Apple announces Watch Series 6, Watch SE, Fitness+ and more

The brand-new Series 6 will ship with SpO2 and V02 Max tracking; Apple also launched three new studies...

Apple Watch Series 6

Apple announced the new Watch Series 6 and the more affordable Apple Watch SE. The former got new sensors for measuring blood oxygen (SpO2) and V02 Max. Let’s look at both devices in more detail, shall we?

Apple Watch Series 6

Sort of an incremental update over the Series 5, it comes with Apple’s new S6 chipset that is reportedly up to 20% faster than the S5 found inside the Apple Watch Series 5. It also packs the U1 chip which has Ultra Wideband antennas to enable short-range wireless location — so you could use the Watch Series 6 as a digital key for your car.

The Watch Series 6 uses the same chassis as its predecessor but adds new Blue and Product Red aluminum finishes. There are two stainless steel variants – Graphite and Classic Yellow Gold.

Another new feature is the more capable heart rate sensor that can now measure blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). Apple, however, added that this reading should be used “for fitness and wellness purposes.”

Also, the latest version (7) of WatchOS can use a person’s motion and heart rate data to give them a VO2 Max reading. That reading, in case you wonder, is considered a strong predictor of overall health, with the iPhone maker working to add another feature later this year that will notify users about a drop in their VO2 Max.
Apple Watch Series 6 Blood Oxygation
Finally, in the health-related area – there is support for native sleep tracking, automatic handwashing detection, and support for new workout types.

The Apple Watch Series 6 has an improved always-on display mode which is 2.5 times brighter; and which is combined with a new always-on altimeter to follow the user’s ascent during a hike or climb in real-time.

There are seven new watch faces — including Stripes, Chronograph Pro, GMT and Artist; and a few new bands like the Braided Solo Loop and the Solo Loop which lack a buckle or clasp.

The Apple Watch Series 6 takes under an hour and a half to be fully charged; it is now up for pre-order with shipments starting on Friday, September 18. The aluminum GPS-only model starts at $399 for the 40mm size and $429 for the 44mm. The GPS+Cellular version costs $499 and $529, respectively. The Stainless Steel model costs even more.

Apple Watch SE

Apple Watch SE

The more affordable device, the Watch SE shares the design and heart rate monitor of the Series 5 and its chipset, but has the same accelerometer, gyroscope and always on altimeter as the Series 6. This combo, according to Apple, is able to detect falls even at elevation changes as small as 1 foot (around 30cm).

The Apple Watch SE is also now available for pre-order with shipments starting on Friday. The 40mm model starts at $279, while the 44mm starts at $309. Adding cellular connectivity brings the starting price to $329 and $359, depending on size.

Apple will also continue to sell the Watch Series 3, with the 38mm version costing $199 and the 42mm – $229.

Three new studies

Alongside a new sensor for measuring blood oxygen, Apple announced three studies to put some of the Watch’s new features to the test:

  • Controlling asthma using physiological signals, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and Anthem.
  • A study on how metrics, blood oxygen being one of them, can be used to manage heart failure, in partnership with the University Health Network and the University of Toronto.
  • How heart rate and blood oxygen can signal an early onset of respiratory conditions like flu and COVID-19, with the Seattle Flu Study and the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Apple Fitness+

Apple also unveiled Fitness+, the first fitness experience built for Apple Watch, coming later this year. The service incorporates metrics from Apple Watch for users to visualize right on their iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV — offering what the Cupertino-based company calls a “first-of-its-kind personalized workout experience.” Everyone from beginners to committed exercisers can access studio-style workouts — including Cycling, Treadmill, Rowing, HIIT, Strength, Yoga, Dance, Core, and Mindful Cooldown — delivered by world-class trainers and underscored by motivating music from renowned artists.

Apple Fitness Plus

Using a custom recommendation engine, Fitness+ considers previously completed workouts and intelligently suggests new options that match the workouts users select most often, or something fresh to balance their current routine. Customers can also use a filtering tool to choose what is most important to them when looking for a workout, whether it’s the workout type, the trainer, the duration, or the music. For Apple Music subscribers, favorite music from Fitness+ workouts can also be easily saved and listened to later, whether in a workout or otherwise.

At launch, Apple Fitness+ will be available in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. The service will be available to Apple Watch customers as a subscription service before the end of 2020 for $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year. Everyone can try Fitness+ free for one month.

Customers will be able to share their Fitness+ subscription with up to five other people in their family with Family Sharing. Three months of Apple Fitness+ are included for customers who purchase Apple Watch Series 3 or later, starting September 15, 2020. This extended trial is available for a limited time. And if you’re buying the Watch from Best Buy, you can get six months of Fitness+ for free.

Apple Fitness+ is included in the Apple One Premier plan, which also gives customers access to Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, and 2TB of iCloud storage for $29.95 per month, and can be shared among up to six family members.

Apple partners with Singapore on a national health initiative

The government of Singapore and Apple announced their partnership on the health initiative LumiHealth, a personalized program to encourage healthy activity and behaviors using Apple Watch. The first-of-its-kind program was designed by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board in conjunction with Apple as part of the country’s Smart Nation initiative, a national effort to leverage technology to deliver benefits to its citizens and businesses. Created in collaboration with a team of physicians and public health experts, LumiHealth uses technology and behavioral insights to encourage Singaporeans to keep healthy and complete wellness challenges through their Apple Watch and iPhone. The LumiHealth app, designed with user privacy and security at its core, is available in the App Store for pre-order now, and the two-year program will be offered from late October 2020.

Lumi Health - Apple

Previously, the government of Singapore teamed-up with Fitbit over a similar initiative.

Why it matters?

For Apple, regularly launching new smartwatches means more money. For end-users, introducing additional features makes their wearable that much better in all kinds of ways. For the part we care about here, the new Apple Watch Series 6 will serve as an even better tool to keep them active and healthy.

Albeit, Android users are still left behind and are forced to get other smartwatches like those made by Samsung and Fitbit (now part of Google). We are just hoping that these two will take a page from Apple’s book and further beef-up their products with new health-related features.

On the record

“Apple Watch Series 6 completely redefines what a watch can do,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “With powerful new features, including a Blood Oxygen sensor and app, Apple Watch becomes even more indispensable by providing further insight into overall well-being.”

The context

Apple is already ruling the smartwatch market and with this latest update, it will further cement its position as the leading health-focused wearable (and the overall leading wearable device).

According to the International Data Corporation Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, Apple had more than a third (34.2%) of the wearables market share in Q2 2020.