- The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch we’ve ever tried, and the Series 5 is the latest and greatest model.
- If you want to save some money, the older Series 4 is still a great option — especially now that it’s regularly discounted.
- You can get an excellent deal on the Series 3 too. We’ve had ours since it launched three years ago, and it’s still going strong.
- For those who always want cutting-edge tech, it may be worth waiting until September, when the Apple Watch Series 6 is expected to launch.
The Apple Watch took the tech world by storm when the first model was introduced back in 2015. It has since gone on to become the best-selling watch in the world, out-performing traditional watch titans like Rolex, Swatch, and more.
It has been the best smartwatch for most people’s needs ever since it launched, and each new version adds intriguing new features that make it even more worthwhile.
I’ve been covering smartwatches and wearables since 2014, and our team of tech reporters and editors have collectively tested every Apple Watch model that’s been launched. Based on our testing, we have narrowed down the best Apple Watch models you can buy right now.
We also give a little preview of when you can expect the Series 6 to launch and some buying advice.
Things to consider when you shop
- Material: Depending on the Series, the Apple Watch comes in a few different materials, including aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and ceramic. Each material comes with its own price tag. You can also choose between different colors, including silver, black, and rose gold.
- Bands: Each Apple Watch is paired with a band at purchase, and this represents another style choice you’ll have to make. Some bands cost more than others. Thankfully, any Apple Watch can be used with any compatible band and you’re able to swap them out depending on your wardrobe and mood. Other accessory companies make their own Apple Watch bands and sell them at more affordable prices, so you can always add to your collection.
- That said: Regardless of which bands and materials you choose, every Apple Watch in a Series has the same tech inside, including the processor, water resistance, and software.
With all that in mind, read on to see which of the Apple Watch models is best for your needs and budget. You can also read our buying guide to the top smartwatches overall.
Here are the best Apple Watch models in 2020:
- Best overall: Apple Watch Series 5
- Best deal: Apple Watch Series 4
- Best on a budget: Apple Watch Series 3
Prices and links are current as of 2/26/2020. We updated this guide to add new Apple Watch models. We also added long-term testing notes for the Series 3, buying advice, and rumors about the Series 6.
SEE ALSO: The best iPhone for every type of person and budget
The best Apple Watch overall
The Apple Watch Series 5 is the best smartwatch you can buy with its crisp always-on screen, plentiful app selection, and innovative fitness and health tracking features.
The Apple Watch Series 5 is our top pick for the best smartwatch hands down. The simple modern design looks equally good on men and women. You can choose between two sizes (40mm and 44mm), multiple finishes, and numerous watch bands from both Apple and other accessory and fashion companies. No other smartwatch offers as much customizability or as many fun accessory options.
Beyond style, the Apple Watch also has many high-tech features that are useful and innovative. Using the watch, you can make mobile payments with Apple Pay, track your workout path with the stand-alone GPS, go swimming at depths of up to 50 meters, and use thousands of apps. The user interface is simple and intuitive.
The watch’s advanced fitness tracking features are what really makes the Series 5 stand out from the crowd. It uses multiple sensors and an excellent heart rate monitor to truly track your workouts and overall well-being. Its health-focused features are uniquely helpful. For example, it can detect when you fall and even alert emergency contacts if need be. Along with the electrocardiogram (ECG) app, which has been certified by the Food & Drug Administration, the Apple Watch can help detect heart health issues.
One of the new features that makes the Series 5 a better choice than older models is its always-on display. That way, your watch always displays the time and you don’t have to raise your wrist to activate the watch face. You can always turn it off if you feel that it’s eating your battery too much.
If you want to be able to go workout without your phone and you want to be able to make calls and texts on your watch without a phone nearby, you can get the LTE version of the Series 5. It does cost more, and most carriers charge about $10 a month for the service.
The Series 5’s battery lasts a full day and it charges easily with its wireless charger.
Pros: Great screen, simple watch design, great watch faces, many band options, lots of apps, new health-and-fitness-focused features
Cons: Expensive, battery life is short, LTE costs extra
The best Apple Watch deal
The 2018 Apple Watch Series 4 is a good deal — especially now that it’s often discounted.
