Apple Watch Series 6: First Run Accuracy & SpO2 Sensor Data


While I already posted earlier this week on the new features of the Apple Watch Series 6, I figured I’d share some quick first run Friday data for ya. As well as some initial thoughts on the handful of other new features that the Series 6 has. This includes VO2Max, SpO2, the altimeter, and screen brightness. Plus of course that new optical HR sensor.

First up, as a quick reminder, here’s the main fitness-focused skinny on what’s new on the Apple Watch Series 6:

– Added SpO2 Blood Oxygen Sensor/Measurements
– Changed optical sensor package entirely
– Added faster responding barometric altimeter for watch faces
– Increased screen brightness in standby 2.5x
– VO2Max Alerts Coming later 2020 via WatchOS7 (all Apple Watches from Series 3 up get this)
– Reduced detection floor of VO2Max for lower VO2Max levels
– Added Sleep Tracking via WatchOS7 (all Apple Watches from Series 3 up get this)
– Added Additional Sports via WatchOS7 (all Apple Watches from Series 3 up get this)
– Increased processor speed by 20%

In the grand scheme of things this basically all boils down to an SpO2 sensor and new optical HR sensor package. While the barometric altimeter improvements might be useful for some, Apple has long had a barometric altimeter in the Apple Watch. This just makes it faster to respond on the watch-face.

So I wanted to dive into all these changes – and for a Friday afternoon, a video seemed like the best bet (in hindsight, it wasn’t – as our internet service provider in the area was having issues impacting both home and office, and I’d spend countless hours trying to get it published). Still, since it’s there now and I was up to 2:30AM fighting the good internet fight, you should press the play button and enjoy a fun run around Amsterdam. Oh, and some technical bits.

Still, for this weekend post I’ll quickly consolidate some thoughts. First up, there’s the new optical heart rate sensor. This splits out what was a single green LED light (or, perhaps technically a cluster of lights) on the Series 5, into a dual-light arrangement on the Series 6 (though, I think there’s actually four green LED’s – hang tight a sec). It also adds the red-light pieces that we’ll talk about later.


For the SpO2 piece, that’s triggered one of two ways. Either manually with a 15-second test that you simply start and wait:


Or automatically behind the scenes every once in a while. That’ll turn on the red lights for the SpO2 sensor. What’s interesting in this that I didn’t notice immediately in the video, is that when it turns on those red lights, there appears to be a secondary set of green lights that come with it (totally four green LED’s).


Seeing the red sensor is incredibly challenging because Apple has put in piles of error-avoidance detection things. Unlike everyone else including Garmin, Apple doesn’t allow these readings to be taken just any old time. Instead, they’ve really focused heavily on only letting you get readings when it’s in the optimal position:


Why is this? Well, they’re trying to avoid inaccurate readings from people just doing this whenever they want (as Garmin and others allow). So by sandboxing it a bit, they can increase the perceived accuracy of it, by throwing out plenty of potentially inaccurate results due to poor ‘user test procedure’.  For example, while none of these are classified as medical devices, they’ll undoubtedly be compared to one. And if you look at how those devices are tested/validated, it’s sitting at a desk with your arm on a table. Which…is basically exactly what Apple is telling you to do above.

And in fact, once you turn the watch more than about 90° on angle, it’ll instantly switch off the sensor and fail the test. It’s super sensitive. Which isn’t to say Garmin isn’t sensitive – they might be behind the scenes, they just don’t expose it – so you sit there trying annoyingly and it just looks at you like a confused dog. It’s a prime example of Apple not being first with the technology, but ultimately implementing it in a more widely accessible way.


In any case, this was supposed to be a quick post. On the run, I had a pile of devices with me to compare, especially for heart rate. Looking at that first, you can see the Apple Watch did exceedingly well. Only one minor blip for a couple of seconds. The HRM-PRO had dried up while I was filming some intro stuff, and I forgot to re-lick it until about 2-3 mins in, and then you can see it instantly locked off. After that, my sweat kicked in and I was good. Standard chest strap things on a cooler dry day.


All in, for HR accuracy while running a single run – it’s WAY better than the Series 5 was at launch, and now more in line with the very impressive accuracy of the Series 4.

For GPS data, I created one heck of a messy route. I included the running track, two sets of extremely long tunnels/bridges, running a loop next to a stadium, running on a small island, going through the forest, and just meandering. I had with me a FR745, Fitbit Sense, and of course the Apple Watch Series 6. Due to various embargos, I can’t quite share the Fitbit data until next week. So here’s the GPS data versus the FR745:


And a bit closer:


I went into this in detail in the video, or you can zoom in on the set here. But the main takeaways are:

– Holy crap, Apple finally got rid of the Mario Kart/Swooshing/Sashaying corner effect
– The Apple Watch and FR745 were very close
– The FR745 actually nailed the track, despite not being in track mode (hmm…interesting thoughts on that later)
– The Apple Watch struggled a little bit around the stadium, but we’re talking mostly just a few meters
– There were a few sections it wobbled slightly on some straightaways
– Both were great in the tunnels
– Both were great in the forest

So, the biggest takeaway is that Apple has clearly traded some of the over-smoothing they’ve done since the very beginning of Apple Watch, with a bit more ‘trueness’ for where the watch actually goes (or, where it thinks it goes). This means that you get a bit more wobble in some cases compared to the past, but it also means it doesn’t cut or sweep around corners like it used to. As a reminder from the Series 5, this is that sweeping I was talking about there (these are from the Series 5 review). You can see how it heavily smooths my twists and turns on the path.

2019-11-25 21.02.18 2019-11-25 21.01.21

Now, Apple has continued to make progress on this since last year. Every once in a while I’ll do tests with it, and I’ve seen them slowly find that balance better and better. But I think at this point they’re acting much closer to a normal GPS watch than the heavily smoothed Apple Watch.

I’ll work towards an in-depth review over the next few weeks. But until then, I’m kinda impressed with the accuracy bits, as well as the gates they’ve put in place to try and raise the floor on SpO2 data. I might be interested in picking a legit medical certified SPO2 device to compare against. Not just a little finger one for $10, but something that would be a better reference device. Since so many wearables are out there these days using that tech, it’d be interesting to do occasional spot checks.

Until then – feel free to drop any questions below. I’m sure you’ll also see Apple Watch Series 6 data in various reviews coming up over the next week or two.

With that – thanks for reading and have a good weekend!


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  1. Sam Brown

    I’m curious if apple has removed the swooshing gps track from all of their watches with watchOS 7. Does anyone know

    • It’ll be something I test soon…

      (As noted, I have seen it slowly decrease, but this is the first time every possible situation I’ve seen it in the past, is now gone.)

    • Sam Brown

      So I just checked a run from last week, Series 4 on watchOS 6 and the overly smoothed gps track is gone! Even runs from ages ago now have much more realistic looking gps maps finally, who knew right angles existed. Curious what made them change this, I’m happy about this though and I hope Apple is going to start adding more running focused features. Looking forward to the full review. :)

    • Dave

      Me raging at them about it on Twitter for years might have helped (I’d like to think so anyway) haha

  2. Jeff

    What’s about battery life, pls?

  3. Matthew B.

    Thanks Ray! Couple questions:

    1) Do you still have to be very careful not to let the Apple Watch use your phone GPS instead of the watch?

    2) was your run using the built in running app or a 3rd party one?

    • 1) Yes, as far as I know that hasn’t changed. I purposefully didn’t take my phone on my run with me so it would force it to use the internal GPS.

      2) I was using the native/built-in one. I tend to use that for testing devices because I don’t want a 3rd party app to do something funky in terms of smoothing/error-correction/etc and have Apple ‘blamed’ for that.

    • Matthew


      Using the built-in app, how easy / hard is it to upload data to Strava / TrainingPeaks? In your in-depth, will you add-in a section on this?

    • Eric Hui

      You can use HealthFit app to do this, very easy.

    • Michael

      It’s a direct sync to strava from the Apple Health app as of a few months ago

    • Matthew

      The issue my wife has is that the GPS track isn’t syncing over. Is there a privacy setting that she needs to change?

    • Darren Manley

      Would turning off bluetooth on the AW6 force the use of the watch GPS? I tried turning bluetooth off on the AW6 and compared distances and GPS with my Garmin 935 on an 8K. Seemed to match up quite well (GPS) and distance was only off by 50 meters (AW was 8.05K and Garmin was 8K).

    • Duncan

      I have to re-enable workout route sharing in the Health app data sharing settings every time I try to sync directly to Strava. I have no idea why this keeps getting automatically disabled. Not sure if this has been fixed with the latest iOS updates as I generally use HealthFit to export to Strava.

  4. Stefano

    Hey man, completely unrelated to the Apple Watch but I saw that you had it on the wrist too and you cited it in the article….early thoughts or maybe even better the deep review for the Fitbit Sense coming soon? :)
    I’m waiting for it to decide if I’ll buy or not :)

    • Full in-depth review coming up next week. Stay tuned!

    • Stefano

      This is a great news! Here in Europe will be available next Friday so timing is perfect!!!

