Apple watch purchasing advice: how to choose the right product
- What You Need to Know
- The Apple Watch has been released in a new version every year since 2015. The sixth generation of the smartwatch appeared in 2020.
- Predecessor models receive updates to the watchOS operating system over a longer period of time.
- Apple Watches with Cellular function are able to establish an internet connection independently of the iPhone.
- The standard version of the Apple Watch has an aluminium housing. The Apple Watch 5 is also available with a stainless steel, titanium or ceramic case.
The ideal complement to the iPhone
The market for smartwatches and other wearables has been growing steadily in recent years. Although Apple was far from launching the first smartwatch, the Apple Watch made a significant contribution to the current popularity of these devices.
Since the release of the first Apple Watch in 2015, smartwatches have had a permanent place in Apple’s line-up. Every September, the manufacturer traditionally introduces the next generation.
The Apple Watch is the first choice for all iPhone owners who want to enrich their everyday life with a multifunctional watch. The in-house operating system watchOS expands the spectrum of possibilities with every update. Predecessor models of the Watch also receive the latest version over a longer period of time. In addition, the user has access to the Apple Store and can also download apps from third-party providers.
What can Apple Watches do?
The Apple Watch not only performs the tasks of a typical watch, but also takes over many functions of your paired iPhone. In addition to the time, alarm clock, stopwatch and timer, you have access to your messages and e-mails, for example. Calls can also be made. If you have the mobile phone version, called Cellular, you can act independently of the iPhone. The map app and sensors like GPS help with navigation in unknown areas. In addition to GPS, various sensors such as the accelerometer and altimeter make it possible to track fitness activity, which makes the device interesting for sports enthusiasts as well. Since the Apple Watch Series 4, not only can the heart rate be measured with the help of the optical and digital heart sensor, but also an electrocardiogram (ECG) can be made. The operating system provides further functions: watchOS 6, for example, tracks the menstrual cycle, while its successor tracks sleep.
With the help of the Taptic Engine, a kind of vibration motor, the screen gives precise feedback on user inputs. In addition, each version is equipped with a digital crown with which you can zoom and scroll. Pressing it returns you to the home screen. Alternatively, Siri allows operation via voice control.
All models have an acceleration and light sensor, a gyroscope and support contactless payment via Apple Pay. On the back is an optical heart rate monitor that measures the wearer’s pulse. The internal memory offers space for music, so that you can enjoy your favourite music while jogging, for example, independently of the iPhone and internet connection.
New year, new model
Each model comes with significant improvements over its predecessor, such as a faster processor, new technologies and additional features. The goal is to improve the user experience throughout. The design and many hardware features remain the same from model to model, such as the characteristic angular case shape and the OLED touchscreen.
Find out below which aspects of the Apple Watch have evolved over the years.
Apple Watch: Hour 0
The very first generation from September 2015 is officially called Apple Watch (1st generation), but is unofficially known as “Series 0” to better separate it from Apple Watch Series 1. The original device is very slow by today’s standards due to its single-core processor. This generation of devices no longer receives system updates. The last watchOS version that can run on it is 4.3.
Apple Watch Series 1: Small update, big effect
The successor, the Apple Watch Series 1, appeared at the same time as the Series 2. Its dual-core processor is far faster than the version of the original. Apart from the faster operation and the up-to-dateness of the operating system – Series 1 is equipped with watchOS 6 – the features of both models are largely identical. Both series are available with either a 38 millimetre or 42 millimetre case. A power supply unit is not included, but any USB charger can be used for this purpose. In order to record the distance covered during running training and to track it in the activity app, the user needs his or her paired iPhone, as this generation does not have an integrated GPS sensor. Without an iPhone, the Smartwatch only shows the running distance very inaccurately.
The certification according to IP67 standard confirms that users can wear a Watch of the Series 0 and 1 even when washing their hands or taking a shower without any problems and without damaging the watch. However, swimming or diving is not advisable.
The Apple Watch Series 2: Active diving
The Apple Watch Series 2 is slightly larger, thicker and heavier than the cheaper Series 1, but the display size, resolution, Bluetooth and WLAN as well as the 512 megabyte RAM are identical. The two most important differences are the GPS module and the swimming capability – the Apple Watch 2 is waterproof according to the IP68 standard. While the Series 1 uses the same display as its predecessor, the Series 2 display received an update: the second generation display is significantly brighter, making the watch easier to read in direct sunlight.
The Apple Watch Series 3: Free at last
The Apple Watch Series 3 is the manufacturer’s first smartwatch that can be used without an iPhone. via a built-in LTE modem and a permanently soldered SIM card. This eSIM can be configured via the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. Telekom, Vodafone and O2 offer suitable fixed-term contracts in which the Apple Watch shares the phone number and data volume with the iPhone. If you have such a tariff, you can also make phone calls with the watch without the smartphone.
