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Apple announces Apple Watch Series 6 with ability to measure blood oxygen levels

Apple’s popular smartwatch is getting an update, called the Apple Watch Series 6, with a key new health sensor, and other features focused on making it easier to use for kids.

The new sensor for the Apple Watch, can measure your blood oxygen level in 15 seconds, Apple said, and will also track your blood oxygen in the background. The new feature adds to 2019’s Apple Watch Series 5, which Apple used to introduce technology that enabled an always-on display, turning the device into more of a watch than the wrist computer that some people consider it. Apple says it’s partnering with health networks to start large-scale studies using the new blood oxygen measurement feature, including testing to see if it can detect if a person is infected with COVID-19.

The Series 6 also comes with the new S6 processor, which promises up to 20 percent faster performance. It’s based on Apple’s in-house A13 chip and brings the first major update to the Apple Watch’s performance since the Series 4, given that last year’s Series 5 model used the same S4 CPU. Apple says it provides this improved performance while maintaining the 18 hours of battery life of the prior model. The Series 6 can recharge faster, though, going from zero to full in about 1.5 hours.

The always-on display is said to be 2.5 times brighter than the one on the Series 5, so it’s easier to read when your arm is on a desk or when outdoors. It’s also now possible to access notifications, Control Center, change watchfaces, or tap on complications without fully waking the screen.

You’ll be able to get the Series 6 in gray, silver, gold, or blue aluminum finishes or a new Product (RED) version that has a striking red finish on it. The stainless steel model is available in either graphite or yellow gold, but the silver chrome model appears to be no longer available. The top-end Edition model is available in natural or black titanium, but no ceramic options this year.

Apple says the aluminum models are made of 100 percent recycled aluminum, much like the newer MacBook Pro models. In addition, Apple is announcing a new strap called the “Solo Loop” that is made from one piece of silicone, without any buckles or adjustments. It is available in a range of styles and seven different colors. There is also a braided Solo Loop made from yarn that’s available in five colors. Finally, Apple is releasing a new leather link strap.

The Series 6 will run watchOS 7, which Apple revealed at WWDC earlier this year. The software update available for all models dating back to the Series 3 adds native sleep tracking support, but the Series 6 will take that feature even further thanks to dedicated sensors. Other major updates coming in watchOS 7 include a rebranded Fitness app with new workouts, a hand-washing feature tailored for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, richer complications, and the ability to share watchfaces with others.

Apple also announced new services for the device focused on health and family. The company showed off a new service called Fitness Plus, which offers a variety of weekly workout routines for $9.99 per month. The company also said its Apple Watch will have a feature called Family Setup, allowing parents to set up their children’s watch to to help track their children’s location, control who they talk to using iMessage. The feature requires a cellular version of the Apple Watch, but doesn’t require the child to have an iPhone.

The Apple Watch Series 6 will be available starting at $399 for a 40mm model, the same price as the outgoing Series 5. Cellular models start at $499. The Series 6 is available to order starting today, September 15th, and will start shipping on Friday, September 18th. As part of its efforts to reduce waste, Apple says it will not be including a USB power adapter in the box with the Series 6 watch, just the charging cable.

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