Over the past year and change, I've become a devoted Apple Watch user and consider it a must-have in my wellness arsenal. I use it to track my workouts and progress, give me nudges to stand when I've been one with the couch for hours (#WFHlife), and cheer on fellow watch wearers via Activity Sharing. Just when I thought the wearable couldn't do more? Apple announces the Series 6...along with some major upgrades.
As the health director at WH, I had the privilege of getting a first look at the new model and road-tested a few highly anticipated features (sleep tracking! blood oxygen monitoring!). My first impressions of the Series 6—plus the main ways I see it boosting my health and fitness regimen—ahead.
The blood oxygen level sensor is a fun new piece of wellness data for me.
Quick lesson: A blood oxygen level measurement tells you the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, or essentially how well your lungs and circulatory system are working.
The Series 6 measures this in 15 seconds with the click of a button in the new Blood Oxygen app (it's exclusive to this model). Your blood oxygen level is measured as a percentage based on the level at which your red blood cells are saturated with oxygen. So if you get a 100 percent reading, that means that yours are fully saturated (a good thing).
A normal, healthy reading is generally from 95 to 99 percent, meaning your breathing and circulation are functioning okay, the Mayo Clinic explains. (I just checked mine, and I'm at 97 percent. Whew.)
A heads up, though: This feature isn't meant to be used for medical or diagnostic purposes. Instead, I'm thinking of the blood oxygen measure as an extra piece of data to better understand my own overall health and fitness. For instance, I'll be putting this to use this weekend while hiking with my family to get more familiar with how my blood oxygen levels shift in higher altitude (there's less oxygen the higher you go, making it tougher to breathe). Interesting stuff.
As you take your measurements, your data gets stored in the Health app on your iPhone/iPad, so you can see how your blood oxygen level fluctuates over time.
The new solo loop bands make the watch more comfortable.
I used to wear the standard sport band with the stainless steel pin on a daily basis—and it didn't bother me, to be honest. But now that I'm wearing the solo loop band (it has no pin or clasp at all) with my Series 6, I notice a difference in comfort, no doubt.
The solo band lays flat against my wrist, looks less bulky, and is easier to pull on and off with no fastening necessary. The clean loop comes in nine size options to find a perfect fit. It also comes in a stylish braided pattern for when I want to switch up the look. (The new bands fit older watch models too.)
Also, the new watch face color options are sleek and modern. I'm loving my navy face and matching band, but the full list of color options for the Series 6 includes: blue, red, graphite, and gold. There's nothing like having a pretty new piece of workout gear or hardware to power up my motivation (and these days, I could definitely use a boost).
The Sleep app might *finally* help me establish a bedtime routine.
With the Series 6's Watch OS 7 software comes the much-anticipated Sleep app. I am a scroll-into-oblivion-at-midnight type of girl, so using a sleep tracker makes a lot of sense for me. But I won't do it if it requires me using a whole other wearable device.
With my watch, I set a sleep goal of getting eight hours per night, and I also set it to alert me to wind down 45 minutes before my bedtime and go into Do Not Disturb mode. I definitely felt less tempted to grab my phone and could focus on my book instead. You can also create custom wind-down shortcuts. For example, if you have a sleep playlist you love in Spotify, you can program your device to play it once your wind-down period begins. I created a custom shortcut for Apple Books.
I didn't love wearing the watch to bed (I never used to), as I typically wouldn't sleep in any sort of jewelry. But I'm sure I'll get used to it. You also have to charge your watch before bed if you wore it all day, as the battery life is still 18 hours. I charged it in while I read for about 45 minutes.
In the morning, as soon as I turned off my alarm on the watch, I got a notification that I had been asleep for almost 9 (!) hours. We'll see if I can keep up the positive bedtime habits the more I use my Series 6.
WatchOS 7 introduced even wellness perks beyond Sleep. (You'll need an at least the iPhone 6s model or newer, with iOS 14 or later, plus an Apple Watch 3, 4, 5, 6, or SE for these goodies, FYI.)
It can tell you about your cardiorespiratory fitness level (a.k.a. your VO2 max) so you have a sense of where you stand as far as your aerobic exercise goes. You can also finally customize your Activity goals, like your Exercise minutes and Stand hours. During a period where I was nursing a foot issue, hitting that 12-hour Stand goal just wasn't realistic for me—yet I still wanted the satisfaction of closing all my rings (hey, it's the little things). With WatchOS 7, you can tweak those goals to fit your lifestyle and needs at any given time.
Another bonus amid the pandemic (and just for general good hygiene purposes!): Your watch can automatically detect when you’ve started washing your hands and counts down from 20 seconds. You can also set reminders to wash your hands when you get home.
I'm also psyched to try Fitness+, Apple's new virtual workout platform that's powered by the watch.
Apple hooked up with more than 20 amazing trainers to program a variety of workouts, ranging from yoga and strength to rowing and dance. Your Activity rings on your watch will also appear on your iPhone/iPad/Apple TV screen and show your progress as you sweat. If you do Activity Sharing with family or friends, they'll get a notification about the workout you completed, and you can share recs. (Fitness+ launches before the end of 2020.)
An Apple Watch is definitely an investment (models range from $199 to $529). And if you have a satisfying wellness routine without all the extra bells and whistles, that's great too. I get it, an influx of data can be overwhelming or downright annoying if it's not your thing. Personally? I'm in the opposite camp and find that having so much info about myself at my disposal pushes me to move more every day (seriously, if I see my Move ring isn't far along I know it's a sign I need to at least get up and go for a walk for my body and mental health right now).
Wearing an Apple Watch has also surprisingly helped me get off my other tech, as I get any important notifications to my wrist, so I don't have to mindlessly grab my iPhone every 15 minutes like I used to. It also nudges me to my health a priority the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed.
The Apple Watch Series 6 is available for purchase September 18, starting at $399. WatchOS 7 is available now.
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