      Thank you :)

    • David

      I am keen on the Fitbit Sense review also. In particular I want to know:
      1. How comfortable is the unit for sleep, especially how the back of the unit feels against the skin? I have not been able to sleep with the forerunner 645 because of the raised bump on the back and the bands. Is this the most comfortable watch for sleep tracking?
      2. When you are exercising, can you see what heart rate zone you are in, the same way as you can with a Garmin?
      3. If I am doing HIT on a stationary bike, how accurate is the heart rate if you ramp up fast?
      4. Is the stress check and temperature tracking just a gimmick or does it have real value in adding information to your health metrics compared to Versa 3?
      5. Do you think that Fitbit OS will be abandoned in the future if the Google buyout goes ahead, leaving the device unsupported and without updates long term?

      It would be awesome to get your insights!

    • Yup – will cover all that early this week in the full review. Cheers!

  5. Rami

    Hey. As always great insights. How can the Apple Watch ever really compete against my Garmin or alike with 18 hours of battery life? I have my Garmin on me 24/7 (actually really almost 24 and 7) without a recharge. Even with runs in between, I get 5 days straight.

    • I think ultimately via different markets. Obviously, Apple Watch outsells Garmin roughly like 5:1 or so (link to – note, that only includes watches that qualify as ‘smartwatches’, so the Instinct wouldn’t count for example).

      There’s a lot of people that just don’t mind the battery life.

    • inSyt

      Based on people I know with an Apple watch, it’s bad marketing by competitors. There are lots of people that do not know that you can get 7 days battery life with always on watch faces, notifications and per sec heart rate recording in a pretty form factor like the Vivoactive 4. People just assume Apple is the best, and 18 hours is all you can squeeze out of a smartwatch.

      Anyone know often the series 6 records HR in smartwatch mode?

    • Jeff Moriarty

      I get why people complain about this, but I’ve been using an Apple Watch for the past few years-and really like it. You just have to get used to, and be ok with recharging every night. Just becomes habit, like your phone. I’ve done 2 Ironman races, and certainly the watch doesn’t cut it, but for the training, it works great. There’s not many training routers that I do that exceed the 6-7 hour life with gps on. And, honestly, it probably could get through a full IM when I use the computer on the bike which is just easier to read. Sorry for the long rant.

    • willy

      I think they do mind, they just don’t think of the Garmin as an alternative.

      – its not apple
      – screen can’t play videos or answer calls and other gimmicky but fun things
      – no touch screen on the round watches

      to them garmins are fitness freak watches and apple is a bit of fitness for everyone

    • Don Alcombright

      So I just switched from a Fenix 5 to a Watch 6. For me, I switched because the Garmin UI and phone integration is honestly terrible. The apps are buggy, Garmin Connect is a mess etc etc.

      I use my watch strictly for mountain biking and half marathon running or less. The majority of the market just doesn’t need the “power” of a Garmin. Apple also plays a solid roll in this by not letting it work with texting etc etc, which is on Apple but also frustrating for those of us that would like some basic smart functionality and use an iPhone. The battery life will be annoying, I don’t doubt that, but I already like the watch better and its been 3 days.

    • Same. I have a dock at my office desk so I just throw it on the charger during the day intermittently alongside the phone. Works fine.

      And with activities, for short runs near hone I only bring the watch and battery life is fine. If I’m out for longer days running/hiking trails I always bring the phone which takes on the gps duties, extending the battery life, and which I think most people do: bringing the phone in case of emergency. (I’ve written about it here: link to

    • Arnold Tuinman

      That battery life… Perhaps they should look into solar or kinetic charging as well?
      Would be great to have an Apple Watch without the heavy charging weight.

    • Dakota

      I switched from the fenix 5 to AW6 as well. The always on display they added with the S5 fixed one of my biggest complaints with the apple watch. I’d appreciate longer battery life, but I’ve enjoying the Apple Watch so far and have no complaints about the switch.

  6. Brent

    The heart rate data looks impressive! I know that Apple Watches traditionally were excellent for heart rate until the 5. Did the Apple Watch Series 5 ever fix its heart rate struggles via updates?

  7. Ulli

    Can the Apple Watch Series 6 be connected to a Garmin head unit (e.g. Edge 830) as a heart rate monitor? Thanks!

    • Not natively, no. There’s some 3rd party apps that say they can broadcast HR over BT, but you’re phone has to be nearby.

    • Ulli

      Thanks Ray! I’ve tried a 3rd-party broadcast app with my Series 3 Apple Watch, but it was a nightmare to configure and maintain. It’s such a bummer that Apple doesn’t open its walled garden in that respect. I may have to purchase a Garmin watch for that purpose as I don’t like to wear heart rate straps.

    • Chris

      NPE makes the heartbeatz that will let you do it. It’s something else to carry but pretty small so I’d imaging you could just throw it in your jersey pocket or in the spare kit. Never used it personally.

      link to

    • Jim Robertson

      Is the inability of the Apple Watch to broadcast heart rate a limitation of the watch itself or Watch OS or iOS, or perhaps an inability of the Garmin devices to receive it. I know you’ve covered this before, but I’ll bet this is a common gripe, particularly now that the watch is doing such a good job of RECORDING heart rates.

    • Wilhelm


      What do you think about North Pole Engineering’s Heartbeatz bridge? I’d like to connect my Apple Watch 3 (about to buy the series 6) to my Edge 820 and this seems like a simple $40 solution. Currently using a Wahoo Tickr or Scosche Rythym+ depending on the day. Since there’s good reviews of the Heartbeatz online, my real question would be will a wrist based optical heart rate measurement eve be accurate in sweaty, challenging group rides at the 150-170 bpm range?

    • It’s a cool device. I’ve had one for almost a year now, I keep reminding myself to put out a review of it.

      Ride coming up tomorrow with Apple Watch…

    • Meredith

      It is a limitation imposed by Apple. Apple could let the watch broadcast HR over Bluetooth just like a Bluetooth HR monitor so it could be picked up by other devices but they don’t let it do that. HR broadcasting is not a secret that Apple is not let in on. Apple don’t like letting their portable devices work with other companies products so much. Another example: you can’t use an Apple watch without pairing it to an iPhone, so if you want an Apple watch you absolutely need access to an iPhone.

  8. Andrew

    Thanks for getting your thoughts out quickly. Do you know the HR acquires quicker? Every time I go for a run I don’t have HR for the first 3 minutes or so (series 4)

  9. S

    How does the split accuracy vary between the Apple Watch and garmin? For too long the gap in splits on the Apple Watch has been excessive (compared to garmin accuracy).

  10. Ed

    Would really love to know if this watch will do indoor treadmill pace better than the Fenix 5+ I have now, which does worse at estimating pace on the treadmill compared to my Gen 1 AW. Contemplating buying a Stryd pod for all the indoor running I’ve been forced to do with the smoke/smog in the West Coast this year.

  11. Joe W

    I’m curious if the GPS tracking changes are a result of the Series 6 or Watch OS 7.

  12. Dave

    Awesome Ray thanks! It seems like with most things Apple they iterate and iterate over time and it really does get better.

    Question: I assume you run bringing a phone (iPhone?) with you much of the time. Other than when testing for watch GPS accuracy do you bother turning off Bluetooth to the iPhone to force the watch to use its internal GPS vs the iphones’s GPS which I believe even now 5 years later is still default? I’m lazy to kill the Bluetooth but that means my GPS tracks are from the phone and wearing that on a belt I wonder how much accuracy I’m losing… iPhone->AW6 vs AW6 comparison someday? Thanks!

    • Generally speaking if I’m not testing I don’t bother to turn it off, but then again, I don’t tend to run/ride with an Apple Watch as my main fitness watch outside the few months of the year I test it.

      For the most part, I don’t think you’ll notice much difference in accuracy to be honest. Cell phone GPS accuracy is generally quite good these days – so much so I often use my iPhone with Strava app for quick things where either my watch is dead or I just don’t care.

  13. Don van D

    Thanks for this first impression! Really good tomes apple is improving in some areas.

    Do you have any plans on reviewing the Apple Watch SE? Seems a good option for many sporty people??

  14. Jeff Moriarty

    Any idea if the GPS locks on any quicker on the start of the run?

  15. JJS

    Thanx Ray for this very interesting comments!
    Do you know if the HR sensor inside of the AW SE is similar to the AW 6 or AW 5? To me the SE is a great offer and it would be perfect if it has the better hardware instead of being an AW 5 with just smashed out features (ECG, always on display).

  16. Michael

    Great initial thoughts, Ray! What band were you using? I’m wondering how the new single loop band (without any ability to tighten) will impact HR and SPO2 readings. I ask because you’ve often said having the optical heart rate sensor snug can significant impact performance.


  17. Teresa Magaram

    How does the Withings Scan watch compare with Apple’s series 6? I have heard Scan’s battery life is 30 days, less depending on use of special features. Are the SO2 readings more forgiving to movement? Withings standard Scan is stainless steel. Why is Apple’s watch standard aluminum and upgrading to SS costs $200 more?
    How does SS vs aluminum effect durability? Should I buy the cheaper Withings Scan watch?

