Apple Watch buying guide: Pick the right model, size and style for you

We give you the lowdown on models, customisation and pricing

If you're looking to pick up one of the best smartwatches in the business, look no further than the Apple Watch.

Not only does Cupertino's watch boast one of the more rounded selections of features and apps, but it's also steadily getting better, both under the hood with fresh software and through new hardware inclusions, too. Particularly 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 below we'll guide you through exactly what differences exist, which options are available and the all-important price differences.

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Which Apple Watch is best for me?

Apple Watch Series 1

Which Apple watch is best

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 for how much longer it remains on sale is unknown, as there's a chance its confined to the smartwatch graveyard with the arrival of the next generation.

$249, apple.com | Amazon

Apple Watch Series 2

Apple Watch buying guide: Which smartwatch is best for you

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

Apple Watch Series 3 LTE

Which Apple watch is best

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.

$399, apple.com | Amazon

Apple Watch Series 2 vs Series 3

Which Apple watch is best

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 comparison: Apple Watch Series 3 v Series 1

38mm v 42mm: Apple Watch size explained

Which Apple watch is best

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 which 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, too. For those looking to spend even more, there's also scope to branch out to the ceramic Apple Watch Edition, from $1,299, or maybe even the Apple Hermes collection, which starts at $1,149.

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.


Apple Watch: How much does it cost?

Which Apple watch is best

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.


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