Apple Unveils Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE

Originally published at: Apple Unveils Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE - TidBITS

Apple has announced its next-generation Apple Watch Series 6 with a number of enhancements, notably a blood oxygen sensor and new bands. The company also unveiled a lower-cost Apple Watch SE.

I watched the event last night, but as a non-watch user, found it difficult to track what was new, what was interesting, etc. Thanks for a great article that sets it all out clearly and concisely! (TidBITS never lets me down :grin:)

One question, though, @julio. You state:

The Apple Watch SE is essentially a rebranded Apple Watch Series 5—minus the ECG—but otherwise with welcome improvements.

But reading through the details and also having a look at Apple’s product page, it sounds more like the SE is a Series 6 minus some of the more advanced features. Is there a reason you consider it more based on the Series 5 than the Series 6?

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Will the blood oxygen sensor require the same regulatory approvals in every country that we saw for the ECG—so that it might be a long time, in some places, before it can actually be used?

It’s using the same processor as the S5 rather than the S6.

The other difference with the S5 is that there is no always on display in the SE as there was with the S5. Otherwise, it’s just like the S5, just without the ECG and the always on display.

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Not according to DC Rainmaker’s review. Apple apparently didn’t seek approval. This puts them in the same boat as Garmin, I believe, who’s had SpO2 on one or more of their watches for a couple of years now. As with “running power” or “cycling dynamics”, no one really knows what good having this actually does.

I was holding off buying a S5 last week to see what Apple was going to peddle. The 6 seems logical, but the use is still … well…bizarre. I mean, I would take my analog watch off to sleep. But with an Apple watch, isn’t this when you charge it? So that unless the battery lasts a week (it only last 18hrs on a charge), this really doesn’t make sense if you want to monitor daily HR/Blood O2 and nightly sleep patterns. They want you to buy two (one charges/other is worn)? Perhaps I am not the ideal market segment. And the SE is the crippled 5, right? Thanks for writeup. I expect more comparisons of the 6 as we go one. Dreading the iOS14 surprises today… maybe I should wait till the iOS14.1…

It depends on the regulations of each country. Interestingly, ECG was built into the very first edition of Apple Watch in anticipation of it being quickly approved by the FDA. I wonder if the current Covid 19 crisis might have helped facilitate approval?

I charge mine for about an hour in the morning when I’m getting ready, and top it off before I go to bed at night if it needs it. Works fine.


Generally, yes, but I find that charging for about thirty minutes to an hour before I go to bed is more than enough to get through the night. And you can charge again when you wash up for the day after you wake up, while you eat breakfast, etc. And Apple claims that the S6 charges faster than previous watches, like my S5 and S2.

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I’ve been wearing a watch to bed and using a sleep tracking app, Auto Sleep, for the last year or so. I generally charge the watch in the morning (during shower, breakfast, and getting dressed) and top it off at night before going to bed.

Over the last few months, the Apple Watch 4 seems to have increased its discharge rate, losing 30-40% of charge overnight and 30% or so during the day. I did purchase an upgrade to a 6 yesterday with a trade-in of the old watch.THe old watch was valued at $140, so the net cost wa under $300. The new watch should arrive next week.

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Ah, I’d missed that, thanks! Makes sense. :grin:

I’m reluctant to wear my Apple Watch in bed because it has a Milanese Loop band, and there’s the whole hair-getting-caught issue with my wife’s hair :blush:

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A detail emerged when I was trying to configure my dream Watch Series 6 today (I’ve never had an Apple Watch and I still don’t know if I can afford one); in the web pages describing the detail, one is warned that “Some straps contain magnets and may cause interference with Compass on Apple Watch”! Is this an admission of a design fault? I called the Apple sales team and they told me that the Sports Band contains a magnet - sad, as it seems one of the more secure strap designs. It seems strange that Apple got all the way to the announcement of the device and then had to warn potential purchasers not to buy some of the offered equipment! I’m still wondering whether to buy one. I need the compass, by the way.