  18. Oz

    Hello Ray,

    Is there any way to keep track on the training load on the Apple Watch 6?

  19. Bob

    watchOS 7 completely nuked the battery life on my S5. Anyone else having the same issue?

    • Freezer

      I had the same issue. Un-pairing and pairing the AW5 again (restore from previous watch configuration) solved the issue completely (+the GPS track started working again, as the update to OS7 broke it).

    • Bob

      That is good to know. I guess I am going to have the try that unpair/pair process. I also had the GPS track completely missing issue that I did not catch until this morning when I was trying to upload an MTB ride to Strava because I did not bring my Wahoo Bolt with me.

      I have no idea how Apple let that slip past their QC.

  20. Nick

    Very interested in learning if the lack of “swooshiness” is a software update that applies to the prior watches or a feature exclusive to the new watch. Obviously the cause were decisions on Apple’s side but a change in those decision could likely affect all the prior watches as well.

  21. Richard

    Thanks so much for the post, Ray!

    Question – are you going to be looking at the Apple Watch SE as well, or are you focusing on the 6?

    Look forward to your further thoughts down the line, hope you and your family are keeping safe and well!

    • I picked up one yesterday. Just gotta find wrist slots to fit it in, the first half of this week is pretty slammed, but I might be able to find a wrist slot on one of the workouts tomorrow. :)

  22. Markus

    I am using a Fenix 5 since it came out and actually I am waiting for the Fenix 7. Now Apple came with this watch and I began thinking if it is worth it. Am I right that the Apple watch can not sync all data, that my heartrate strap actually could? Thinking about ground contact time and so on. Is the watch already so good as a sport watch to beat a Fenix?

    • They’re pretty different watches to be honest. Things like Ground Contact Time (Running Dynamics) and such aren’t really available on the Apple Watch. Wahoo has them in their iPhone app, but I don’t think they show up anywhere on an Apple Watch app (could be wrong, would have to dig a wee bit more there – but I’ve never heard anyone talk about it).

  23. Mark

    Is there a reason to publish this before a review of the Galaxy watch 3?

    • Because I haven’t gone out and bought a Galaxy Watch 3 yet?

      Also, because I get inundated with Apple Watch requests, but really only get a hand of Galaxy Watch requests.

      Or because pretty consistently I spend money each year (or twice a year) on Samsung watches that are mostly a nightmare to get data out of from a sports standpoint, that very rarely improve the sports experience (actually somehow take away features each year), and then atop all that – the actual interest is consistently super low with readers from a fitness standpoint (likely due to the first few items). There’s undoubtedly interest in Samsung watches (though, as IDC points out, that too is falling), but most of that interest isn’t aligned to sports and fitness – which is what this site is about.

      So yes, there are reasons.

  24. Kai

    Is there a relationship between spo2 reading and vo2max reading? Will the additional info from spo2 sensor result in a more accurate vo2max reading?

  25. Frank

    Hey Ray!
    Would appreciate your thoughts (could be in the watch6 review or separate article) on ecosystem of the current platforms, e.g. Apples Heath vs Garmin connect vs tizen vs wearos apps and health monitoring. Garmin we (I) know you can track a ton of stuff over time in one Connect app, body weight, HR, pulseox, all the other garming health metrics. Seems Apple is there too, with possible more health stuff. WearOS and Tizen watches have HR and pulseox, but, the environment to keep and monitor all your metrics seems super fragmented. Would love your thoughts, I feel the whole “where is your data / how easy is it to access” is now more important just “what can this particular watch measure”. Thanks!

  26. Melanie Wymer

    Great review, thank you. I’m contemplating switching from Garmin 645 to AW but need to find apps that will give me at least near the level of info from Garmin, specifically Training Load / body battery style info. Can you recommend any apps that would bridge this gap please? Thank you.

    • Bob

      Strava premium does something like Training Load that I have so far been unable to decipher over two years. I have not found anything that resembles body battery. OTOH, I have found Body Battery to be mostly a gimmick so maybe it is not a disadvantage. The biggest change is the battery life. Garmin may need to be charged every week, AW needs to be charged every day.

  27. Kevin

    I was interested in the O2 sensor for fitness. It sounds like it is not used when doing athletic activities? Is that the case? That really is lousy compared to some other devices.

  28. Uli

    Thanks for the review, I liked it a lot. Given the fact that the Apple Watch is just the basic hardware with basic software, I wanted to know if you ever thought of testing also different workout apps. Due to the fact that it is nearly impossible to get a good overview, I think there is really a demand for that, if you consider to do serious training with the Apple Watch.

    So far I tried several apps that claim to be the best in the market such as Strava, RunKeeper, Endomondo and others. But none of these were offering the data during training I would like to see. The best app I have found so far is from FITIV. But it misses for example a map not to speak of routing during workout.

    If you don’t plan to do this kind of tests, you probably know someone who does?

    Thanks and best regards


  29. Vytautas

    Thanks Ray! Awesome as always :)
    Quick question – what about the battery in series 6 compared to the previous series?
    Apple says that it’s 18 hours as always, but in the battery page of apple watches, when you scroll down to the workout section it now says 7hours gps, SE – 6hours (as it was with 4 and 5) and series 3 – 5 hours. So I guess it should be improved in some ways. What’s your take on that?
    Thanks again, keep up the great work!

  30. Julio

    I like the casual mention of the Fitbit Sense. Looking forward to the review!

  31. Temp

    To be fair, manually starting pulse ox measurements on Garmin requires you to stay still as well (it will reset the test progress whenever the watch move more than ard 5cm)

    • It does, but, it gives zero feedback during that, it just instead acts like nothing happened and doesn’t tell you why it did it. Nor does it give any instructions like sitting and putting hand/wrist on a surface/etc…

      Though, better than some other watch I’m testing…

  32. iBjorn

    Thank you for the great preview, looking forward to the full review.

    Currently using AW4 cellular, and love it for everything except battery life. But no way it will last a whole day if I go for a longer run (+1h). For longer run I have to turn cellular off (especially if there is bad reception) and use bluetooth HRM.

    So a main interest in the new S6 is battery life, especially drainage from the optical HR sensor and cellular. It might also be of interest if third party apps drains battery more, or less, than the built in Exercise app. When I switched to iSmoothrun some years ago I noticed a distinctive improvement in battery life during long runs (highly recommended app btw).

    • gpb

      I would suggest expecting similar battery life. Apple seems satisfied with where it’s at for now.

      With my S3, S4, and now S5 when running >1hr, after the run I pop the watch on the charger before jumping in the shower. By the time I’m cleaned up and dressed it’s typically replaced at least as much charge as the run depleted.

  33. Danny

    Nice and informative! Looking forward to the in depth review! I’m curious as to how long it takes to charge the device from, say, 20% remaining to a full charge? Because now that sleep tracking is one of the key new features, leaving the watch to charge overnight no longer seem like an ideal option…

    • Don Alcombright

      a full charge is 1.5hrs now. So I would guess around 1hr give or take a little.

    • Jared

      Sleep tracking is only draining ~10% of the battery for me. So if you top it off before bed then top it off in the morning while showering or something it will be closet to 100%.

    • Darren Manley

      Sleep tracking doesn’t drop battery too much, 10%(ish) is also what I’ve noticed.

      Today is the first “real” battery test (first work day with the watch). My battery was 50%(ish) when I got up this morning and I charged it before my workout (I’m old and need a good hour to “loosen up” in the morning before working out).

      Battery was 100% before the workout and 99% after (only a 30 minute HIIT workout this morning).

      Right now it’s at 87% (~5.5 hours from removing it from the charger). I WILL add that I’ve turned off the “always on” display and have it light up when I raise my wrist.

    • Webby

      The AW6 has fast charge, so charges to 80% in one hour. Another 30 minutes to full charge.
      Of course, getting to 80% is quicker if you’re not starting at 0% battery ?

  34. Don Alcombright

    So I just switched from a Fenix 5 to a Watch 6. For me, I switched because the Garmin UI and phone integration is honestly terrible. The apps are buggy, Garmin Connect is a mess etc etc.

    I use my watch strictly for mountain biking and half marathon running or less. The majority of the market just doesn’t need the “power” of a Garmin. Apple also plays a solid roll in this by not letting it work with texting etc etc, which is on Apple but also frustrating for those of us that would like some basic smart functionality and use an iPhone. The battery life will be annoying, I don’t doubt that, but I already like the watch better and its been 3 days.

  35. KC

    How are the touchscreens on these new watches? It seems many watches have removed the manual buttons. I’m worried I won’t be able to start/stop/lap split in the winter.

    Have they gotten better? I imagine so but haven’t read anything mentioning touchscreen capabilities in a while.

  36. Mike

    Looks nice. But, until Apple can come close to the Garmin Fenix 6X’s battery life of a couple of weeks or more, I have no interest in their watches. It is ludicrous that after this many versions of their watch that their battery life is still only ***18 hours***!!!!

    No one wants to charge their watch daily, and I know I certainly don’t want to have to carry multiple USB battery chargers when going camping, hiking, etc in the backcountry, just so my Apple watch can continue to work.

    • Paul S.

