What is the best Apple Watch to buy? This used to be an easy question to answer when there was just a couple of Apple smartwatches to choose from. But that has all changed. While they may all sport that now familiar rectangular frame, you can get a Watch that's a better fit if you care more about sports tracking or you simply want the core smartwatch experience.
There are plenty of reasons why Apple's Watch stands out above the rest. It boasts one of the more rounded selections of features and apps. It's also steadily getting better, both under the hood with fresh software and through new hardware inclusions, too. For iPhone users, this is the first brand you should explore when delving into the world of smartwatches.
Read this: Apple Watch Series 4 investigation
But with several generations now out in the wild – all of which come with a mountain of customisable options – gifting the right Apple Watch (or buying one for yourself) is anything but easy. That's why we'll guide you through exactly what differences exist, which options are available and the all-important price differences.
Got any questions? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Which Apple Watch is best for me?
First things first, let's clear up exactly what models are out there. Initially, of course, we had the original Apple Watch, released back in April 2015, though this is no longer sold by Apple (and won't work with watchOS 5). Instead, the new entry level is the Apple Watch Series 1. Since Apple decided to make some improvements under the hood, these are actually classed as two different devices.
Why buy it?
If you're not into sports, then the Apple Watch Series 1 is the best buy for you. By shedding GPS, LTE and waterproofing some will argue that the Apple Watch's best features are missing, but if you don't like getting sweaty and just want a good looking smartwatch, it's a great buy. But how much longer it will remain on sale is unknown, as there's a chance it will be confined to the smartwatch graveyard with the arrival of the next generation.
The Apple Watch Series 2 represented the first serious jump taken by the smartwatch. Released in September 2016, it marked Apple's first major push into fitness, thanks to the addition of GPS – meaning users could exercise outdoors without taking their phone with them. Waterproofing also resulted in the Watch being ready to open up to swimmers, and improved processing power provided a zippier experience around the OS.
Why buy it?
The Apple Watch Series 2 may still be the best Apple Watch for most people. The key things it's missing are LTE support and the new W2 processor, which does offer significant battery life improvements. However, for many, LTE just isn't worth the outlay, and the Series 2 still offers battery life of nearly two days. Since this package sits very close to the non-LTE model of the Series 3, it actually isn't sold by Apple anymore. However, you can still pick it up from Amazon and other online outlets.
$364 | Amazon
Although the introduction of GPS helped users cut the tether from their phones to a certain degree, Apple's latest device, the Apple Watch Series 3, attempts to do this completely by packing an eSIM inside. Providing your mobile network is on board and you're willing to pay the extra fee per month, owning a Series 3 means that you can make calls, receive notifications and do pretty much anything else which requires a cellular connection – all from the wrist.
Why buy it?
The newest and best Apple Watch, the Series 3 is the only member of the line-up to offer an LTE connection. It will cost you extra on your monthly phone bill – to the tune of around $5 – but for those who like to go out phone-free, it's a great feature. The new W2 chip also adds extra battery life, and means your smartwatch should finally be able to last an entire weekend away from the charger.
Apple Watch Nike+/Hermès/Watch Edition
Since the first Watch, Apple has dabbled in various partnerships and collaborations and most have continued through to accompany the standard model of its latest smartwatch. Head to the Apple Store and you'll see next to the Series 3 and the Series 1 the option to go for an Apple Watch Nike+ edition, Hermès edition and Watch edition. So what exactly is the difference and what are they bringing to the Watch party?
In the case of the Nike+ edition you are getting the same features as the standard Series 3 with both GPS and LTE models available. Essentially it'll give you exclusive Nike watch faces, a Nike Sport loop watch strap and the ability to launch Nike+ Run club from the watch face on top. In the case of the Hermès edition, it's all about the stylish leather bands that are on offer to make that Watch feel a little bit less like a piece of tech. Last up is the Watch edition, and this is your chance to get the Apple smartwatch in a choice of two ceramic watch frames as opposed to the aluminium and stainless steel options you have with other models.
Why buy it?
This really depends on how sold you are on that Nike or Hermès makeover, or how much you desire something with a more luxury feel, which is what you can expect from the Watch edition. It will unsurprisingly push the price up if you do go for one of these special edition Apple Watch options, with prices reaching as high as $1,399. So that's worth bearing in mind.
From $329, apple.com
The Series 3 is a definite improvement on its predecessor, and it's Apple's best smartwatch to date – our award of Best Smartwatch at the Wareable Tech Awards 2017 is evidence enough of that.
It's a vision of the future of smartwatches, and perhaps the closest device to the dream most people shared when smartwatches first burst onto the scene. It's good looking, boasts a great selection of apps, is always connected thanks to LTE and boasts enough biometric and GPS sensors to make it a proper workout companion. It's also not cripplingly expensive – although it's by no means cheap, either.
But unless staying connected via LTE is essential to you, the Series 2 is perhaps the better buy. It's still got GPS, watchOS 4 works perfectly and offers up all the new features and it's a darn sight cheaper, with some fab deals around.
More Watch comparisons: Apple Watch Series 3 v Series 1
38mm v 42mm: Apple Watch size explained
Once you've decided which model is best for you, the next step is figuring out which size you need. That means, crucially, whether you want the 38mm or 42mm version of the Apple Watch.
As we say, what's paramount here is getting the right size for your wrist. Neither the 38mm or 42mm, we feel, is heavy or looks big on most wrists, but you still want the device that can give you ample screen size while not feeling cumbersome.
Apple itself recommends the 38mm option to those with wrists of 130-200mm, while the bigger option is for those with 140-210mm. Since that's a pretty broad recommendation, though, we'd suggest going into a store and trying both on, if possible.
If in doubt, check the official Apple Watch sizing guide PDF for guidance.
Which style should you choose?
Finish is largely up to personal preference, though you may find yourself priced out of some of the more expensive variants. The standard casing is aluminium, coming in space grey, gold and silver and usually coupled with a basic sport band or sport loop.
Naturally, you can upgrade this to a stainless steel finish in silver or grey for an extra $200, and also upgrade your band from a standard strap to a Milanese loop from an extra $100.
Essential reading: The best Apple Watch straps
Don't get too hung up on trying to pick the best strap/finish combination from the start, though – it's more important to get the finish right here. A few months down the line, it's likely you'll have added a few third-party bands to style things up for different occasions, and maybe even a couple of Apple's own bands.
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Apple Watch: How much does it cost?
We've talked through some of the pricing above, but it's worth pointing out the exact difference between the entry level of each model. And, of course, keep in mind that although Apple itself may no longer sell the likes of the Series 2, pretty much every variation of the device is available to pick up from somewhere.
Getting in on the base level of the Series 1 will set you back $249, with the upgrade to Series 3 GPS costing a further $80. If that's not enough, tacking on LTE to the package starts at $399. The Nike equivalents, meanwhile, don't cost anything extra over their regular counterparts.
If we're breaking it down, Apple's Series 1 pricing means that upgrading to the newer models is worth it. GPS is integral to the experience, and LTE, while not essential for everyone, is handy for those who want to separate themselves from their smartphone from time to time.