What Apple Watch Should You Get?
A Buyer's Guide to Options, Sizes, Watch Bands, & More
With the holiday season coming soon, it’s time to start thinking about gifts -- gifts for your loved ones or just for yourself. Every store and online retailer around will soon be promoting all types of sales and discounts, particularly in the world of technology. That means that if you’ve been considering getting an Apple Watch, now’s the time to start looking, especially with the recent release of the Series 2 generation of Apple Watches.
But which Apple Watch should you get? On the surface, it seems simple: there’s only one Apple Watch, right? Well, yes and no. The core Apple Watch experience is essentially the same. However, it comes with two major model variations as well as a range of options regarding size, body, look, and exclusive style variants.
Don’t worry, Apple Watch shopper. The following buying guide covers the many different options you’ll need to consider when selecting your Apple Watch, from size to aftermarket watch bands from providers like Monowear.
Launch vs Current Gen
The original Apple Watch in its different lines (Sport model, etc.) are still available via third-party sellers, though Apple itself discontinued the line in September 2016. With that in mind, everything currently available through Apple (Series 1 and Series 2) uses a new set of hardware: the new line of watches use a dual-core processor for an overall increase in speed and efficiency. That’s in every Series 1 and Series 2 watch, along with a native installation of watchOS 3. The other details vary between Series 1 and Series 2, though one thing to keep in mind is that launch Apple Watches offered a variety of bodies (aluminum, steel, ceramic) while Series 1, though similar to the launch hardware, only comes in aluminum. Note that you may be able to get these watches at better prices because they are the discontinued model, and all Apple Watches support an upgrade to watchOS 3, regardless of their native operating system (we highly recommend watchOS 3).
Series 1 vs Series 2
The Apple Watch’s big launch this fall was its Series 2 line and the universal upgrade to watchOS 3. Series 1 is more or less the launch Apple Watch with a better processor, but Series 2 offers a number of significant upgrades.
- Display: Launch Apple Watches and Series 1 watches have retina displays of 450 nits; the Series 2 models have display luminance of 1,000 nits.
- Water: The original Apple Watches were IP7 water-resistant, as in they were fine to keep on while washing your hands or other incidental contact. The new Series 2 watches are now swim-capable up to 50m in depth. In addition, the new direct fire speaker ejects water from the body following immersion.
- GPS: The Series 2 hardware includes a GPS antenna, which works effectively with the native watchOS 3 workout apps.
38mm vs 42mm
Four millimeters doesn't seem like much when you hear it, but it makes a bit of a difference in the world of smartwatch size. Four millimeters essentially gives you 10% more watch face area, so when you're navigating on a small screen across your wrist, it's noticeable. Of course, for many people bigger isn't necessarily better, it's just larger and more cumbersome. The larger screen is more for people who want slightly larger font for reading messages as well as those who will be interacting with their Apple Watch more often. On the other hand, the smaller screen is perfect for those who just want quick-glance notifications and minimal physical interaction -- or, from a practical perspective, if they simply have petite forearms/wrists.
Bigger isn't always better, but in the case of the 42mm Apple Watch, it means that Apple was able to include a larger battery in the build. Apple lists an average daily use of 18 hours for both batteries and it won't give specifics about the 42mm battery's performance; however, users are anecdotally experiencing about 15-20% greater battery life with the larger model. Does that make an impact on your daily life? If the average charge is 18 hours and you're only awake for 16 hours of the day (assuming you get the typically recommended eight hours of sleep a night), then it won't really impact your usage. However, if you're heavily using apps and features, the difference may be more tangible, so take that into consideration when assessing your Apple Watch needs.
It’s clear that Apple is prioritizing the Series 2 collection, as it offers four collections only for Series 2:
- Apple Watch: This is the standard model with size options (38mm or 42mm body) and body material (aluminum or stainless steel), along with a range of available watch bands. Exclusive watch faces are also available with specific Apple Watch models.
- Apple Watch Nike+: This model essentially replaces the Apple Watch Sport, which was available for the original model’s launch, is geared towards those that want the Apple Watch for workout purposes. This Nike-branded collaboration comes in an aluminum body and features a range of special sport band variants.
- Apple Watch Hermes: This unique collaboration with world-renowned fashion company Hermes offers some of the most unique looks available in the smartwatch arena. Signature Hermes style and quality is on display with Hermes watch bands across several designs, materials, and colors. All Apple Watch Hermes models come in stainless steel cases.
- Apple Watch Edition: The Edition model of the Apple Watch is different from the Edition model available at the last generation’s launch. The previous Edition came in an 18-karat gold body. For the Series 2 range, the Edition model comes in a ceramic case.
As for the Series 1 models, buyer options are more limited, though they are still available. Series 1 models only feature aluminum cases and sport bands -- though since the Series 1 models don’t have the GPS or waterproof features, they’re not necessarily the optimal sport smartwatch.
Watch bands make for a significant part of the Apple Watch’s style options. The quick-release feature available in the launch version of the Apple Watch has carried forward into this new generation. That means that it’s possible to get multiple bands to accommodate whatever situation you’re in: at work, at the gym, lounging at home, or out for an evening. This all starts with your default band, which are selected among sport, nylon, leather, and stainless steel. There are also the special bands available with exclusive models, such as the Hermes editions.
The Apple Watch also supports aftermarket bands. These can be purchased directly from Apple or from a number of supporting brands that fit the unique specifications of the Apple Watch. You’ll find all manner of quality here, from cheap eBay throwaways manufactured overseas to high-fashion Hermes bands that cost more than the Apple Watch itself.
A happy medium are the offerings from companies like Monowear. These bands usually cost between $35 and $100 and offer high manufacturing quality combined with a keen fashion sense. Most of these manufacturers provide a range of base designs and colors. For example, Monowear offers leather, nylon, traditional metal, and mesh metal watch bands, with each particular model available in a variety of colors. These types of aftermarket watch bands provide numerous fashionable options to customize your look and feel, giving you a look for the creates a truly personalized fashion statement.
An Apple Watch for Every Taste
Only care about the Apple Watch’s workout features? Try a Series 2 Nike+ edition. Looking for discounts on discontinued models? See third-party seller catalogs for original launch editions. Just want to look at your watch without the need to constantly tap and slide away? Consider a smaller 38mm display and make sure you run watchOS 3. Going high fashion? The Hermes exclusive Apple Watch line is made especially for you -- if you can afford it.
In short, there’s an Apple Watch for just about every taste. The brilliant thing about the Apple Watch and the new watchOS 3 is that the development and engineering teams have created a core experience that seamlessly integrates into your daily life, yet remains customizable enough so that both the physical design and your functional experience can truly reflect who you are. And if you’re looking for further personalization after the fact, don’t forget that many great high-quality manufacturers sell fashionable and well-made watch bands to suit any taste and situation: workout, job interviews, date nights, or just lounging with friends and family.