      Spoken like someone who’s never used an Apple Watch. It is a much, much better than any Fenix as a smartwatch and does a lot more. It isn’t as good as a Fenix in a limited domain. That’s why I have both an Apple Watch and a Fenix. Charging every day isn’t a problem for something so useful (so “no one” is just wrong).

      I though people these days carried solar panels to charge a USB battery if they’re going into the backcountry. (Or maybe one of those hand cranked generators.) Unlikely that your Fenix is going to last much more than 18 hours if you’re actually using it to record a track, so you’ll need something like that anyway.

  37. Tom Luoma

    Pulse oximeter: Masimo MightySat. It’s really expensive, but technology is hospital-grade, same tech is used on Masimo hospital products.

  38. David


    thank you for yet again sterling first looks review …

    what about running experience ? can you customise the screen to show pace and heart ?
    also what about acess to data after the run … is it easier now to get the data into Strava ? or extract and show with 3rd party apps ?

    Also any thoughts on compete against forthcoming (still waiting) Garmin Forerunner 6 series ?

  39. Max T


    Is there any chance you could review the galaxy watch 3 as well? It has a lot of the same sensors and health tracking features as the apple watch and I’m sure a lot would be interested in a review from you. I’ve been testing it vs a polar ignite and during running its very similar data. Also it has a running coach feature which is interesting although maybe not that useful for higher level runners. Galaxy watch 3 measures vo2 during running. Just would love an in depth review from you. Thank you

  40. shelley

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    I am wondering how to enable the Altimeter on the watch face, as you suggested it does. I can’t figure out how to do it. Is it a complication, or only comes up when in a workout?


  41. Carina Tiozzo

    How long does the battery last if you’re going for a run and are using the music (Spotify)?

    • Chris

      Can’t use Spotify on the watch. All you can do is control Spotify on the phone. Seems to be coming soon though. You can use Apple Music or pandora. Battery will depend if you’ve downloaded them or if you’re streaming over cellular.

    • Carina Tiozzo

      Nice, that’s a good amount of time. I’m waiting for the iphone 12 pro max to drop and then I’ll get one. I love my garmin but I hate that I have to bring my phone all the time in case something happens. I much rather Android but so far the samsung galaxy cellular watch is pretty bad for giving you accurate running stats. I’m looking forward to DC’s review of the new one and I’m hoping it’s amazing but somehow I doubt.

  42. Mark J.

    Hey Ray (or anyone else),

    Is it possible to add sensors like a power meter and OH1 to the Series 6 Watch? IOW, could this watch replace my Garmin or Wahoo bike computer *and* let me leave my iPhone at home, thereby cutting down on gadget creep?

    • Paul S.

      Uggh, why would you do that? Watches, especially the Apple Watch, are terrible for cycling. If you already have a head unit mounted on your handlebars with a big (compared to a watch) screen, why would you switch to something much smaller mounted on a hard to see place? The Apple Watch in particular, where “always on” doesn’t really mean always on for apps other than Apple’s, and no ability to pair with ANT+ sensors, is a poor choice. But, yes, somewhere in the comments for the several Apple Watch posts Ray has made recently he mentioned an Apple Watch app that can pair with power meters running Bluetooth, and Bluetooth heart rate works natively. The Apple “Activity” app that comes with the watch can’t pair with power meters, though.

      By all means get an Apple Watch. If you get an LTE version, you really can leave your phone at home for calls and texts. I wear mine when cycling for the communications ability (I carry my iPhone except on the rare occasions I forget it, but the watch is far more convenient), but there’s an Edge 830 (connected to ANT+ speed, cadence, AeroPod, and Varia radar/light) on my handlebars and I’ve yet to record any actual activity with my Apple Watch.

    • Mark J.

      I currently use a Wahoo Element as a head unit. I also wear a Garmin Fenix 5 as a backup in case the Element gaks or I screw up somehow. If the Element records the ride ok (which it almost always does), I use that data for Strava. The data from my Fenix 5 stays in Garmin.For HR, I use a Polar OH1. But if the Apple Watch 6 proves to be good with HR while cycling and can handle some cycling data, why not use it for such? If it can’t handle HR for cycling (like the Fenix 5), then the only reason to replace the Fenix 5 with an AW6 would be for the email/phone but. One thing I love about riding is it gives me time away from email and phone calls, so that capability is not high on my list of needs.

      Basically I was just asking if, in theory, the AW6 could work as a standalone solution. Just curious.

    • Paul S.

      That depends on what you mean by “solution”. For me, the answer is definitely no. I wear my Apple Watch 5LTE from the time I get up in the morning until I put it on the charger at night (I have no interest in “sleep tracking”). But there’s just no way I’d use it in place of my Edge 830, because it can’t do most of what the 830 can do (radar being a big one). I have a Fenix 5+, which can do almost everything my 830 does, but I don’t use it for cycling, either.

      But when it comes to everything else, the AW is by far the best smart watch I’ve ever used, and it does all sorts of useful things, from at a glance weather, to Apple Pay, to letting me skip ads in podcasts, setting timers with Siri, etc., etc. I wear my Apple Watch all day, while my 830 is only used when I’m on a bike.

    • Mark J.

      Radar. Good point. Hadn’t thought of that angle. I use the Varia Vision linked to my Fenix 5 so I can see a few important data points *and* the radar warning from my RTL510. The Vision would work with the RTL510 alone, but I’d lose the data portion w/o the Fenix 5 in the mix.

    • Mark J.

      Amazon has the AW 6 for $15 less than anywhere else. I grabbed the 40mm Space Gray version for $385. I guess in a few weeks I’ll see how it stacks up against my Fenix 5.

  43. Robert F

    Supposedly Watch 6 has better battery life “for certain outdoor activities”. That’s from a macrumors article. Anyway, I’m sure battery life is high on your list of test items for the more rigorous review. Which we’re all looking forward to!

  44. Andy from Embsay

    I’m still having to swap to my Garmin watch for HRM on my Edge, whereas I do prefer my Apple Watch as a daily driver. No sign of HRM ever being broadcast from AW – or is it possible to import AW HR data into a Strava activity? I don’t really want a separate HRM and the HR from a Garmin wrist device works well enough for me.

    • Paul S.

      Apple hasn’t provided that capability from the series 0 until now, so I don’t think they’re going to suddenly see the light. In theory an app might be able to broadcast using the proper Bluetooth protocol, but I’ll bet there are a lot of restrictions on the HR readings and maybe Apple prevents that, because I’ve never heard of such an app.

    • Richard

      The app exists, it is called BlueHeart. But I never was able to send the HR data from my Apple Watch to the Garmin Edge 530 no matter how I set it up. But I believe that the connection can be achieved by the software and that the developer will fix this finally

    • Andy from Embsay

      That’d be awesome if it did – thanks for the tip!

    • Paul S

      Checking the App Store just now, it looks like there’s another one called HeartCast that has a better rating than BlueHeart. I’m going to download it and see if it will pair with my Edge 830.

    • Paul S

      So in the end it was a waste of time. BlueHeart showed up on my 830 and it claimed to pair, but the 830 didn’t seem to receive anything from it. (BlueHeart seems to be oriented more toward recording workouts rather than just sending heart rate, anyway.) HeartCast wouldn’t connect to the 830 at all. And it wasn’t clear with BlueHeart whether it was receiving a signal from my Watch or my iPhone. What we need is a simple Watch app that Bluetooth broadcasts HR with no other functions. An iPhone component is unnecessary, but it may still be required.

    • Thomas Palguta

      I own one of these and have used it with an Apple Watch 5 and a Garmin edge 530.
      link to
      Good Luck

  45. Gary

    Thanks for this useful summary. I have waited to get the Watch 6 just because of the SPO2 feature. One thing I’m curious about, given what you stress about ‘optimal test conditions’, as it were – is how does it work when you’re asleep then? Arm must be all over the place, you’d think? Anyway not something you can answer, I realise!

  46. Toni

    Hi Ray

    Very useful review, as always
    I have one doubt, because I’m not sure you mentioned it: SPO2 reading in AW6 is continuous 24/7 (like Garmin watches,for example), or only when you manually start the test?


    • Both actually.

      In the case of the 24×7 readings, it’s sorta more random and not quite as consistent as Garmin. At least that’s how they phrase it. I’ve been bouncing between watches the last few days, so I haven’t really given it the full chance to see what a ‘normal’ 24×7 period is like for it for multiple days. I’m doing that now though, so more soon as part of my full in-depth review.

  47. Webby

    Is there a good analysis on how to use AW as Garmin replacement? I’m slowly simplifying and the AW6 may continue that trend. What do I lose, data wise?

    I had Garmin 520. Now just use F245 for bike and running – both into Strava.

    Like a few comments below, after using body battery, training score etc for years, they haven’t served any positive purpose. Thinking they are a well intentioned gimmick. Likewise garmin sleep – sick of editing it to be correct – thinks I am asleep when reading, or listing to birds and kids in the morning.

    • “Is there a good analysis on how to use AW as Garmin replacement?”

