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Apple Watch Series 6 and SE buyer's guide: What you need to know
When it comes to smartwatches, Apple Watch is one of the few truly household names. The Cupertino company has long been known for top-notch hardware, and 2020’s Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE continue to fit the bill. They might not be a game-changing update from their predecessors, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
So what does the Apple Watch Series 6 have to offer, and is it worth its premium pricing? Or is the budget-friendly Apple Watch SE a better choice? Learn everything you need to know in this extensive buyer’s guide.
Apple Watch Series 6 and SE at a glance
If you’ve used any of the previous iterations, the Apple Watch Series 6 and SE will feel familiar. The Series 6 is slightly thinner than the Series 5, but not enough that you’re likely to notice. It also comes in two new colors, blue aluminum and Product Red aluminum, and a spiffy new loop band accessory with no clasps or buckles.
The big new addition to the Series 6 is the pulse oximeter, which lets you check your blood oxygen percentage (aka SpO2) throughout the day or while you sleep. Unlike most other sensors on the Apple Watch, it doesn’t have FDA approval as a medical device. This means that it won’t be as useful for diagnosing things like sleep apnea as other fitness-focused devices.
The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch on the market.
As for the budget-friendly Apple Watch SE, it shares the same design language (and software) as its premium cousin but comes in at a much more attractive price point. You won’t get a blood oxygen sensor or a few other extra goodies, but it still offers some fitness options and the best smartwatch experience out there.
There are some better health and fitness trackers out there, like the Garmin Venu 2, but if you want a smartwatch (and use an iPhone), you can’t do better than the Apple Watch Series 6. That said, if you already have an Apple Watch from the last few years, it’s probably not worth upgrading.
Is the Apple Watch Series 6 worth buying?
Absolutely! Both the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE are excellent purchases. Like their predecessors, they come with excellent app support, a stylish design, and enough health tracking features to satisfy the vast majority of users.
The Apple Watch Series 6 is ideal for:
- Those who want the best all-around smartwatch experience and are willing to pay for it
- Anyone who wants above average fitness tracking
- Anyone invested in the Apple ecosystem
The Apple Watch SE is ideal for:
- Those who want the best all-around smartwatch experience on a budget
- Anyone who wants a full smartwatch instead of a basic fitness tracker
- Anyone invested in the Apple ecosystem
The Apple Watch Series 6 and SE may not be for you if:
- You want robust health, fitness, and workout tracking capabilities
- You already have an Apple Watch Series 4 or 5
- You are on a very tight budget
- You don’t want to charge your smartwatch every day
- You have an Android smartphone
Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: What’s new?
As mentioned above, not much has changed in the physical design of the Apple Watch Series 6 vs. the Series 5. Aside from some new band and color options, the only tweak is a slightly thinner face (10.4mm vs. 10.74mm).
Most of the new features the Series 6 brings are on the sensor and software side. Chief among these is the new pulse oximeter, which measures the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Although it isn’t as trustworthy as more health-focused devices, it’s still a nice addition for the fitness crowd.
The biggest new addition is a pulse oximeter, although it isn't FDA approved for medical use.
Another new addition for fitness enthusiasts is an always-on altimeter. On top of this, there’s a new Apple Fitness Plus service with workouts and led by expert trainers. You can get three months for free when you buy a new Apple Watch, and it’s included in some Apple One plans.
The Series 6 uses a new system-on-chip that Apple claims is up to 20% faster than its predecessor. The Series 5 was no slouch, either, so both devices offer speedy performance.
On the battery side, there have been some improvements, but it’s still a far cry from the longevity of competitors. Apple claims the Series 6 gets the same battery life as the Series 5 at 18 hours, with a full top-up taking 1.5 hours.
The screen is the same on both devices, but Apple has tweaked the always-on-display to be 2.5 times brighter when outdoors. You can also now interact with notifications without having to raise your wrist.
