- > Is now a good time to buy an Apple Watch?
- > Where to buy an Apple Watch
- > How much does the Apple Watch cost?
- > Which Apple Watch should I get?
- > Do I need cellular?
- > Upgrading from older models
- > Which size of Apple Watch should I get?
- > Which colour should I go for?
- > Which Apple Watch strap should I get?
- > Docks, stands and chargers
Which Apple Watch should you buy? Is the top-of-the-range Apple Watch Series 6 worth its premium price tag, or should you save money and buy the lower-priced Apple Watch SE? Is it still worth buying the older Apple Watch Series 3, which is cheaper still, or should you look for a tempting deal on one of the discontinued models?
Even if you know which Apple Watch model you want, deciding on the size, case material, colour and strap that's best for you can be a minefield, with dozens of combinations available at dozens of different prices. The choice can be overwhelming.
In our in-depth Apple Watch buying guide we explain all the options, and help you decide which model is right for you and where to get the best price.
The full Apple Watch range
Apple currently sells three models: the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE.
(Apple has discontinued the original Apple Watch, Series 1, Series 2, Series 4 and Series 5. However, you may still be able to buy them second-hand or refurbished - in fact, Apple sells them in its own Refurbished Store.)
The current models differ in the features they offer and their specs. There are also some differences in terms of materials and colours: the Series 3 and SE are available in aluminium only (silver or Space Grey for the Series 3, plus gold for the SE), while the Series 6 comes in aluminium (silver, Space Grey, gold, blue or red), stainless steel (silver, graphite or gold), and titanium (titanium or Space Black).
There are two sizes for each model. The Series 6 and SE come in 44mm and 40mm (that refers to the height of the case, slightly confusingly, rather than the diagonal of the screen, as you might expect); the Series 3 offers either 42mm or 38mm.
There are also multiple straps available for each watch, which complicates the pricing further. These include Nike's sporty straps and fashion straps from Hermes for the well-heeled to consider.
In the case of the Series 6 and the SE you can choose whether you want to pay extra for cellular connectivity, or if you're happy with GPS only. There is currently no cellular version of the Series 3 (unless you buy a second-hand device).
Is now a good time to buy an Apple Watch?
Apple generally launches new watches in the autumn - we expect the Apple Watch Series 7 to come out in September 2021. So the spring is a perfectly reasonable time to make this purchase.
We cover this question in more depth in a separate article: When is the best time to buy an Apple Watch?
Where to buy an Apple Watch
You can pick up the Apple Watch SE, Series 6 and Series 3 direct from Apple. Prices start at £199/$199 and top out at £1,449/$1,499 for the luxury models (such as the Apple Watch Hermès, Silver Stainless Steel Case with Single Tour Deployment Buckle).
You can also buy the Apple Watches from third-party retailers, such as John Lewis, Currys, Argos and Very. These sellers may still offer models which Apple itself has stopped selling, such as the Series 5, although stock is likely to be limited.
For the latest offers worth your consideration, check our roundup of the best Apple Watch deals.
How much does the Apple Watch cost?
Most Apple products have a really simple pricing structure. You select a standard product, then have the opportunity to add optional extras and upgrade components.
When it comes to the Apple Watch, things aren't quite that simple. There are lots of options. In fact, we might say there are too many options.
Because of this it can actually be difficult to get an idea of what an Apple Watch might cost you. Sure, you can get an Apple Watch Series 3 for £199/$199, but what if you wanted the Apple Watch 6 with a nice leather strap? How much would that cost you?
You can go to Apple's website and configure your own combination of model, body colour, strap and so on using Apple's widget. But to make it easier for you to see at a glance what the various Apple Watches cost, take a look at the charts below.
Prices for the Apple Watch Series 3
Not too many options here. The Series 3 is available in aluminium only, in a silver or Space Grey finish, with a white or black strap.
|Material||Strap||38mm, GPS||42mm, GPS|
|Aluminium (silver or Space Grey)||Sport Band (white or black)||£199/$199||£229/$229|
Buy the Apple Watch Series 3 here: Apple Store.
Apple Watch 3 deals
Prices for the Apple Watch SE
The Watch SE is available in aluminium only, in a silver, Space Grey or gold finish. You get a decent range of straps, too.
|Material||Strap||40mm, GPS||44mm, GPS||40mm, cellular||44mm, cellular|
|Aluminium||Braided Solo Loop||£319/$329||£349/$359||£369/$379||£399/$409|
Buy the Apple Watch SE here: Apple Store.
Apple Watch SE deals
Prices for the Apple Watch Series 6
The Watch 6 is available in aluminium with a silver, Space Grey, gold, blue or red finish; in stainless steel in silver, gold or Space Black; or in titanium in a titanium or Space Black finish.
|Material||Strap||40mm, GPS||44mm, GPS||40mm, cellular||44mm, cellular|
|Aluminium||Braided Solo Loop||£429/$449||£459/$479||£549/$499||£559/$579|
|Steel||Braided Solo Loop||n/a||n/a||£699/$749||£749/$799|
|Titanium||Braided Solo Loop||n/a||n/a||£799/$849||£849/$899|
Buy the Apple Watch Series 6 here: Apple Store.