      I believe you then use the Amazon app on the Apple Watch, to then order the Garmin watch. That should work. ;)

      Just kidding. Yeah, it’s actually a good idea for a post. Specifically around data. I think the biggest thing with switching from Garmin to Apple Watch for sports/fitness, is to:

      A) Decide on what 3rd party platform you want to use for training tracking (log)
      B) Install HealthFit to get the data there
      C) Then figure out which 3rd party app you want to use for the actual sport tracking on the watch

      But yeah, a really good idea for a post of some sort pulling all those pieces together.

    • Ilan

      Would love to see that!

      I currently use an Edge 830 for cycling, which is my main activity. I really like the feedback Connect gives on training effect, training distribution in high/low (an)aerobic stress, etc. However, I do some running and strength training too, using my AW4. The downside is that Connect doesn’t take those workouts into consideration in the analysis. I got me a Fenix 5 to try, but really do not like the interface, screen, etc. Rather use my AW and charge frequently.

      What would be a good way to combine the Edge and AW that allows me to plan in advance, perform (planned) structured workouts on both devices and get aggregated TL, TSS and ‘training distribution’ kind of analysis?

      It’s OK to pay for a subscription, but I’d like to keep it simple and not stack multiple. For example, TrainingPeaks doesn’t show training distribution over zones, does it?


  48. Tom Luoma

    I am not believing a single word on what this journalist is claiming. If this guy cannot get a good reading, it does not mean it’s useless.

    link to

    • Actually, that article is incredible well written – and, most importantly, spot-on accurate on virtually every front.

    • Paul S.

      I liked the article, too, but the same could be said about the other things that watches claim to measure on your wrist: heart rate, “steps”, temperature for those that do it. (As you well know, given your comparative testing of heart rate.) Personally I can’t see a reason to be interested in my SpO2 unless I’m lying in a hospital bed. And truth to tell, I’m not really interested in what my heart rate is most of the time, so long as it’s not zero.

    • Wes

      Very true. These “advanced” and very pricey sport watches track a lot (Sp02, heart rate at wrist, vertical oscillation, stride length, etc. etc.) which seems fantastic…I’m afraid they are only if you do not question the accuracy of it.

    • GLT

      Both yes & no. If what the devices are doing is self-consistent then a single user can compare those measurements/inferences against their own history. If nothing else, if a specific training session was particularly good or bad then there is something other than subjective feelings that could be useful in quantifying things.

      I think most device makers have been careful to only suggest the vital “health” metrics *could* be useful to their customers. I haven’t noticed them explicitly stating that all people *should* care about them. People with cardiac concerns should see a cardiologist. A low resting heart rate is only a sign of good cardiac health if it resulted from a training program that recently improved fitness.

  49. Anna

    Question about the Apple Watch 6…does it offer settings to do run/walk intervals like the Garmin? As I recover from an injury, I like using the intervals to contain irrational exuberance on my runs.

    • Ben

      The default app does not support predefined intervals. You can double tap on the screen to create an interval…but that is really unsatisfying. I use a third part app (WorkOutdoors) announces a predefined interval plan. It isn’t as seamless as Garmin’s implementation, but I like it enough.

  50. Dave Bain

    Well had the watch a week now, it is impossible to get it to connect to Zwift, even using Zwift companion as that is constantly crashing. My rides are usually in Sufferfest so I use chest strap and not the watch, however on outdoor runs the HR monitor is the worst I have ever had bar none. 1st run. The heart rate didn’t start recording until I had covered over a mile. Today, fortunately, I wore my old Garmin Fenix 3 HR. Admittedly it was reasonably chilly but then in the highlands of Scotland that is not unusual ? the Apple Watch had no hr for the first mile and a half using the strata app, so I stopped it and changed to the fitness app, ran a further mile with no Hr, stopped that and just carried on with Garmin and the Frontier X strap working independently of each other. About a mile later the watch told me it had detected that I was running and asked if I would like to start the fitness app?? to which I agreed, after 5 mins it told me my HR was 189 (I’m 65?), however both the Garmin and the Fenix had me at 135 and 136 respectively. The sleep App is about as much use as a glass eye to a sniper – really poor compared to the Garmin. As an Apple fan I’m really disappointed and unless there is some kind of update in the next day or so it will be going back.

  51. Roberto C.

    Just a simple question. One of big lack on Apple Watch was how fast heart rate monitor can read it. For example if you want performance a HIIT running session ( 1 Min pick 1 Min low) you have to buy an external monitor as usually Apple Watch read every 4-5 sec and during hiit has serious difficult to read your heart rate (take maybe 1-15 sex for pick session).

    Did you find it also on series 6? (I own series 4).

    TNX for your support and really great review BTW

  52. DontGetTheCheese

    Picked up an Apple Watch Series 6.

    They still overstate distance a bit on GPS (2% or so). The GPS tracks are better as stated above.

    And, interestingly, I’m getting what appears to be much better battery life. It appears to use very little background battery, whereas before it was 3% no matter what, I’ve gone 6 hours from a full charge and it’s at 94%. It still eats 10 to 15 percent on GPS + music but it’s much better in my very limited use so far.

  53. Christian W

    I tested the AW3 Cellular against the AW 6 Cellular and there is still an accuracy problem of up to 0,08km on a 10km track – pls note that with the AW5 + AW4 Cellular there was a accuracy problem of up to 700 meters on 10km. Important here is the Cellular part as the issue does not exists on the ones with GPS only. I heard that the problem of the huge accuracy issue on AW4+5 Cellular is not resolved with the newest OS, but wasn’t able to test myself. So from my testing the AW6 Cellular is still not as good as the AW3 Cellular and the Apple Engineers are still working (again) on the logs I uploaded. Hope they get it fully under control.

  54. Lisa

    My series 6 is not tracking VO2 Max. I’ve unpaired and repaired the watch with my phone, nope- no VO2 Max readings, despite using the built-in Outdoor Run option in Workout. Not a huge big deal, because I usually run with a Garmin, but still…
    Has anyone else noticed this issue?

  55. Alan

    Is there a problem with the GPS tracking with watch OS7 and iOS14?
    Will updates fix it?

  56. JM

    I recently upgraded to the S6 and noticed that in HealthFit, there is now a data section for “GPS Accuracy.” It gives a minimum, maximum, and average. I messaged the HealthFit developer and s/he responded that the data comes from Apple. I’ve had the S3 and S4 and this is a new data point. Definitely makes me think about whether Apple really did improve the GPS, or at least cares more about it! Thought you would find that interesting.

    • Christian W.

      very interesting. What is the average GPS Accuracy showing up on your AW6? My AW3 Cellular on a problematic track show 1.8m.

    • JM

      On a recent 10 miler with several turns and tree lined streets, the average was 3.17m, minimum 2.51m, and maximum 9.11m

      During a track workout – where I’ve always had a “dead zone” on one turn no matter what kind of GPS watch I’ve used, the average was 6.0, minimum 5.06, maximum 10.91. Tracks are notoriously problematic and I don’t go by the watch distance or pace anyway (I start the workout, run it in the background to get my total distance for the workout, and use the stopwatch function for the actual intervals) so I didn’t mind that this had what appears to be a higher deviation.

      The other regular runs I do on roads have come in around an average of 3m. I’m happy with that.

    • JM

      Update: this week, I noticed in HealthFit that there is now also a “GPS Signal” section with categories of Acquisition Time and Missing Distance. (For my last run, it shows an acquisition time of 9 seconds and missing distance of .01 miles.)

  57. Steve Wade

    Will my Garmin read my Apple Watch 6? I use Garmin Edge1030 as I’ve had several heart attacks and need them to work together. The Garmin is ant+ so I’m thinking they won’t work together? Any input is appreciated.

    • Paul S.

      No, it won’t. Entirely Apple’s fault, since they don’t use ANT+ and more importantly don’t broadcast HR over Bluetooth using the standard profile, which a 1030 can receive. The only external device that can read your heart rate from your Apple Watch is your iPhone.

  58. remnant

    Ray: your articles are great. Thanks for putting them out there :)

    Some comments for testing of the AW6 battery life and features.

    Apple increased the brightness of the display by 2.5x on always on mode and maintained the same reported battery life. This means that the other functions of the watch are significantly less power hungry. I have turned off hey Siri and noise notifications, turned off the always on display, and on runs/rides over a few hours will carry my phone on me so the phone does the GPS tracking. In this condition, the AW6 depletes about 4-5% of the battery per hour. This is plenty for me as I don’t plan on more than 20 hours in a single push. In the same power friendly modes, my AW4 would get ~11 hours.

    Some of the negative reviews of the AW come from the lack of integrated features. I find that I can get all of what I would want on a Garmin watch by:
    1. Intervals – purchasing WorkOutdoors for 6 dollars
    2. Body battery etc. – recognizing that for a feature to be useful, it needs to have accurate data, have trustworthy algorithms, and have actionable recommendations. Almost none of the misc. Garmin features meet these three requirements, so I can’t use them.

  59. Scott James


    Just curious when you’re going to post the full review you mentioned on the Series 6? Also, I notice that you wear the Apple Watch (at least in your videos), curious if it has replaced your Garmin as your daily watch or if you wear both?


