Apple Watch Series 6/SE, and Apple Fitness+ Service Launched: Complete Details

2020-09-15 (30)

Today Apple has launched the new Apple Watch Series 6 with some modest fitness/health focused upgrades, while also launching a new fitness subscription service, Apple Fitness+. In addition to the Apple Watch 6, Apple also launched a new variant, the Apple Watch SE.

Atop all that, the Apple Watch continues its slow migration away from iPhone dependency, with a new ability to have phone-less Apple Watches targeted at kids and elderly who might not have their own phones. Though, these do require a family member on an iPhone to set them up. More on that in a moment.

Ultimately, as you’ll see that while the hardware updates are mostly minor, the bigger changes here are the software and platform changes. So let’s dive into everything.

Apple Watch Series 6 & SE:

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For this year’s launch, Apple has settled on having three core models in the lineup, which are:

Apple Watch Series 6 – from $399: In both GPS-only & GPS+Cellular
Apple Watch SE – from $279: In both GPS-only & GPS+Cellular
Apple Watch Series 3 – from $199 (though, really $169 lately): GPS only now

Now that we got that quickie out of the way, what’s new in Apple Watch Series 6? Well, most of it comes from WatchOS7, which was announced back in June. You’ll remember my post on it here. But the biggie from a health/fitness standpoint was Sleep Tracking, which I also detailed here hands-on (I’ll be looping back to see what’s changed with the final release slated for tomorrow). In addition, there was VO2Max tracking added too, including notifications when your VO2Max drops. Those features arrive on all Apple Watch’s that are compatible with WatchOS7 (so Apple Watch Series 3 and higher).

But, there’s new hardware in Apple Watch 6, starting first with a new optical sensor package that includes SPO2 monitoring.

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(Note: All imagery in this post is from the Apple launch presentation, or Apple’s website)

The new sensor allows you to take a reading on-demand, which Apple says takes 15 seconds, and the user gets a count-down timer while the reading is being taken. This a perfect example of Apple elevating something someone already did. Garmin for example has had SpO2 sensors on their watches for a few years now. Except there isn’t clear-cut guidance to the user when taking a reading that they should stop moving around, or that they need to wait for X time period. In the case of a Garmin watch, you just sorta wait and hope. Whereas this simple user interface increases the chances of success in the reading:

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Once completed, you’ll get the reading directly on your wrist:

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In addition, like others, there’s also periodic background readings, notably when you sleep. These are then available through Apple Health.

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Notably, Apple has not pursued a medical certification for their sensor, which is different than the ECG functionality they rolled out two years ago


While there are lots of potential uses for SPO2 in a wearable for regular consumers, most of it is frankly a bit fuzzy. Most of the current real-world uses for SPO2 come from either the medical realm, or from high altitude scenarios. Neither has translated super well to clear-cut guidance/benefits/usefulness to consumers sitting at home watching Netflix (or chilling). Which isn’t to say they aren’t there, I’m just saying right now none of the manufacturers have really connected the dots on how to leverage it for the average consumer.

Speaking of high altitude and dots, the Series 6 unit gets a new altimeter that’s apparently more real-time than the past barometric altimeters Apple Watch enabled units. This sensor can now feed real-time altitude data (second by second) to the watch face.

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And, if used in conjunction with the SPO2 sensor at high altitude, it denotes that in the recording of that particular measurement:

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The final two hardware changes are first the chipset, which is the Apple S6 silicon chipset, which they say is based on the A13 Bionic within the iPhone 11, but has been “optimized” for the Apple Watch. Apple says this chipset is 20% faster than the Series 5.

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And then the always-on display when not active (so if your wrist is down), Apple says is 2.5x brighter, which would be a pretty substantial jump. It’s unclear what that impact is on battery life. Apple maintains the same claim as the previous Series 5 of “18 hours”.

Next, there’s some new bands, most notably a “solo loop”, which is a band that has no buckle, clasp, or overlapping parts. It’s simply a continuous piece of silicone. Think a fancy wider version of those old Livestrong bracelets from yesteryear. You’ll buy the specific band for your wrist size:

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So what about the Apple Watch SE? Well, it’s roughly a blend between an Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch Series 3.

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It’s got the newer altimeter and related sensors of the Series 6, but doesn’t have the SPO2 or ECG features (which the Series 5 did have). It retains the Apple Watch Series 5 chipset, which Apple says is twice as fast as Series 3. But it doesn’t have an Always-on display. Those reductions save you $120.


