Apple Watch Series 5 vs 6: Is It Worth The Upgrade?

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Let’s admit it: the Apple Watch Series 5 was one of the best smartwatches on the market. However, when Apple launched the Apple Watch Series 6 this September, suddenly the Apple Watch Series 5 lost its spice. Or, is it? If you’re an Apple Watch user, then you might be pondering about upgrading to Series 6. How would you know if the upgrade is worth it? Should you wait a bit more for better features to come on the Series 7? In this article, we’ll compare the Apple Watch Series 5 and 6 to see whether you should consider upgrading.

 

Apple Watch Series 6 Release Date

Apple Watch Series 6
© Photo by Apple

Should you opt for the Apple Watch Series 6, you’ll be happy to know that it has already been released last September 18, 2020 (Friday). That means you can now freely order your Apple Watch Series 6 and have it shipped to your doorstep. Prices start at $399 for the 40mm Apple Watch. If you prefer the larger 44mm model, it starts at $429. Moreover, these prices are only for Apple’s GPS version. If you want cellular connectivity, the price jumps up to $499 for the 40mm and $529 for the 44mm.

 

Apple Watch Series 5 Vs 6: The Differences

Apple Watch Series 5 Vs 6
© Photo by AppleToolBox

Does your Apple Watch still cut it? Should you upgrade to the new flagship in the Apple Watch Series? To answer these questions, we’ll need a direct comparison between the Apple Watch Series 5 vs 6. While many of the features stay the same, there are quite a few upgrades that make the Series 6 worthwhile. With that said, let’s take a look at each one.

 

Display

Starting with the display, you might not expect much of a difference considering they’re physically designed the same way. Like the Apple Watch Series 5, Series 6 boasts a Retina LTPO OLED display. You still get the Series 5’s groundbreaking, pivotal feature: the ‘always-on display’

There is one key difference with the display of Series 6 and that is its brightness, specifically when it comes to the above-mentioned always-on display feature. Apple claims that the Series 6 has an always-on display that’s 2.5x brighter than the Apple Watch Series 5. Hence, you’ll get to see your Series 6’s always-on display better in outdoor lighting compared to the Series 5. However, both Apple Watches have the same maximum display brightness overall which is 1,000 nits. That makes this only a big difference if you’re constantly outdoors.

 

Features

Apple Watch series 5 sensor
© Photo by Phonearena

Perhaps you’re one of those people who buy smartwatches for the health tracking they offer. If that’s the case, you might want to take a closer look at the Series 6. That’s because Apple added blood oxygen monitoring on its latest flagship. With Series 6, you can see if you have enough oxygen carried throughout your body. It does this via red, green, and infrared LEDs on the back.

Of course, this feature is only appealing to users who are concerned about blood oxygen levels. Otherwise, you’re better off sticking with the Apple Watch Series 5 because it still has tons of health monitoring capabilities. 

Lastly, Apple improved its altimeter by keeping it always on. That means you can check out your current location’s elevation in real-time. Previously, the Apple Watch Series 5 would only check your altimeter periodically. With Series 6, the altimeter is more power-efficient, giving you data all day, every day.

 

Updated Processor

Yes, there’s an updated processor on the Series 6 compared to the Apple Watch Series 5. However, Apple’s only got itself to beat since its last generation chip already performed excellently. 

With this Series 6 processor upgrade, the Apple Watch seems to be mimicking the processor upgrades of the latest iPhones and iPad Pros. That is, while it certainly boosts performance and processing power, its last generation can still perform perfectly well. You’d probably think that older chips would feel slower because software updates get bigger and bigger. However, the difference is incremental.

The Apple Watch Series 5’s processor remains very powerful by industry standards; so powerful that Apple included its chip in the new Apple Watch SE. However, the Series 6’s processor is still faster, having the same chip as the iPhone 11’s A13 Bionic. With this chip, Apple claims the Series 6 can launch apps 20% faster and retain its all-day battery. Of course, that doesn’t make the Apple Watch Series 5 outdated. Neither is it compelling enough for Apple Watch Series 5 users to upgrade to the 6.

 

U1 Ultra-Wideband Chip

Newer Apple devices already have the U1 Ultra-Wideband chip. What does this chip do? Well, for now, not much. Apple created the U1 chip to find the precise location of other ultra-wideband devices. While that might not seem like much, Apple claims they plan on using it like high-tech car keys. However, they didn’t expound on what other use cases they plan for the U1 chip.

So, if Apple doesn’t have many applications for the U1, why bother putting it into the Series 6? That’s because Apple wants to future-proof their current devices for upcoming projects that are still in development. If you want your Apple Watch future-proofed a bit more, then this might be a good choice. However, if you’re only concerned with the present and won’t keep your Apple Watch for years to come, then the U1 chip won’t make much of a difference.