  60. Ed

    Ray, as always thx for review. Keep up good work as always.
    1) if you buy an AW6 LTE will the gps connect to phone first too? Or does it combine its LtE with GPS for triangulation.
    2) will the LTE be able to stream any music other than, Applemmusic?
    3) I’m little confused with spo2. Is it only on demand or 24×7?
    Seems like the SE might be a better deal if it can’t track at night or during workouts .
    Spo2 is really only need it for outdoor hight altitudes activities.

    • Remnant

      Hey Ed. The following is my understanding.

      1) My battery life on the watch is way better when I bring the phone, so it appears that only the phone’s GPS is used (well, assisted GPS, using LTE triangulation to get an initial location more quickly). At least with the AW4, if you had your phone on you, the watch GPS was never used. This can cause some issues with running packs where the phone is placed under a water/food pouch and the phone looses GPS.

      2) Not yet. I think they opened the API for others, but I am not familiar with any apps that have taken advantage of it yet (Spotify: get your act together!).

      3) It has been logging my SPO2 when it detects that I am sitting or that I am sleeping. SPO2 really only seems to be a useful metric when there is a problem. 95% or higher is A. 90% or lower is F. Between 90 and 95% you probably got a measurement error and are probably above 95%.

      Do I think the Series 6 is better than the SE? If your activities are less than ~4 hours without a phone or 10 hours with a phone, and don’t care about ~always on in daily life, or the ECG/SPO2, go with the SE.

      My husband had an irregular heart beat detected by the watch…so I see a benefit of the ECG…but there is only around a 1% chance that the watch will detect an irregular heart beat for the first time over its 2 year use window. Do i like the SPO2? Sure: during covid it can detect whether you are a happy hypoxic and have problems. If this were not covid times I probably would see little use in it.

  61. Nathalie

    is the AW6 have a swim mode where it recognize swim stroke and stride?

    • Remnant


      You can find a good example of what metrics the watch records on the following Apple support page. In summary: it can display stroke rate and recognize the type of swimming you are doing. I like the always on screen for swimming so I don’t have to contort my wrist to see the metrics.

      link to

      I mainly do open water swimming in Seattle during covid times, so I wear a wetsuit. I place a paired polar oh1 under the wetsuit adjacent to the watch when swimming and get great data.

    • Nathalie

      Thank you Remnant for the information. that’s great news.

      My Garmin 920T has become very unreliable. Garmin connect does not recognize it and the date it gives me is quite wonky.

      I’m glad I won’t have to dust off my old Garmin Swim watch and can rely on only one watch.

      Have a good weekend.

    • Ed

      Thanks for response.

      Because I have an iphone I was inclined towards the AW. However, If I can’t stream music then there is no point of getting the LTE. That said makes me wonder if the garmin is better option than SE.

      I tried my wife fbit charge 4 for a week. I like the simplicity but you can get any info out of the app. I don’t care much for steps, payments, or even notifications.
      I just want to track my workouts at gym, and go for a run without the phone if possible. Seems like that may not be happening with any device.
      I like to run while streaming music. If i go to the gym usually watch/listen my workout videos as I follow along. I like the VeNu and the vivoactive family which both give you SPO2 at the better price of anAW.
      Its hard to choose one… any thoughts……?????

  62. The worm

    Have you done any tests with elevation? I have noticed that when recording rides with Strava that elevation gain with AW or iPhone is often MUCH higher than on a garmin device.

  63. Paul Ainsworth

    I have moved to the Apple Watch six and use the Strava app on the watch. If my iPhone is present will it use the phone GPS like you have said the workout app will, or will it just use the GPS on the watch? I want the phone for messages and calls but would rather the watch didn’t he run.

  64. Marshall Peterson

    It seems like the Apple Watch is ushering in a different fitness tracking/monitoring paradigm. Garmin, Suunto (may it Rest In Peace) FitBit, etc are somewhat closed systems. Most of the monitoring, tracking, reporting and analysis is done by company developed applications. Obviously, Strava and Training Peaks and others can take data and do further machinations but generally I suspect most people just use the built-in apps. With the Apple ecosystem you can select from a wide range of apps to customize your data capture and analysis. Ray, I would love to see you and others make some recommendations on apps that you think can best address data capture and analysis for the various sports you participate in.

  65. Carina Tiozzo

    Oh shucks. That’s unfortunate. So if I’m streaming on apple music over cellular what’s the damage on the battery?

    • BobbyTables

      Carina, Apple doesn’t report specs for the series 6 using always on display, gps, heart rate, and lte streaming music. You can probably tease out the info from their tech specs page:

      link to

      I bet the answer is around 4.5 hours. If you were willing to take the time to transfer the files before hand, and was willing to turn off the always on display, I bet you would get 5.5-6 hours.

  66. Melanie Wymer

    Re GPS. Does Apple do any post activity processing on the GPS results after a workout, before you view? Wondering if different sports apps like nike, strava, workoutdoors running on the watch produce the same GPS output as Apple. Ie it doesn’t make any difference which app you use, the GPS track will be the same?

  67. Stephen

    Hi, thanks for the post. I have a Series 2 watch that I’m replacing with the new Series 6 Watch which I just ordered. I loved my Series 2 watch but it had an annoying glitch at the beginning of a run or elliptical workout : HR would immediately jump to 180 or 210 for a few minutes and then the readings would become accurate. I’ve tried everything from tightening the bracelet to shaving my wrist hair to starting the HR app just before running to no avail. Have you noticed this problem in the Series 6 Watch?


  68. Manu

    Hi Ray,

    do you know by any chance when the Apple Watch uses the internal optical HR sensor and when it will use an externally connected Bluetooth strap.
    Especially for a training session – is there any way to know what sensor was actually used?


    • It’ll always default to a Bluetooth HR sensor (external) for workouts if said BT HR strap is active and paired. For non-workout 24×7 it uses the internal optical HR snesor.

    • Manu

      Thank you. But after the activity has been logged – it is nowhere stated which sensor it did use? „Simplicity“ as Apple would call it I guess.

  69. Carina Tiozzo

    Nice, that’s a good amount of time. I’m waiting for the iphone 12 pro max to drop and then I’ll get one. I love my garmin but I hate that I have to bring my phone all the time in case something happens. I much rather Android but so far the samsung galaxy cellular watch is pretty bad for giving you accurate running stats. I’m looking forward to DC’s review of the new one and I’m hoping it’s amazing but somehow I doubt.

  70. Pat Cooke

    Is this watch any good for running? Does it have the features of a polar watch I.e. pace, mph, cadence etc. Ta in advance

  71. Albert

    Hi There

    If you could please assist me, I will appreciate it:

    1. Will the Apple watch series 6’s battery last long enough for a full marathon / ultra marathon of say 89km?
    2. Does the watch measure your heart rate whilst swimming?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • BobbyTables

      1: mine would last a a marathon at my pace.

      2: if I brought my phone and turned off the always on display, mine would last a 50 mile trail run.

      You should look at the Apple official battery life estimates to verify for yourself. When taking your phone with you, the “indoor workout” time is roughly correct because it uses the phone for gps. And the always on display takes a lot of battery and can be disabled to increase battery life.

  72. Niranjan

    Hi Ray, Good to see the smoothening improvements. I was hoping this would come to my Watch 4 with the Watch Os 7 upgrade, but no such luck (see image showing the same turn). Since day 1, My Watch 4 has been showing 2% to 3% higher distances compared to Garmin (have tried various models), forcing me to run with an Apple Watch plus Garmin (usually 235). Over some 200 runs, I have seen this variance consistently, and never once has the Watch shown the same or lower distance compared to the Garmin.

  73. JR

    I just got an AW6, and it’s been a bit frustrating for me so far. Some of it is just that so many of the apps are so limited or buggy (can’t get an Audible book to sync, despite many hours with customer service).

    One specific question I had was whether there are any apps that will upload workouts over LTE? Seems like they all require you to send the workout first to the phone and then to the cloud. I’ve mostly only been able to figure this out by testing them one-by-one, since they don’t usually tell you that this is a limitation.

    • BobbyTables

      The audible app is sorely lacking in functionality. The last time I tried it, I had to keep the watch awake on the audible screen, with the phone awake on audible, both charging, and it took an hour.

      I am not sure about the cloud sync. I know the Apple workouts and health is independent of the phone. I think WorkOutDoors also syncs without the phone, but I would need to verify.

    • JR

      Weird. Apple workouts hasn’t uploaded without the phone for me. Wonder what’s going on.

      Good tip on WorkOutDoors, though. It uploads to Strava just about instantly over LTE, and it’s got a ton of functionality.

  74. Candjejj

    Hi, I have the series 6 watch (upgraded from the original) so can now track a run without having to take my phone with me. When I do take my phone (for safety), it always tracks a shorter distance and so a slower pace than when I just track on my watch. Is this something other people have noticed and is there any reason why?


    • BobbyTables

      That is really interesting! Would you be able to post some tracks showing how they compare? (Starting and stopping away from your house of course). It may be a difference in gps accuracy and smoothing algorithms that take the accuracy into account.

      Which iPhone do you have?