According to the Apple site, newer models of the Sports Band don’t contain magnets:

“ The presence of magnets can affect the accuracy of any compass sensor. Apple’s Leather Link, Leather Loop, Milanese Loop, and earlier Sport Loop watch bands use magnets or magnetic material that might interfere with the Apple Watch compass. The compass isn’t affected by Sport Loop bands introduced in September 2019 or later, or any version of the Sport Band.”

It continues to amaze me that Apple’s phone and Store support staff tends to be even increasingly less knowledgeable than they used to be.

Yes, it is amazing. But if the modern versions of the straps can’t affect the compass, why did Apple put the warning in their sales info? Do they think people will used old straps in their new watches - is this even possible? Really I’m just looking for an old-fashioned watch strap with a simple buckle, but sadly Apple only offer one for the vastly more expensive stainless steel versions of the watch. Decisions, decisions…

Yes, watch straps going back to the original Apple Watch still fit and work with the SE and S6.

I have several straps and I know that the small fastener in the sport band I bought last year and the stainless steel Milanese loop bands affect the compass. The Milanese loop makes sense, as it is fastened with a magnet. The new solo loops and the existing sport loop bands are probably best if you need to use the compass. (I do not ever need it myself.)

Thanks - I hadn’t done the right research, but now I see that people can and will choose old straps on new watches. I just realised that there is an enormous market for Apple Watch straps from other manufacturers, invariably cheaper than Apple’s own, and in a bewildering array of styles. Decisions again! I am now further confused by a completely different issue: I’m stuck (well, perhaps that’s too pejorative a word) in the South of France since going back home to England is not a brilliant idea right now - so according to Apple I would have to buy my watch in France. Sadly the prices are much higher here than in the UK using any realistic exchange rate. So more decisions!

Last year, while my Apple Watch 4 was being replaced (bad pixel), I tried an Apple Watch 5 for a week and discovered a fatal weakness of the compass that has nothing to do the electronics. Namely, in order to get a reasonable readout, you must place your arm parallel to your body which I find to be somewhat unnatural. Normally, to read a watch, you don’t really care about the angle. I found it much easier to properly hold the iPhone and read the compass there.

By the way, my favorite band to use with a gold aluminum watch case is a brown sports loop that was sold with the Apple Watch 2. It brings out the brownish aspect of the gold, rather than the pinkish aspect.

It still seems funny to me. I haven’t worked with the Apple Watch, but I’ve worked with magnetometer sensors in embedded electronics (which can, among other things, be used to implement a compass).

The sensor reports raw magnetic field levels on three axes, usually relative to the plane of whatever circuit board it is attached to. Any application should provide a calibration mechanism so the software can tease out magnetic fields caused by the device itself and subtract them from its readings in order to read the environment. Your iPhone does this - that’s why you sometimes are told to rotate the phone in various patterns so it can discover what parts of the field vary with direction and which parts don’t (and are therefore produce by the device).

It seems to me that a magnet in the band should be something that a calibration procedure should be able to discover and filter out. Is there such a procedure for an Apple Watch?

Regarding holding your arm parallel, this also surprises me. These sensors are usually 3-axis sensors. It should be able to compute a 3D bearing on which direction is North and the software should have a good way to present it. Much like how your phone doesn’t have to be horizontal for its compass to work.

It’s not whether my arm is level or whether the watch is lying on top or rolled toward me or away from me, but rather the angle in the horizontal plane is the problem. When I normally look at my watch, my arm is in some intermediate position between pointing in the direction I am facing or exactly orthogonal to the direction I’m facing. Yet, I will get a true numerical bearing only if I hold the watch exactly orthogonal to my current direction. It’s true that I can eyeball an approximate bearing when my arm is in an intermediate position, but it’s much less tiring just to pull out an independent compass and hold it to get the exact bearing.