Apple Watch Series 6 review: Putting Android smartwatches to shame

Apple Watch Series 6 review
(Image: © Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: With gorgeous hardware backed by meaningful health and wellness features, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a standout smartwatch. It combines a sleek design with a powerful S6 chipset, vibrant OLED panel, blood oxygen monitoring, sleep tracking, and a robust software platform that has a distinct edge over Wear OS.


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    Powerful S6 chipset

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    Blood oxygen monitoring and ECG

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    Intuitive software

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    Excellent activity tracking

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    Elegant design

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    Vibrant OLED screen


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    Doesn't work with Android phones

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    Average battery life

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I've used dozens of smartwatches over the last five years — everything from Wear OS to Samsung's Tizen-based offerings, Fitbit's products, and Xiaomi's budget-focused models. The only product I actually ended up using for any meaningful stretch of time was the LG Watch Urbane, and that was because Android Wear (as it was called then) was still a novelty.

My nonchalance toward Wear OS smartwatches stems from Google's foibles in this area. Wear OS hasn't received any meaningful updates in a long time, and the interface just does not feel cohesive. The same goes for Samsung — while the Galaxy Watch 3 looks great, the software lacks polish.

So when I was offered the chance to try out the Apple Watch Series 6, I was immediately interested. The Apple Watch carved out a huge lead in the wearable segment over the last five years, and I wanted to see if Apple's implementation is better than what Google and Samsung have managed thus far.

Without burying the lede too much, I can tell you right now that this is indeed the case. The Apple Watch Series 6 combines gorgeous hardware with a polished software that feels intuitive to use, and the health-focused features give it a distinct edge. The result is that the Apple Watch Series 6 is the first smartwatch I genuinely care about.

Apple Watch Series 6 Design

Apple Watch Series 6 review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The Apple Watch Series 6 looks every bit as premium as its price tag would suggest. I'm using the 44mm aluminum model in blue with a matching sport band, and the dark blue hue of the case gives it an added elegance.

The design itself feels recognizable, and that's for two reasons: Apple hasn't changed the visual aesthetic for a few generations, and Wear OS-based smartwatches like the OPPO Watch managed to mimic the design in such a comprehensive way that the Apple Watch evokes feelings of familiarity.

The Apple Watch Series 6 features a 1.78-inch Retina LTPO OLED display (1.57-inch on the 40mm version) with a resolution of 448 x 368 (394 x 324 for 40mm), with the sides gently curing out as they meet the case. The digital crown that sits to the right comes in handy for interacting with the UI, and there's a microphone and power button next to it.

The solitary speaker is located on the left, and the ceramic underside of the smartwatch is where the heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring (SpO2) sensors are located. Here you'll also find the quick-release buttons that let you switch out the bands with ease.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is available in a lot of different configurations, so let's take a look at what's on offer. You can pick up the 40mm variant for $399, and there's also a 44mm variant that costs $429. The former is ideal for smaller wrists, with the 44mm better suited to medium or large wrists.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is available in an exhaustive selection of colors and finishes.

Once you figure out the model, there are plenty of finishes and colors to choose from. The default option is the aluminum finish, but you can also get the Apple Watch Series 6 in stainless steel, which starts off at $699 for the 40mm version. There's also a titanium model that is available from $799. Then you get to pick the color, with the Apple Watch Series 6 available in silver, gold, space grey, blue, and PRODUCT(red).

Once you finalize the color and finish for the Apple Watch, you get a similarly-exhaustive selection of bands to choose from. The $99 Leather Link band in particular looks great (who doesn't like magnets?) and should complement the design of the smartwatch well. the other new band is the Solo Loop, a made-to-fit option that ensures you get a snug fit.

Apple has done a masterful job with the customizability of the Apple Watch, and the sheer number of options on offer ensure you can pick up a model that suits your particular tastes. Oh, and there's also an option to create your own bands if you're looking for added customization, and you can pick up any model with built-in LTE connectivity by shelling out an additional $100.

Apple Watch Series 6 Hardware

Apple Watch Series 6 review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The highlight of the Apple Watch Series 6 is the always-on display. The OLED display gets very bright in outdoor use (up to 1000nits in auto), and the quality of the screen makes it a delight to use. When you're interacting with a 1.78-inch screen, you need a panel that has vibrant colors and adequate brightness so that you can read the contents of the screen under harsh sunlight, and that is the case here.

The Apple Watch Series 6 has more sensors than any other smartwatch in the market.

The always-on display does a great job ensuring the Apple Watch Series 6 feels like a regular watch. Under the hood, the smartwatch is powered by an S6 system-in-package with a 64-bit dual-core design that leverages the same energy-efficient Thunder cores as the A13 Bionic. The result is that the S6 is 20% faster than the S5 chipset in the Apple Watch Series 5.

I haven't tried out the earlier version, but what I can tell you is that the Apple Watch Series 6 is fluid like no other smartwatch I've used to date. The Apple Watch Series 6 also has a W3 wireless chip for Bluetooth 5.0, connects to 5GHz Wi-Fi networks, and has the U1 ultra wideband chip that debuted on the iPhone 11 last year. The device itself has 50-meter water resistance, making it ideal for taking to the pool.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is packed with more sensors than just about any other smartwatch. You'll find an optical sensor for heart rate monitoring, an SpO2 sensor that relies on four LED clusters and photodiodes to take blood oxygen measurements, and an electrical heart sensor that's built into the digital crown for ECG. There's also an always-on altimeter, accelerometer with fall detection, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, GPS, and a compass.

Apple Watch Series 6 review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

When it comes to battery life, the Apple Watch Series 6 delivers well over 24 hours of usage on a full charge without any issues. The smartwatch comes with sleep tracking, and after 24 hours of usage with the always-on display enabled, I still had about 25% battery left on average.

