Apple Watch Series 6 vs. Series 5

The success that has been enjoyed by the Apple Watch since its official release in 2015 is hard to dispute. It became so successful that it took the smartwatch market from a market size of 4.2 million units sold in 2014 to 19.4 million pieces in 2015. Of those 19.4 million units, 12 million were Apple Watch sales.

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Five and a half years since the first Apple Watch launch, Apple’s wearable devices’ latest installment is the Apple Watch Series 6. As can be expected, this latest installment has attracted attention from all angles, with thousands of the Apple Watch Series 6 reviews being written. How does the Apple Watch’s new installment compare to the one just before it: the Apple Watch Series 5?   

We took some time to answer the question by comparing the Apple Watch Series 6 with the Series 5. This article addresses questions you may have regarding both the Series 5 and Series 6 by comparing both devices across multiple parameters. We include their design, display, speed, battery life, software, pricing, and overall performance.

We hope that this comparison will be useful for those who are wondering whether they should upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 6 or not.

Taking the Smartwatch Market by Storm

To understand the journey that has been taken by Apple Watch since its launch all the way to its Series 6 iteration, let’s briefly remind you of its history.  

Apple took the smartwatch market by storm when it released the first iteration of the Apple Watch in April 2015. Despite not being the pioneer of smartwatch technology, Apple has since dominated the wearables market, currently holding the largest market share of 31.7%.

While the original Apple Watches, the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 (both released in 2016), and the Series 3 (released in 2017) were outstanding, Apple’s release of the Series 4 in 2018 was a significant upgrade on its predecessors.

By also sporting an electrical heart sensor alongside its predecessors’ headline features, the Series 4 revolutionized Apple watches and took them from being regular smartwatches to being hybrids of smartwatches and fitness trackers.

The two latest iterations of the Apple Watch are the Series 5 and Series 6 smartwatches. Each device comes with its standout features and significant improvements over previous generations of the Apple Watch.  

Even though both the Apple Watch Series 5 and 6 were released a year apart, they still have several similarities, both in design and functionality. At the same time, a look beneath the surface reveals apparent differences that set both smartwatches apart.  

Apple Watch Series 5: Innovative Display Technology

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Apple released the Series 5 smartwatch at the Apple Special Event in September 2019. The Series 5 came with new display technologies never before seen in an Apple Watch. These included an always-on display that ensured that the time remained visible even after hours of inactivity.

The always-on feature is bound to be demanding on the watch’s battery life. Knowing this, Apple made arrangements for this by using an energy-saving Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxid Organic Light-Emitting Diode (LTPO OLED) screen.

Apple went a step further with the Series 5 by including an International Emergency Calling feature that allows users to make emergency calls in over 150 countries.

The Series 5 also came with an S5 processor, purported to be more energy-efficient than its predecessors. It has a revamped ambient light sensor. Its 32 gigabytes of storage is double what any previous Apple Watch series had.

Apple Watch Series 6: Faster Than Ever

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The Series 6 watch was unveiled at the aptly named Time Flies Apple Event, held on September 15, 2020. Apple released its dual-core S6 processor on the Series 6 watch. The tech giant claimed this latest iteration to be 20% faster than the S5 processor. Apple also improved the always-on display on the Series 6, making it brighter than on the Series 5.

The Series 6 also has a blood oxygen app that works alongside a new in-watch sensor. This new sensor is the electrocardiogram app, an app to monitor sleep, and an always-on altimeter.

Design and Display

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A close analysis of the Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch Series 6 shows that they share an identical design. They are both 40mm by 44mm in size and have similar rounded corners and slim bezels (the round ring on the watch’s cover).

However, with regards to materials, Series 6 comes with a smaller range of options than its predecessor. While the Series 5 came in aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and ceramic, Apple dropped the ceramic option on the Series 6.

Apple made up for limiting customers’ options by way of materials by adding two new colors on the Series 6. The Series 6 is available in silver, space gray, gold, blue, or red. The Series 5 did not have blue and red options.

The Series 6 also introduced customers to the Solo Loop, a new strap design with no buckles, straps, or separate parts. It is merely a continuous stretchable band that comes in different sizes and seven different colors.

There isn’t a significant difference between the Series 5 and Series 6 displays. Both watches are equipped with a Retina LTPO OLED display, both with a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits (a unit of measure for brightness) and a resolution of 368 by 448 pixels.

The only difference between both displays becomes apparent when the Apple Watch is put in its always-on mode. The always-on display on the Series 6 is a lot brighter than it is on the Series 5.

Battery Life and Performance

The Apple Watch Series 6 boasts a slightly better power capacity with its 304mAh battery than its predecessor did with its 296mAh power pack. However, both devices offer the same battery life of 18 hours after a full charge. Apple says that it arrived at this estimate by “factoring in things like checking the time, receiving notifications, using apps, and doing a 60-minute workout.”

