Apple Watch SE and Series 6 first impressions: Time for an upgrade?

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Apple Watch SE is only $279
Solid upgrades to an already great smartwatch.
Screenshot: Apple

Ahead of the new Apple Watch units finding their way onto users’ wrists, the initial “first impressions” reviews have hit the internet. While they’re not deep dives into the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE (users got to try them out for 24 hours), they still provide a sense of how they’re being received.

So what do the lucky individuals Apple sent an early review unit to have to say about them? Read on to find out.

Apple Watch Series 6

Fancy new colors

One of the swankiest new features of the flagship Apple Watch Series 6 are the new color, including gorgeous blue and red options. “I much prefer a colorful watch to a colorful iPhone, which is usually, if you’re smart, covered by a case,” writes Gizmodo reviewer Caitlin McGarry. “A gleaming red watch with a brightly-hued band is just pure fun.”

The always on screen also gets some love, being (according to Apple) 2.5 times brighter than the Series 5’s inactive display. Along with the new colors, the results are an Apple Watch that looks a whole lot more vibrant. Lots of the first impressions reviews mention the nice bright display.

Oh, and how zippy the new smartwatch is as well.

All about the blood oxygen

The blood oxygen sensor is the big new Apple smartwatch feature this year and it seems to win over the reviewers. Here’s Caitlin McGarry again:

“The new, appropriately named Blood Oxygen app is, like the ECG app, easy to use. Easier, actually, because you don’t have to hold your finger against the Digital Crown to complete the electrical circuit across your body. Instead, you hold your arm still on a flat surface with the watch face pointing up, and then sit for 15 seconds as the watch’s clusters of red and infrared LED lights shine through your skin to capture the light reflected off the blood vessels in your wrist.”

The Verge‘s Dieter Bohn said that it worked as described. However, Bohn also noted that he “got a handful of failed readings, which is something we also experienced when testing the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3’s blood oxygen monitoring.” It will be interesting to see whether more in-depth reviews delve into that a bit more. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem to have caused the reviewers great concern.

The altimeter

Another new feature is the always-on altimeter, which tracks elevation changes. Bohn notes that:

“I am writing this at 44 feet above sea level, though in the details of the compass app (where elevation data lives), there’s a little indicator that says “+/- 20ft” so it’s probably better as a relative tool than a precise one.”

Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE, the same naming as the lower cost iPhone SE, provides a lower cost Apple Watch for those that want it. There’s no pulse oximeter, ECG, or always on display. Initial reviews are somewhat mixed. Here’s Tom’s Guide:

“At first glance, the Apple Watch SE appears to be just right in terms of price, specs, and performance. But based on my initial impressions, Apple’s latest smartwatch seems too expensive for what it offers. The $199 Apple Watch 3 may have a chunkier bezel, but its display is just as bright, you get the same App Store experience, the same battery life, and all of the same goodies that come with watchOS 7. The features it doesn’t have — fall detection, noise monitoring, emergency calling and LTE — aren’t what I consider mission-critical for a smartwatch.”

Meanwhile, Engadget‘s Chris Velazco writes that, “It doesn’t offer everything I hoped for, but considering its price and the strength of what it does offer, the SE just might be the ideal entry point to Apple’s wearables.”

Conclusions

Your first 24 hours with a new gadget is not long enough to properly gauge all its strengths and weaknesses, which is, of course, why these are “first impressions” and not full reviews. The initial feedback seems to be overall positive. In the case of the Apple Watch Series 6, it’s that this is a relatively minor upgrade on an already great product that adds one or two handy new features. The Apple Watch SE, meanwhile, is a good entry level device that may be slightly overpriced for what it does. We’ll have to wait for the full reviews (sometime next week) to emerge for a higher resolution picture.

Are you tempted by either of Apple’s new smartwatches? If so, which one? Let us know in the comments below.