The new Apple Watch lineup is really strong — you can recommend any model that Apple currently sells without a bad experience. Apple now sells the brand new Apple Watch Series 4 and last year’s Apple Watch Series 3 at a lower price. No hardware from two and three years ago to avoid when buying. So if you’re buying your first Apple Watch or upgrading from an older model, which Apple Watch should you buy now? We’ll break down the differences.
If you’re coming from the first generation Apple Watch, upgrading to either Series 3 or Series 4 will ensure you continue receiving software updates like watchOS 5 which includes a new Podcasts app, Walkie-Talkie, and much more. This update won’t be compatible with the original Apple Watch. You’ll also gain elevated heart rate alerts which work on Series 1 and later.
And if you’re coming from the original Apple Watch or Apple Watch Series 1, both current models include GPS and much faster performance. The built-in GPS can be used for mapped outdoor workout tracking without carrying an iPhone. Series 3 and Series 4 are also both much more water-resistant than the original Apple Watch and Apple Watch Series 1 — swim tracking is actually a supported workout — and the display is much brighter.
Apple Watch Series 2 has GPS, swim tracking, and the brighter display, but there are still plenty of improvements on Series 3 and Series 4. Both watches are faster, Siri actually has a voice, both models have an option for LTE, and Series 3 with LTE and all Series 4 models have more storage.
Apple Watch Series 3 has all of the benefits of Apple Watch Series 2 (reviewed) plus the perks of Siri gaining a voice, the option for LTE and more storage, and a speed boost. The external design is generally unchanged from the original Apple Watch.
Apple Watch Series 3 is offered in both silver and space gray aluminum finishes. Apple Watch Nike+ — which pre-installs Nike Run Club and includes unique Nike faces — is also available in Series 3, but only in space gray with no silver option.
GPS-only lacks the option to pay monthly for access to LTE which keeps you connected to the Internet without Wi-Fi or your iPhone. This model has 8GB of storage like previous models. Apple Watch Series 3 without LTE costs $279 for the smaller 38mm and $309 for the larger 42mm — this is the model to pick if you want the best value.
GPS+LTE includes the option to pay monthly for access to LTE without your iPhone. This lets you use Siri, stream Apple Music and podcasts, make phone calls and send messages, location sharing, and much more without Wi-Fi or a nearby iPhone. Series 3 with LTE also includes 16GB of storage over 8GB and the Explorer watch face with red hands and four green LTE indicators.
Series 3 with LTE costs $379 for 38mm and $409 for 42mm — the cheapest way to add LTE.
Apple Watch Series 4 builds on the work of Apple Watch Series 3 (reviewed) and introduces the first design change, new health and safety features, and more. Design-wise, Series 4 has a larger display with slimmer bezels which accommodates corner complications and two new watch faces: Infograph and Infograph Module.
Series 4 also has a much louder speaker, Apple says, and there are new features like haptic feedback in the Digital Crown, longer battery life for outdoor workouts, and built-in fall detection that can call emergency services if you pass out. Series 4 also includes a built-in ECG that uses the heart rate sensor and Digital Crown to record and save a shareable ECG readout on the iPhone.
Series 4 also upgrades Bluetooth from version 4.2 to version 5.0, and doubles the accelerometer performance which improves activity tracking.
Apple Watch Series 4 also has many more physical appearances. Aluminum finishes are available in silver, space gray, and gold; and stainless steel finishes are available in silver, space black, and gold (which is new this year). Series 4 is also available in Nike+ and Hermès collections.
GPS-only lacks the option to pay monthly for access to LTE which keeps you connected to the Internet without Wi-Fi or your iPhone. This model has 16GB — a new upgrade for GPS-only models. Apple Watch Series 4 without LTE costs $399 for the smaller 40mm and $429 for the larger 44mm.
GPS+LTE includes the option to pay monthly for access to LTE without your iPhone. This lets you use Siri, stream Apple Music and podcasts, make phone calls and send messages, location sharing, and much more without Wi-Fi or a nearby iPhone. Series 4 with LTE also includes the Explorer watch face with red hands and four green LTE indicators, and all stainless steel models include LTE.
Series 4 with LTE starts at $499 for 40mm and $529 for 44mm. Stainless steel models start at $699 for 40mm and $749 for 44mm — pricier options are available depending on the band and collection.
Ultimately, the decision may come down to price, design, and color and band options. Both Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4 are equally easy to recommend in terms of speed, performance, and features — especially since both versions continue to offer the option of GPS-only or GPS+LTE.