If the Series 5 is too expensive for your tastes and you don’t mind the lack of the always-on screen, the Series 4 is a great choice. It’s also often discounted, so you can get a good deal on it. Apple also has refurbished models for good prices.
Just like the new version, the Series 4 Apple Watch has great app support, strong fitness features, an LTE option, and multiple finishes to choose from, style-wise.
The main difference between the 4 and the 5 is that the 4 is lacking the health-focused features like fall detection and the ability to place an emergency call (if you have the LTE model). The Series 4 doesn’t have the compass or the always-on display, either, but if none of that matters to you, it’s an excellent choice.
In every other way, the Series 4 is a top-notch smartwatch. Its fitness tracking is impressive, it has GPS, and the heart rate monitor is highly accurate. You’ll have access to all the same apps, and you can get an LTE version if you want to go out and about without your phone but still be able to text, call, and use apps that need an internet connection.
Pros: Same great app support, simple modern design, strong fitness features, LTE option
Cons: No always-on screen, less sophisticated features than Series 5
The best Apple Watch on a budget
Not only is it the most affordable model you can buy, the Apple Watch Series 3 still offers stellar performance and includes features most people would need.
Having used an Apple Watch Series 3 continuously since it was introduced in 2017, we can confidently say that it not only continues to perform remarkably, but it’s also the best Apple Watch for people on a budget.
Yes, it uses a smaller form-factor and lacks the latest technologies like ECG heart monitoring and fall detection. However, if you don’t need those features, the Series 3 still has everything most people would want from a smartwatch. Some of the applications we use the Series 3 for include: Paying for a subway ride, withdrawing cash from an ATM, remotely triggering the shutter button on our iPhone, arming and disarming a home’s alarm system, choosing a Spotify playlist, getting directions, controlling smart home devices, waking us up each morning by vibrating on our wrist, and much more.
Our Series 3 has also been a lifesaver during times when we’ve forgotten our iPhone. Our Series 3 has cellular LTE enabled, which means it can function independently. We could still send SMS and iMessages and make phone calls; this is crucial if you need to contact someone, of course, but you won’t feel stranded if your life revolves heavily around your phone.
One of our favorite Apple Watch features is the Activity Rings, which gamefies three physical activities: movement, exercise, and stand. With a desire to close the rings daily, this has encouraged us to be less sentient.
Performance remains stellar even after three years. We have never encountered any slowdown, crashes, or other anomalies that tend to affect gadgets when they age. Apple is one of the few tech companies with a stellar reputation for keeping its products updated, and with every software update that our watch receives, we have not experienced any performance drawbacks. The touchscreen continues to be very responsive.
If we had to complain, it would be battery life. It’s not bad, but it could be better. On average, unless you’re a power user and using your watch constantly to make calls, you can expect about a day and a half on one charge. Ideally, you would need to charge it every night.
As for durability, the Series 3 is very strong. We must have slammed the glass face countless times and have never gotten a scratch that’s noticeable. The Digital Crown doesn’t rotate as fluidly as when the watch was new, but it still works without problem. We have swam with it in fresh and saltwater and worn it during showers — no issues.
The Series 3 doesn’t have the “always on” functionality of the Series 5. You would need to raise the watch up for the display to turn on, and in rare moments, the watch doesn’t respond accordingly. This has more to do with our body’s positioning rather than some fault of the watch.
While we are more than happy with how the Series 3 has performed after three years, if you were to purchase it new today, there’s no guarantee it will maintain its strong performance. It uses an older processor and with all things tech, inevitably it will start slowing down as newer and more demanding applications are released. Although we recommend it for people on a budget, do realize that it may have shorter longevity from this point on. If your budget allows, opt for the latest model. — Les Shu
Pros: Solid performance, includes features most people would need, Apple Pay, fitness tracking, great app support, great value, very durable
Cons: Older processor, smaller display, no advanced fitness and health features, battery life may feel short for some, Digital Crown becomes less smooth with age, screen isn’t always on
We look forward to testing the rumored Series 6
Although we don’t know for certain when the next Apple Watch will arrive or what it will be called, rumors point to a September launch for the Series 6. If the rumors prove true, we look forward to testing the new model when it arrives.
You can read all the latest rumors about it here on Business Insider. New features may include sleep tracking, better water resistance, a new processor, and updated software.