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Apple debuts $399 Watch Series 6 and $279 Watch SE

Apple is clearly trying to expand the line of Apple Watches to fit any size, taste, age, or budget. 

Apple debuts $399 Watch Series 6 and $279 Watch SE
[Screenshot: Apple]

Apple announced two new Watches Tuesday–one with the latest and greatest features, the $399 Apple Watch Series 6, and one with a nice price, the $279 Apple Watch SE.

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The Series 6 adds a new sensor that reads blood oxygen saturation, or SpO2, which represents the percentage of oxygen being carried by red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body and indicates how well this oxygenated blood is being delivered throughout the body. The new sensor shines infrared light through the skin and into the bloodstream and infers the oxygen levels from the color of the blood, Apple said.

The new blood oxygen readings add another metric to the new sleep tracking features in WatchOS 7. The Watch can take periodic blood oxygen readings during the night, then add the readings to the Health app on the Apple Watch, Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams said. The blood oxygen readings also add a view to the performance of the heart and lungs when the wearer is working out.

Like last year’s Series 5, the Series 6 has an always-on display that goes into a power-saving mode when you aren’t holding your wrist up to actively use your watch. Apple says that the Series 6’s version is 2.5 times brighter in its power-efficient mode.

Notably, Apple said nothing during the presentation about the battery size or endurance in the Series 6. This is especially important in a year when the company added sleep functionality that requires users to wear the Watch all night.

[Photo: courtesy of Apple]
The Series 6 comes in some new colors, including a blue aluminum, a new gray-black graphite, and a custom red color.

There are now more bands to choose from. Apple is touting a new band design called the Solo Loop that’s just a single piece of custom liquid silicon with no buckle. A variation on that style uses a braided material for the Solo Loop design. There are two new Hermès leather designs–one with a single piece of leather and the other with two braided straps.

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Apple says it has given developers the tools to create useful custom Watch faces. Developers have already created custom watch faces for photographers (featuring light levels), surfers (featuring wave conditions), and healthcare workers (featuring patient management tools).

[Photo: courtesy of Apple]
Via a new “Family Setup” feature, Apple is making it possible for family members to own an Apple Watch even if they have no iPhone. Users such as seniors or children can pair their Watch with someone else’s iPhone and they’ll still get their own unique cell number. Parents and caregivers benefit because they can get information on the location and well-being of family members.

For parents, Family Setup allows them to approve new contacts added via the Watch by the kids. They can even send money to the kids via Apple Pay Family and monitor the kids’ Apple Pay spending.

This service works with the cellular versions of the Apple Watch Series 4 or later. And, notably, it will work with the new affordable Watch Apple announced Tuesday, the $279 Apple Watch SE. Apple says the SE offers design elements of the newest Series 6 (such as the Retina display and the rounded glass) and supports features such as fall detection and activity tracking. SE models with a cellular modem start at $329.

The Apple Watch Series 3 remains in the lineup as a $199 entry-level option.

Apple is clearly trying to expand the line of Apple Watches to fit any size, taste, age, or budget.

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The company also announced Fitness+, a series of new custom workouts for the Watch designed by fitness pros. These workouts use the Watch for control and body monitoring while displaying the instructor on a larger screen such as an iPad or Apple TV. The program will be available later this year for $10 a month or $80 per year. You get three months of service for free if you buy a new Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch news dominated an Apple special event (a virtual event that looked like an infomercial) that was webcast Tuesday. Apple apparently plans to announce its new iPhone 12 models at another event later this fall.

The new Watch Series 6 and SE go on sale this Friday.

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About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.

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