AppleWatch Series 6, A Review

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with AppleWatch(es) for years dating back to their first iteration. Have owned and re-sold or gifted at least three prior ones. My chief complaint was the fact the watch was hopelessly “tethered” to the phone for almost everything. In essence, it was little more than an additional wrist-bound screen for your iPhone. However, a lot has changed in the last 3 years and my main source of frustration has been assuaged in recent versions of the watch. So, I took the opportunity Christmas was around the corner (and my wife never knows what to get me), to ask for an AppleWatch with a sporty strap (was not interested in the Sports Edition).

AppleWatch Series 6
AppleWatch Series 6

While I have a strong preference for purely mechanical watches, finding one that’s rugged enough to withstand the shock, motion, sweat and other common conditions fitness watches have to endure is nearly impossible. Even more difficult is to find one that meets the above criteria and is also affordable and not terrible looking. Simply put mechanical watches make very lousy fitness watches. I could have (and almost did) chosen to get a Garmin or some other fitness or running specialized, but I wanted something more general purpose.

Strap: I wanted a strap without a buckle and one that wouldn’t come off easily. The “standard” rubber strap always rubs my skin the wrong way. Way too grippy and irritating, in the literal sense. This sport strap is great for what I wanted: light weight, washable, buckle-less and a wide choice of color combinations available.

Case: Apple has an incredible amount of choices when it comes to cases. Different colors, materials and sizes which will fit whatever use case and occasion you would want to wear your AppleWatch. Given my use case I went with the anodized aluminum and 40mm case size. I debated getting the 44mm version but seeing how well the 40mm fits my wrist, I don’t think the extra 4mm is necessary — that having been said for wide wrist folks that might work well.

GPS: although I’ve only recorded 2 walks and 1 run with GPS, it seems to track really well, basically on par with my Suunto 5. I left my phone home this being my primary use case. Not needing the phone for GPS tracking is a HUGE improvement in my book.

Optical HRM: another new addition to the AppleWatch since I last tried it is the optical heart rate monitor. While this has been a staple of running and fitness watches for a few years, the feature was sorely amiss from the the AppleWatch. So far, it’s as accurate as my Scosche RYTHM+, which is to say very good with the added plus of not needing to strap another piece of electronics on me.

O2 Saturation: another cool addition to the watch is the oxygen saturation, which will come handy if you’re trying to train your VO2max (although I can’t seem to find VO2max training in the base app (perhaps 2rd party like Strava?).

Breathing: believe it or not, this is a really useful feature, in my opinion. Last few months due to increased state of stress and anxiety (thx, 2020), I got into breathing training. It’s not miraculous, but with some discipline, it can help you bring your anxiety, fight-or-flight, insomnia under control. Purposeful breathing along with mild sleeping aids, has been fundamental to keeping my sanity this year. Highly recommend folks reading this, to read more about it and give it a try.

Conclusion: thus far I’m convinced this series of AppleWatch will be the one I’ll keep and use regularly. With its independence from iPhone and all the other sensors and metrics, it’s hard to make an objective case against it. Should you get one? It depends. Are you training for a marathon or triathlon? Then no. There are far better watches for that out there. If you want an overall nice looking, useful and customizable with good fitness functionality w/o the need to have your phone around, then you should probably consider the AppleWatch.

Software, hi-fi audio, data, financial markets observer.

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