Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: what's new and which should you buy?

We review both Apple Watches so you can decide which one is best for you

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has been slowly and, I'd say, almost stealthy updating its Apple Watch line-up for years now, building it into the best, and most popular smartwatch available to buy. If you own an iPhone, no other brands come close to the levels of integration and sophistication an Apple Watch provides, the question is, then, not which smartwatch should I get, but which Apple Watch should I get? The slightly older and more affordable Apple Watch Series 5, or the newer and more expensive Apple Watch Series 6?

While both have their benefits, we took a look at both the Series 6 and Series 5 to help you better understand which one suits your needs. 

Whether you’re looking to buy your first smartwatch or have been thinking about an upgrade, make sure you consider the key differences before committing to buying. From features and price, right down to the nitty-gritty of design and size, we’ve got you covered. 

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Design

Okay, this section is pretty simple as the Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch Series 6 are virtually identical.

They are both available in either 44mm or 40mm case sizes, and they both feature always-On Retina displays (also the same size 977mm² and 759mm² respectively).

There is one difference with the screen, however, and that's that the new Apple Watch Series 6 is up to 2.5 times brighter than Apple Watch Series 5 outdoors when your wrist is down, making it much easier to see a watch face in bright sunlight. 

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5

(Image credit: Apple)

There are a few new design options introduced with the Apple Watch Series 6, including, tor the first time, a new blue colour (which joins the silver, space grey, and gold aluminium case options), alongside a (PRODUCT)RED Apple Watch with exclusive matching bright red bands. 

Stainless steel models are now available in graphite – a rich grey-black hue with a striking high-shine finish – and an updated classic yellow gold colour. 

Apple Watch Edition is available in natural and space black titanium. 

You can play with Apple's online configurator to completely personalise your Watch before buying it.

Apple no longer offers a Ceramic model.

Introduced alongside the Apple Watch Series 6 were a huge number of new Band designs – these are compatible with both the Series 5 and Series 6.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Hardware

This is perhaps the largest difference between the Apple Watch Series 6 and Series 5.

Apple claims that the Series 6 improves performance through redesigned hardware that packs even more features and power into the same design. 

It runs on a new dual-core processor based on the A13 Bionic in the iPhone 11. The upgraded S6 SiP runs up to 20-percent faster than the previous generation, allowing apps to also launch 20-percent faster, while maintaining the same all-day 18-hour battery life.

Of course, the Apple Watch Series 5 was no slouch, so it'll be interesting to see if we can notice these differences in the real world.

Additionally, Apple Watch Series 6 features the U1 chip and Ultra-Wideband antennas, which will enable short-range wireless location to support new experiences, such as next-generation digital car keys. 

Apple Watch Series 6 also offers faster charging, completing a full charge in under 1.5 hours, and improved battery life for tracking certain workouts, such as indoor and outdoor runs.

There's no question then, if you want the fastest and most powerful Apple Watch, then the Series 6 is the one to go for. 

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Features and software

Most new features that are arriving with the Apple Watch Series 6 are also coming to the Series 5 thanks to the watchOS 7 upgrade.

The latest version of Apple's smartwatch OS brings seven new watch face options, sleep tracking, automatic handwashing detection, and new workout types, can help users better understand overall well-being. 

Maps will also now include cycling directions and Siri offers language translation.

There are, however, two features that are exclusive to the Apple Watch Series 6. 

The first is an 'always-on' altimeter, which provides real-time elevation all day long by using a new, more power-efficient barometric altimeter, along with GPS and nearby Wi-Fi networks. 

That's obviously not a reason to upgrade on its own.

The big upgrade is a new feature that measures the oxygen saturation of your blood, so you can better understand your overall fitness and wellness. 

Oxygen saturation, or SpO2, 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 Apple Watch Series 6 uses a Blood Oxygen sensor and an advanced algorithm to measure blood oxygen between 70 percent and 100 percent.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Price

The Apple Watch Series 6 is actually priced a little lower than the Series 5 when it was launched.

It costs £379 / US$399 starting price for the GPS-only model, rising to £479 / US$499 for the GPS and Cellular model.

Of course, now that the Series 6 has been announced you should be looking to get a discount on the discounted Series 5 models.

You can find the cheapest Apple Watch Series 5 prices below:

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5: Conclusion

If you’re new to Apple and smartwatches in general, the Series 5 is certainly not redundant yet. It has a range of features that are just right for a beginner smartwatch, and you can save yourself a bit of cash by going for this model. 

However, if you’re someone who likes the latest tech, then opting for the Series 5 will mean missing out on a few new features and design options.

While many of the features do remain the same, there are some pretty good upgrades on the Series 6, especially the Blood Oxygen monitoring and new design options.

Those considering upgrading from a Series 2 or Series 3 will find it worth their money to opt for a Series 6, as some significant changes have been made. 

However, if you’ve got the Series 5 already and were wondering if it’s worth upgrading so soon, we’d recommend waiting for the next release to really get your money’s worth. 

Spencer Hart
Style and Travel Editor

As the Style and Travel Editor at T3, Spencer covers everything from clothes to cars and watches to hotels. Everything that's cool, stylish, and interesting, basically. He's been a part of T3 for over seven years, and in that time covered every industry event known to man, from CES and MWC to the Geneva Motorshow and Baselworld. When he's driving up and down the country in search of the greatest driving roads, he can be found messing around on an electric scooter, playing with luxury watches, or testing the latest fragrances.