      I haven’t specifically noticed that with my phone carrying runs…but I do tend to actually run slower on runs with my phone.

    • Candjejj

      I’ll try and track 2 identical runs. My friend runs with a Fitbit and hers can be 5% different to my tracking with hers always tracking further and faster when I have my phone with me but nearly identical stats when only using my watch.

      Having looked for other comments, it seems other people have the same issue as phone gps always over-rides watch gps for battery saving. One suggestion was to put phone in airplane mode whilst running. I’ll try that.

    • Melanie Wymer

      I find that the GPS track using Series 6 watch alone is far neater, with less wandering, than combining the watch with my iPhone X. That may explain why your run appears longer when using the phone. Actually very impressed with the seemingly improved accurancy of the S6 Apple Watch GPS. I note that the iPhone 12 variants have more options for GPS and hopefully will be more accurate than the iPhone X.

    • Niranjan

      Yes, I have the same issue on my Watch Series 4. I usually run without my phone and the watch ALWAYS shows 2-4% higher distance than a Garmin (have tried multiple Garmins). When I carry a phone, the accuracy is better and the distances almost match. So clearly GPS accuracy on the watch plus smoothening has a role, but I’m surprised why the Watch ALWAYS shows higher distance. Calibration hasn’t helped.

  75. Colin Steinke

    Picked up a Series 6…and I definitely still see the swooshing.

  76. Jesse

    Hi Ray – Very much appreciate all the effort you put into these analysis. They’re great!
    Do you think the full review will be up before holiday shopping begins?

  77. Bryan Morrison

    Does this improvement in smoothing happen for the Series 5, is it a function of the iOS or is it the series 6 that has improved it?

  78. Marc Moline

    Getting a legit SpO2 to compare sounds like a great idea.
    I can’t believe you were at 97% unless you were sick. And from the run you didn´t look like. Normal reading should be 99% – 100%. Be aware that if you hit below 95% you should be going to the hospital and have a look.

  79. jon

    What happened to the full review of Apple Watch 6?

  80. I am facing an issue with the heart monitor and gps accuracy while running:
    Only after approx. 500-800m it starts tracking the heart rate correctly, before that it shows a horizontal line.

    Further, compared with my Garmin Fenix 6X pro, the length of my runs is always approx. 2-4% longer on the series 6 than on the Garmin.
    Are these issues known or is it just my watch?

  81. Kelvin


    I’ve just ordered an SE but it seems from your comments that the gps is not as good as the 6. Is this true? Have you got around to comparing the two?

    Thank you

  82. Marco

    Great initial review. I’ve never used an AW, always a garmin, does Apple have a similar app like garmin connect to view history of heath related metrics like spo2, hr, etc and also run workout history and stats? Ideally Viewable across platform like MacBook, iPad, etc.

    • BobbyTables

      From my understanding, the metrics are all within the iPhone health app, but with a bad UI. Some of the workout history can be found in strava if you pay for the premium service.

      I am hoping that apple’s next update with fitness will change this, as people will be using more fitness apps on more devices. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

      All stated, most of the metrics Garmin gives are not very reliable or actionable. For that reason the lack of the metrics hasn’t weighed much into my purchasing decisions.

    • Paul S.

      It doesn’t. The Apple Health app exists only on the iPhone; you can’t view the data even on an iPad and certainly not on a Mac. There’s no web site equivalent to Health, either. I’ve never used the native Workout stuff on my AW5 and only used the Strava app once or twice so I don’t know if using them gives more detail in Health. For me, Health simply agglomorates basic data from various sources, primarily Withings, Strava, and Garmin Connect. It certainly won’t show you details, like a track on a map or heart rate graphs during a workout, etc.

  83. Olek

    How did you manage to get rid of mariokarting? I bought Series 6 especially for this and I see absolutely no difference, swooshing is still there and I’m beyond furious. Both from Workout app and Nike Run Club. Anyone has any ideas?

    • BobbyTables

      If you use a non Apple workout app it uses the real gps track. WorkOutDoors produces tracks a lot like Garmin’s. And it provides more data fields, a map, and preset intervals with pace.

      It appears that mariokarting is removed from the fitness records if you make a sharp turn, but not for soft turns. All of this appears to be based on post processing of the gps data, accuracy of the location, and distance traveled based on the step/aceslerometer data.

    • Olek

      I use a Nike Run Club and it’s horrible – link to

      Also, DC Rainmaker in his video test did actually use a native workout app and his route was flawless.

      Where is the issue? I ideally want to keep using Nike Run Club, but I’m afraid that this swooshing messes up accuracy and I don’t have a correct pace / distance reflected after workout.

    • JS

      Agree. My Apple app shows a little swooshing – still an improvement over my series 4 – but in WorkOutDoors the map is more precise (always has been, even with older watches, which leads me to believe a lot of the swooshing is pure aesthetics and not actually your track. I mean if the distance numerical readout is correct who gives a sh*t what a map picture looks like anyway??). I ran the same race with my series 6 this year and I did with a series 4 that measured it was long last year, and the 6 was much more on the mark. I have no complaints.

      As an aside, if you think about it, we as runners often DO “swoosh” around turns. Think about it. Do you stop at the exact corner and make a pinpoint 90 degree angle turn? Of course not. Your actual turn is a curve. So your track should show a 90 degree turn anyway because most likely that’s not what’s even happening. My AW usually gets me on the correct side of the street which I’m really happy with. And even on the sidewalk (when many maps show you in the middle of the street when most runners are not actually in the street).

    • JS

      Typo: Should not* show a 90 degree turn

    • Olek

      But that’s the thing, I don’t know if numerical is correct. It might not be given that crazy swooshing. I don’t know if the app is calculating correctly and then applies god-knows-why horrible mariokarting on the track, but numbers are still ok – or it applies that stuff and then calculactes, which would be REALLY REALLY TERRIBLE.

      Also, I strongly disagree that ‘we cut corners sometimes’. Look at this – link to
      I never stepped out from that big road by the coast. Look what the map shows. It’s not even smoothing, it is straight up destroying data.

      Can you or somone explain why DC rainmaker in that video got a perfect route with the native app? There must be something I’m missing here.

    • Hi, please read my comment above on the accuracy of the heart rate (starts way too late) and the distance in comparison with a Garmin Fenix 6x pro.
      I got on a 10k run differences from 400-600 m! Imagine you do a race and you think you are almost at the finish…turns out you still have to go 500m…
      I also have reviewed the video of DC#s fellow Desfit: he also gets accurate distances.
      can anyone explain what we are doing wrong?

    • Olek

      Exactly! I have a strong feeling that my distances (and pace) are off. I know what I’m running and then get super dissapointed, unreal result. Something must be wrong when DC is getting correct tracking?

    • Are you running with your phone?

    • Olek

      I got my phone one me with NRC — data is way off, smoothed
      I didn’t have my phone on me with native workout app — data is way off, smoothed

      I do not have mobile data turned on on my Apple Watch as i’m outside my roaming area (only have local sim card in my phone), but this can’t be the issue?

    • Edwin Naberhuis

      DC, thanks for hopping in.
      I am not running with my phone.
      I have the series 6 on my left wrist and the Garmin on my right.

    • Bummer, that’s definitely super weird. Those tracks just don’t match anything I’ve seen at all – almost to the point I’d wonder if there’s something hardware-wise broken. Like, that isn’t just corner cutting, that’s entire park/block cutting.

      That said, I haven’t used the Nike Run Club app, so maybe there’s an odd tie-in there?

  84. Martin von Siebenthal

    thanks for your thorough reviews! THE reference for sports watches! I got the Apple Watch Series 6 and looking forward to your in-depth review. Same as user ‘DontGetTheCheese’ observed it overestimates distance by about 2% pretty systematically compared to my Garmin 735. Or Garmin underestimates? But the GPS displayed on the map looks overly smoothed in many places, both in Apple’s App and in Strava. I wonder how that comes. I really see no swooshing or the like that would increase the measured distance but still distance is reported too high? For me, getting the pace accurate is more interesting than if it looks nice on the map. And here the two seems to be contradictory?

    • Technically distance is recorded separately on most devices from the GPS track. Some apps (like Strava) will recalculate the distance based on the track, while others leave it as-is from the vendor.

      The reason it’s different on many watches is to handle things like footpods or such where you might have a GPS track, but use a footpod for better accuracy in dense wooded/switchback environments.

    • Martin von Siebenthal

      Hi Ray,
      thanks for the quick response. Sorry I was not clear. Both Apple’s App and Strava show the same too long distance but overly smoothed traces on the map. What I meant by contradictory is that it looks like cutting all corners, so I would expect the distance rather would be underestimated. Also during the run, like Edwin noted: I have my Apple Watch 6 on the left, my Garmin 735 on the right wrist and AW completes each km some seconds earlier, which accumulates with each km and results in 4-8s/km higher pace displayed on AW than on the Garmin 735.

  85. Zarco

    For those runners with AW, can you tell me your setup. I assume you use strava for run app? Any specific settings, watch face? More fitness and runner specific ?

    • JS

      I don’t know why you assume Strava. I don’t Strava…people don’t need to know what I’m doing every day and I don’t really care much what anyone else is doing either.

