What is the best Apple Watch to buy? It used to be an easy question to answer when there was just a couple of Apple smartwatches to choose from, but that's all changed with the introduction of a new design and sizes.
Whichever model you opt for, there are plenty of reasons why the Apple Watch stands out above the rest. It boasts one of the more rounded selections of features and apps, while the software is consistently being refined to make way for new features. For iPhone users, this is the first brand you should explore when delving into the world of smartwatches.
Read this: 43 Apple Watch tips and tricks
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 compare the all-important price tags.
Which Apple Watch is best for me?
Apple Watch Series 1
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 and the slightly improved Apple Watch Series 1 are no longer sold by Apple. There's no GPS, no LTE and no ability to download the latest software - this is the Apple Watch at its most basic.
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.
Apple Watch Series 2
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 is still a very capable smartwatch, and able to run the latest software, watchOS 5. The key things it's missing are LTE support and the W2 processor, which offers 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 hasn't been sold by Apple for some time. However, like the Series 1, you can still pick it up from Amazon and other online outlets.
Apple Watch Series 3 LTE
Although the introduction of GPS helped users cut the tether from their phones to a certain degree in the Series 2, Apple's 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 Apple Watch Series 3 is the cheapest 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 – but for those who like to go out phone-free, it's a great feature. The 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
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 4 and the Series 3 the option to go for an Apple Watch Nike+ edition and Hermès 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 4, with both GPS and GPS/cellular models available. Essentially, it'll give you exclusive Nike watch faces, a Nike 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.
Why buy it?
This really depends on how sold you are on that Nike or Hermès makeover. 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 .
From , apple.com
Apple Watch Series 4
The latest and greatest Apple Watch is the Series 4, which also happens to be the first to deviate from its predecessors in design. The screen is now more rounded, leaving less of a dead spot, while the side button is now touch sensitive and fitted into a slimmer bezel - now coming in either 40mm or 44mm sizes. In terms of features, this builds upon what the Series 3 delivered; there's still GPS, LTE and NFC for Apple Pay, but the headline addition is the electrical heart sensor, used to take ECG readings and help detect heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation.
With the Series 4, Apple has taken a big step into health, while still retaining and growing all the fitness features, style and usability of previous models.
Why buy it?
With new features inevitably comes a new, expensive price tag, and that headline feature we mentioned, ECG readings, won't be coming to the US until later this year (and it may be longer for those in other territories). Despite this, the Apple Watch Series 4 is still the most advanced smartwatch we've seen hit the market. Aside from perhaps battery life, it's a top contender in every category.
From , apple.com
Apple Watch Series 3 v Series 4
Whichever way you look at it, you're getting a top smartwatch with either the Series 3 or the Series 4. The older generation took home our best smartwatch gong at the 2017 Wareable Tech Awards, and the new Series 4 received the highest rating we've every given to a watch.
The latest device really is 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 legitimate health companion. It's also not cripplingly expensive – although it's by no means cheap, either.
Another comparison: Apple Watch Series 2 v Series 3
However, unless that new design or the electrical heart sensor are important to you, the Series 3 is perhaps the better buy. It's still got GPS, watchOS 5 works perfectly and it's a darn sight cheaper.
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 a 38mm or 42mm model provided by the older Apple Watch generations, or the new 40mm or 44mm variations in the Series 4.
As we say, what's paramount here is getting the right size for your wrist. None of the four different Watch sizes, 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. And while Apple has its own recommendations for wrist sizes, 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 old models, or read our Apple Watch size guide.
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 for an extra , and also upgrade your band from a standard strap to a Milanese loop from an extra .
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?
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 1 or Series 2, pretty much every variation of the device is available to pick up from somewhere.
Getting in on the base level with Apple and the Series 3 will set you back , with the upgrade to Series 3 LTE/cellular costing a further . The Nike equivalents, meanwhile, don't cost anything extra over their regular counterparts. What will cost is the jump up in generation, with Series 4 GPS models starting from , rising an extra for LTE and even further for the different finishes and bands we've mentioned in the section above.
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