The Apple Watch Series 6 launched alongside watchOS 7, which adds several new features like sleep tracking, new workout types, new watch faces, and more. All of these features are now available on the Apple Watch Series 5, as well.
What about the Apple Watch SE?
The Apple Watch SE came out at the same time as the Apple Watch Series 6, but it slots in between the Series 3 (which is still sold at $199) and the new premium offering. It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles, but it’s more than sufficient for most users.
In our review, Eric Zeman called it the “Goldilocks option” since it strikes a perfect balance between price and features. It might be tempting to save a few bucks and get the Series 3, but it’s more than worth stepping up to the Apple Watch SE for the improved processor and performance.
What Apple Watch Series 6 accessories are available?
The Apple Watch lineup has always featured various accessories, and the Series 6 is no different. The most obvious accessory is a new watchband, and there are many first- and third-party options available.
Read also: The best accessories for the Apple Watch
We’ve put together a full list of the best Apple Watch bands here, but keep in mind that the Series 6 debuted alongside Apples’s new solo loop bands with no clasp. These are perfect for that minimalist look, but make sure you buy the right size if you want a snug fit.
Other than bands, you may want to invest in some charging accessories for the Apple Watch Series 6. This includes everything from replacement charging cords to portable chargers and more. Check out our picks here.
What are some good Apple Watch Series 6 alternatives?
The Apple Watch Series 6 is an excellent all-around smartwatch for those in the Apple ecosystem, but there are other options for Android users or fitness nuts. Here’s a quick roundup:
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: For Android users, the best Apple Watch Series 6 alternative is, undoubtedly, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. It’s exceptionally versatile and perfect for Samsung phone owners, but like the Apple Watch is has a few limitations that you can learn about in our full review.
- Fitbit Sense: If you can give up some smartwatch features for better fitness and sleep tracking, the Fitbit Sense is a great alternative. The battery lasts far longer at roughly six days of uptime, plus it runs $70 cheaper than the cheapest Apple Watch Series 6. Learn more in our full review.
- Garmin Venu 2 and Fenix 6: Garmin makes a fantastic range of smartwatches, but the Venu 2 is probably the most similar to the Apple Watch Series 6. It can’t quite compete on smartphone features, but it’s better for most fitness tracking. If you can spend even more, the Fenix 6 Pro builds on that with a rugged exterior and incredible 20+ day battery life.
Where to buy the Apple Watch Series 6
The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399 for the 40mm Bluetooth-only model and $499 for the LTE model. The 40mm watch face will increase that by about $30, no matter which option you choose. You can buy them from Apple.com, Amazon, Best Buy, or other retailers around the web.
There are, of course, more luxury models available. For example, the Apple Watch Hermès starts at well over $1,200, or even more if you want a stainless steel body.
As for the Apple Watch SE, it starts at $279 for the Bluetooth model or $329 for the LTE model. It’s a bit more if you opt for the 44mm model or a stainless steel band, but it’s still a better buy than the Series 3, which is still sold and starts at $199.
Top Apple Watch Series 6 questions and answers
Q: Is the Apple Watch Series 6 waterproof?
A: The Series 6 is water-resistant up to 50 meters, which means it’s great for swimming but cannot be used for scuba diving, for example.
Q: Does the Apple Watch Series 6 work with Android phones?
A: No. None of the Apple Watch lineups work with Android phones. They are an iPhone-only affair.
Q: Can I shower with the Apple Watch on?
A: You can, but it isn’t recommended. The Apple Watch isn’t waterproof, and its water-resistance will weaken over time.
Q: Will older bands work with the Series 6?
A: Yes, as long as they are for the same size watch. Older 38mm bands will fit 40mm watches, and 42mm bands will fit 44mm watches.
Q: Does it matter which size Apple Watch you get?
A: Yes. Each size watch is designed for different wrist sizes. If you have a particularly large or small wrist, you should opt for the larger or smaller watch to suit.