And again, more slight differences when it comes to chipsets too:


Finally, one of the more interesting areas they announced was their new ‘Family Setup for Apple Watch’. The idea here is to have a child or elderly person that might not have their own phone, have an Apple Watch with cellular service instead. That watch gets its own phone number (so the requirement is a cellular Apple Watch), but is initially set up within another family member’s iPhone.

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In the case of children, the parent can specify what contacts the child can communicate with, as well as a new ‘School Time’ mode that includes do-not-disturb and a specific mode icon that teachers can recognize the child is in the ‘School Time’ mode, which has restricted functionality.  The kids get their own Apple activity/fitness related details, such as closing their rings.

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In addition, one can create automatic notifications based on location with geo-fencing, so to alert that someone has arrived at an area (or presumably left an area). The idea being that a parent automatically gets notified when a child arrives into a given pre-defined location. Or, perhaps when an elderly parent leaves a location.

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The Family Setup for Apple Watch will work on any Apple Watch Series 4 or higher watch, as long as it’s the cellular edition. This in turn does limit things market-wise, because many markets don’t have cellular editions in them (they aren’t even offered to buy). Also, the Family Setup feature won’t roll out until later this year, and only within the following markets:

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The limited nature of the markets appears largely tied to the telecom providers. So for example, we notice Canada is missing above (which is virtually always included in initial launches of Apple products/services). However, there are undoubtedly some requirements on carriers to provision watches sans-iPhone.

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Still, I think it’s pretty cool. It’s a much better solution than some of the weird and wild kid/elderly tracking watches that I’ve seen that look more like prisoner bracelets than something that someone actually wants to wear.

Oh…and one last thing: Apple is removing the USB wall outlet/adapter from the Apple Watch. They say those are just piling up in landfills and as a result it’ll have the same effect as removing 50,000 cars worth of emissions annually. Though, it doesn’t appear we get back a few dollars off the price of our next Apple Watch.

Apple Fitness+:

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While hardware will get all the attention, the bigger news of the day is the launch of Apple Fitness+. This $9.99/month (or $79/year) service seems to be roughly like Peloton’s digital app service/platform (sans-bike variant), which includes structured instructor-led workouts for 10 different sports. The platform ties together all your Apple devices, so that it’s pulling from Watch to screens, and then integrating back into the watch again. Note – the service *DOES* require an Apple Watch, so keep that in mind.

To begin, you’ll choose a class from within the Apple Fitness app (that’s the app that replaced ‘Activity’ on your phone). There are 10 types of workouts to choose from: Yoga, Cycling, Dance, Treadmill Walk, Treadmill Run, Strength, CORE, HIIT, Rowing, and ‘Mindful cooldowns’.

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The content is developed in-house within Apple’s Fitness studio, and they say that each week new content will roll-out. The workouts are integrated with music from Apple Music, though an Apple Music subscription is not required. However, it will offer the playlists for each workout that can then be transferred into your Apple Music library.


The workouts can then be shown on Apple TV, an iPad, or an iPhone. The metrics are kept in sync between the devices, and will even increase/decrease font sizes, if for example the instructor calls out to watch your HR for a specific section.

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Afterwards you’ll get a summary of your workout data. Apple says that the recommendation algorithm for new classes is run entirely on your watch/phone, and not on Apple’s platform. They also said that your calories and instructors selected aren’t tied to your Apple ID at the Apple platform level. This was an attempt at privacy, but ultimately Apple still needs to know how many people are taking certain classes, engagement time within the classes, etc… else they won’t be able to accurately generate content for what people want.

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Apple’s big push here is that it’s entirely brand/location/equipment agnostic. Obviously, if you’re doing a treadmill workout you need a treadmill – but there’s isn’t any specific requirement for Brand X or Model Y. Similarly, they noted that there are workouts specific to places like a hotel room or without any equipment at all, such as outside on the grass in a park.

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Notably, the subscription price covers the entire family, so you don’t need a separate subscription for each person. And then beyond that there’s Apple One, which is Apple’s ‘everything’ service, bundling together at various levels all their different services. Here, this explains it better:

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The Apple Fitness+ service won’t launch till later this year, so everything remains a bit fuzzy until then. Apple Watch purchasers get 3 months free. And even when it does launch, it’s doing so only in English speaking countries, listed below. Though, it’s sometimes debatable if Australia counts as an English speaking country – how the eff did ‘afternoon’ become ‘arvo’, for example?