The mobile phone connection also allows the data transfer of apps such as weather, e-mail or messages. The Apple Music offering is also available. The voice assistant Siri responds verbally for the first time, not just in writing, and reacts more quickly than before. According to Apple, the processor has accelerated by 70 per cent. All Series 3 variants provide the metres of altitude and steps covered with the help of the built-in barometer.
The rectangular housing of the Apple Watch Series 3 is made of aluminium and is equipped with a digital crown and a separate button on the right side. The speaker and microphone are on the left. The heart rate monitor is on the bottom, while the display on the top is made of Ion-X glass.
The Apple Watch Series 4: Larger and more feature-rich
The fourth generation is thinner and two millimetres larger than its older siblings: the display of the smaller version now measures 40 millimetres in height, that of the larger 44 millimetres. The less expensive version has an aluminium case; a stainless steel case is available for a higher price. Numbers, fonts, controls and apps are more visible due to the larger display area. For the first time, Apple uses the so-called “LTPO OLED display”, which displays colours more vividly and consumes less energy. According to the manufacturer, the processor is twice as fast as the previous one, so that apps start and work quickly. Combined with an improved speaker, Siri responds instantly and loudly.
Apple has made considerable improvements in the health area: the smartwatch now recognises heart rhythm disturbances. Previously, it could only determine whether the heart rate was too high or too low. The fourth generation is able to create an electrocardiogram, or ECG for short. For this purpose, electronic sensors on the back and in the crown supplement the previous optical heart sensor. With this function, the watch is able to indicate atrial fibrillation, which considerably increases the risk of stroke. In the event of abnormal results, those affected should export the ECG as a PDF and send it to a specialist.
Another contribution to health is the fall detection: the Apple Watch 4 evaluates the owner’s movement patterns and, if the owner remains lying on the ground for more than a minute after falling, asks whether he or she has fallen. If the wearer does not answer “No” or “Yes, but I’m fine”, the watch starts a countdown and then notifies 911 and emergency contacts and forwards the GPS location.
The Apple Watch Series 5: Illuminated throughout
The Apple Watch 5 is the first model to feature an always-on display. The wearer no longer has to move the wrist forcefully to turn on the screen, as with its predecessors. Instead, the display only dims when not in use. Thanks to the new, particularly power-saving LTPO screen, the battery life does not suffer. This is supported by an improved energy management system that reduces the refresh rate to one frame per second when the screen is darkened, thus further reducing energy consumption.
Another innovation is the compass, which is integrated either as a separate app or as an application on the watch face. Not only hikers benefit from the information on direction, incline, longitude, latitude and altitude provided by the app. Navigation with the map app is also improved, as it shows the direction in which the user is facing.
Those who have the version with a cellular module can make emergency calls worldwide regardless of their mobile phone contract. This also allows the Fall Detection to make international emergency calls if you have an accident on holiday, for example.
The Apple Watch Series 6: Breathe easy
The most important innovation of the Apple Watch Series 6 is the measurement of oxygen saturation in the blood. This is done with the help of new sensors in the glass of the case back, which measure the light reflected by the blood. Based on these measurements, the Apple Watch uses an algorithm to determine the oxygen saturation in a range between 70 and 100 per cent.
The case and display are largely the same as the previous model: ceramic is dropped as a material option, while blue and red are added as new colours. The always-on display now shines brighter and ensures better readability in strong sunlight.
According to the manufacturer, the new processor works about 20 per cent faster than its predecessor. Furthermore, the battery charges completely in just one and a half hours.
The update to the watchOS 7 operating system provides the watch with additional functions such as sleep analysis. However, the Force Touch function disappears,
The Apple Watch SE: Powerful and affordable
The Apple Watch SE is the budget counterpart to the Apple Watch 6. The case shape and size of both models are identical, but only aluminium is available as a material for the SE. The display of the budget model is as bright as the Watch 6, but not always on. In addition, the sensors for measuring ECG and blood oxygen are missing on the back of the case. Furthermore, the processor comes from the Apple Watch 5, which is why the SE model works slower than the premium device.
Apart from these aspects, the Watch SE offers all the basic functions of the top model. These include the fitness functions, the altimeter and the compass. The user does not have to do without the fall detection and the international emergency call function either.
Current models in comparison
Apple provides its products with updates for years: even the Apple Watch Series 1 still received the watchOS 6 system from 2019. Unless the latest Apple Watch is within your budget, a predecessor model may be a good alternative. The official Apple shop currently sells the Apple Watch Series 6, the budget SE model and the third-generation predecessor, so a comparison of the three models is in order at this point.
All variants are water-resistant to a depth of 50 metres and equipped with an optical heart sensor. They also support the WatchOS 7 update. In terms of appearance as well as features, the Watch 3 differs significantly from its successors.
