“It Already Does That”…
If you watched the keynote just a few hours/minutes back (depending on when you’re reading this), the words “It Already Does That” will sound incredibly familiar to you. The words are proof of two things. A. The Apple Watch is a pretty remarkable device, and B. It’s so remarkable there’s little you can do to really improve it.
There was an entire video in Apple’s keynote dedicated to what the Apple Watch can already do – which is a testament to the company’s vision and cutting edge technology, but it also goes to show that the Apple Watch 6 isn’t VASTLY better than the Apple Watch Series 5. It’s just slightly better, and comes with a few embellishments to make it seem ‘new and better’.
The keynote starts with what a great life-saving device the Apple Watch is, and Tim Cook, like literal clockwork, talks about how he loves to read letters every day from Watch owners about how the miraculous device saved their life. This isn’t really too different from any of the previous Apple Watch reveals over the last 2-3 years. The Watch is a great device when it comes to keeping track of your vitals – that hasn’t changed – and it still tracks your heart rate, heart rhythm, EKG, and can tell if you’ve fallen or not… it already does that. This year, the Watch 6 comes with a built-in blood oximeter that can calculate the amount of oxygen in your blood by using infrared sensors to detect the color of your blood and parse it through well-written algorithms. The Blood Oximeter feature comes at a great time – given the nature of this pandemic, but it raises two questions. What feature would Apple have showcased had it not been for COVID-19? And how many of us will really use it after the pandemic’s long gone?
The Blood Oximeter runs on a new set of sensors embedded into the watch, but aside from that, there’s really no hardware upgrades to talk about other than the new S6 chipset and a larger, moderately brighter screen. It’s still the same old Apple Watch, which isn’t a bad thing, because the Apple Watch is a pretty remarkable device… but it isn’t a great thing either. The Blood Oximeter aside, the Watch 6 does practically everything the Watch 5 does. Like I mentioned earlier, it comes with a heart-rate monitor, a sleep tracker, an EKG machine, an always-on display, an e-sim, and all the fitness tracking features your heart could desire. In short, “It already does that”.
Most of the Watch 6’s noteworthy upgrades come with WatchOS 7 and its UI, led by Alan Dye, VP of Human Interface Design and a successor to Jony Ive. The Watch 6 boasts of new faces that allow you to access a whole myriad of features and information right from the face of the watch. You could choose a minimal watch face, an artistic one (in collaboration with Geoff McFetridge), a color-striped one to correspond with your clothes, your home team, or Pride, a face that shows you your vitals, your appointments, or various time-zones, and even a Memoji Watch Face. Apple’s made improvements to its Nike and Hermès Watch-lines too, and even launched a Product Red version of the Watch 6 along with a ‘new type of single-loop’ silicone strap they call the Solo Loop.
I honestly believe there isn’t much Apple can do to make subsequent Watches ‘vastly’ better. The Watch 6, at least according to me, is the pinnacle of smartwatch innovation and perhaps the only thing that can make it an absolute home-run is the ability to calculate blood-sugar without needing to prick your skin. The Watch 6 puts Apple in a very tough position because I’m struggling to think of what more a Watch could do, but that’s probably me living inside a box. The “It Already Does That” video seems a lot like foreshadowing for a disappointing Watch Series 7, because it’s honestly hard to think of any new feature to put inside the damned wearable. That being said, Cook and his team did a great job so far, especially considering how now every part of the watch is made entirely from ethically sourced materials, recycled metals and plastics, with 100% renewable energy and no harmful chemicals. Oh, and the Watch 6 ships without a charging cable too, in Apple’s effort to help cut down on e-waste (although I wouldn’t call that an upgrade as a consumer). It’s worth noting that Apple’s even promised to completely carbon neutral by as early as 2030… here’s to hoping we all live to see that day, eh?