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How and where Apple can evolve this is the big question. Unlike virtually all their other paid subscription services which scale easily across languages/countries with simply adding more translations or developers, this one doesn’t. This basically requires a full fitness studio staff for each language. We’ve seen how challenging that’s been for Peloton as they’ve slowly pried open the German market through dedicated German instructors working out of the London studios. But even that’s still pretty limited compared to the scales of what Apple would be looking at doing here. Even expanding to just 3-4 languages would be a massive undertaking of resources.

Still, if there’s anything Apple has its resources and energy. And money. Money helps.

Wrap Up:

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So there ya go, a quick look at what’s new on the Apple Watch. Most of this was largely expected, and most of the new hardware features are largely catch-up from what we’ve seen Fitbit and Garmin roll-out in recent years, namely the SPo2 bits. But if there’s one thing we know about Apple is that while they often lag initial implementation on cutting edge technologies, they tend to make up for it with their more polished implementations. In this case, everything we’ve seen on the screen shows relative similarity to what’s offered already in the marketplace, so it’s really going to come down more to accuracy and guidance on how to use that data.

Ultimately, I think the far bigger takeaway from today isn’t the Apple Watch related announcements, but the Apple Fitness+ announcement. This too was well rumored, but I think it’s the biggest threat wearables-wise is to the Garmin/Fitbit’s of the world. Albeit, not at its current pricing. $9.99/month to me seems a bit too high for what Apple is putting out there, especially since I’m skeptical on how much content and variety will really be there at launch (given it won’t show up till later this year – and given the complexities of creating fitness content in studios during COVID-19). I would have thought $4.99/month would be a very Apple-like price to just dominate the sector with an easy ‘Sure, I’ll sign-up’ type scheme.

Still, it’s going to have an impact. Even if just a single-digit % portion of Apple Watch users sign-up, that’s a massive number of people, and would easily begin to dwarf other subscription services out there. It also poses a challenge to Peloton. Less so for owners of the bike, but more for Peloton’s app users, which are paying $12.99/month for the platform. For those users, something like the Apple One bundles could be a tipping point in Apple’s favor. Additionally, so could more workout diversity, or simply better content by Apple. Peloton’s content is pretty darn good (it’s largely considered the main draw to the Peloton platform). And so in order for Apple to pull users over from Peloton, they’re going to have to throw down some pretty solid content.

In any event, I’m interested to dive into how this all looks in person, starting with the watches first, and then Apple Fitness+ a bit later this year.

With that – thanks for reading!


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  1. Stuart

    The S6 Apple Watch has 2.5 brighter display at rest but i’m still not sure how this will work with third party apps like Stryd. These third party apps do not work well on the S5 as you still have to raise your wrist and wait a split second to see the display when running unlike Apples native workout app. This feels odd to me compared to my Polar Grit-X where I instantly see power/pace/distance. Does anyone know if this is improved on Watch OS7/S6?

    • Scott

      Ugh, that is not great to hear. Having the always on display with Stryd was one of the main reasons for me to upgrade from my S4. Maybe it is time to consider getting a Garmin again :(.

  2. Simon

    There’s maybe more of an arguable case than you suggest for SPO2 utility for the general public in the Covid age Ray. It’s an unusual, but possible, symptom. And a bad one. That needs immediate treatment.

    • Indeed, there’s some evidence there once symptomatic, though we haven’t seen anything yet for non-symptomatic people I don’t believe. Whereas for breathing rate/respiration rate has shown some interesting pre-symptomatic shifts in some studies.

      Apple noted that there are three studies they’re actually doing, each study with two different organizations (mostly medical universities), including one related to COVID. Should be interesting to see what comes of it.

      The bigger challenge with with SPO2 measurements though is how variable they tend to be in wearables today. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple is any better than the competition there. So figuring out how to remove the noise of commonly bad measurements is challenging.

  3. Peter

    One thing I would note is that the series 6 charges quicker: “completing a full charge in under 1.5 hours” So it may be more useful as a sleep tracker, as there is no need to charge it overnight anymore.

  4. Mayhem

    Sometimes Apple is so stupid. The geographical restriction on Fitness+ is one of those cases. Most often this is due to licensing restrictions, but shouldn’t be in this case as all content is seemingly produced in-house?

    I am a cyclist. I love getting out on the bike, the training aspect of it is more or less just a bonus. I’d never be caught dead in a gym. But Fitness+ in my own home I could potentially get behind just to get some variation from the pure leg work.

