Apple Watch Series 6 is the 2020 version of the most popular smartwatch in the world. It was expected to be unveiled along with the new iPhones in the middle of September of 2020, and while the time frame was correct, it was actually announced alongside a new 2020 iPad Air 4 instead.
In this article, we have rounded up all the major new features that the Apple Series Series 6 brought.
See our Apple Watch Series 6 review here and our Apple Watch SE review here, the latter being a newly-introduced, more affordable version.
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Apple Watch Series 6 release date
Friday, September 18
The Apple Watch Series 6 was made available in the US on Friday, September 18, 2020.
Apple Watch Series 6 price
No surprises on this front
The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399 for the GPS model, while the GPS + Cellular model starts at $499. Prices are higher for the more premium band options.
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Apple Watch Series 6: Force Touch is gone
watchOS 7 has removed support for this feature
After doing away with 3D Touch on iPhones, Apple also killed Force Touch on the Apple Watch, and the Series 6 doesn't even have the required hardware support for the feature.
Force Touch has been an interesting addition: it's a genuinely useful extra layer of the whole system, but it suffered from one big problem which is that it was hard to predict when you could use it and what for. With watchOS 7, support for the feature is gone. In its Human Interface Guidelines, Apple has been telling developers to relocate items previously accessed by Force Touch: "In versions of watchOS before watchOS 7, people could press firmly on the display to do things like change the watch face or reveal a hidden menu called a Force Touch menu. In watchOS 7 and later, system apps make previously hidden menu items accessible in a related screen or a settings screen. If you formerly supported a long-press gesture to open a hidden menu, consider relocating the menu items elsewhere."
Apple Watch Series 6 specifications and new features
WatchOS 7 brings new features to the Apple Watch Series: sleep tracking, new watch faces, a redesigned Activity app that now goes by the name Fitness, and support for dance as a workout. We cover the more notable features in the following sections.
Apple Watch Series 6 specifications
Below are the specs thanks to which the Apple Watch Series 6 improves upon it's predecessor:
- A13 bionic dual-core processor
- Up to 20% faster performance than on Apple Watch Series 5
- Improved always-on display, 2.5 times brighter outdoors
- Always-on altimeter for real-time elevation tracking
The Apple Watch Series 6 was made available in several new colors, most notably Product Red, which is a first on an Apple Watch. Along with it, other colors include:
- Classic Gold
- Product Red
Blood oxygen measuring
Using red and infrared light, the new health sensor on the Apple Watch Series 6 is able to measure the user's blood oxygen levels in just 15 seconds. This new sensor can also capture periodic background readings and store them in the Sleep app. The blood oxygen measuring feature is said to be especially useful for detecting respiratory and cardiac health issues.
In relation, at the reveal of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple noted that is starting 3 new studies to help manage and identify conditions via the new sensor, so its functionality and usefulness may improve in the future.
New Watch Faces
The Apple Watch Series 6 includes many new Watch Faces, such as a GMT one, which shows multiple time zones at once, and the Count Up one, which lets the user start tracking laps immediately. A simplistic and beautiful Typograph Watch Face shows numerals in different styles, while a Memoji Watch Face shows the user's favorite Memoji on the lock screen. A Stripes Watch Face lets users display pride in who they are or show support for their favorite teams.
In addition, Apple says that it has given more freedom to developers in creating Watch Faces for the Apple Watch, which should lead to more specialized Watch Faces to choose from by third parties. During the Apple Watch Series 6 event, examples showed a photography-oriented Watch Face with a shutter button, while another watch face was entirely about showing medical stats.
New watch bands and band colors
The Apple Watch Series 6 comes with a new band style, made out of custom, stretchable silicone for easy taking off and putting on. The band is one continuous piece, said to be durable and swim-proof. This new band comes in 7 different colors. A braided version of the Apple Watch Series 6 band was also made available, itself made out of recycled yarn and in 5 colors.
Additionally, a new premium leather band and updated Nike Apple Watch sport bands are also available.
Apple Watch Family Setup
A new feature called Apple Watch Family Setup is also now available with WatchOS 7, letting users just use a single iPhone to pair their children or grandparents' Apple Watches. Paired Apple Watches do not need separate iPhones for each family member. Yet their wearers can still get their own phone numbers, making family members, such as kids and grandparents just a call away.
Parents are also able to specify which contacts their kids will be allowed to communicate with, or set up automatic location notifications for when their kids arrive at certain locations. A School Time mode enables Do Not Disturb and will restrict interactions with the Apple Watch when the child is at school. In turn, kids will be able to create Memojis directly from their watch and share them in messages.
Sleep tracking is here
The biggest new feature with the Series 6 might be Apple Watch sleep tracking. Such a feature was already present on other smartwatches, like those by Fitbit and Withings, and it's also been available on the Apple Watch via third-party apps, but never natively. Sleep tracking functionality was confirmed to be coming to the Apple Watch with the release of watchOS 7 in Fall of 2020, and thus was made available on the Apple Watch Series 6 at launch.
A Bloomberg report from early 2019 claimed that Apple had been testing sleep tracking for the Apple Watch since late 2018. The company had allegedly run a secret program with testers at specialized facilities near its headquarters in Cueprtino, California. It's worth knowing that Apple's Health app on iPhones has had a separate sleep tracking category for years, but right now it uses data from the alarm clock on an iPhone, which of course provides little actual information about the quality of sleep. Apple acquired Finnish company Beddit in 2017, a company that makes a sleep-tracking sensor that is currently available on the Apple Store for $150. As soon as in October 2019, we saw the mention of a "Sleep app" on the Apple Watch. The discovery came from Twitter user Daniel Marcinkowski and all those combined provide interesting background to how we ended up finally getting sleep tracking on the watch.
That Sleep app has now been made available with watchOS 7, and as mentioned earlier, is on Apple Watch Series 6.
Also new on Apple Watch Series 6: Much better Gym Stats
While smartwatches and the Apple Watch in particular have been great companion devices for runners, cyclists, swimmers and a few other sports, gym goers lifting weights have had less use for the watch.
Apple has been working actively to change this and has introduced a new "Apple Watch Connected" initiative for popular gyms in the United States. The new program has the gyms bring Apple Watch-connected equipment as well as reward programs based on workout data collected by the watch.
Participating gyms are required to offer an app for either the iPhone or the Watch so that members can track their fitness progress, plus they have to support Apple Pay and offer a rewards program. Gyms also need to have equipment compatible with Apple's GymKit API for tracking workouts. The program will require users to opt in, meaning that Apple will not automatically gather data about them.
The list of participating gyms includes Orange Theory, Crunch Fitness, YMCA, and Basecamp Fitness, and more can join in later on.
Apple Watch S6 New Health Features
Blood pressure and blood sugar measurements, handwashing detection
With watchOS 7, we saw the introduction of automatic handwashing detection. With its sensors, machine learning and microphone, the Apple Watch is able to detect whether the user is washing their hands, and if they're doing it for as long as it is recommended for fighting off diseases like COVID-19. The watch is also able to remind users to wash their hands when they get home.
Will the Apple Watch Series 6 come with a new design?
The rectangular shape will stay
Unlike its band, the Apple Watch Series 6 itself has not been changed in terms of design. It retains the same rectangular shape with rounded corners as its predecessors.