Apple Watch Series 6 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
One neat feature about this watch is you have the option to upgrade to a model that has cellular capability, allowing you to leave your phone behind without sacrificing any connectivity. However, this can add quite a bit to the cost, as you may need to pay your current cellular service provider a monthly fee for the data or the additional device.
Ease of Use
Our first metric rated and ranked the relative ease of use and user-friendliness of each smartwatch. We awarded points on the difficulty of swapping in different bands, the interface, screen responsiveness, ease of charging, and water-resistance. The Series 6 did very well, earning one of the best scores of the group in this metric.
We found there to be almost zero delay with the touch interface on this watch. It responds immediately to your taps and swipes, as well as waking up almost instantaneously when you raise your wrist. In addition to the touch screen, you also have a crown scroll and the watch has haptic feedback. We particularly like this feature, as it lets you minimize fingerprints on the screen and lengthen the time between cleanings.
There is a small button you press to release the band and then slide it out the side. It's fairly easy and quick to swap bands, both with original ones from Apple and third-party brands.
This watch recharges with an inductive charging cable made specifically for Apple Watches. It magnetically couples to the back of the watch with a fairly strong magnet, taking a decent amount of force to knock it free.
This smartwatch is also water-resistant to 50 meters/5 ATM and it's quite easy to take screenshots of the screen on the watch if you want to save any information shown.
Next, we moved on to evaluating and scoring all the different features and functions that make these products smart. We awarded points based on the apps you can install, if you can make phone calls, control your music, and use the watch for contactless payment options, as well as if there is an integrated GPS module in the watches. The Series 6 continued its dominance, again earning one of the top scores of the entire group.
This watch was compatible with most of the popular apps we tried it with at the time of writing, working with Uber, Facebook Messenger, Spotify, Strava, Shazam, and IFTTT. It could also use a third-party version of Twitter but no longer can work with Instagram.
You can take calls right on the Series 6 if you want to leave your phone in a purse or pocket and we found the sound quality to be more than good enough to carry a conversation. This product also has all the typical music controls you might want, allowing you to pause or play music, as well as skip or repeat tracks.
The Series 6 also has an integrated GPS unit for location services and fitness tracking and is NFC-ready, allowing you to use Apple Pay at compatible locations for contactless payments.
Continuing a trend, the Apple Watch Series 6 thoroughly impressed us as we moved into our display metric. We based our assessment on the image quality, the ease of reading in different lighting conditions, and the different viewing modes available.
The Series 6 is available with either a 44mm or a 40mm bezel. The 44mm option has a resolution of 368 x 448 pixels and the 40mm model has a resolution of 324 x 394 pixels. Both screens are an always-on Retina display and provided some of the highest quality images that we have seen on a smartwatch. We found it to be exceptionally easy to read in bright sunlight and has more than enough of a backlight to read in the dark.
However, this smartwatch does not have the ability to be set to automatically adjust the brightness based on ambient lighting conditions.
Just about every smartwatch that we have tested can double as a fitness tracker and the Apple Watch Series 6 is no exception. We tested out the step counter, the heart rate monitor, and the workout tracking, as well as if the watch kept a count of the number of stairs you climbed throughout the day. The Series 6 continued its exemplary performance, meriting one of the overall top scores yet again.
To compare the accuracy of the step counter on each wearable, we took each product on three separate one-mile walks and counted our steps with a mechanical counter. We then compared the difference between each smartwatch's count and the true count, awarding points accordingly. The Series 6 was only an average of 23 steps under the actual count. It wasn't the most accurate of the group but was still pretty close.
It did much better in our heart rate monitoring tests, aligning almost perfectly with the chest strap monitor we used as a control. We compared the measurements both at a resting and active heart rate and were thoroughly impressed with the Series 6's optical heart rate monitor. This watch also offers a wide variety of different workouts that it can track and it will automatically detect if you start or stop a workout, along with allowing you to set goals and track your progress towards meeting them.
Unfortunately, we weren't super impressed with the stair tracking on this watch. It missed a handful of the 10 flights that we climbed, only catching about half in our assessment.
Our final series of tests focused on the battery life of each smartwatch. We compared how long each watch lasted with normal use in our side-by-side tests. The Series 6's overall performance dropped a bit compared to some of the other products but it still earned an overall above-average score.
Apple claims an 18-hour battery life but that seems to be with pretty extensive use. We got closer to 36-40 hours with what we considered normal use. We also liked that this watch charges quite quickly. It hits about 80% charge after an hour and completely recharges in about 1.5 hours in our experience.
Unfortunately, this top-tier performance comes at a bit of a premium price. It's hard to recommend this as a value option if you are searching for a bargain smartwatch.
All in all, we strongly think the Apple Watch Series 6 is easily the best smartwatch currently available if you have an iPhone. It is packed with smart features and functions and can be a great option for tracking your workouts as well. It's a sleek and stylish smartwatch that you can't really go wrong with in our books, provided you have the budget for it and already use an iPhone.
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More