    Only Apple won’t let me, as I apparantly am not deemed to be fluent enough in English only because I happen to live in Sweden. Stupid.

    • Yeah, the geo restrictions in this case are peculiar. I kinda get it, but kinda not. Ultimately, if someone in another country that speaks perfect English wants to pay and take the classes that are fully owned by Apple, why not?

      Now, there may be some music restrictions here at play though.

    • Mayhem

      Hmm, I suppose music licensing could be an issue in some edge cases. But it shouldn’t be that difficult for them to only pick tracks where they can acquire global licensing for Fitness+ use? I don’t think too many people will complain if there is an occasional gap if opening the playlist in Apple Music (which was one of the advertised features).

      Also I might add that unlike other countries in Europe, primarily Germany but probably others, Sweden does not dub anything but children’s content. Anything above that uses subtitles and everyone takes English in school from age 10 or perhaps even earlier nowadays. Personally I seldom use subtitles either since maybe the last 15 years which has dramatically improved my ability to discern spoken English. (Still often do need subtitles in games though due to generally poor sound mixing…)

    • Ben

      As a long-term expat currently living in Bulgaria, this also annoys the heck out of me. I can get Apple Music and TV+ so why not News+ and Fitness+? Take my money damn it!

  5. Wes

    Not sure what you mean with “they cannot connect the dots on how to leverage sp02”? If its accurately tracked, it can detect a health issue (sleep apnea or heart/lung issues). Same for the ECG.

    However, accuracy is everything. Garmin has this already(except for ECG) but the experience I had with the optical heart rate sensor and sp02 of the FR945 is just dreadful. You can calculate all sort of KPI’s like body battery but if the raw data is garbage, it does not bring any value.

    Really curious about the accuracy of the apple watch 6 though.

    • But those dots are missing today, that’s my point. Garmin doesn’t doesn’t do anything with the data. Neither does Withings, nor Fitbit.

      All of them simply give you back variant UI designs of ‘here’s your data from yesterday/last night/etc’…

      There was talk of Sleep Apnea related bits from Fitbit, but nothing to my knowledge ever actually panned out. Now all the companies simply say ‘if you think things don’t look right, go find a doctor’, compared to what they do for ECG for example where it’s super-prescriptive.

    • Wes

      Which dots would you expect to be connected for the purely health features? I think we cannot expect more from these features then being binary (OK or not OK). Defining the exact pathology you might have is a step too far (at least for now). We are far from having all of the current (accurate) data in a watch that an MD has to define a pathology (accurate screening, scans, blood work,…). You will have to wait a long time before these dots can be connected (probably only possible with a chip in your body).

      However, that does not mean that there is no value in evaluating very early if something is not right. If a watch can does this first analysis very accurately, it would provide a lot of value. The next dot can then be connected by an MD after extensive analysis.

      But again, you will only reap the value if the accuracy is there.

  6. Rajah

    I was expecting for a apple made virtual cycling app like zwift too bad I guess I can hope for next year!

  7. Jared

    I’m debating if it’s worth upgrading from a series 4.

  8. Michael

    I believe you saw a significant drop off in HR accuracy in the jump from Series 4 to Series 5 that I believe you attributed to software and battery optimization. Any guesses on whether they’ll have fixed this in Series 6 either through improved software and battery optimization or through hardware w/ the SPO2 ability? Also, with all these measurements coming to the Apple Watch, I’m wondering why a software developer (or Apple themselves) doesn’t create a competitor to WOOP that measures when it’s optimal to do hard training. Thanks for all your insights here. Looking forward to your review of the sleep app in the final release tomorrow!!

    • Hard to say on that one. Hang tight for a bit later this week!

    • Wayne

      There is a Whoop competitor on Apple Watch. It’s called Training Today. It’s VERY basic & is an Apple Watch app only but it’s been available for months

    • Nox

      Training Today and Healthzilla are both free Watch apps that use HRV to give advice on if/how hard to train on a daily basis. When i tested Training Today vs Garmin Body Battery it was pretty on point. Healthzilla is suuuuper slow on the iPhone and I find the aesthetic sort of off putting.

      For a price ($15 Canadian I think), HRV4Training is a Watch/iPhone app that uses HRV combined with subjective user feedback to offer similar advice.

  9. Joe

    The battery life on the Apple Watch continues to be a major deal breaker for me. I’ve been thoroughly spoiled by my Garmin lasting a week+ (including all workout activity) on a single charge. Any extra functionality from Apple doesn’t outweigh to constantly be worried about how much battery life it has.

