The products Apple announced in its short, one-hour presentation Tuesday morning were in line with the rumors and speculation that preceded the event. We’ve known the company’s September product showcase was going to focus on wrist-worn wearables ever since Apple invited us to watch the streaming presentation with a graphic titled “Time Flies.”
So, we were expecting a couple of Apple Watches, and today, they’re here. There’s a premium model called Apple Watch Series 6, and a lower-cost model called Apple Watch SE.
The premium model starts at $399 for the version with GPS; the model that adds cellular capabilities starts at $499. It runs off a modified version of Apple’s A13 processor that was introduced in the iPhone 11. The SE model, with a lower-powered processor, starts at $279. You can ready your wrist now: Both will ship this Friday, September 18.
As usual, much of Apple’s Watch pitch focused on features that help improve and maintain its users’ health. The company delivered the same message last year, when it highlighted features like emergency calling and fall detection. This time around of course, that appeal to safety might hit a little harder than in years past, with much of the country living through multiple life-threatening disasters. And while a wearable computer might not be able to protect you from wildfire smoke or a deadly virus, Apple is still keen to point out how it can do a body good.
The big health feature announced for the Watch Series 6 was a long-rumored blood oxygen sensor. A cluster of LEDs on the Watch’s belly shines a red light through your skin and a set of photodiodes measures the light that bounces back. Based on the perceived color of your blood, Apple says, the Watch can measure the level of oxygen saturation in your blood within 15 seconds. Apple framed this announcement by pointing out the increase in interest in blood oxygen level measurement due to the respiratory effects of Covid-19, but then was quick to note that the Watch’s new feature is to be used for general “fitness and wellness purposes.”
The budget-conscious Watch SE doesn’t have the blood monitoring tech, always-on display, or ECG capabilities of its more expensive brethren, but still has some of the new features introduced in Watch Series 5. Inside is an S5 chip that powers an accelerometer, altimeter, and compass. The lower-priced SE doesn’t quite replace the Apple Watch Series 3, which is still available as the true budget option at a price of $199.
In terms of accessories, Apple showed off several new watch band styles, including a new one called the “Solo loop” that is just one stretchy piece of silicone with no clasp or buckle. It’s available as a smooth band, or in a braided style. The Series 6 is also available in a variety of new colors, including blue aluminum, a shiny Product Red finish, or a couple of stainless steel options.