The pandemic has reminded people to be more vigilant about their health — from calories burned to environmental pollution. As a response, technology has been cleverly inserting gadgets that prompt users to upgrade for a healthier lifestyle. A recent point of interest has been blood oxygen, which Apple has integrated into their Watch Series 6.
My review device was the blue aluminium; it is lighter on the wrist compared to the denser stainless steel, and is ideal for those with slighter wrists as well as for those who lead an active lifestyle. The build is still rather durable and has an attractive frosted finish. Plus, the OLED Always-On Retina display on the Series 6 is a slight glow-up from that of its predecessor.
The Series 6 and Series 5 are noticeably different in their sensors. While the Series 5 has a green light-emitting sensor, Series 6 has four LED clusters and four photodiodes incorporated into the back.
When taking blood oxygen readings, the photodiodes capture the light that is reflected to detect the colour of your blood. The colour of your blood indicates the oxygen level — bright red is more saturated, while dark red is less.
Apple Watch setup is quite easy, directly feeding information to your iPhone’s Health app which presents your bio-data in digestible infographics. The device’s watchOS 7 is powered by the S6 SiP (System in Package) and makes the most of the close-to 18 hour battery. The S6 sports a speedy dual-core processor similar to that on the A13 Bionic in iPhone 11.
I had to charge up to full battery once a day and for about 25 minutes in the evenings before activating Bedtime Mode. However, on days I used the Fitness app, the battery required two full charges a day, which was expected. Ultimately, this is a decent battery life on a smartwatch that has multiple complicated functions through the day and night. Those who are considering upgrading from their Watch 3 or 4 will appreciate the massive battery life improvement.
I also activated Cellular, making it easy for me to go on errands and workouts without my phone, only accepting and attending to what was urgent. This switch-on marginally affected the battery life, but do note that linking the Cellular to your mobile phone plan may incur some additional charges.
Oxygen at the core
Now, back to the blood oxygen sensor, while useful in this post-COVID world, it also helps during workouts when wearing a mask while out for a run. I had a few issues with this sensor: it needed to be on a flat surface for 15 seconds while held completely still which is not easy in an outdoor workout scenario, and more importantly, it often gave me statements of ‘inconclusive readings’.
However, when checking the Health app, numerical readings were registered from the background readings taken through the day. The blood oxygen sensor was one of the first things mentioned at the Series 6 keynote but unfortunately, the feedback issue needs fine-tuning before making bold statements.
The watchOS 7’s SpO2 and VO2 Max (the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise) features is not new to the smartwatch industry. Brands such as Withings, Garmin and Fitbit have had these for a couple of years now. These additions to Apple Watch do round the health-tracking off nicely.
The sleep-tracking feature that comes with the new watchOS 7 is an exciting add-on for existing and potential users. However, I found that some of the sleep data was not enough for me, someone with disturbed REM cycles. I decided to download third-party app Autosleep which gauged Deep Sleep, Sleep Debt, Sleep Movements, and more. The first week or so using this was insightful, indicating the importance of a pre-sleep wind-down. But later, the app offered many inaccurate readings while the native sleep-tracker stayed solid in the basic measurements of heart rate, breathing and sleeping hours.
- Apple also launched the Solo Loop bands this year; if you plan on investing, make sure you take at least four measurements using the disposable measuring ring and average them out, before you make your final purchase.
- The Watch should be fitting snugly on your wrist so that the back sensor can take accurate measurements stably without any jarring movements when you walk, work out or even toss and turn in your sleep.
And, of course, the handwashing feature in watchOS 7; a welcome add-on which reminds us to be hygiene-vigilant. I have already written in detail about the handwashing feature , but in the Series 6, the timer, audio sensors and motion sensors are more intuitive here. So this model, thanks to the S6 SiP, launches the handwashing feature faster.
The Series 6 is not a huge upgrade from the Series 5. In fact, most of the noteworthy features are watchOS 7-related, so if you already have a Watch with a robust battery life and a whip-smart SiP — basically any model 3 or higher, including the recently-launched SE —, you could skip this. However, if you have money to spare — at least ₹40,900 to be precise — and want the latest, you could give it a go.
The Apple Watch Series 6 can be purchased at authorised resellers or athttps://www.apple.com/in/apple-watch-series-6/.