Even though the batteries may last the same amount of time, a close analysis shows that the Series 6 does more with its battery than the Series 5. The Series 6’s dual-core S6 chipset means it performs better than the Series 5. It is more efficient and offers speeds of up to 20% more than its predecessor.

Features

Since the launch of the Apple Watch Series 4 in 2018, Apple has continued to improve its watches’ ability to cater to users’ health. The Series 4 saw Apple include an ECG sensor for the first time in its watches, a feature which has been continued in the Series 5.

In the Series 6, Apple turned it up a notch by including a pulse oximeter, also known as a blood oxygen detection (SpO2) sensor. The blood oxygen sensor can take a reading within 15 seconds and measures blood oxygen levels between 70% and 100%. It then uses information about oxygen saturation levels in the blood to measure the user’s sleep and exercise quality.

The Series 6 also comes preinstalled with the latest watchOS 7, allowing it to have additional features like sleep tracking, mobility metrics, and dance workout presets.

The Series 6 also introduced users to Fitness+. This subscription service offers users a range of ten different workout programs, including yoga, cycling, dance, and treadmill runs.

The most prominent features shared by both watches are the ECG, fall detection, Emergency SOS, Wi-Fi support, the always-on altimeter, international emergency calling, GPS, and noise monitoring.

Software

As with previous Apple watches, there is an upgrade to the Apple Series 6 software. The Apple Series 5 runs on the watchOS 6. Apple upgraded its wearables software technology by launching the watchOS 7 on the Series 6.

To optimize the new software’s performance on the Series 6, Apple also upgraded its hardware. The most notable hardware upgrades in the Series 6 are its new S6 processor and a U1 Ultra Whiteband chip.

The U1 Ultra Whiteband is a chip designed for supporting short-range wireless communication that delivers greater accuracy levels than Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The U1 Ultra Whiteband chip is also built into the iPhone 11, making the Series 6 watch capable of synchronizing perfectly with the iPhone 11 and newer versions of the iPhone.

The U1 Ultra Whiteband chip also makes it possible for the Series 6 to connect to other peripheral devices, such as compatible digital car keys. Judging by the added functionality that the U1 chip offers, we can see an exciting prospect. However, it is a new addition to the Apple Watch repertoire and currently does not have too many use cases.

Processor

As is Apple’s tradition, the Series 5 came with a new processor called the S5 SiP processor. This is a 64-bit dual-core processor with promised speeds that exceeded that of any of its predecessors. The Series 6 watch’s S6 SiP processor was an upgrade on the Series 5’s S5 and is designed to perform 20% better than the S5.

The improvement of the Series 6’s processor over the Series 5 transcends its 20% speed increase. The technology on which the S6 processor is built is Apple’s new A13 Bionic chip, the same chip found in the iPhone 11.

Price and Availability

An analysis of the market shows hardly any price difference between the Apple Series 6 and the Series 5. Several places that stock the Series 6 sell it at $399, while the cheaper Apple Watch Series SE goes for $279. You will pay more for extra features like the stainless steel case or a leather loop.

Even though Apple has introduced the new Apple Watch Series 6, the Apple Watch Series 5 is still available in brick and mortar stores and online. An analysis of the market shows that the Apple Watch Series 5 is still trading around $399 in the US.

What’s Similar and What’s Different

The Apple Series 5 and Series 6 are very similar devices. At the same time, they have distinct features that separate one from the other. A close analysis shows that the Series 6 is a better-tuned version of the Series 5, doing some things faster and brighter than its predecessor.

Here is how both devices stack up against one another in terms of their main similarities and differences.

Main Similarities

The Series 6 and the Series 5 are not too far apart in design and basic functionality. They both come in identical sizes, shapes, primary colors and are made from almost the same materials.

Both watches possess Apple-made processors that run on 64-bit architectures with a W3 wireless chip. They both have an always-on feature, and they both are water-resistant and swim-proof up to 50 meters.

To the untrained eye, there is no difference between the appearance of the Series 5 and that of the Series 6. If you think that it’s time to upgrade, you will be glad to know that you will be paying the same amount you paid for your Series 5 last year.

Main Differences

The Series 6 picked up where the Series 5 left off. Apple incorporated all the features of the Series 5 and added some new features to make the Series 6. The Series 5 had an ECG sensor, a heart rate monitor, Emergency SOS, and the other features mentioned earlier under the Featuressub-heading.

The Series 6 has the added capability of a brighter always-on display and a blood oxygen monitor to diagnose sleep apnea and provide sleep tracking. It also promises to perform its tasks faster than its predecessor.

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