  10. Jason

    Hi Ray, great article as usual. Small typo in the pick under the oxygen saturation screenshot of the app – “Apple has not perused a medical certificate” is probably intended to be “pursued”? Cheers.

  11. Mark Pyers

    Love ya work. Thanks for the review and av a good avro mate!

  12. Nathan M.

    For everyday health and life I have always loved my Apple Watch. Even further, the heart rate sensor is class leading which has allowed me to leave my chest strap at home on activities such as hikes or nightly runs. This year I parted ways with my Apple Watch because I hated how my Edge 530 and Apple Watch did not share any information at all. I got a fenix 6 instead. The HR sensor is awful and the only true reason I keep the fenix with the edge is for the first beat metrics being shared across devices. Now that Garmin bought First Beat, I can only wish that my imported Apple Watch runs would update my training load focus and training load stats. Garmin continues to lock me into both their devices if I want data that is a true reflection of my training. I could choose not to care about my runs or hikes (i mostly cycle to improve my fitness the most anyways), but, this doesn’t sit right with me. I could own both devices but I shouldn’t have to, at least not after this acquisition on Garmins part. I hesitate to believe they will open up the algorithms to third party imports because I, like a lot of people I assume, would sell my fenix in a flash and just use my Apple Watch for those short runs and day hikes. Sucks.

  13. Tom

    Have they managed yet to enable GPS catch before you start a workout, or is it still not starting the process until you are underway.

  14. Dave

    few quick points on Apple Fitness+ …

    1. it has a yearly price of $79.99 bringing the monthly cost down to $6.59

    2. if you get the Apple One Premium bundle, and I think a lot will, it is included. for example today I subscribe to iCloud 2TB, Apple Music Family, Apple News, and I will pay for Apple TV+ when my subscription is up. That will be $40 a month… OR if I subscribe to Apple One Premium I get ALL of that plus I get Apple Arcade and Apple Fitness+ for just $30. So I’m about to pay $10 less and get more, including Fitness+. If you price everything out monthly what Apple One Premium includes is worth $55 but the cost is $30. No brainer for my family.

    • True, it’s cheaper in the bundle no doubt.

      Unfortunately, none of the bundles really work for me. I pay the 2TB plan as well (and grr…why can’t I pay more for 4TB? – I’m at the limit right now). But that’s it. I use Spotify for Music and honestly there’s zero chance I’m changing because Spotify works cross-device for me (Garmin devices, etc…). I don’t do Apple News or Apple TV+.

      But totally get it in a larger family setting if you’re using more of those services. I do think, as always, that the challenge is that as more and more subs try and compete for your dollars, people continue to get sub-tired.

    • Nevan

      You can pay more for 4TB now, but you have to subscribe to the Apple One top tier and then pay for the extra 2TB on top of that.

    • José

      I’d consider Apple Music if it worked with my 945, but otherwise it would be annoying to maintain another music service and playlists.

  15. Fletch Chambers

    NO improvement to battery life? The watch is an intriguing piece of kit, but 18 hour battery life is a deal-breaker.

  16. Todd W. Hausmann

    No mention of power meter compatibility. Or did I miss that?

    • Jared

      They did not mention it. I’d say pretty close to a 0% chance the native apple apps will connect to a power meter.

    • Dave Cochrane

      PMs are, for the massive majority of Apple Watch users, a seriously niche concern. I’d like to be able to pair one and use it with a 3rd party app, by SRM, say, and use the data in TrainingPeaks or wherever…but I doubt it’ll happen. I’d be happy to be wrong.

  17. Keith

    I was also curious if fitness+ would be able to read power from a smart trainer and power meter. I doubt I would use it for indoor cycling otherwise. I do plan to try it for strength training and yoga.

  18. Ron Melton

    In reading Apple’s specs for the watches they say that the watch GPS is used for fitness activities rather than the iPhone GPS. Is that correct? In the past if the iPhone was connected, the phone GPS was used with, in my experience, less accuracy than the Apple Watch GPS.

  19. WorkOnSunday

    here in the UK, there is a huge uptake of people doing triathlon due to Covid. I wonder if it is just UK, otherwise it will make sense to introduce a tri mode much like Garmin watches. Of course would be nice if apple can offer connectivity to power meter and other sensors. but until then, i will stick with Garmin for abit longer.

