The newest Apple Watch, the Series 7, is up for preorder right now with general availability starting next Friday, October 15. With its arrival, Apple now sells three different Apple Watch models: the Series 7, the SE and the Series 3. (Following the trend of pulling last year's flagship smartwatch right when the new model hits shelves, Apple no longer sells the Series 6.)
If you have an older Apple Watch and are curious whether you should upgrade, we're going to highlight the key differences between all the Apple Watch models that are still capable of running the latest watchOS — meaning all Apple Watches Series 3 or newer.
The truth is that every Apple Watch released in the last four years is generally similar — they all run the same watchOS, look and work fairly similar and have the same 18-hour "all day" battery life. Choosing between the different models is ultimately going to come down to the newer design, an always-on display, some exclusive wellness features and how much you're willing to pay. (Apple does have some enticing deals on older refurbished models.)
Apple Watch Series 7 (2021)
The big thing with the Series 7 is that it has a new look. It has an always-on display that's 20-percent bigger, has thinner bezels and has more rounded corners than the Series 6; this allows for more watch faces and interphases, but more importantly it makes the display easier to navigate and use (there's a larger keyboard!). The Series 7 supports faster charging (33% faster) and has a more rugged design (IP6X rated), too. Other than a faster processing chip, the Series 7 has all the same sensors and capabilities as the Series 6.
Should you buy? If you want the latest and greatest Apple Watch, or you just want the really big display, the answer is "yes."
Apple Watch Series 6 (2020)
The Series 6 was last year's flagship smartwatch. It has always-on display, a blood oxygen sensor and an altimeter. It also has a newer processor and slightly brighter display. If you're debating between the Series 6 and the SE, it mostly will come down to how much you want the always-on display. Apple doesn't sell the Series 6 anymore, but you can find it discounted on third-party sites like Amazon or Best Buy. However, it's going to cost almost as much as the Series 7, so you might as well just go with the newer hotness.
Price: $349+ (Amazon)
Should you buy? Maybe. We recommend waiting until Apple starts selling refurbished models so you can get a really good deal.
Apple Watch SE (2020)
The SE was announced alongside the Series 6 — and the two are very similar. Both have the same display size, most of the same sensors (including the gyroscope, compass, fall detection and an always-on altimeter) and the same battery life. The difference is that the SE lacks the always-on display and two sensors that measure wellness. It lacks an electrical heart sensor and is thus not capable of taking an ECG (but it does have an optical heart sensor, similar to the one found in the Series 3, so it's still able to record your heart rate). And it lacks a blood oxygen sensor, which can help identify asthma and various heart conditions.
Should you buy? Yes, if you don't care about the always-on display and the fancy wellness features, this is the budget Apple Watch for you.
Apple Watch Series 5 (2019)
The big thing when the Series 5 was announced was that it was the first Apple Watch with an always-on display. That's not as big of a deal anymore, however, as the newer models also have an always-on display — and it's nicer. The SE has electrical and optical heart rate sensors and is capable of taking an ECG, but lacks the blood oxygen sensor of newer models. Apple hasn't sold the Series 5 for two years now, so models (and deals) can be difficult to come by.
Price: $269+ (Refurbished)
Should you buy? You can get a refurbished Series 5 for basically the same price as the newer SE, so it ultimately depends how much you care about its always-on display.
Apple Watch Series 4 (2018)
The Series 4 was the first Apple Watch to get a substantial redesign — with a larger display and slimmed down bezels — and it looks identical to the Series 5, SE and Series 6 that followed it. Like the Series 5, the Series 4 has been antiquated for a few years and the deals mostly aren't great enough to justify getting such an old smartwatch. Apple does sell refurbished models, however.
Price: $249+ (Refurbished)
Should you buy? No. It's too old and you can get a better/newer smartwatch for basically the same price.
Apple Watch Series 3 (2017)
The Series 3 is still the most entry-level smartwatch that Apple sells — it is $80 cheaper than the Apple Watch SE. The main thing is that the Series 3 is now four years old and still has the old design — which feels really old. It has a built-in GPS and an optical heart sensor, just like the one found in the Series SE, so it's good for fitness tracking and it's also able to record your heart rate, but lacks the always-on altimeter and the built-in compass, so it's probably not as great of hikers and outdoors enthusiasts. You can also only buy the Series 3 in a GPS-only model.
Should you buy? No. It's too old and isn't great at running the new watchOS. Spend the extra dough and get an SE or a refurbished Series 5.