This year’s Apple Watch, like last year’s Series 5, isn’t very different from its predecessor, but offers enough new features that may make it a candidate for upgrade, perhaps only to people who don’t have last year’s model. And Apple’s two new Solo Loop bands are claspless bands that are attractive and comfortable, if you get the right size.

Apple Watch gets a bump

I can’t help but believe that I’ve been repeating myself through the years when reviewing the Apple Watch. In reviews for the Series 3, Series 4, and Series 5 Apple Watch models, I pointed out how very little had changed in the device, and that if you had the previous year’s model, the chances are you shouldn’t consider upgrading. The marquee features in these models was adding cellular access in the Series 3; the increased size of the Series 4; and the always-on display added to the Series 5. Many of these were small, incremental upgrades to the device, making it difficult to justify obtaining a new one if yours was recent.

The same holds true for that Series 6 Apple Watch: the alterations are restricted, and my advice remains that, should you bought last year’s model, you most likely won’t require the new one. But if your Apple Watch is two or 3 years old, then it’s worth considering the upgrade.

New features: a brighter display, pulse oximeter, and new colors

The most apparent switch to the Apple Watch this season is really a brighter always-on display that's noticeably brighter outdoors in sunlight, and also whenever your wrist isn’t raised. Outdoors, I had been very impressed at how visible the display is; with the Series 5, I sometimes had to hold my hand within the display to mask the ambient light to see it. And the passive display – whenever your wrist isn’t raised – has become bright enough to ascertain if you’re working out and can’t lift up your wrist. As I type these words, I can look into my wrist and see time, read notifications, and more.

As part of Apple’s health push, the organization has added a pulse oximeters towards the Apple Watch. This reads your height of blood oxygen, which, based on Apple, "is really a key indicator of the your overal wellness." I can’t help but think that it is really an exaggeration, and adding this type of sensor is fraught with problems. First, it’s not FDA approved, nor is there "FDA clearance," such as the ECG included in the timepiece. And, as has been stated, it is "unreliable and misleading."

In my tests, I attempted a dozen times to obtain a reading only to see this:

I finally found a situation on my wrist where I could get a reading, and in three attempts, I got 91%, 93%, and 92%. Testing my blood oxygen having a standard fingertip device showed my level was 97-98%.

Not many people need this type of device, and when they do need accurate blood oxygen levels, it’s easier to get a dedicated device that's approved for this kind of text.

As for the aesthetics of the year’s model, Apple has added new colors towards the aluminum line-up: blue and red. These are definitely statement colors, and cry out for matching bands, though I can see them dealing with complementary colors.

The stainless steel models are available in silver, gold, graphite, and space black; and also the titanium Apple Watch in space black, and in "titanium" color, which is a muted off-silver tone.

This year, I acquired a gold stainless steel model; not what I had ordered, but that’s a bit of a long story. It’s the very first time I’ve had a stainless Apple Watch, and I enjoy it greater than I expected. The finish is glossy, and the sapphire crystal is noticeably much better than the Ion-X glass display around the aluminum models.

In my overview of the Series 3 model, I said, "in 3 years of owning Apple Watches, I've never scratched a glass crystal," however i have discovered a number of small scratches on my small Series 5. They're only visible in bright light, but it’s the first time I’ve had any scratches, and so i ponder whether the glass display of that model is not as good as previously.

New Apple Watch SE

In addition to the Series 6, Apple is maintaining the simpler Series 3 model, with the smaller display, wider bezels, and no cellular option. But they also released a new Apple Watch SE, that is much like last year’s Series 5, at a low price.

The Series 3 starts at $199; it’s an excellent watch out for individuals who just want to check out the device, or use it for recording workouts. The SE starts at $279, having a cellular option costing another $50. This really is almost the default Apple Watch out for many people; kind of like the current iPhone SE, which offers the features that most people need in an iPhone starting at $399.

The Apple Watch SE can also be an ideal watch to use with Apple’s new Family Setup feature, where you can pair several watches – such as the ones from your kids – with a single iPhone.

New Solo Loop bands

In addition to new watch models, Apple introduced two new Solo Loop band, one in "liquid silicone rubber," and also the other made from braided recycled yarn, with silicone threads. These are the first fully claspless Apple Watch bands, plus they stretch to go over your hand, then hang on to your wrist. Due to this, they need to be sized just right: too loose, and the watch will flop around; too tight, and they will dig into your wrist.

Many people have had trouble sizing these bands, specially in the time of Covid, when it’s harder to try them out in person. It’s hard enough to get the right size because of the way you have to measure your wrist, and Apple could have made this easier. I initially ordered one online, also it was not big enough. When I went to an Apple Store to pick up my watch, I used their measuring tool, which showed a size 11. I attempted both size 11 and 12, even though 11 felt right for the Solo Loop, I desired 12 for the Braided Solo Loop. Others have said that they find there's one size difference between the two models that suit them.

The Solo Loop feels like a big rubber band, and it may potentially be uncomfortable when sweating, but the Braided Solo Loop is the most comfortable band I’ve ever worn using the Apple Watch. Apple says these bands will stretch over time, and there’s a possibility that they may unfit perfectly for very long. I strongly recommend anyone wanting to buy these bands to test them personally if at all possible; if not, perhaps order two different sizes and return the one that doesn’t fit.

This year, there’s an Apple Watch out for every budget, with new colors and bands to beautify your wrist. If you have a sequence 4 or 5 Apple Watch, you might want to sit that one out, but when not, this can be a solid upgrade.