    • Ian L

      I am not sure Covid has increased triathlon participation given almost all events were cancelled. Bike riding / running has increased as gyms are closed/not desirable for all sorts of reasons.
      Apple Watch hits a target market, but still struggle what it offers as a sports watch over Garmin equivalents

    • Dave Cochrane

      Another year like 2020 and I think Ironman will struggle to survive.

  20. Benedikt

    My FR945 told my since day one to stay calm and stop moving while doing an on demand measurement. Its on the screen where you can see the data ploted. Atop, you the the SpO2 symbol, then the percentage with the time stamp of that measurement in the third row.
    If you open that widget and wait a little, it will start a on demand measurement with instruction in line 3.

  21. Thani AL-Thani

    I don’t understand why apple made the main event of the watch on SPO2 which in use by many brands for many years, we were looking for longer batteries life, The data that can be viewed on iPad or Mac not only on iPhone…

  22. Toby

    Minor y.o.y. spec bump on the S6 Watch. I can’t get excited about SP02. I agree with Ray’s thoughts that the dots haven’t been connected.

    What does high/low BO reading tell me? Can it be improved(?) without changing altitude? If my reading changes from 95% to 97% what kind of physiological changes should I expect or feel?

    One thing I am hopeful is that with Apple’s engagement in it, hopefully more will get involved and something truly insightful will come from it.

  23. Jeff

    Seems to be two things keeping me from switching from Garmin to Apple. #1 – no simple status to show I’m connected to GPS when outside before I start my run. #2 – can find a way to track biking/running inside. Connecting a footpod and speed/cadence pods would be ideal. Am I missing something that should be really basic things?

    • Nathan M.

      The app WorkOutDoors is fantastic and when you open up that app and keep it on the activity selection screen there is actually a little GPS status bar in the upper left hand corner. Before starting an activity it will show up as read, then grey after about 20 seconds, then green after about 45 seconds. I love this app because I am pretty sure most of it is just passive. The numbers are from Apples algorithms for calories, VO2 max estimations, and other metrics. The battery life is also on par with Apples own activity app too. I think Apple has some of the best estimates in the industry for this information so I am happy this app is more or less just a data collection app that dumps into the activity app and Apple health.

    • Jeff

      Thanks for the info!

  24. J Hanson

    Let me know when they can get more than 6 hours of battery life in GPS mode. Then I might go back to Apple.

    • Benfield

      I have a series 4 and have been able to get about 10 hours on a trail run when I bring my phone. Since I need to take breaks occasionally on runs longer than this, I will bring a charger and top up on any break longer than 15 minutes. I know it is a dumb way to do it, but rarely has my body let me move at a reasonable speed for longer than 10 hours without a break, so I don’t see the need to switch…yet.

  25. David

    I have an iPhone and a Garmin Forerunner 935. I am very happy with my Garmin but wish it had some of the features of Apple Watch (i.e. music, phone call and messages without a phone nearby etc.). I get the feeling that the latest model of Apple Watch (model 6) can do everything my Garmin FR 935 can plus more–would you say that’s correct or do I miss something in the details here? I am just wondering if I should sell my Garmin and switch to an Apple Watch 6 once it’s available – what are your thoughts?

    • Ian S.

      I’m thinking the same with switching from my 935 to Apple Watch 6 but it would be Apple Watch for daily activities but Garmin for marathons, triathlons for battery and ease in transition and cycling as I have an Edge device I use to view my activities but all in all I only use my Garmin for what it is designed for between 10-14 hours a week. I’m sure I could replace most functions and activities with the Apple Watch and just save the Garmin for race days and long distance/multi hour activities.

    • David

      Very good point about the long races and bike rides and battery life. I am worried about GPS accuracy too. Maybe DCR can help?

    • DontGetTheCheese

      Really, the AW has 2 problems.

      GPS tracks about 2% plus long. Not a huge deal for me as my longest typical run is 5.5 miles. The concern though is that it was erratic at times. I had it go completely off the reservation a couple of times and it wasn’t rare in a city to find myself running down the center of a street and through back yards.

      The battery though is the real killer. On the S4 I could go a day, work out, and the battery would be in the mid 60% range. I’d then charge it in the shower at night and in the morning then leave for work at 100% the next day. The S5, however, demanded dedicated charging time and would be in the mid 40’s / 50’s and I’d leave to work in the 80’s using the same routine and it charges slow (1-1/2 hours). I had a couple of days, cataract surgery, where I had the AW on and it hit low-power at 1:00 pm the next day, so not even 1-1/2 days. Admittedly better than Apple’s 18 hours but really, not good enough.