The downside here is that it takes 90 minutes to fully charge the battery. The Apple Watch Series 6 is meant to be used 24/7, and Apple could have done more in this area to bring down the charging time.

There's no Qi wireless charging either, so you will have to use Apple's magnetic charging cradle or pick up an accessory like the Belkin Boost Charge. This is an unnecessary hassle, and Apple should consider introducing wireless charging with next year's model.

Apple Watch Series 6 watchOS 7

Apple Watch Series 6 review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

The sheer number of sensors that Apple managed to cram into a chassis that weighs just 36.5g is incredible, but what makes it truly great is how they all come together to deliver a standout experience.

There's a night-and-day difference between Wear OS and watchOS 7. The user interface feels polished, and it offers the best experience of any wearable today. There are zero issues on the performance side of things, the software is well-optimized for the Apple Watch Series 6, and there's a wealth of third-party apps.

With watchOS 7, Apple has crafted the best wearable platform available today.

There are plenty of watch faces to choose from, and like the hardware itself, you'll find a lot of customizability here. A particularly great addition is the Artist face, a unique design that integrates various human faces that alternate based on the time of day. I ended up using the GMT watch face, which comes with the option to set two time zones.

The Apple Watch Series 6 comes with meaningful health and wellness features, and the standout addition here is blood oxygen monitoring. The watch monitors your blood oxygen levels every few hours, and you also have the option to manually check the levels. The same goes for ECG as well; the watch takes a 30-second measurement and analyzes your heart rate patterns to detect arrhythmia.

A timely addition is the handwashing timer, which automatically kicks in whenever you're washing your hands. This feature is disabled out of the box and you have to go into the settings to turn it on, following which the watch relies on the mic and accelerometer to detect when you commence washing your hands. It then starts a 20-second timer to ensure you clean your hands adequately.

Other useful features include idle alert reminders, the ability to make calls and send texts straight from the watch — provided you have the LTE model — and activity tracking. The Apple Watch Series 6 is particularly great at automatically tracking activity, and you get to see detailed insights on calories burned, exercise duration, and other metrics.

You also get to see heart rate data over the course of the day, and the ability to measure indoor noise levels. The best part about all this is that the data is measured in the background, and you get to see detailed insights by heading into the Health app on your iPhone. There's no way to use the Apple Watch Series 6 with an Android phone, and you will need an iPhone running iOS 14 to be able to access all of its features.

The one area where watchOS 7 falls short is sleep tracking. Right now, you just don't get any useful insights other than the amount of time slept, and considering Fitbit and Garmin have plenty of options in this category that deliver meaningful sleep insights, Apple should have done more to differentiate itself.

Apple Watch Series 6 The competition

Apple Watch Series 6 review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

If you're interested in trying out the Apple Watch but are looking for a more affordable option, the $279 Apple Watch SE is the ideal option for you. The Apple Watch SE offers a similar design as the Apple Watch Series 6, but you miss out on the always-on display and blood oxygen monitoring. It is powered by the S5 chipset, and the value you're getting here makes it a decent alternative.

If you want an always-on display, the Apple Watch Series 5 is a great option that is now available for $349 for the 44mm version. You get all the software features that watchOS 7 has to offer, and barring the blood oxygen monitoring and always-on altimeter, the overall experience is similar.

The best Android smartwatch continues to be Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active 2, which retails for $249. The smartwatch has an elegant design, vibrant screen, multi-day battery life, and charges wirelessly over any Qi-enabled mat.

Apple Watch Series 6 Should you buy?

Apple Watch Series 6 review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

You should buy this if ...

You want the best smartwatch experience

The Apple Watch Series 6 is in a league of its own, and you won't find this level of sophistication on Wear OS or Samsung's wearables.

You want meaningful health tracking features

With blood oxygen monitoring, activity tracking, idle reminders, and 24/7 heart rate monitoring, the Apple Watch Series 6 includes health-focused features that you'll actually end up using.

You're looking for a polished interface

The Apple Watch Series 6 picks up timely updates, including a 20-second timer for washing hands and indoor noise level monitoring. Combine that with an intuitive UI that's fluid in day-to-day use, and you get a great overall experience.

You should not buy this if ...

You want to use the smartwatch with an Android phone

The Apple Watch Series 6 does not work with an Android phone, so you will need to pick up an iPhone if you are interested in the smartwatch.

You want an affordable option

Interested in an Apple Watch but don't want to spend too much money? Get the $279 Apple Watch SE instead.

4.5 out of 5

I'm not exaggerating when I say that the Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch around. The maturity of watchOS as a platform puts Google's tribulations with Wear OS into sharp focus, and the overall experience here is leagues better than anything Samsung, Fitbit, and Wear OS smartwatches have to offer.

The Apple Watch Series 6 nails the fundamentals: the hardware is gorgeous, the always-on display is great to use, and the software doesn't have any glaring shortcomings. But what makes the smartwatch truly stand out is the health-focused additions: with a heart rate sensor, blood oxygen monitoring, and ability to take an ECG directly on the watch, the Apple Watch Series 6 comes with features you'll actually end up using.

Sure, the battery life could have been better, but my biggest issue with the Apple Watch Series 6 is that there's no way to use the smartwatch with an Android phone. You will have to invest in an iPhone in addition to the smartwatch (there are plenty of new options available), but if you're okay doing that, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a truly outstanding product.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is available from $399 in the U.S., £379 in the UK, and ₹40,900 in India. It isn't exactly affordable — particularly if you're interested in the LTE model — but it is unmatched in the wearable segment, and if you want the best smartwatch available today, this is the one to get.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.