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Find out what we thought of Apple's newest smartwatch release.
Apple fans will need no introduction to the Apple Watch 6, the latest smartwatch model, which was unveiled with much fanfare in the brand's virtual event, Time Flies, last September.
The shiny wearable tech was released alongside the Apple Watch SE, a more affordable version of the high-end 6.
While there were many exciting features showcased during the event, the functions Apple gave most attention to were the health additions of this model, only available on a select few smartwatches by any brand.
The first is its ability to take an ECG (electrocardiogram), and the second is the Blood Oxygen feature, which uses light to measure the levels of oxygen in your blood.
There are many other functions to shout about, but these were the stand-out additions that account for the price increase compared with the SE model. We’ve taken all the features on the Apple Watch 6 for a test drive to see if the model is worth all the excitement and have shared our findings below.
For a top of the range offering from other brands, see our Huawei GT2 Pro review and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review. For a more fitness-focused top-end smartwatch, there's also our Fitbit Sense review. And for our expert pick of the best wearables out there, read our best smartwatch list.
The Apple Watch 6 is the all-singing, all-dancing smartwatch offering from the tech giant.
As might be expected from Apple, there are cutting edge health features such as ECG monitoring, a range of customisable options such as personalised watch faces, plus specialised fitness tracking for a range of activities.
There's also the unique "three rings" wellness tracking format (explained below), and, synced with your iPhone, the watch is practical for everyday use, allowing you to FaceTime Audio from your wrist, use Apple Pay and view notifications from a range of apps.
This model's price starts from £379, varying depending on size (there are 40mm or 44mm options), material and strap choices, including special brand collaborations. Of all the Apple smartwatches, the 6 has a wide range of model variations available.
The Apple Watch 6 is Apple’s latest and most high-tech iteration of its smart wearables to date. Right from your wrist, this smartwatch can be used to take and respond to calls and messages, monitor advanced health stats and track fitness, along with a long list of other functions.
We were impressed with the range of features available on the Apple Watch 6. Along with the usual fitness and sleep tracking and ability to display notifications (while allowing you to answer calls and reply to texts from your watch), there is also fall detection and an altimeter, which we explain in more detail further on.
While you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference at first glance between the Apple 6 and the more economical SE (and even the earlier Apple Watch 3), there are few key features that set it apart.
In addition to a heart rate monitor (a common on most smartwatch models), the Apple Watch 6 can deliver an ECG (electrocardiogram), which can measure your heart’s rhythm and activity.
The 6 also has a blood oxygen sensor on the back of the watch face which fires red light into your arm and measures the light to come back to give you a reading (anything between 95 and 100% is normal).
The price of the Apple Watch 6 varies greatly depending on the options chosen. The standard starting price is £379 for a 40mm model, the price climbing depending on which materials and watch strap you choose. Collaboration or special edition options also come at a premium. For instance, Apple has teamed up for Nike models and Hermes edition straps.
Overall, we’d say yes. While not cheap, we were impressed with the highly functional and slick features of the watch. The design is well-thought-out, effective to navigate, and the look can be very well personalised, both externally (in terms of strap and colour options) and internally (in terms of the watch faces and apps available).
While the price is a step up from the SE, the advanced ECG and blood oxygen monitors do the job and would likely justify the increase for anyone who really valued having these functions.
The Apple Watch 6 model features a square face with rounded edges and a bright, clear digital screen. The smartwatch's face is a touch screen, plus there is a “digital crown”, a dial-like button on the right-hand side of the watch face which can be pressed as a home button and twisted for scrolling. There is also a flat button beneath it.
We tested the red 40mm model with a silicone sports strap. There is also a 44mm sized model available in three materials plus numerous strap options, which can easily be swapped in and out and are interchangeable across the Apple Watch 3, SE and 6 (strap prices start from £49).
The watch itself is a medium weight but not as heavy as expected at first glance. The sports strap was very lightweight while being supple and feeling very robust.
