The Apple Watch is available in three variations; Watch Sport, Apple Watch and Watch Edition, with the latter starting at £8,000. With the Watch Sport and Apple Watch having much lower entry points, £299 and £479 respectively, we decided to compare the two to find out what it is that you’re paying for, and what the differences are between the two models.
Watch Sport vs Apple Watch: Price difference
Let's first talk about the price difference between the two models. The Apple Watch Sport is Apple’s entry point, starting at £299 or £339 depending on whether you want the 38mm or 42mm variation.
If you choose the Watch Sport, you’ll have a selection of fluoroelastomer bands to choose from. There is also a choice of plain aluminium or a darker Space Grey finish to the watch case. It’s worth noting that the Space Grey Apple Watch Sport is the only Sport watch to ship with a black Sport Band. You do have the option to buy a different Sport Band separately for £39.
The Apple Watch starts at a slightly higher price of £479, with the most expensive in the category priced at £949. The price that you pay for an Apple Watch is almost completely dependent on the watchstrap that you choose to accompany it.
Where the Apple Watch Sport only offers silicone sports bands, there’s a much wider choice of premium watchstraps available for the Apple Watch. That’s not to say that you can’t get a sports band with the Apple Watch if you want one, as the cheapest Apple Watch (£479/519 depending on size) comes with either a black or white sports band.
See also: Complete guide to the Apple Watch
Watch Sport vs Apple Watch: Same function, different materials
Even though there’s a jump in price between the Watch Sport and Apple Watch (not as big as the jump between Watch & Edition), there’s no difference in the capabilities of any of the watches. The £299 Apple Watch Sport does exactly the same thing as the £13,500 Watch Edition – it’s mainly aesthetic changes.
The Apple Watch Sport is crafted from anodised aluminium, reminiscent of the iPhone 5/5s. Apple has reasons for this choice of material - it claims the aluminium alloy is 60 percent stronger than standard alloys, but is also very light, 30 percent lighter than the Apple Watch in fact. This makes it ideal for the Watch Sport’s primary function, being a fitness tracker. No one wants to wear a bulky watch when exercising; it needs to be light and durable.
The Apple Watch is crafted from stainless steel, immediately giving it a more premium look than the Watch Sport - the mirror finish definitely adds to its appeal. The Apple Watch was designed specifically for every day use and stainless steel is a durable material. Apple takes this durability a step further, cold forging the stainless steel to make it around 80 percent harder than it would otherwise be (according to Apple). It’s heavier than the Watch Sport, but that may be an acceptable compromise if you want a more durable model.
With regards to the display, the Watch Sport has drawn the short straw. Where the Watch and Watch Edition both have tough Sapphire Glass, the Watch Sport boasts strengthened Ion-X glass. Apple claim the reason behind this was to make the Sport model as light as possible, but also wanted to make sure it was scratch and impact resistant.
How was this achieved? Prepare for a science lesson: According to Apple, the glass is fortified at a molecular level through ion exchange, a process that replaces smaller ions with larger ones. The end result? A surface layer that the company claims is far tougher than ordinary glass.
Even stronger than Ion-X glass is the sapphire glass used in the Apple Watch models. Apart from diamond, sapphire is the hardest transparent material in the world, which should mean ultimate protection for the watch display. The manufacturing process is intricate; Apple has said that the crystal is harvested using a thin diamond-cutting wire, which is then precision machined into its final form and polished for hours to achieve its smooth, shiny finish.
In their tests Consumer Reports (the US equivalent of Which) were able to scratch the Sport after some pretty extreme scratching, but claimed they couldn't scratch the sapphire screen at all. Read: How to repair a broken Apple Watch: Will Apple repair or replace a scratched/smashed/water damaged Apple Watch
See also: Apple Watch buying guide and price list
Watch Sport vs Apple Watch: Which watchstraps are available?
Upholding the idea is that the Apple Watch Sport is to be used mainly for sporting activities, the only strap available at purchase is a sports band. You generally have a choice between white, blue, green or pink, unless, as mentioned earlier, you opt for the Space Grey option in which case it ships with a black sports band.
The sports band itself is made from a "custom high-performance fluorelastomer" which Apple claims makes the band durable and strong, but soft and comfortable to wear. Described as smooth but dense, the sports band uses a pin-and-tuck closure to ensure a good fit. The only issue is that it isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing watchstrap, and compared to the other types of strap available, it looks quite cheap (we also wonder how long it will be before these rubber bands start to look a bit grubby).
The Apple Watch boasts a much larger variety of watchstraps, including the sports bands available for the Watch Sport, as well as straps made from leather and stainless steel in various premium designs. As mentioned earlier, the choice of watchstrap is reflected in the price you pay – but at least you have the option to choose from premium watchstraps, unlike with the Watch Sport. You can choose from:
- Link Bracelet
- Sport Band
- Leather Loop
- Classic Buckle
- Modern Buckle
- Milanese Loop
The wider selection of watchstraps means that you can customise your Apple Watch. While a leather loop may be understated and comfortable for every day use, special occasions may call for a Milanese loop or a link bracelet.
Note that the leather loop watchstrap doesn't come in a 38mm variation and is only available for the 42mm model - don't worry though, all other straps are available in both sizes.
The good thing is that the Apple Watch goes perfectly with any style of watchstrap, which is partly down to its stainless steel, mirror finish. It looks like it belongs on a premium watchstrap.
See also: Apple Watch 2 Wishlist
Watch Sport vs Apple Watch: Can I attach a premium strap to the Apple Watch Sport?
Despite the popular belief that you can’t attach a premium strap to an Apple Watch Sport, you can – it’s just that Apple doesn’t offer you the opportunity during purchase. It appears that Apple is offering customisation of the Apple Watch, but only with watch and strap combos that the company has pre-approved.
While the sports bands are pretty cheap, coming in at £39, there are large price increases when you look at the premium straps. The classic buckle, leather loop and Milanese loop all cost £129, with the price jumping up to £209 for the modern buckle and an eye watering £379 for the link bracelet.
While it is possible to wear premium straps with the Apple Watch Sport, it may not be worth it. Why? It might look like you can save money by purchasing the £379 link bracelet and a £339 Space Grey Apple Watch for £718, rather than spending £949 on Apple’s official Watch and link bracelet combo, it might not be as aestetically pleasing. This is due to the fact that the link bracelet is made from stainless steel alloy - like the Apple Watch case, meaning that its integration is seamless and contributes to the premium look of the Watch. Paired with the anodised aluminium Watch Sport, it may look mismatched – a big issue for some, especially with a fashionable device.
That’s not to say that the other straps wouldn’t look good on the Watch Sport. We personally like the Space Grey Watch Sport and black leather loop combo, but it’s down to personal preference. There’s an unofficial Apple Watch website where you can mix and match the different watches and straps to help you choose which strap to buy.
See also: Apple Watch Accessories Roundup
Watch Sport vs Apple Watch: Can I customise the colour of my Apple Watch?
So, will there be any way to customise your Apple Watch or Watch Sport? We’ve spoken to Riki, the MD of MendMyi who has said that the material used for the Watch and Watch Edition means that the company won’t be able to customise them. The good news is that the company wants to try and re-anodise the Watch Sport model, and add the option to their Colour Lab service.
If successful, MendMyi will be able to offer the same colour options for the Watch Sport that they currently offer for the iPhone 5/5s. Riki also confirmed that the company would try to offer a gold option to replicate the £13,500 Watch Edition, but it’s all down to how the Apple Watch is held together.