What’s the difference between Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6?

The new hotness

Apple Watch Series 6

$399 at Apple

Pros

  • New Blue and Product RED color options
  • New Blood oxygen sensor
  • Always-on Altimeter
  • Updated processor

Cons

  • Same overall design as the Series 5
  • No battery life improvements

The latest and greatest Apple Watch Series 6 comes with flashy new colors, blood oxygen sensing, S6 chip with Ultra Wideband, plus an always-on Altimeter, but the rest is pretty much the same as before. Battery life, display, case design, and other core features make the upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 6 only for those that just have to have the new hotness.

Still great

Apple Watch Series 5

$399 at Best Buy

Pros

  • Same display as Series 6
  • May be available at discounted prices

Cons

  • Limited color options
  • Lacks blood oxygen sensing

Apple’s Series 5 watch is still one of the best around even if it’s a year old. The Series 5 is plenty fast, and has almost all of the same features as the Series 6, so it is hard to justify upgrading unless blood oxygen sensing and new colors are important to you.

Just like with last year’s Series 4 to Series 5 upgrade, Apple’s latest smart watch is not quite a massive leap forward for the wrist. The biggest change is the addition of Blood Oxygen sensing, which is compelling when combined with all of the other health features built-in to the Apple Watch. Plus, if you are getting bored of the same old Apple Watch colors, the blue and (PRODUCT) RED finishes look really sweet.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: The same, but different

If you are intrigued by the prospect, but are not quite sure if the Apple Watch Series 6 upgrade is really worth it, then there are a few factors to consider. Do you just want the basics like all-day battery life, speed, and notifications or do you value health sensor capabilities, materials, and colors? Here’s a breakdown of all of the key specs.

Apple Watch Series 6 Apple Watch Series 5
Starting price $399 $399
Sizes 40, 44mm 40, 44mm
Finishes Silver, Space Gray, Gold, Blue, (PRODUCT) RED, Graphite, Space Black Silver, Gold, Space Gray, Stainless Steel, White, Space Black
Case materials Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Titanium Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Titanium, Ceramic
Wireless Connectivity Wi-Fi, Cellular LTE UMTS Wi-Fi, Cellular LTE UMTS
GPS Yes Yes
Bluetooth 5.0 5.0
Battery life Up to 18 hours Up to 18 hours
Screen material Ion-X glass (Aluminum), Sapphire Crystal (Stainless Steel, Titanium) Ion-X glass (Aluminum), Sapphire Crystal (Stainless Steel, Titanium, Ceramic)
Display LTPO OLED LTPO OLED
Always on display Yes Yes
Peak brightness 1,000 nits 1,000 nits
Processor S6 with 64-bit dual-core processor S5 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Wireless chipset W3, U1 Ultra Wideband W3
Water resistance 50 meters 50 meters
Storage 32GB 32GB
Family setup Yes, cellular models Yes, cellular models
ECG app Yes Yes
Blood Oxygen app Yes No
Fall Detection Yes Yes
Compass Yes Yes
Altimeter Yes, always on Yes
Optical Heart Sensor Yes, 2nd gen Yes
Electrical Heart Sensor Yes Yes
Accelerometer Yes Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes
Ambient Light Sensor Yes Yes

As you can see, the underlying technologies of the Series 5 and Series 6 are really quite similar. The case materials, display sizes, battery life, peak brightness, and wireless radios all remain the same. Essentially it all boils down to Blood Oxygen, colors, and processor.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Looking at the new blood oxygen sensor

Blood oxygen sensing capabilities in the Series 6 uses a series of LEDs on the back to measure oxygen saturation (SpO2) on-demand and in the background. On-demand measurements take just 15 seconds, and results are displayed immediately on the watch and within the Health app on the iPhone.

While blood oxygen sensing is new to the Apple Watch in Series 6, the metric is important to understanding how we deliver oxygen from the lungs throughout our body. Lower oxygen saturation levels can indicate potential illness or underlying health risks.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Comparing the flashy finishes

Even though the Series 6 sports the same familiar Apple Watch design, it does add a few new colors into the mix. For the aluminum models, Apple has added a sleek dark blue option, along with a stunning (PRODUCT) RED finish. The stainless steel model has gained a new yellow-gold option, which harkens back to the original Apple Watch Edition line.

Speaking of Apple Watch Edition, for Series 6, Apple has dropped the ceramic model from the line up. So if love the crisp white color of the Series 5 Edition, then you may want to sit out on this year’s upgrade.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: The latest chips

Also new in the Series 6 is the S6 processor and U1 chips. The S6 is a 64-bit, dual-core CPU that is based on the same processor used in the iPhone 11. The S6 is 20% faster than the previous S5 chip, which Apple states can be seen in app launch times.

While more speed is always welcome, the S4 and S5 chips made navigating the watch fluid, and launching apps is no longer painful like it was when the Apple Watch first hit the scene.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Should you upgrade?

Personally, I would say that there just isn’t enough there to justify an upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 6. Apple’s Series 5 watch, and even the Series 4 that came before it, are fast enough and plenty capable for most needs. If you already have one of these, then I suggest waiting to see what Apple brings to the table next year, as it may come with a completely new design.

If you just have to have a new color, want the blood oxygen sensor, and don’t mind shelling out for the latest, then the Series 6 may be worth the upgrade. Regardless of which route you choose, both the Series 5 and the Series 6 are excellent smart watches that will be around for years to come.

New colors and capabilities

Apple Watch Series 6

Latest and greatest

$399 at Apple

While it isn’t a huge upgrade over the Series 5, the latest Apple Watch adds blood oxygen sensing, an always-on Altimeter, U1 chip, and comes in some flashy new colors. If you just have to have the latest looks, then go for the upgrade.

Stick with it

Apple Watch Series 5

Still one of the best

$399 at Best Buy

If you have a Series 5 and don’t need a change of color or blood oxygen sensing, then save some money and stick with what you have, its still an excellent companion to the iPhone.