We mon­i­tor Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 6

New model of fit­ness de­vice is mod­est step up

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Dalvin Brown

It’s been just more than a week since Ap­ple un­veiled its lat­est fit­ness de­vice: the Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 6.

The lat­est Ap­ple Watch fea­tures a lot of you’d ex­pect from the iPhone gi­ant five years into the smart­watch game: more us­able screen space, a brighter al­ways-on dis­play and more cus­tomiza­tion op­tions.

At the core of the model up­grade is a blood oxy­gen sen­sor, which Ap­ple stresses isn’t a med­i­cal tool. But it can key you in to what’s hap­pen­ing to your body be­neath the sur­face.

“It is meant for fit­ness and well­ness pur­poses,” said Ap­ple’s vice pres­i­dent of health Sum­bul De­sai. “We’re do­ing re­search to learn more.”

Aside from the blood oxy­gen tool, Se­ries 6, priced from $399 and up, rep­re­sents a mod­est step up from the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion with more color op­tions and sleep track­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ap­ple sent over a unit to test out, and here are my first im­pres­sions.

Blood oxy­gen lev­els

The blood oxy­gen app is straight­for­ward and easy to use. Just tap Start, wait 15 sec­onds, and it’ll dis­play your re­sults. You have to be com­pletely still while it gen­er­ates your re­sults, oth­er­wise, you’ll get a few un­suc­cess­ful mea­sure­ments like I did.

Ul­ti­mately, my blood oxy­gen sat­u­ra­tion was 96%, ac­cord­ing to the Ap­ple Watch.

That in­for­ma­tion wasn’t re­ally ac­tion­able, or in­her­ently use­ful though.

Oxy­gen sat­u­ra­tion shows what per­cent­age of oxy­gen is be­ing car­ried by red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body. When you’re in a healthy blood oxy­gen sat­u­ra­tion range, around 95% or higher, Ap­ple’s lat­est watch fea­ture doesn’t re­ally do you any good.

But health ex­perts say the watch’s abil­ity to pas­sively check for drops in your blood oxy­gen sat­u­ra­tion can be a

use­ful way of nudg­ing you to see a licensed doc­tor if you drop into an un­healthy range.

“It’s not use­ful day-to-day. It’s re­ally only help­ful if it’s low,” said Den­nis Deru­elle, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor at Amer­i­can Physi­cian Part­ners. Cer­tain ill­nesses, in­clud­ing COVID-19, could cause your blood oxy­gen sat­u­ra­tion to go down, he added. But a doc­tor would have to di­ag­nose what’s truly hap­pen­ing.

Work­ing out with Se­ries 6

Since the Se­ries 6 isn’t sci­en­tif­i­cally ap­proved to be a med­i­cal de­vice, its best de­scribed as a fit­ness de­vice for those keen on track­ing their calo­ries burned, work­out in­ten­sity and over­all well­ness.

I’ve spent the past sev­eral days com­par­ing the lat­est edi­tion to the iOS fam­ily to my old Se­ries 4, which lacks the cov­eted al­ways-on dis­play but still has a sim­i­lar de­sign feel to the Se­ries 6.

The dif­fer­ences dur­ing work­outs were mi­nus­cule, at best. They both have the same fit­ness an­i­ma­tions and dis­play the same met­rics as you work to­ward reach­ing your goals.

Maybe there will be more strik­ing dif­fer­ences once Ap­ple un­locks Fit­ness+, the com­pany’s up­com­ing fit­ness ex­pe­ri­ence that’ll give you stream­able con­tent from fit­ness train­ers on your iPhone or iPad. The $9.99-per-month ser­vice in­te­grates real-time work­out met­rics from your Ap­ple Watch.

Un­til then, the dif­fer­ences be­tween the new Ap­ple Watches and the 2-yearold Se­ries 4 are bet­ter re­flected else­where.

So what’s new?

One of the most strik­ing dif­fer­ences was the color. Ap­ple sent over a navy blue one to test out, though the Se­ries 6 also comes in a new PROD­UCT(RED) and graphite.

The Se­ries 6 is also the first Ap­ple Watch I’ve worn to bed at night, in part be­cause 18-hours of bat­tery life isn’t enough to sus­tain two days of wear, and par­tially be­cause there wasn’t a na­tive sleep tracker un­til now.

The lat­est WatchOS 7 soft­ware up­date in­tro­duced sleep track­ing, Sleep Mode and Wind Down, so I de­cided to give those a shot. The na­tive Sleep app fea­ture tracks your slum­ber in the back­ground.

I set my bed­time and the watch sent me a re­minder when that time was ap­proach­ing. I mostly ig­nored it, much like Ap­ple’s re­minders to breathe, but I can see how it can come in handy for peo­ple who want to make sure they get their rec­om­mended eight hours ev­ery night.

Be­fore go­ing to bed, I ticked on the watch’s Sleep Mode, which sim­pli­fies your watch face and puts the de­vice in do not dis­turb mode so no­ti­fi­ca­tions don’t wake you up. Also, the back­light was low­ered, so it didn’t keep me awake.

The next morn­ing, the sleep app on the watch will can dis­play how many hours you slept, and any gaps in your slum­ber. I found out that I ac­tu­ally sleep fewer hours than ini­tially thought.

I’d likely con­tinue to use the fea­ture if the watch didn’t die the next morn­ing.

Do you need to new Se­ries 6?

While the Se­ries 6 is solid, it’s hard to rec­om­mend the smart­watch over pre­vi­ous ver­sions. Blood oxy­gen isn’t some­thing you’re likely to check ev­ery day, if ever, and that fea­ture is the most no­table ad­di­tion to Ap­ple’s fam­ily of de­vices.

Also, Fit­bit’s lat­est de­vice mon­i­tors sleep but has a longer bat­tery life and can check for fever symp­toms, so that’s a strong con­tender, too.

If you’re locked into the world of iOS, want some­thing new to toy with, or need a new work­out tracker, the Se­ries 6 could be well suited for you. If you’re ex­cited about Ap­ple un­lock­ing Fit­ness+ soon, the lat­est watch with the most up­dated bells and whis­tles might also be worth check­ing out.

DALVIN BROWN

The na­tive blood oxy­gen app is easy to use. Tap 'Start,” wait 15 sec­onds and it'll dis­play your re­sults.

AP­PLE

Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 6 in­cludes an SpO2 sen­sor.

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