      My F6Solar (an unfair battery comparison) is charged once/week when I reload podcasts, it could easily go 10 days with podcasts and workouts, and it nailed the GPS most of the time. It’s perfect on the track I regularly run that has mile markers.

      One thing I have read is that this version of the AW charges 20% faster. For my use case, that might be enough to make up some of the loss in battery life using the same schedule.

      I guess I’ll find out, I always buy these damn things from Apple and Garmin.

    • Wes

      How would you compare HR accuracy on the wrist between fenix 6 and AW5?

    • Paul S

      There are other problems. If you’re a cyclist, for example, and have a power meter, there’s no way to use it with an Apple Watch. If you care about Garmin Connect, you’re going to have a hard time getting tracks into it from an AW, where it’s automatic these days with a Garmin device (and from there automatically on to Strava, etc.). Garmin watches (I have a Fenix 5+) support a lot more sensor types and are in general just better than an Apple Watch (I have a 5LTE) for sports. The Apple Watch is a much, much better smart watch than any Garmin watch, but it’s worse when it comes to recording a track for running, cycling, etc.

    • Nathan M.

      In my opinion the Fenix 6 experiences a lot more drops and lags in HR compared to Apple Watch. Especially evident with activities like hiking when you have a terrain change.

    • DontGetTheCheese

      I had to buy a Wahoo forearm strap for the Fenix. I pretty routinely saw it spike into numbers that at my age would be a really bad day. I once had it hit 240.

      The Apple Watch was much better.

    • T Bok

      I went through similar thoughts a few years back, tried AW (series 3), and ended up back with Garmin. For me the AW was fine for casual runs, but terrible for track workouts or tempo runs because you don’t have a way to start/stop or lap with one button. And I don’t think Apple has improved that in the more recent models, but I’d love to hear if they have. It’s a pity because the watch is great and there are two buttons that could easily be used for start/stop and lap. But it seems like Apple insists that all apps use those buttons in a consistent way. I can see why that might usually be a good idea, but I can say with certainty that I will never want to use Apple Pay in the middle of a track workout, etc.

  26. About Fitness+: why can’t they just open up to all countries just in English?

  27. Apple Watch is becoming the best daily tracker and “casual” sport watch ever.
    If only they would allow exporting to Strava or Training Peaks, so I can use that for casual runs and keep using my sport watch and cyclo computer when doing real training

  28. Melanie Clement

    Love your reviews!! When can we expect an in-depth review on the Apple Watch Series 6?

  29. Bruce

    ‘struth us cobbers only speak English before the arvo, before we’ve had grog

  30. Pete

    Any information if Apple Watch can broadcast HR? I use that feature to feed data to my Garmin 530

  31. Thomas Holm

    Hey is there still no power meter support in AW S6?

  32. Marta

    Hi! I don’t see swimming mentioned in the article. Is this because theres simply nothing to say about it? IE no swim stroke detection and no swimming HR options etc?

    • It was just my first impressions after a single run. I’ll include swimming in my final review. But it’ll be the same as past Apple Watches in terms of features.

    • Sandra Buckingham

      With your swimming review, can you comment on how well the two new loop bands work in the water, and whether they are snug enough for dependable HR measurements, but without being too tight for non-swimming wear… since you can’t adjust them? I have found that the velcro sport loop is most dependable for HR, but it stretches out to the point of uselessness after about 6 months and you have to buy a new one. The other straps are really hit and miss, to the point of being not worth while at all.

  33. Vihaan

    I like the fact that the Apple Watch SE flaunts the family sharing feature. Makes it easier for a non-iphone user family member to also be able to use the apple watch.

  34. MikeOzNl

    Hi Ray,

    Second last paragraph I found a typo I could resist to flag “ Additionally, so good more diversity or simply better content”. Should be “so could more content”

    Great reading the article. I’ve been looking for a watch that will be my daily charger for sports and casual. Apple Watch or a fenix? Have been a garmin fanboy for years and have, a garmin edge 830, had vector 3 pedals (sold them due to the battery drama), have a fenix 5s plus. Sadly the fenix isn’t friendly with my concept 2 rowing machine – but you can on Apple Watch run live rowing app.

    Have you done a garmin vs Apple Watch comparison? Does anyone out there have this same dilemma?