Overall, the watch felt well-made and high quality, although we thought that the shiny sides and back of the watch face could be liable to eventual scratching, much like the iPhone models.
As expected from the current top of the range release from Apple, the Watch 6 is packed with impressive features that can be customised for a highly personal experience.
There are a dizzying array of watch face options in which you can alter colours and various other elements to make it your own. Different faces display a choice of easy to view key functions at any time, from the time and date to heart rate and “ring” progress.
The rings' premise is that you have three that can be set to your own targets, and you will receive reminders and updates on your progress throughout the day. Red is known as the Move ring and tracks active calories, green measures exercise in minutes, and blue is how often you have stood up (the standard setting is a target of once an hour). The rings reset every 24 hours, and your progress is monitored with alerts.
The standard watch settings feature many notifications, particularly if you already have a range of notifying apps on your phone. However, all of these can be adjusted with time as preferred.
There is a range of health and fitness capabilities on this watch, including specialist sport tracking from outdoor running and indoor cycling to kickboxing and open water swimming. The health tracking options on the 6 are also top of the range, with a clear, easy to use ECG, which can be activated at the touch of a button and gives results in moments. The blood oxygen monitor is also state of the art and just as easy to operate.
Apple Pay, music playing compatibility and the option to add a range of apps from Nike Run Club to popular office tool Slack also make it practical for use day-to-day. We were similarly impressed with how easy it was not only to see incoming calls and texts but also to take them (including FaceTime Audio, although not FaceTime Video) from your wrist. For messages, there are quick responses available, plus voice note and even drawing options to reply.
Battery life on the Apple Watch 6 is stated as 18 hours based on 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 60-minute workout with music playback, according to Apple.
Over the course of the day, the battery seemed to last in line with the prediction, and we’d say Apple gave a fair assessment. If you’re not doing a full workout with music and using the apps for that long each day, the battery life can outlive the 18 hours. However, compared to other smartwatch models, this Apple version does guzzle through battery at quite a rate.
The battery level can be viewed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, although the level isn’t constantly available to see at a glance. When the watch gets to 10% capacity, there is a useful alert.
To charge, the back of the watch connected wirelessly to a circular coin magnetically, which has a USB cord. The wire is a decent length, although the coin doesn’t hold very strongly to the watch back, so you’ll need to make sure it is stable and flat to keep it charging.
There is no plug adapter included, as Apple announced they were removing these from smart devices for environmental reasons.
The Apple Watch arrived as a sleek, white rectangle which turned out to be two boxes in a sleeve. One box contained the watch face in a protective casing plus the charging cable.
The other housed the red silicone strap in two halves, plus an extra strap piece, so there were two sizing options. A clear diagram within the packaging explained how to attach the straps to the watch face.
When getting set up, we downloaded the Apple Watch app and paired the device. There were on-screen instructions explaining how to pair the two clearly, and the syncing process took a few minutes, during which time you are still able to continue using your iPhone as normal in the background.
The syncing was smooth, and we were impressed to see the Apple Watch featuring a wide range of apps from the iPhone, which were easy to use and navigate between. We also found the smartphone app itself intuitive and familiar. However, in classic Apple-exclusive style, this watch will only work with iPhones, so Android users will be disappointed.
The full unboxing and syncing process with a short charge took around 20 minutes or so.
Yes, we would definitely recommend the Apple Watch 6, but only to iOS users. This exclusivity is a drawback but is not unexpected from Apple, known for ring-fencing its products from external compatibility.
The slick look and functionality of this smartwatch model is a major draw, and the personalisation of the style and apps within it is unparalleled. On a day-to-day basis, the watch is a genuinely useful, practical tool that complements other assets of the Apple family well.
The health functions such as the Blood Oxygen monitor are a top of the range addition, although, for some, the steeper price for these features may not be warranted. In which case, we would recommend the otherwise identical SE model, which you can read about in our Apple Watch SE review.
Overall star rating: 4.5/5
The Apple Watch Series 6 is widely available from a range of retailers, depending on the exact face and strap design you are looking for: