Kyla Lam (Research Analyst, AR/VR and Wearables, IDC Europe)

There we have it, the new Apple Watch Series 6. Straight to the market starting from £379/$399 to £1449/$1499. It’s the most advanced Apple Watch yet, but is it the best?

Firstly, the design looks identical to the Apple Watch Series 5. With the same case size of 40mm and 44mm, it wouldn’t look any different to an all-time Apple Watch user. If you want something smaller, the Apple Watch Series 3 has options for 38mm and 40mm.

What is different, though, is the colour range. Apple has incorporated a variety of jewel-toned bracelets that are complementary to the Apple case, from light pastel to dark.

It also has a wide selection of materials for watch straps, such as silicon braid, leather link, fluoroelastomer loop, and nylon weaves. Even better, options for watch cases include gold, blue, silver, space grey and red aluminium; gold, silver, graphite, and space black stainless steel; and titanium and space black titanium.

In addition, Apple does not fail to accommodate the high-end market, partnering with Apple Watch Nike and Apple Watch Hermes.

Corporate Social Responsibility

It’s worth mentioning that Apple does not allow mixes and matches of (PRODUCT)RED straps. According to its official announcement, for purchases of the new PRODUCT(RED) Apple Watch, “from now until 31 December, those proceeds will go to the Global Fund’s COVID‑19 Response“. This emphasises Apple’s corporate social responsibility, and its attempt to increase awareness of the current health crisis.

Just like the Apple Pride Edition, Apple continues to integrate social elements into its products, to the point that this new watch even times you to wash your hands for 20 seconds! Not only does this make consumers feel more relatable, it also reflects Apple’s values: “we are here to make a positive difference in society, as well as make a profit”. Honest and straightforward, I’ll give you that.

New Features: Family, Fitness, Health

So much for integrity, how about the oddly enticing Family Setup function for the latest watchOS 7? Apple announced that the Family Setup app allows users to register their Apple Watch to a second phone number without an iPhone as a medium, which encourages close monitoring of the health and safety of mainly junior and elderly users and controls communication limits.

In a way, it works as a kid’s device and an emergency device. Whether it is ethical or not, it aids life-saving surveillance. That said, Family Setup only works with certain telecom operators. For example, if you are in the U.K., only Truphone and EE support such services, which might mean an additional subscription for the optimal usage of the Watch.

Another new app — Fitness+ — may well be a unique selling point for recurring subscriptions. For $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, Apple provides a fitness service with a catalogue of professional workouts that transfers data directly from the Apple Watch to your connected device during a workout. Synchronised connection displays data on the connected device so that users save micromovements of looking up and down checking the watch while working out.

Apple is also proud of the blood oxygen measurement app (SpO2), which is an oximeter that uses infrared light from its sensor to determine the percentage of oxygen in the blood. By reflecting light from the blood vessels in your wrist, the app detects the colour of your blood to determine your oxygen levels.

In practical terms, the average healthy adult at around sea level would have no problem at all with oxygen levels. But it could be useful if you have an underlying condition like sleep apnoea or are experiencing altitude sickness.

Apple is not the pioneer in providing an oximeter or the now-so common electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality. Health-tracking rivals like Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, Fitbit Versa 3, and Withings ScanWatch adopted such functionalities quarters ago. That said, this only implies that more metrics are to be anticipated, such as blood glucose level, temperature, perhaps even mood swing measure, just like Amazon Halo. Nonetheless, this new Cupertino release undoubtedly positions Apple on a respectable healthcare path.

In addition, Apple introduced an improved accelerometer, which ultimately measures sleep movement more accurately. Despite calibrating more accurate data, Apple claims its improved S6 chipset is 20% faster and more energy-efficient than previous generations. Overall, there are many appealing integrations in this new release.

Short Battery Life

My biggest concern about the product, however, is its short battery life. Imagine having used your watch the whole day at work, enjoying its always-on retina display, cellular, and GPS connection, and notifications, naturally you would want to take your watch off and relax at some point.

Except this is when the sleep tracking function starts operating in the background overnight. That is 24 hours without rest for your watch and your wrist — and 18 hours is just not enough.

If you go to bed with less than 15% of battery life, then that may lead to faulty sleep tracking because it will not last the whole night. In addition, consistent use of sleep tracking will wear out the rechargeable cells quicker.

Hence, the product life cycle may end sooner than you would expect. On top of that, the Watch requires you to set two different schedule times for sleep tracking. Bear that in mind — configure two individual tracking schedules for weekdays and weekends, otherwise you may lose one too many nights of valuable information about your sleeping patterns.

Verdict

So far, the Watch Series 6 has been great. But while these apps sound very useful and personal, I struggle to justify the price for this Apple ware. Family Setup has been available since Apple Watch Series 4 onwards, and Fitness+ since Apple Series 3.

The ECG app, meanwhile, is available on Apple Watch Series 4 onwards (excluding Apple Watch SE), and the Sleep App is available for Apple Series 3 onwards.

While the pandemic is not helping with the economic situation, Apple sure is producing high quality at different price bands. This offers a more affordable alternative to consumers — the Apple Watch SE comes in identical sizes as the Apple Watch Series 6 of aluminium make. It uses the same S5 processor as its predecessor, but it does not have an always-on display or ECG and SpO2 sensors like the Apple Watch Series 6. From £269 to £369 over a £100 less than the Watch Series 6, the Apple Watch SE still benefits from watchOS 7 updates, fitness tracking, and a range of accessories.

Although the SpO2 has not been authorised by the FDA, meaning that data cannot be used professionally, the Apple Watch Series 6 is still an attractive proposition to consumers. In a range of price bands, Apple can accommodate consumers with various health monitoring needs. And as a reputable brand, its products are a guarantee for new joiners to the watchOS community.

 

If you want to learn more about this topic or have any questions, please contact Kyla Lam, or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.

 

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