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Apple Watch Series 6 review: Putting Android smartwatches to shame

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

Our 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.

For

  • Powerful S6 chipset
  • Blood oxygen monitoring and ECG
  • Intuitive software
  • Excellent activity tracking
  • Elegant design
  • Vibrant OLED screen

Against

  • Doesn't work with Android phones
  • Costly
  • Average battery life

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 (opens in new tab), and there's also a 44mm variant that costs $429 (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab) for the 40mm version. There's also a titanium model that is available from $799 (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab).

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 (opens in new tab)), 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 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.

29 Comments
  • Did iMore shut down?
  • Exactly! I thought this was Android Central not Apple Central!
  • Why is this even on here? It doesn't work with Android phones, you have to have a iphone. Did imore give you a bonus to place this here? LOL
  • Samsun GT2 Watch $150 10 to 14 days battery charge, messages, phone speaker, heart and O2 measuring as well as sleep and stress, every type of exercise you can think of, works with Apple and Android, beautiful design. BEAT THAT APPLE!
  • I think you mean Huawai GT2 and its not a smartwatch.
  • Get this off this site!
    Even mentioned in your negative: Does not work with Android!!!!! This is not an APPLE SITE!
  • All of these android watch makers are lucky that the Apple Watch isn't compatible with Android phones. If it was then these other watch makers would be in trouble.
  • The Apple watch and many of Googles bad decisions like making multiple competing apps and shutting down the one that works the best makes me inch closer to Apple.
  • Nah. I'll stick with the elegance of Samsung watches. But articles like these are the reason I come less and less to Central sites. Thank God for ad block.
  • From the outset this reads as an Apple advert on an Android site. Ive just swapped my Galaxy Watch for a Ticwatch Pro 3. What happened to my Galaxy Watch? My girlfriend got rid of her Apple Watch and is much preferring the Tizen watch even on iOS.
  • Seriously this reads like an Apple fan boy's dream review. The bottom line is there is no one size fits all device and despite the hype there are many Android alternatives that are excellent smart watches. I have the new Mobvoi Pro 3 GPS and guess what? It's an excellent smartwatch that works with Android and does everything I need it to do. I'm certainly not sitting around wishing I had an Apple iPhone only device!! That review belongs on imore...
  • "You want meaningful health tracking features" Pardon me, but the health tracking features in my Samsung watches are PLENTY meaningful. The same is true of FitBit watches. "The Apple Watch Series 6 does not work with an Android phone" So ... why is this review even on this site? We don't see reviews of Google/Samsung/Nest products on iMore even when Apple doesn't have a competing product. You don't see reviews of Nest Wi-Fi or other smart home devices on iMore. You never saw Google Home or Nest audio reviews on it before Apple launched the HomePod product that no one buys either. So why on earth is a review of a device that DOES NOT WORK WITH ANDROID HARDWARE present on this site? It doesn't make sense. At all. And let me go back to the FitBit and Samsung thing: why is it that third party sites with known preferences for Apple products like The Verge and Gizmodo ARE FAR MORE POSITIVE about Samsung smartwatches than this review? Gizmodo: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 Is the Android Smartwatch I've Been Waiting For
    "It’s also joined Apple in offering a flagship smartwatch with Food and Drug Administration-cleared health features. In dramatic fashion, Samsung announced during its Unpacked event that it had gotten a thumbs-up for its ECG feature, which can detect atrial fibrillation, from the FDA. All that would’ve been enough to be competitive with the Apple Watch, but Samsung has also stepped up its game with several new features. The Galaxy Watch 3 sports a widget to measure your blood oxygen levels (something the Apple Watch doesn’t do yet), advanced running metrics, trip detection, video workouts via the Samsung Health app, gesture controls, and a beefed-up sleep-tracking algorithm. There are also small but useful tweaks, like the ability to display photos from messages, view chat history from your wrist, and use smart replies. All of Samsung’s smartwatches thus far have been stylish, functional, and ambitious. " The review from The Verge isn't nearly as glowing but still: Samsung’s latest smartwatch is fine but awfully familiar. Samsung makes fine smartwatches, and the Galaxy Watch 3 is the finest of them all. the Watch 3 fulfills the definition and expectations that we’ve accepted for smartwatches perfectly adequately. It does the things we expect a smartwatch to do — track your activity and provide quick access to notifications — just fine. And if you’re an Android (or even better, a Samsung) phone owner looking for a new smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch 3 is a fine pick. So why is it that two known Apple fanboy sites give the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 a much better treatment than does an Android site? Look, we know that the Apple Watch is better (although the primary superiority is the third party app support). But since there is no way on earth I am going to give up my Galaxy Note 20 Ultra for an iPhone with a smaller and worse screen, no stylus support, no SD card support, terrible PWA support and is useless with the Windows PC that I use for work and the Chromebook that I have for casual use (and much less useful with my Nest audio and Android TV devices) THEN WHAT GOOD DOES THAT DO ME? Look, if an iPhone that cost $80 like the Nokia 1.3 existed then fine. I would buy it and then get a nice Apple Watch SE to pair with it while the iPhone is mostly used as an expensive paper weight that I guess I could use as a cloud-based iPod to stream Apple Music (whose subscription I do have thanks to Google Play Music being dead) and I guess use Dark Sky or something. Or if you could pair an Apple Watch with an iPad, great I would get an iPad Air because that is something that I would actually use. (Well not me ... I would never use it as all its use cases have been replaced with my Note and Chromebook. But people in my household would use it frequently.) But since the $300 Apple Watch requires me to buy a $400 iPhone SE 2 - a 4.7' device when I haven't bought a device with a screen smaller than 6' since getting the Samsung Galaxy Mega in 2013 with the Nexus 6, Galaxy S+ and now the Note 20 - then no. Sorry. That is way too much money on a device that will be sparingly used. Even getting an ancient prepaid iPhone 6s - the absolute cheapest option for Apple Watch support - costs $250. And that is why this review would have no business on this blog even if it didn't contain all these falsehoods about Samsung watches (one of which I am wearing at this moment). But claiming that Samsung watches aren't viable options for health tracking, communications and everything else is a flat out consensus falsehood.
