Why is Apple Watch Series 6 Getting Discounted So Soon?

It's really not that bad

Key Takeaways

  • Shop around—many outlets offer money off the latest Apple Watch.
  • If you have a Series 5 watch, the 6 barely has any new features.
  • The Apple Watch Series 6 is probably the best smartwatch around.
Isometric view of the Apple Watch Series 6 in Blue
Apple 

Barely two months after launch, the Apple Watch Series 6 is already being discounted. Is this a sign that nobody wants the new model? Or is it so popular that retailers are using it as a loss-leader to draw in buyers?

The Apple Watch Series 6 is probably the best smartwatch you can buy. The trouble is, last year’s Series 5 is almost as good. There are almost no new features that a regular person would care about, and the biggest improvements are found in the latest watchOS software update—which is also available for the older Series 5.

"It’s a bit better, but not much difference," Apple Watch and iOS app developer Graham Bower told Lifewire via instant message. "That’s kinda the way Apple does this stuff though."

The Best Apple Watch

Let’s consider those discounts. Here’s a screenshot of ads from a few days ago. You see discounts from the 9to5Mac store, from an insurance company, and linked to Black Friday deals.

Three ads showing the Apple Watch Series 6 receiving discounts

To me, that makes it seem like a classic loss-leader. You discount the most popular items to get buyers in the door, then sell them your higher-margin stuff. Supermarkets will discount bread and milk, for example, but they won’t bother offering something esoteric, like polenta perhaps, at a loss. Who would care?

So, perhaps the Series 6 is getting discounted because it is popular, and not because it’s selling badly.

"It’s a bit better, but not much difference. That’s kinda the way Apple does this stuff though."

The Series 6 Is the Apple Watch

Apple often keeps older models on sale, dropping the price to offer a lower-cost option. The Apple Watch is no exception, but the current discount model is not last year’s Series 5; it’s 2017’s Series 3. The current lineup runs thus:

  • Series 6 from $399
  • SE from $279
  • Series 3 from $199

The SE is kind of an in-between model. It uses the larger case design and display of the flagship S6, but leaves out the always-on display. And that display is the main reason to buy the 6.

Who Should Buy the Apple Watch Series 6?

Up until the Series 5, the Apple Watch’s screen stayed blank. To activate the display, you had to raise your wrist, or tap the screen. This made it a terrible watch, because there was no way to glance at it to see the time, or read any of your complications. The Series 5 changed this, adding an always-on screen that would dim when inactive, but keep showing the watch face.

So, if you want an always-on display, you have to buy the Series 6. Otherwise, get the SE. The Series 3 is older tech, and will surely stop receiving watchOS updates sooner than the S6 and SE. The main purpose of the Series 3 is to disappoint a giftee at Christmas time.

"The incremental updates all add up. So, if you upgrade every three or four years, then it’s a big leap."

If you already have a Series 5, the S6 is a really tough sell. It has a few different options for the case finish, it adds a blood oxygen sensor and app, and has a slightly brighter display, but that’s it. The blood oxygen sensor isn’t even approved for medical use. According to Apple, "Measurements taken with the Blood Oxygen app are not intended for medical use and are only designed for general fitness and wellness purposes."

Knowing this, Apple COO Jeff Williams saying in a press statement that "Apple Watch Series 6 completely redefines what a watch can do" seems a little overenthusiastic.

What About Those Discounts?

In conclusion, it seems like those discounts are nothing more than publicity winners for the various vendors. The Apple Watch is the hottest smartwatch and wearable fitness device, and the S6 is the latest and best. Giveaways and discounts have always focussed on the most desired products, and this is no exception.

That said, perhaps there is a slowdown this year. Maybe all the folks who were waiting for an always-on display bought the S5 last year, and are now happy to wait a while.

"I think it’s a bit crazy to [upgrade your watch] once a year. Especially at that price," says Bower. On the other hand, he says, "The incremental updates all add up. So, if you upgrade every three or four years, then it’s a big leap."