    • Thanks, re-tweaked the wording for clarity.

      I haven’t really done a head to head Garmin vs Apple. It’s such a different set of requirements, though I think more and more people are indeed comparing those two. I might do something like that down the road. Though, I can already hear the Apple fanboys yelling “BUT THE FENIX IS TWICE THE PRICE!!! NOT FAIR!!!”, even before I finish my opening name.


  35. vittorio atzeni

    Hi Ray, It seems the Vo2 max data is only detected for activities such as running and outdoor walking. No bike! Since I only do cycling, and I bought Apple Watch 6 also to get this data, how can I get it? Thank you.

    • Paul S.

      Sounds like you bought the wrong device.

      With the Apple Watch, one thing you can do is look for a third party app that might give you what you want. There’s an actual Apple Watch app store now, and iPhone apps often have Watch companion apps.

      You can go to a lab, where VO2max tests have been traditionally done on a trainer with actual measuring of your input and output of gases. That’s the most accurate option, and the only one that’s an actual measurement.

      You could buy a device that works much better for cycling than something on your wrist, like a cycling head unit. My Garmin Edge 830 gives a VO2max estimate (realize these aren’t measurements, for that you need the lab) that seems reasonable (but I’ve never had the lab test). I’m not sure if others (Wahoo, Hammerhead) do or not.

      You might be able to find an app for phone or computer that does after the fact calculations from your data files to give you an estimate, but I don’t know of one offhand. I’d look at Golden Cheetah first, free and does all sorts of stuff.

  36. Rex

    Is there a possibility to connect any of the Apple Watches to a Bluetooth+ powermeter? Means are there any apps available Supporting what seems to be a stunt?

  37. Kpat

    I’m really having a hard time on what to buy. I’m being torn between Garmin 645 and Apple watch SE, considering their price is quite similar. I’ve run a few half marathon and pursuing for a full one. Apple Watch SE on the other hand offers an open water swim and can be used for multi sport(i guess), as I also like doing duathlons. On the other hand, Garmin is really geared towards the athletes, it’s just really frustrating that they are making the altimeter and open water swim for a higher price point. On the other hand, Apple does not have a big reputation on their battery life.

  38. Garret Holland

    I see a lot of talk of the fitness tracking, I have the FR945 and admittedly it’s probably more gear than I need, but I enjoy playing with the features. I decided to buy one with all the features and pair down next watch rather than guess what I wanted/needed in a cheaper version only to find out I needed model X instead.. anyway this isn’t the point of my post, the point is: I’ve found the best feature is the Body Battery, paired WITH the stress stats. First, your BB will settle into a rythym, meaning you may get to 90% daily, and that’s your base, mine happens to be 100. So when I wake up below that I analyze why, maybe I didn’t sleep well (check your sleep stats) but where the data really shines is the stress, which I believe is based on HRV data, if I wake up with let’s say a 60, and I slept well, or long, what’s causing that? The stress tells the story, if I have high (75-100) stress and it’s solid (not many gaps, looks blocky) I know my body is fighting something, maybe I’m getting sick, maybe I’m hungover, and actually in my case it has and does help me know I was getting sick (I know before I am now, and know to rest) but it actually helped me learn that gluten was affecting my recovery, and that I’m gluten sensitive, and was causing sickness.

    Bringing me full circle to my actual point, on forums like this, reddit, etc, there are tons of searches and comments about Apple watch adopting BB like metrics, it’s really amazing to me Apple continues to ignore this segment, basically skirting around the edges instead of diving in, sure they could use First Beat metrics if Garmin released them, however they haven’t, and probably won’t, this is Apple we’re talking about, they could surely come up with similar algorithms.

    A lot of people like me are waiting to jump to the obvious better usability and connectability of the Apple watch, the Garmin’s are clunky, and can’t compare, except, they do key things better, which many have talked about in this thread, bringing me back to why Apple, why aren’t you cornering the market, you’re so close, and with early versions it was understandable – frustrating still, but understandable – but why not now?

  39. Andrew

    Been a Fenix 5x user for over 4 years and love it. So many features and still to this day it lasts a week with at least one 2 hour outdoor ride, 2 indoor trainer rides and 3 gym workouts a week. How can Apple be legendary at making iPads and MacBooks with amazing battery life but totally suck at battery life in their watches? It’s a total no go for me until they pull their finger out on battery life. Or perhaps it was just made for people that sit at desks all day and don’t do anything other than fetch their lunch and coffee and call that exercise