Apple Watch 6 deals
Which Apple Watch should I get?
With all these combinations to choose from, it's tricky to know where to start.
The first big decision is picking a model. Will the mid-range Apple Watch SE meet your needs? Are you prepared to pay substantially more for the Series 6 model and its deeper feature set? Or do you need to save money and settle for the older Series 3 model?
Should I buy the Apple Watch Series 3?
There's no denying that £199/$199 is an appealing price tag, but our advice would be to pay a little more and go for the SE if you can possibly afford it, as you'll get the accumulated benefits of three years' worth of upgrades. The Series 3 is less future-proofed, and will stop getting watchOS software updates sooner.
The SE offers a number of features missing from the Series 3 and starts at £269/$279. For your extra £70/$80 you get a newer design - the Series 3 is a similar overall size to the SE, but its screen is smaller because of the bigger bezels.
While it does have an altimeter, the Series 3 lacks fall detection, the compass and the always-on screen feature, while its speaker and mic aren't as advanced as those in the SE.
If you were thinking that at £199/$199 the Series 3 might be a good choice for your offspring, bear in mind that it doesn't support Family Setup (one of the factors discussed in our feature 8 reasons why the Apple Watch SE is a good buy).
Also note that because the Series 3 no longer comes with a cellular option you won't be able to use it to make calls or get data when you haven't got your iPhone handy. Series 3 also features a W2 wireless chip rather than the W3 in the SE and 6.
Should I buy the Apple Watch SE?
Having laid out the disadvantages of the Apple Watch Series 3, what about the SE? Starting at £269/$279 it's not much more than the Series 3, but if you spend a little more you could get something even better: the Apple Watch Series 6, which starts at £379/$399.
Both the SE and the 6 offer the same 44mm or 40mm case size, and both are slimmer than the Series 3. As we mentioned already, Series 6 and the SE support Family Setup, which could be useful if you have kids, and both have an always-on altimeter.
The Series 6 features an Always-On display, which the SE lacks. This means that you will be able to see the time on the watch face at all times - rather than only when you raise your wrist.
The Series 6 also offers a way to measure blood oxygen and take an ECG, two features that could be life saving. That's not to say that the SE lacks other life saving features: like the Series 6 (and the 3 for that matter) the SE can alert you to an irregular heart rhythm and give you notifications of a high or low heart rate.
Essentially the SE lacks an always-on display and it can't measure blood oxygen or take an ECG. If these aren't features that matter to you the SE would be a good choice.
Should I buy the Apple Watch 6?
This is the option that comes into play if your budget has some room for manoeuvre. The Series 6 has a lot in common with the SE, but there are some important upgrades you'll get for the extra money.
The Series 6 trumps the SE with an S6 chip, whereas the SE has the same S5 chip as the now-discontinued Series 5. The Series 6 also has a U1 chip for ultra wideband; the SE and 3 don't get this chip.
The Series 6 has an always-on display. You still wake it up with a tap or by raising your wrist, but even when 'asleep' it shows a dimmed, simplified and less frequently refreshed version of your watch face.
The key features of the Series 6 are the means to calculate measure blood oxygen and take an ECG. Taking an ECG was a feature in the predecessor, the Watch 5, but it's absent from the SE.
The other thing that the SE and Series 3 lack is the wealth of choice when it comes to materials - you can choose from multiple materials and colours for the clock itself. Of course with all the choice there is the potential to spend a lot of money on your Watch - for example, if you fancy the titanium watch with a link bracelet it will cost you up to £1,099/$1,149. But some people will be happy to spend that - and more - on a watch. There really is something for everyone.
That's a whistle-stop tour of the main differences, but we compare the two models in more depth in our Apple Watch Series 6 vs Series 5 comparison article.
For a broader look at the differences between all the generations of Apple's wearable, read Apple Watch Series 6 vs Series 3, 4 & 5.
Do I need cellular?
The next big choice is between a standard GPS watch and the more expensive cellular model, which uses an electronic SIM card to be able to make phone calls and get online independently of your iPhone. As well as the higher initial price, you'll have additional running costs for data usage and network fees.
Whether you opt for the regular or cellular (GPS or GPS + cellular to use Apple's terms) mostly depends on your likely usage. If you're always likely to have both your iPhone and Watch on you at the same time, you really won't see any benefit from the cellular connectivity, so it won't be worth the cost.
However, if you like the idea of being able to leave your phone at home and still take calls and check emails - when you're exercising, for example - then you could benefit from cellular.
Upgrading from older models
We've compared the Series 3, SE and 6, but if you've still got a Series 0 (ie the original model), 1 or 2 any of the new releases will feel like a truly dramatic improvement.