 

Battery Life

The Apple Watch Series 5 and 6 have the same all-day battery life of roughly 18 hours. That might not seem like a huge deal, considering the Series 5 had the same feature. However, with a more powerful processor, Apple had to engineer the Series 6 better just to retain the battery life. Of course, that doesn’t truly concern you as a consumer. What matters is you’re getting good use out of your Apple Watch throughout the day.

On the other hand, while Apple didn’t extend battery life, they did add minor tweaks. That includes faster charging on the Series 6, which now takes only 1.5 hours to fully charge the device. That’s a decent improvement considering the Apple Watch Series 5 takes almost 2.5 hours to reach full charge. Essentially, you get to shave off an hour from charging time. Moreover, Apple improved battery life performance while doing certain workouts (like running). However, you can still consider these changes as minor, incremental improvements instead of a big leap in tech. Unless it’s exactly what you’re looking for, it’s not worth switching to the Series 6 over.

 

Design

Apple Watch series 5 design
© Photo by Phonearena

Admittedly, people consider design as a big factor when they’re out shopping. After all, what people see makes a big first impression. With that said, you might want to switch from the Apple Watch Series 5 based on the new designs. Series 6 offers some new colors like blue and product red. That’s the biggest design change as far as Apple Watch Series 5 vs 6 goes. 

However, the Apple Watch Series 5 does have an edge over the Series 6. That’s because the Apple Watch Series 5 uniquely offers a different material: ceramic white. Yes, the same kind of ceramics you might find on pottery. If you want ceramic white that’s unique to the Apple Watch Series 5, then the Series 6 isn’t for you.

 

Watch Faces

With the onset of watchOS 7, Apple brought on 7 new watch faces to its Apple Watch lineup. Not only are these Apple Watch faces completely new, but they’re also customizable. However, not all of these new watch faces are available on all Apple Watches. Some watch faces like the Memoji, GMT, Chronograph Pro, Count Up, Infograph, and more, are only available on certain models. These models are the Apple Watch Series 4 through 6, as well as the newly unveiled Apple Watch SE. 

Moreover, watch faces that can include tracking features exclusive to Series 6 (like blood oxygen and the always-on altimeter) will only show there. The Apple Watch Series 5 and previous ones can’t show those metrics on watch faces. However, apart from these very minor details, there isn’t any real change going on the watch face-wise.

 

Connectivity

connectivity
© Photo by Apple

If you like connecting your Apple Watch to Wi-Fi, then the Series 6 might entice you over the Series 5. The Series 6 now supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi connections, whereas the Series 5 only supports the former. You’ll get a more reliable and faster connection while you’re connected to Wi-Fi networks with the Series 6. 

 

Price

If you’re going to buy an Apple Watch for the first time, the price can matter a great deal. That’s because the Series 5 now retails at $279, whereas the Series 6 starts at $399 for GPS and $499 for GPS + Cellular. That’s a huge price difference considering the Series 6 only has incremental changes. If it’s within your budget then sure, Series 6 is a decent choice for future-proofing. However, if you want a good deal, the Series 5 is a way better choice. 

For a better understanding of the differences between Apple Watch Series 5  vs 6, take a look at the summary table below for guidance.

Apple Watch Series 6 Apple Watch Series 5
Price GPS – $399 & GPS + Cellular – $499 Retails at $279
Display Always-On OLED Retina display Always-On OLED Retina display
Processor S6 64-bit dual-core processor S5 64-bit dual core processor
Sensor Accelerometer, gyro, heart rate sensor, barometer, always-on, altimeter, compass, blood-oxygen oximeter (SpO2, VO2max) Accelerometer, gyro, heart rate sensor, altimeter, barometer, compass
Battery Up to 18 hours on a single charge Up to 18 hours on a single charge.
Color silver, space gray, gold, blue, red, graphite, gold, natural titanium and space black. silver, space gray, gold, stainless steel, space black, gold, natural titanium and space black, ceramic white

 

Apple Watch Series 5: Pros And Cons

Apple Watch Series 5 Pros And Cons
© Photo by Apple

Alright, so the Series 5 is still a great deal in many aspects. However, there are other alternatives such as the Apple Watch SE and the previous Apple Watch generations. Thus, we should take a closer look at the Series 5 to gauge whether it’s indeed worth your while. Here’s all you need to know about the Apple Watch Series 5: the good and the bad.

 

Pros

Firstly, let us take a look at why you should consider the Apple Watch Series 5. What are its benefits and strengths? Why should you consider purchasing it at all? Let’s take a gander. 

 

Display

The first and perhaps most prominent feature of the Apple Watch Series 5 is its display. Until the Apple Watch Series 5, none of the previous generation Apple Watches had an always-on display. This was the Apple Watch’s weakness as compared to its Android alternatives. Even though most would still regard it as the best smartwatch, it just didn’t feel complete without the always-on display. Luckily, since Apple introduced the always-on display, Apple Watch enthusiasts could rejoice. 

