Apple Announces Apple Watch Series 6, Watch SE, 8th-Gen iPad, and All-New iPad Air

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Today, during its "Time Flies" event, Apple announced several new products and services, including the Apple Watch Series 6 and Watch SE. During the live blog, Apple also showed off the latest generation iPad and an all-new iPad Air. We'll take a closer look at each, along with some of the new services and software Apple unveiled today.      

Watch Series 6

It's hard to believe we're already up to Series 6 of the Apple Watch. Maybe it's the subliminal effect of Apple's "Time Flies" marketing, but it really does feel like only yesterday we were just getting our hands on the first Apple Watch. Looking back, it's hard not to marvel at just how far the Apple Watch has come, from a cool—but arguably superfluous—piece of tech to maybe the best smartwatch in the world.

So, what's new with Series 6? One of the main reasons the Watch is so popular is because it's such a capable wellness tracking device. Apple knows this and so it very wisely continues to invest in that side of wearable technology, focusing mainly on health and fitness. For the Series 6, that investment translates into new features and monitoring hardware, including an all-new blood oxygen sensor. According to Apple, data from the Series 6's sensors could eventually be used as an early indicator of "respiratory conditions like influenza and COVID-19."

To go along with the new blood oxygen sensor, Apple also gave the Series 6 an all-around spec boost. Headlining those upgrades are a new S6 processor, which promises up to 20 percent faster performance, and an improved always-on display that Apple claims is now 2.5 times brighter. 

In terms of physical design, the Series 6 doesn't look a whole lot different than the Series 5. Of course, that's not a bad thing. The Series 5 Watch was a gorgeous piece of hardware, so no need to mess with a good thing. There are some cool finish options though, including, for the first time, a Product (RED) version—something many of us have been clamoring for, for years.

Watch SE

The Series 6 wasn't the only Watch announcement Apple made today. It also introduced the Watch SE, the spiritual successor to the Series 3, with many of the same features of more current models—including the same always-on altimeter, gyroscope, and accelerometer as the Series 6.

Apple is marketing the Watch SE as an affordable alternative to the Series 6, but how it got its price down is just as compelling as the lower cost. Instead of just removing the costlier features, Apple focused on making the SE more essential. Basically, it loaded the SE up with everything customers love—big Retina display, robust health features, etc.—and excised the rest. The result appears to be a very good-looking, highly functional smartwatch at an objectively reasonable price point.­

8th-Gen iPad

After the watches were wrapped, Apple moved on to its tablets, starting with the 8th-gen iPad. What's incredible about the iPad is that even though it's been ten years (!) since the debut of the original iPad tablet, it's still as vital as ever thanks to Apple's continued investment in keeping the line up to spec.

That dedication continues with the 10.2" 8th-gen iPad, which received some pretty major enhancements, including Apple's powerful A12 chipset with "Neural Engine" processing. According to Apple, that means the 8th-gen iPad can reach speeds up to "two times faster than the top-selling Windows laptop."

Along with being a whole heck of a lot faster, the 8th-gen iPad leverages the A12 for all kinds of new support and capabilities, including new VR/AR applications, photo editing, Siri performance, and more. Best of all, the starting cost doesn't change. You get all of this year's best features at last year's price.

iPad Air

Last, but nowhere close to least, Apple announced an all-new iPad Air, which showed off a new screen, new body and color options, new features, and more—including features previously exclusive to the iPad Pro.

This year's model has a bigger 10.9" Retina display and noticeably smaller bezels compared to last year's 10.5" model. It also features True Tone, anti-reflective coatings, and P3 wide color gamut, making it a reliable pick for creatives. To add in the extra screen, Apple moved the fingerprint scanner up top, converting the power button into a full-fledged biometric sensor.

The screen isn't the only improvement, either. Apple made some major enhancements to the iPad Air's internals. At the top of that list is "the most advanced chip" Apple has ever made, the A14 Bionic. According to Apple, the six-core A14 will deliver a 40 percent performance boost over last year's model.

Along with the powerful new processor, the iPad Air also received an upgraded camera setup. It now comes with a 12MP rear camera—same as the camera in the iPad Pro—and a front-facing 7MP FaceTime camera. Speaking of the iPad Pro, the new iPad Air now features a USB-C port for faster data transfers and charging. Photographers and filmmakers might want to take note here, because you can easily plug it into your Mac and use the iPad Air as a graphics tablet for your retouching and editing work.

Along with the new features and hardware, the iPad Air will also support the latest iPad accessories, such as the second-generation Apple Pencil, and will run the most current operating system, iPadOS 14.

You can order the new iPad Air, along with all the new products mentioned during today's live blog, at B&H.

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