While the Watch 6 and SE are available in the GPS and GPS + Cellular versions, Apple has discontinued the GPS + Cellular version of the third generation.
The case of the Apple Watch 3 is two centimetres smaller than its newer counterparts, which measure 40 or 44 millimetres. While the housing of the Apple Watch 3 and SE is exclusively made of aluminium, the Watch 6 impresses with a stainless steel and titanium variant and up to five colours. For the first time, the colours blue and red are also available. The Series 3 and SE are both available in “space grey” and “silver”, and the case of the SE is also available in “gold”.
The processor of the SE is from the fifth generation and is therefore slower than the latest chip of the Watch 6 but significantly faster than the processor of the Series 3. In contrast to the current premium model, the SE and the third series also lack the ECG and the always-on display in addition to the oxygen measurement. In addition, the third generation is not equipped with fall detection, compass and the international emergency call function. The memory of the two newer models is four times that of the older generation at 32 gigabytes.
|Apple Watch Series 3
|Apple Watch SE
|Apple Watch 6
|38 and 42 mm
|40 and 44 mm
|40 and 44 mm
|GPS, GPS + Cellular
|GPS, GPS + Cellular
|Aluminium, stainless steel, titanium
|Number of case colours
|Blood oxygen measurement
Which Apple Watch is right for whom?
Every Apple Watch model and every operating system update offers new functions. Choosing the right model is therefore inextricably linked to the question of which functions you absolutely need and which you can do without. If you can do without the always-on display, blood oxygen measurement and ECG, the SE is a good choice. A continuously illuminated display and the ECG function are also found in the fifth generation. Remaining stocks of the direct predecessor tend to be on sale shortly after the release of the successor. The Apple Watch 3 operates more slowly than its successor and with a smaller range of functions. It also lacks features such as fall detection. However, since this generation continues to receive watchOS updates, it is recommended for beginners. Series 1 and 2 will not receive any further updates after watchOS 6 and are therefore not advisable.
The outer values: a wide range of design options
Your new Apple Watch is not only a smart device, but also a fashion accessory that has to withstand many external influences. This is reflected in the wide range of materials and designs available from the manufacturer.
Case and watch glass
The case of the Apple Watch 6 is available in three materials. As with its predecessors, an aluminium watch is the cheapest option. The display is protected with tempered Ion-X glass, which is, however, susceptible to scratches. The alternative is sapphire glass, which has a hardness rating of “nine” on the Mohs scale, just below diamond; scratches and other marks on the surface are unlikely, even with continuous use. Sapphire crystal cannot be purchased with an aluminium case. You need a higher-priced model made of stainless steel or titanium.
The stainless steel version with sapphire glass first appeared as an alternative with the fourth generation. The Apple Watch 3, on the other hand, is only available in the Apple Shop with an aluminium case and Ion-X glass. At the original launch, there was also a ceramic version, but this has disappeared from the range since the release of the fourth generation. For price-conscious buyers who can tolerate a few scratches on the material, an aluminium case is recommended. Those with a limited budget who still value the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal are better off with the stainless steel case than with titanium or ceramic.
When you buy an Apple Watch, a wristband, the design of which you can choose, is always included. But if you want to buy other straps for a change, you should pay attention to the case size, because 40-millimetre Apple Watch cases, for example, do not fit straps for 44-millimetre designs. However, it doesn’t matter which generation the Watch belongs to: the wristbands for the 38-millimetre variant can also be used with the generations with a 40-millimetre case and vice versa. This means that even with an Apple Watch 3, you can benefit from the wider range of straps on the Apple Watch 6, or you can continue to use the old straps when you buy a newer model.
The manufacturer’s sports wristband is the least expensive of all the wristbands. It is made of plastic and available in 19 different colours. Thanks to the wide range of colours, there is a wristband to suit every taste. Since the material does not absorb sweat, it is very practical for long training sessions. It is also easy to clean.
The Sport-Loop wristband is made of woven nylon. Tight loops on the skin side ensure that the watch is sufficiently cushioned and moisture escapes. This makes it an alternative to the sports wristband if you don’t like the solid plastic during sporting activity. The Sport Loop is available in ten different colours. A Velcro fastener is used for easy fastening and adjustment on the wrist.
Introduced with the sixth generation, the Solo Loop wristband is stretchable and therefore does not require a clasp to secure the Apple Watch to the wrist. It owes this property to the material liquid silicone. Processing with UV light gives the strap a smooth, silky surface. In addition, the strap is insensitive to water and sweat. The Solo Loop is available in seven colours and nine sizes. Apple’s template makes it easy to determine the fit size.
