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Apple Watch Series 6 Review

If you are looking for the absolute best of the best when it comes to wearables to pair with your iPhone, then this is it
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:   $430 List | $414 at Amazon
Pros:  Stylish, multitude of features, exceptional display
Cons:  Very pricey, essentially limited to iOS
Manufacturer:   Apple
By Austin Palmer and David Wise  ⋅  Nov 18, 2020
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81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 12
  • Ease of Use - 30% 8
  • Smart Functions - 20% 8
  • Display - 20% 9
  • Fitness Impact - 15% 9
  • Battery Life - 15% 6

Our Verdict

Surpassing the performance of its five predecessors, the Apple Watch Series 6 earned one of the very best scores we have seen from any smartwatch and easily claimed one of the top spots. We think it's hard to beat if you are looking for a smartwatch to work with your iPhone, offering an impressive array of smart features and functions. It's sleek and stylish, available in a handful of colors and bezel sizes to match your personal preference, and has one of the best displays we have seen on a wearable device. However, it also can be very expensive, making it hard to recommend if you are shopping on a budget.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


Overall  we think this watch is one of the best you can get.
Overall, we think this watch is one of the best you can get.

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.

This watch is very convenient and user-friendly.
This watch is very convenient and user-friendly.

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.

We found it very easy to swap wristbands on this model.
We found it very easy to swap wristbands on this model.

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.

The charger for this watch attaches securely and easily.
The charger for this watch attaches securely and easily.

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.

This watch has some of the most comprehensive smart features of any that we have seen.
This watch has some of the most comprehensive smart features of any that we have seen.

Smart Functions


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.

Some of the many apps available on the Series 6.
Some of the many apps available on the Series 6.

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.

This watch displays calendar notifications  as well as most push notifications.
This watch displays calendar notifications, as well as most push notifications.

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.

This watch is very easy to read even in bright light.
This watch is very easy to read even in bright light.

Display


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.

The Series 6 has an exceptional display.
The Series 6 has an exceptional display.

However, this smartwatch does not have the ability to be set to automatically adjust the brightness based on ambient lighting conditions.

There are a whole host of different workouts you can track with the Series 6.
There are a whole host of different workouts you can track with the Series 6.

Fitness Impact


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.

This model also did decently well in our heart rate monitoring assessment.
This model also did decently well in our heart rate monitoring assessment.

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.

We are very impressed with the fitness tracking capabilities of this watch.
We are very impressed with the fitness tracking capabilities of this watch.

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.

The charger attaches to the Apple Watch fairly securely but is still easy to remove.
The charger attaches to the Apple Watch fairly securely but is still easy to remove.

Battery Life


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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Austin Palmer and David Wise