I should mention I didn’t use the Solo Loop. Apple’s newest accessory is a fastener- and buckle-less silicone handcuff to hold the watch on securely. It comes in nine different sizes. You can use Apple’s printable tool, or a fabric measuring tape, to find your size.
I’m a size 4, and Apple sent me the correct loop, but I just didn’t like it. The correct size held the watch on just a little too tight for comfort. I used the nylon sport strap instead and didn’t get any erratic or worrisome blood oxygen readings. And unlike with the Fitbit Sense, you can take your own readings throughout the day. It also periodically monitors it with no prompting.
I also tested a few of the other features. I had the cellular-enabled version, so I called my spouse, who was mildly bemused that I was calling him with a watch from the park behind our house (“You’re not calling from a phone?”).
And then there’s the Apple Watch SE, which is basically a Series 5 without a few of the latest health features, like the electrocardiogram and blood oxygen measurements. Earlier this year, Apple announced that WatchOS would have Family Setup to make it easier to set up watches for children or older relatives who don’t have an iPhone of their own. I assumed I’d be able to buy a Series 5 at a lower price, or hand off my own to an older relative.
But Apple just discontinued it! If all you need is a basic fitness tracker that integrates seamlessly with your iPhone, you can still buy a Series 3. But if you have older family members—especially ones at risk of getting sick from a respiratory illness that is associated with cardiac complications—you’ll probably still want the ECG and blood oxygen monitoring only available in the Series 6.
I know it’s more affordable, but conceptually, the SE feels like a cop-out. And I realize how entitled this sounds, but I did really miss the always-on display. I’ve always used my wearable as a watch, not just as a fitness tracker. Not being able to glance down and check the time made me feel as primitive as an early hominid swinging a bone as a weapon.
But, oh, battery life! When I turn everything on—the brighter, always-on screen, sleep-tracking, blood oxygen tracking, the location-based hand washing reminders, two GPS-enabled workouts per day—the watch barely lasts a full day. In fact, since it needs 30 percent of the battery to track your sleep, I occasionally have to top it up before I go to bed.
Charging a watch twice a day is ridiculous, but it may become a habit. Some of the features that I was most excited to try with an Apple Watch, like an automatic car key fob or the all-in-one workout streaming Fitness+ platform, aren’t available yet.
Maybe it’s better to think of the Apple Watch as less of a wearable and more of a tiny iPhone you wear. When you’re Slacking and emailing and texting all day, no one finds it surprising that you may have to charge your phone more than once a day.
Many of the most exciting features of WatchOS are still available on older Series 4s and 5s, so if you already have one of those, I wouldn’t rush out to get the latest. But if this is your first Apple Watch, I’d still say the Series 6 is worth it. If you have an iPhone, of course.