 

International Emergency Calls

international call
© Photo by Walmart

With Series 5, Apple introduced an international emergency calling feature on its cellular models. That means regardless if you’re abroad or have a deactivated cellular plan, you can still call for emergencies. It does this if it detects that you fell or have been motionless for a minute.

 

Ceramic White

Ceramic White
© Photo by Bestbuy

The Apple Watch Series 5 brought back ceramic white as one of its material options that the Series 4 discontinued. It might not seem amazing, but have you seen the ceramic white option? It’s simply gorgeous, to say the least. Moreover, if you like ceramic white with excellent performance, you can’t go wrong with the Apple Watch Series 5.

 

Powerhouse

The Series 5 is a powerhouse of an Apple Watch given that the Series 6 only introduces incremental upgrades. With the Series 5, you’re not missing out much in terms of processing power and overall performance. Although the Series 5 is an incremental upgrade to the Series 4, it does have an edge. It was the first to introduce the always-on display and you’re likely to get more software updates than previous generations.

 

Price

The Series 5 used to start at the same price as the Series 6’s current price: $399. However, since Series 6’s release, retailers have lowered the Series 5’s price point. You can get it for as low as $279 from some sellers. That’s a steal for all the Series 5 has to offer. 

 

Cons

Certainly, the Apple Watch Series 5 has a lot going for it. Nonetheless, it isn’t the perfect smartwatch, or at least, it’s not the latest most high-end iteration. So, let’s check all the reasons why you shouldn’t buy an Apple Watch Series 5. 

 

No Longer Sold By Apple

Yes, you can still find a brand new Apple Watch Series 5 but only from 3rd-party sellers. That’s because, with the release of Series 6, Apple discontinued production of the Series 5. Sure, you could still get it at this point, but that means without Apple’s perks. No Apple care or special warranty, etc.

 

Small Iterative Changes From The Series 4

At a glance, you can’t tell between the Apple Watch Series 5 vs the Series 4. Apart from the always-on display, you can easily mistake either one for the other. If it’s aesthetics you’re after, you’re better off sticking to a more affordable Apple Watch.

Apart from this, you’re also getting the same battery life as the previous generation apple watches. If you’re looking for a smartwatch with the longest battery life, you might wanna check out Fitbit’s Versa 2. However, don’t expect more than a day’s worth of power from your Apple Watch Series 5.

 

Color Combinations

color combination
© Photo by Best Products

It’s a minor detail, but if you’re into aesthetics, know that some color options aren’t available on the Series 5. More specifically, you can only get red and blue on Series 6. If you’re looking for exactly those colors to match your aesthetic, you’re better off with the Series 6.

 

Lacks Blood Oxygen Tracking

Like we mentioned before, only the Series 6 has blood oxygen tracking. That means you won’t get the latest and greatest health monitoring features in smartwatches. You might not care for blood oxygen tracking at all. However, it’s still a shame you don’t get the full potential of the Apple Watch’s latest lineup. 

 

Lower Always-On Display Brightness

Lower Always-On Display Brightness
© Photo by Apple

Compared to Series 6, Series 5 is certainly at a disadvantage in terms of the always-on display. While they might feature mostly the same nits, the lower always-on display brightness does affect outdoor usage. If you often exercise outside, you’ve got a better chance of seeing your always-on display with Series 6.

 

Less Future-Proof

Okay, we did say the U1 chip isn’t all that useful for now. However, if you plan on using your Apple Watch for the years to come, snagging the Series 6 isn’t a bad idea at all. Internally, it has an always-on altimeter and the U1 ultrawide-band chip. You can use it for Apple’s future projects when they make use of the feature. Apple plans on letting users use the Apple Watch as a car key. Moreover, the chip could potentially be useful for Apple’s upcoming Airtags project to help you find lost objects. If you combine all these things and the fact that the Series 5 won’t get as much software updates as the Series 6, then it’s safe to say the Series 6 is certainly more future-proof.

 

The Verdict: Is It Worth The Upgrade?

Apple’s newly unveiled Apple Watch Series 6 comes with some incremental upgrades from the previous generation. It has an always-on altimeter, a brighter always-on display, blood oxygen tracking, a new U1 chip, and other minor improvements. They might not seem drastic, but for the right person, the Series 6 can genuinely shine. If you’re the type who wants the latest, most future-proof technology, then absolutely go for the Series 6. It’s also great if you’re buying an Apple Watch for the first time and you can afford the Series 6.

However, if you don’t mind the incremental changes, the Apple Watch Series 5 remains a strong choice. While Apple has discontinued the Apple Watch Series 5, it’s still available from 3rd-party sellers. You can easily get a better deal with the Apple Watch Series 5 despite the Series 6 being released.

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