Our experience suggests that at this point the original Apple Watch is basically obsolete: all the copies we own have slowed down drastically. To give an idea of the differences in speed between the older generations, we tried turning them off and seeing how long they take to power on again:
Starting from the very first model, here are the highlights of what each model added to the formula:
- 'Series 0' (2015): Officially just called Apple Watch, or 'first gen'. The original: where it all began.
- Series 1 (2016): Essentially a rebadged version of the original. But it added a faster processor.
- Series 2 (2016): A beloved upgrade. Increased battery life and screen brightness, and added GPS and better waterproofing. And a still faster processor.
- Series 3 (2017): One big new (optional) feature: cellular connectivity. And an even faster processor.
- Series 4 (2018): Bigger screen, thinner body, more sophisticated heart sensors and fall detection. And the fastest processor yet.
- Series 5 (2019): Always-on display, compass, extra onboard storage. New S5 processor appears to offer the same performance as 2018's S4, although power-management improvements help with battery life
- SE (2020): Always-on altimeter, Family Setup
- Series 6 (2020): Always-on altimeter, Family Setup, Blood oxygen sensor, faster processor, U1 chip
As you'll appreciate, moving up more than one step at once means you get multiple sets of advantages.
Going from Series 2 to Series 6, for instance, means you'll be getting the option of cellular for the first time as well as the new design and ECG feature, and the always-on display and compass. Upgrading from Series 1 to the SE adds GPS and a better screen.
You might be able to find a good deal on an older Series 5 watch below:
Apple Watch 5
Which size of Apple Watch should I get?
The Series 3 comes in two sizes of case: 38mm or 42mm. The Series 6 and the SE are available in 40mm or 44mm.
The general interpretation is that these are designed to suit an average woman and an average man's hand/wrist dimensions respectively, but you obviously needn't feel bound by that: there are no other changes to the design of the watch other than size - no explicitly masculine/feminine decorative elements or anything like that.
The measurements represent the (approximate) height of the watch face, in millimetres. That's a bit odd, because when categorising sizes of smart devices we usually refer to the size of the screen, measured diagonally from corner to corner, in inches. (The iPhone 11 is a 6.1in smartphone, for instance.) But Apple seems to have decided to do things differently for this product category.
Weight varies according to the material, size and whether or not cellular is included.
The size of a wearable is a crucial factor, and because of this, we would recommend that you postpone the buying decision until you can be sure which size is right for you. That might mean buying in store rather than ordering online; if you can get to an Apple Store or a reasonably well-appointed reseller then they will have watches in stock that you can try on before buying.
Finally, bear in mind that the available configurations of material/colour/strap are slightly different depending on the size - so your choice in this category will slightly reduce your options in others. We strongly recommend that you prioritise size above other considerations, however. Don't be like the shoe shopper who goes one size too big because they've been heavily discounted - the pain isn't worth it!
Which colour should I go for?
The material used determines what colour you can find the Apple Watch in.
Apple Watch Series 3 colour options
- Aluminium: silver, Space Grey
Apple Watch SE colour options
- Aluminium: silver, Space Grey, gold
Apple Watch Series 6 colour options
- Aluminium: silver, gold, Space Grey, blue, red
- Stainless steel: plain, gold, Graphite
- Titanium: plain, Space Black
The colour, unlike the material, doesn't affect the price, so pick whichever version you like best, and which complements the strap you select.
Which Apple Watch strap should I get?
As you'll have seen from our pricing guide above, there are lots of straps to choose from. Here's what each strap costs if you purchase it separately.
- Solo Loop: £49/$49
- Sport Band: £49/$49
- Sport Loop: £49/$49
- Braided Solo Loop: £99/$99
- Leather Link: £99/$99
- Milanese Loop: £99/$99
- Modern Buckle: £149/$149
- Leather Loop: £99/$99
- Link Bracelet: £349/$349
Each of those options comes in multiple colours and finishes; the possibilities are endless. And that's not even including the Apple Watch Hermès and Nike options:
- Nike Sport Band: £49/$49
- Nike Sport Loop: £49/$49
- Hermès Leather Attelage Double Tour: £489/$489
- Hermès Leather Attelage Single Tour: £339/$339
The Apple Watch Nike+ and Apple Watch Hermès have the same internals and specifications as the standard models, but distinct aesthetic appearances. The main difference is the special straps they come with, but there are some other minor differences, such as a preinstalled Nike app.
The Apple Watch Nike+, which is made of aluminium, is aimed at those who love running and are looking for a sport-oriented smartwatch.
The Hermès is made with stainless steel, with fancy straps and an Hermès stamp on the back. The various versions look lovely but start at more than £1,000. Note that these are only available with cellular.
You can style up your Apple Watch the way you like it on Apple's website.
We also have a roundup of the best Apple Watch straps.
Docks, stands and chargers
The Apple Watch comes with a small, basic charger, but you may wish to buy an additional dock that allows you to charge overnight while also displaying the time. For our picks, see our roundup of the best Apple Watch stands and chargers.
Note that the Apple Watch no longer ships with a power adapter, so if you need a power brick you will need to purchase one. Read Which plug do I need for my Apple Watch? for more information.