Braided Solo Loop
The braided Solo Loop bracelet can also be worn on the wrist without a clasp. It is made of recycled polyester yarn and ultra-thin silicone threads. Both materials are braided into a stretchy band and cut at the right place by laser. The finished band sits comfortably on the skin and is resistant to water and perspiration. The customer can choose from five colours and nine sizes. The correct size is also required for this bracelet.
Apple offers two versions of leather watch bands, each in four colours: the “leather watch band with loop” and the “modern leather watch band”. The model with loop is made of hand-finished Venezia leather with a grained surface structure and is stitched throughout. The magnets hidden in the leather are used to fasten it precisely to the wrist. The modern version is made of Granada leather and an inner layer of Vectran for reinforcement. The two-sided magnetic clasp resembles a one-piece buckle fastening.
Stainless steel bracelet
For bracelets made of stainless steel between a milanaise bracelet and a link bracelet. The entire woven stainless steel mesh of the milanaise bracelet is magnetic, so that the bracelet can be perfectly adjusted to the wrist with the help of the magnetic clasp. The link bracelet is made of the same stainless steel alloy as the case. The individual links can be easily removed or added without any additional tools. The double-folding clasp ensures seamless attachment to the joint.
Are there alternatives to the original Apple Watch wristbands?
The simple click mechanism of the Apple Watch makes it easy to change wristbands, allowing you to wear the perfect band on your wrist for any occasion. For price-conscious wearers, there are a large number of wristbands from no-name manufacturers at a fraction of the price. Manufacturers such as hama or Belkin also offer inexpensive alternatives. They are often modelled on the original. Apart from these models, various third-party suppliers have designed wristbands that differ from the Apple versions in terms of material, shape and colour. For example, there are cuff bracelets, bracelets made of wood or carbon fibre and vegan versions.
Special Apple Watch editions and designs
In addition to the regular Apple Watch Series, some special editions are available. They are characterised either by the cooperation with another manufacturer or by particularly noble materials.
Apple Watch Nike +
The Apple Watch Nike + was created in collaboration with the sporting goods manufacturer Nike. The sixth generation is characterised by a sports wristband or a sports loop wristband in an exclusive design as well as a Nike dial. The user can choose between an aluminium case in “silver” and “space grey” as well as five wristband colours. For the third generation, only an aluminium case in “space grey” with a black Nike sports band is available.
Apple Watch Hermès
The Apple Watch Hermès is a special series established in collaboration with the luxury fashion brand Hermès. All Hermès models feature a special watch face, leather straps from the manufacturer and the Hermès logo on the underside of the strap and stainless steel case. The buyer can choose between a regular single-tour leather strap in seven colours and an extra-long double-tour strap in three colours. The stainless steel case is available in “silver” and “space grey”.
Apple Watch Edition
The Apple Watch Edition originated with the “Series 0” with a gold case, but was replaced by ceramic in the following two generations. With the fourth generation, these models disappeared from the range. In the fifth generation, the Apple Watch Edition was available again with cases made of ceramic and titanium. The sixth generation does without the Edition.
How can you create your own Apple Watch looks?
Those who want to buy an Apple Watch Series 6 or SE can either choose a ready-made configuration or put together their own smartwatch and wristband in the Apple Watch Studio on the manufacturer’s homepage. First, the prospective buyer selects his base from the available collections. Then they can choose the size, the material and the colour of the case and the wristband one after the other. In this way, every conceivable configuration can be created within a collection. Below the chosen configuration is the estimated price, so you can keep a close eye on the cost. As soon as you are satisfied with your choice, click on “Save”. The individual model now appears on the product page in the online shop.
Currently, only the Apple Watch Series 3, 6 and SE can be purchased in the Apple shop. The third generation starts there at a price of around 215 euros in the GPS version, while Apple has stopped selling the mobile phone variant.
The price of the Apple Watch 6 depends on the housing and wristband chosen. The cheapest variant with an aluminium case and sports wristband or sports loop costs almost 420 euros in the GPS version and about 515 euros in the LTE version. However, the aluminium version cannot be bought with the particularly resistant sapphire crystal; for this, you have to pay at least 710 euros for a stainless steel case with a sports wristband or sports loop. The most expensive variant of the regular Apple Watch 6 consists of a titanium case and a link bracelet in “Space Black” and costs almost 1,200 euros. For the Hermès special edition, you will pay more than 1,000 euros across the board, in some cases even up to 1,500 euros.
The Apple Watch SE starts at around 290 euros in the GPS version and around 340 euros in the GPS+ellular version. The most expensive configuration with a link wristband in “Space Black” and a 44-millimetre case costs almost 760 euros.
The Apple Watch 3 is sometimes cheaper in stores than from the manufacturer; the cheapest GPS version, for example, is available for less than 200 euros. It is advisable to look out for offers and discount campaigns. In addition, some shops still offer the LTE version as remaining stock.
The Apple Watch 5 can also be found as remaining stock in some shops. Older models are only available second-hand.