      My face is the kaleidoscope face using a Keith haring art photo. I go back and forth between the stock Workout app and WorkOutDoors for run tracking.

      Despite being a pretty competitive runner of 20+ years I am just not that into data and think people are overly reliant on the number spit out by a device but that’s a conversation for another day.

    • Zarco

      Setting aside the social media aspects of strava, I was thinking more along the lines of summary run data… weekly, monthly. yearly recap of distance, time, Avg pace, pr, etc. Trend analysis 101 type stuff and history that I hear is lacking in the Apple app.

      Of course many are anti data, but then why pay for a expensive wrist gadget to wear while running? (Being rhetorical)…

    • JS

      I log my runs in an app called Running Log and track my workouts and split times in a Word document. I get the same feedback. I also feel like doing things manually helps me think about it and analyze it more thoughtfully. I tried Strava and didn’t see what the hype was all about. Unless I’m missing something I had to keep scrolling to go back to certain dates. And I’ll be damned if I pay for a service that gives me the same thing I can do for free myself. I don’t remember if I paid anything for Running Log back in 2011 but I haven’t paid a dime since then and it’s literally two taps to see weekly, monthly, yearly, and all-time-since-using-the-app mileage. Don’t really care about average pace outside of the run I’m doing on a particular day. Feeling the effort with my body is more important than a numerical readout.

      And I mainly have the “expensive wrist gadget” because knowing my distance is important to me. Of course I appreciate a modern convenience; I don’t need to drive my routes watching my odometer anymore. Many of my older “expensive wrist gadgets” cost probably more money or close to the cost of my AW for doing less and being way uglier, LOL. I do still use only the stopwatch function for track workouts, though.

    • Zarco

      Thanks, I’ll check out the Run app. Re strava, free and convenient for me and allows me to explore new routes as I travel extensively and live internationally, nothing more or less. Easy to get stats weekly and annually, for the monthly just sign up for a run challenge (free of course) and it tracks avg pace, distance, time. I like garmin connect for the same reason, but considering trying AW vs garmin thus wondering what most do that like to have the basic historical stats.

  86. mk

    Hi DC,
    what happened to the in-depth review of AW Series 6?

  87. Marion

    So I have the Original Versa and the Apple watch Series 6. My RHR is at least 10 bpm lower on the Apple watch. I’m actually not particularly fit right now so an RHR of 59 seems inaccurate. Which watch should I trust more?

  88. MK

    @DC Rainmaker: Hi Ray, I’ve been eagerly awaiting your in-depth review of AW6… Any timeline on when it will be posted? Thanks!

  89. Kelly Madison

    Running with an old forerunner and the new AW 6. My splits are off by a 20-28 seconds per mile and the distance is off .08 (worse for both categories). This is after calibrating and following the advice from the Apple engineer on customer support. This is using the AW stock running app. The Workoutdoors app was 50 seconds off (worse) for splits.

    Are you finding similar issues? Any fixes?

    • BobbyTables

      I have been running with an Apple Watch 6 and somewhat near a friend with a forerunner 245. Our distances, for relatively straight runs, may be off by up to 0.5%, or fairly accurate. Our distances diverged more if I brought my phone with me and placed my phone in a pocket, walked during a run, or had lots of sharp turns.

      WorkOutDoors appears to give longer distances than the stock app, I think because it calcs distance based on the gps location instead of using a combination of strides, gps location, and gps location uncertainty.

      Are your bringing your phone with you, changing your pacing (walking and running), or taking a route with a lot of corners?

    • JS

      That’s odd. I did a race in November that was 9 miles and I wore both a Garmin and my AW6, and they were within .1 of each other at the finish (which I’m fine with because there are numerous turns on the course, and it’s a longer race). What version do you have, GPS only or LTE? I’ve had LTE watches in the past and I don’t know if it’s that the GPS is simply improved on this series, or if LTE tends to make it more inaccurate, but my GPS only 6 is more accurate than my LTE watches. I run with a friend who has the LTE series 5 and her distance is almost always ahead of mine.

    • Kelly Madison

      I bring my phone and place it in a running belt. I run in a large neighborhood so there are corners but it’s relatively open without lots of trees hanging over (if that were to conflict with readings).

      My AW 6 is the GPS (non cellular).

      It’s defeating if I run off of my AW 6 because the pace is so off. I didn’t expect that when I purchased.

    • Kelly Madison

      I only run. Not much for walking until I’m cooling down.

      Do you use an app for your runs or use the AW basic run app? When I did my first test, the only app that came close was NRC for running. I was hoping to use workoutdoors though but that wasn’t accurate at all.

      Just trying to decide what I should expect in terms of accuracy…?

      Would an LTE give me more accurate data?
      Not taking my iPhone with me?


    • BobbyTables

      I would try not taking your phone with you. That often is the biggest change to my distance.

      I also do a warm up walk at the beginning of runs (doctor and typical training recommended), which allows go’s to be acquired at the beginning of the run.

  90. Kate Johnson

    Can someone tell me why I would need to turn off Bluetooth while running with an AW6 (non cellular version) and my iPhone?

    Which one is more accurate?

    On a 3 mile easy run, I pull these numbers:
    Garmin 245 -average pace 9:37, 3.14 distance

    AW using workoutdoors app- average pace 9:55, 3.06 distance

    When it converts to AW fitness app, the average pace drops to 10:10 and distance drops to 2.97mi.


    Helps me with settings. I have pedometer enabled on the apps, motion and fitness is on.

    Which device is accurate?

  91. Frank Rodriguez

    In depth review coming?

  92. Tom

    Is it possible to see the split time in an easy way.
    f.e. when I’m running 10 times an 300m with a rest of 100m in between on track.
    Can I start and stop the time and see the split time with and easy push on the watch?
    These options are common on other sport watches.

    • BobbyTables

      @tom you can double tap on the display to create a lap and see the pace of the last segment.

      You can also use third party apps to show more info (WorkOutDoors) but the distance appears to be fast relative to the native workout app

      Note that Apple Watch gps, as well as most go’s watches don’t have perfect accuracy around a track where a couple of seconds are important, so running at the track won’t be very accurate for pace. A simple timex Ironman stopwatch may be better suited for that.

  93. Maria


    I was a happy owner of a Series 4. I upgraded to the series 6, but am very dissatisfied with the heart rate sensor.
    Where my series 4 was collecting reliable hr data (es: during less “standard” activities such as horse riding, etc), my series 6 isn’t. Most of the times it dioesn’t pick up the pulse at all, throughout the whole workout (60+ minutes). Same settings, same strap.

    Have you – or anyone – experienced the same thing?


  94. Zachary F.

    Where can I find the in depth review?

  95. Luis Henriques

    Hello DCRainmaker,

    Thanks for the complete reviews.

    What application are you using to compare the HR accuracy of different devices?
    How to export that kind of information from Apple Watch?


  96. Larry Shepherd

    I am a 82 year old male that exercises 5 to 6 days a week. I am most interested in ASMARTWATCH THAT HAS THE MOST-ACCURATE HEART RATE AND CALORIES BURNED. What are the top 2 or 3 you would recommend?
    Larry Shepherd

    • Jeff

      I expect he will recommend a Garmin product. And if you are not concerned about all of your technology devices being Apple brand, you may be happier with Garmin as they tend to be more full featured and focus on exercise/activity.

  97. Do apple watches still take a few minutes to acquire a satellite signal when doing a run/ride without your phone?

    • Remnant

      I have a cellular version, and it appears to get a relatively accurate location within a few seconds of going to the workout app.

      I don’t know how long it takes to get gps when outside of cellular assisted areas, as most of my runs at least begin with cell coverage.

      I am assuming that the six dots that show up at the beginning of opening the workout app are the indicator of gps acquisition.

    • JS

      I use mine with a Stryd footpod and when I press the Run button it gives me a screen where it shows that the footpod signal as well as GPS signal have been acquired. It gets a signal within seconds.

  98. Eric Peters

    How many bluetooth devices can be paired with the Apple Series 6 Watch at a time?
    If you (user or Apple) really wanted to make this an all in one watch, there are a lot of things that would need to be paired. Earbuds, HR, PowerMeter, Cadence, Di2

  99. Patricia

    Hi, I can’t find the in depth review of the series 6. Am i overlooking something? Would there alse be a comparison between the series 5 and 6? Thanks for the reply. Best regards, Patricia

  100. Shahd

    hi how can I make the time and date correct???

    and I can take pictures????

  101. Alex

    Hi there
    I know that previous versions did not “advise” when the watch connected with the satellite , hence when going for a run the you didn’t know if the watch was connected or not. Has this been solved with this watch?
    Thank you

  102. jan adegeest

    Last month I run a marathon and tracked with my apple workout app at 43.27 km (the race was a Boston qualifier so I trust the officials by setting out the track to be exact 42.195 km). I have noticed some discrepancies before and followed the instruction from the apple/help website however without much success as it turns out. Any suggestions?

  103. Javier

    Any in-depth review?

  104. Callum Wilson

    Here for the HR accuracy, thanks for the info!!