apple Watch Series 6 is indeed a great smartwatch.

Now, we can't tell you that it's the best smartwatch in the market because we've not tried many of them out there, but if this is the bar that its competitors have to reach, then we would have to say good luck.

The Apple Watch Series 6 shines with its premium build quality, the general aesthetic of the watch and certain health features (fall detection FTW), while its main highlight, the Blood Oxygen app, still needs a little bit of work.


So, here comes the million dollar question: should you buy an Apple Watch Series 6?

If you've always been looking for smartwatch and you have a little bit money to spend, then, yes; you will never go wrong with the Series 6.

If you want a smartwatch but you do not want to spend a bomb, you can consider getting the newly-launched Apple Watch SE or the Apple Watch Series 5 as they boast almost all the functions and features as the Series 6 but at a cheaper price point.

But if you've already owned a Series 3, Series 4 or Series 5, then it's probably not worth your money upgrade to a Series 6 because, really, you can remove the Blood Oxygen app and it wouldn't make a difference. 

All in all, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a great smartwatch, and we can't wait to see what Apple will be doing next year to top that.

The Apple Watch Series 6 starts from RM1,749 and you can purchase it from Apple's official website.

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