  • Young Hoon Eom, is that you?
  • This is absolutely relevant for this site. Android consumers need to know what they're missing, so that they can demand similar functionality from Google and Samsung. "Ignorance is bliss" won't help us improve the Android ecosystem.
  • except what he points out is false, In what way is this way head and shoulders above the Samsung Galaxy 3? In many ways it's worse.
  • Yeah, I don't agree with his assessment entirely either, and I have both. I'm mid way through switching from the iPhone 11 Pro Max plus Airpods, Apple Watch 5, etc, back to Samsung after just over a year in the Apple ecosystem. Overall though I do agree that the Apple Watch is better. Just not as significantly better as the author stated. But it would be nice if Samsung for e.g. had more app equivalents on Tizen, and there are elements of the Apple Watch i wish they would adopt. Still I prefer the look of the Galaxy Watch 3 by far, and its functionality has come a very, very long way since the first Galaxy Watch. Agree with you also that in some respects its better. I actually prefer its fitness tracking. It has an accurate SPO2 meter (you only get one with the series 6, and its very inaccurate atm). And the bezel is a joy to use for the UI.
  • in what way shape or form does this put Samsung's Galaxy Watch 3 to shame? Also it seems like this is the new norm among formley Android centric sites, like Android Police, hire Apple writers to troll is viewer and to tell them how much Apple products are better. Nobody wants a Fanboy Yesman site but nobody wants a purposely troll driven site to prove you are true Android fan but pimping Apple blogger site either. But I will admit I wish Android sites had more passionate bloggers like many Apple centric sites who aren't into putting down Apple products, pimping up Android in order to look like they are "objective" .
  • I come to this website to read about Android related stuff. If i want reviews about Apple products ill go to a different site?
  • I'll stick with my Huawei Watch GT 2 thanks, amazing display, everything I need in a smart watch and 2 week battery life...
  • I was surprised to see such a review on this site too .. but a more balanced article may have been the Galaxy 3 vs Apple Watch 6 comparison. I actually have an iPhone 11 Pro Max and Apple Watch S6. After the disappointing 12 release (I actually hate the design , low refresh screen,poor battery life & heavy max model) I would love to give Android a shot again. But my watch just wouldn’t work with the Android phone. And I really don’t want to have to replace that as well as my phone. Annoying but not unexpected. So I continue to lurk on sites like this as well as Apple sites.
  • Meh it's such an ugly watch. Smartwatches only real use is showing notifications. None are all that good. And I have quite like my Galaxy Watch.
  • 24 hours is pathetic frankly. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 Days to 5 Days depending on watch size. More than enough reason to avoid the ugly thing Apple make.
  • I'm struggling to understand why this would be reviewed for any reason on Android Central...? It doesn't work with Android phones so what's the point in a wholly Android focused site? Odd.
  • Most (maybe all?) Of the tech reviewers out there, are not in a position of a simple every day user, they are looking and seeing tech much differently. While most simple users are very happy with their Google and Samsung watches, and it just does everything they expect, the reviews are busy with other details. The same thing goes with Android tablets, they keep saying that it's a mess and a shame, you will look on evrage users comments that they are very happy and it does everything perfect. Besides the point that they are using the device they are reviewing for a day max a week or 2, so it's simply not possible to get the every day objective usage. Now as a tech enthusiast myself, I understand that details which make apple products feel so good in a certain way, but to say that google/Samsung watches and tables are a mess and a shame, is clearly not accurate.
  • You guys needed some clicks, huh? 😂 You knew damn well that posting the mess on Android Central would bring out the pitchforks!
  • Why do we care about iFruit watch?
  • Meanwhile, the Apple & Google CEOs are having dinner together, presumably laughing about the fanboys of each platform. If you don't like the article, don't read it.
  • So here I am on "ANDROID CENTRAL" and I'm being told how inferior Android watches are to Apple. I'm ok with that if I was an iPhone user, BUT the fact I can't even use the Apple watch with Android is moot. Unless I want to move to switch to Apple products, this article is completely a waste of time. This is why I stopped half way through. Ridiculous! Seriously dude?
  • I agree- I am an Android user and that's why I read here- so I don't need to have suggestions of what Apple watch to get thrown in there as hello- as we all know, it wouldn't work with my phone. I am in one ecosystem not two. And the watches I own work with both and don't lock out the other ecosystem. That's the reason I became a "convert" . I am very happy with my watches - I also am not looking for an entire phone miniature replicate on my wrist anyway with bunches of icons etc- just a few things I like, notifications, some basic fitness stuff, heart rate, sleep etc and I get that with my Galaxy Active and my new Fossil Hybrid. Matter of fact- I just got the hybrid because I DON'T want a miniature phone but just some smartwatch functions but with a traditional watch face that I can always look at- so even though my Galaxy Active works perfectly and has decent battery life and some more function- certainly has plenty; I am digging the hybrid watch better without all the colors etc. So if I had an iPhone- I'd probably still have that hybrid . It's elegant looking- I don't like the square shape of the Apple anyway- I like a circular watch and also now having an actual watch with hands that also offers my notifications and steps . I use the phone for the rest of what I need anyway.