Which Apple Watch is the best? Our Apple Watch buyer's guide

The Apple Watch is the undisputed champion of the smartwatch world and for iPhone users, it is the clear choice (unless you need multi-day battery life). But that leaves open the question of which Apple Watch is best for you?

The Apple Watch 7 features the largest display ever on Apple Watch, which makes for a better overall experience, particularly for those with larger hands. However, discounts on Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch 3 may tempt you to sacrifice some features to save some money. Finally, the Apple Watch SE gives you yet another affordable Apple Watch option without giving up too many features.

+Affordably priced+Excellent software support+Swim proof+Solid fitness tracking-Only 18 hours of battery life-Lacks always-on display

At $279, the Apple Watch SE is the best Apple Watch for most people. With the same processor as the Apple Watch 5, it offers a considerable performance boost over the Apple Watch 3, along with the increased display size and form factor introduced with the Apple Watch 4.

Apple has stuck to the same "up to 18-hours of battery life" claims for all four of the Apple Watches we’re comparing, but the truth is that they do differ slightly. Despite the lack of an always-on display like the Apple Watch 6 and 7, the Apple Watch SE typically comes up short of those watches, while outlasting the Apple Watch 3.

From a health-tracking perspective, you lose the ECG monitor that was introduced with the Apple Watch 6, so if heart health is a concern for you that is worth considering. Fitness tracking is virtually identical to the pricier models and it supports the latest watchOS 8, meaning you aren’t losing out on any other major new features.

While $279 is expensive compared to most fitness trackers, it’s a solid entry-level for a full-blown smartwatch like the Apple Watch and a much better buy than the Apple Watch 3 from both a hardware and software support standpoint.

Best for: Anyone who wants to get into the Apple Watch ecosystem but can’t afford or doesn’t want to spend the money for one of the recent flagship Apple Watches. The Apple Watch SE still outperforms the vast majority of smartwatches on the market and given Apple’s track record you can be sure that it will remain supported for years to come.

The cheap Apple Watch you shouldn’t buy+Inexpensive+Still runs watchOS 8+Solid app support-Small display-Only 18 hours of battery life-No LTE option-OS support may end soon

The most affordable Apple Watch the company still sells is the Apple Watch 3, and while the $199 price point is enticing, I would strongly advise you to steer clear of this model. At $80 more, the Apple Watch SE is a much better value.

The Apple Watch 3 was released in 2017 and Apple has done an admirable job supporting the hardware. However, the 3 is struggling to keep up at this point and maybe on its last update with watchOS 8. The 8GB internal memory in the GPS model (the only model officially for sale in 2022) is a prime concern as it makes updates difficult.

Which Apple Watch is the best? Our Apple Watch buyer's guide

While battery life, fitness tracking, and basic app support are all fine, the smaller form factor and display of the Apple Watch 3 compared to the other three all make for a less friendly user experience. The Apple Watch 3 remains a competent smartwatch today, there’s no reason to choose it in 2022 with the Apple Watch SE available for $80 more (and often less on sale).

Best for: If you find an aggressive discount ($149 or less) on the Apple Watch 3 and are unsure if a smartwatch is something you will use then, by all means, it’s worth a shot. However, if your budget allows, the Apple Watch SE gives you a much more modern Apple Watch that will be supported far longer, making it the better value.

The best Apple Watch to buy on sale+Unbeatable software support+Solid deals available+Excellent health monitoring+Brighter always-on display-Only 18 hours of battery life-Lacks larger display of Apple Watch 7

The Apple Watch 6 remains an excellent smartwatch in 2022, but only buy it if it's deeply discounted. If you can save $75 to $100 versus the Apple Watch 7, it's a compelling option for those who don’t need the absolute latest and greatest.

Apple Watch 6 represents a solid upgrade from the Apple Watch SE. It gives you an always-on display that is also considerably brighter than the Apple Watch SE and the new ECG monitor and SpO2 sensors. How much you value the latter two depends on whether you are leaning into the Apple Watch for health monitoring or as a general fitness and notification triage device. But the display improvements are something every user will appreciate.

I’ll address the primary upgrades that you get with the Apple Watch 7 in the next section so read on if you are on the fence. But overall, the experience with Apple Watch 6 is largely the same and if you can find the right deal remains a great buy.

Best for: Apple Watch buyers who want all of the latest health and fitness features without having to spend top dollar. If you can find the Apple Watch 6 for at least 20-25% under the price of the comparable Apple Watch 7 then it is a solid value and worth considering if budget is a concern or you simply aren’t swayed by the Apple Watch 7’s updates.

The best Apple Watch+Bigger brighter always-on display+Excellent health monitoring+Unbeatable software support+Robust app library+Extensive color and band options-Only 18 hours of battery life-Expensive

The Apple Watch 7 is the current pinnacle of Apple Watch hardware, and while it didn’t get the massive rumored redesign, it does get one very meaningful upgrade from Apple Watch 6 that may be enough to win you over. That is the new larger display.

While the form factor remains nearly identical, increasing by a mere 0.04 inches in length and width, the bezels were almost entirely eliminated, allowing for a 0.22 and 0.26-inch increase in display size on the two models. That may sound minor, but it’s an aesthetic and usability improvement that should impact just about everything you do with Apple Watch. It even enabled some features that remain exclusive to Apple Watch 7 like the full QWERTY keyboard.

The one other upgrade worth noting is the increased charging speeds with the new USB-C magnetic charger. It reduces the full charging time to about an hour, roughly 33% faster than Apple Watch 6 according to Apple. For a device that needs to be charged daily for most users that is a very helpful update.

Best for: Upgrading Apple Watch owners who know they are bought into the system and will make full use of the Apple Watch 7’s new features or new buyers who aren’t concerned with budget and just want the best. The Apple Watch 7 isn’t a transformational update over the previous generation, but the new display feels like the best version of this Apple Watch design, so it’s not a purchase you’ll regret.

See our Apple Watch 7 review

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