Picking the Best Apple Watch to Buy in 2020

Thinking of buying an Apple Watch? The Apple Watch is a great health, fitness, and communication tool, but there's a lot to consider when making a purchase.

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You need to choose the case material and band, pick a GPS or cellular model, and decide whether to buy the latest Apple Watch or spring for a more affordable older model.

This guide walks you through the different options you can choose from with the aim of helping you figure out which Apple Watch will best meet your needs, but it assumes you're already aware of the feature set.

If you want to know what the Apple Watch can do, our Apple Watch roundup is a good resource with an overview of features like the always-on display, Blood Oxygen monitoring, heart rate tracking, ECG functionality, and more.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs. Apple Watch SE

For most of the lifetime of the Apple Watch there's been a new flagship model and an older, less powerful model to choose between, but that changed in 2020 with the introduction of the low-cost Apple Watch SE, a more affordable Apple Watch option that offers much of the same functionality as the flagship model but at a lower cost.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs SE
In 2020, Apple is selling the Apple Watch Series 6, which starts at $399, and the ‌Apple Watch SE‌, which starts at $279, and there are a few key differences that make it easy to decide between the two.

The ‌Apple Watch SE‌ and the ‌Apple Watch Series 6‌ are identical when it comes to form factor, but the SE is missing three major features: ECG functionality, blood oxygen monitoring, and an always-on display. If you want any of those three features (or all three), the ‌Apple Watch Series 6‌ is the only option.


There's a slower S5 chip and no WiFi 6 functionality in the ‌Apple Watch SE‌, which may also be factors that influence your decision. If you don't need the feature set offered by the ‌Apple Watch Series 6‌ and are mainly interested in standard health and fitness functionality like heart rate and movement tracking along with notifications and similar features, you can save a good amount of money opting for the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ instead of the ‌Apple Watch Series 6‌.

Apple Watch Series 6

  • 44mm or 40mm case size
  • Always-on Retina LTPO OLED display
  • GPS and GPS + Cellular models
  • 64-bit dual-core S6 Chip
  • W3 wireless chip
  • Haptic Digital Crown
  • Optical heart sensor
  • Heart rate notifications
  • Emergency SOS (International)
  • Fall Detection
  • Noise monitoring
  • Water resistance up to 50 meters
  • 5GHz Wi‑Fi and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Support for Family Setup
  • Compass and always-on altimeter
  • 32GB capacity
  • 18-hour "all-day" battery life
  • U1 Ultra-Wideband chip
  • Blood Oxygen app
  • ECG app
  • Full charge in 1.5 hours
  • Standard colors plus blue and red

Apple Watch SE

  • 44mm or 40mm case size
  • Standard Retina LTPO OLED display
  • GPS and GPS + Cellular models
  • 64-bit dual-core S5 Chip
  • W3 wireless chip
  • Haptic Digital Crown
  • Optical heart sensor
  • Heart rate notifications
  • Emergency SOS (International)
  • Fall Detection
  • Noise monitoring
  • Water resistance up to 50 meters
  • 2.4GHz Wi‑Fi and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Support for ‌Family Setup‌
  • Compass and always-on altimeter
  • 32GB capacity
  • 18-hour "all-day" battery life
  • No U1 Wltra-Wideband chip
  • No Blood Oxygen app
  • No ECG app
  • Full charge in 2.5 hours
  • Standard colors

It's also worth noting that the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ does not come in stainless steel or titanium, nor does it have the new blue and PRODUCT(RED) colors so your only option is an aluminum casing in silver, space gray, or gold if you opt for the more affordable model.

We have a full guide comparing the ‌Apple Watch Series 6‌ to the ‌Apple Watch SE‌, so make sure to check that out if you want to see the features broken down in greater detail.

Apple Watch Sizing

The Apple Watch comes in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm. Apple says that the 40mm Apple Watch is designed to fit 130 to 200mm wrists, while the 44mm Apple Watch is designed to fit 140 to 220mm wrists.

applewatchseries4sizesgold
When choosing a case size, you need to consider your wrist size and how you want the Apple Watch to fit. People with small wrists will likely want to opt for the 40mm model, while people with larger wrists will want to opt for the 44mm model.

For some people, size choice will be obvious, but for those who have medium-sized wrists where the choice is less clear cut, the best solution is visiting an Apple Store or a retail location that sells the Apple Watch to try it on because there's really no substitute for seeing the way that it fits on the wrist in person.

Apple Watch Model Options

There are three different casing materials available: aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium, along with special Apple Watches designed in partnership with Hermès and Nike.

All Apple Watch models, regardless of casing material, have the same internal components and capabilities.

Apple Watch Aluminum

Aluminum Apple Watches are the lightest weight and the most affordable Apple Watches that Apple sells. The aluminum material comes in silver, space gray, gold, blue, and (PRODUCT)RED, with the two latter colors being new in 2020.

aluminumapplewatchmodels
Apple in the past marketed its aluminum Apple Watch models as "sport" models for their light weight, but has since dropped the sport branding. Aluminum is not as durable as some of the other casing options, but it has the benefit of being less heavy.

The aluminum is a soft, brushed aluminum and these watches are not as shiny as the stainless steel or the ceramic. Aluminum Apple Watch models have an Ion-X glass display, which is less scratch-resistant than the sapphire glass used in more expensive models.

For most people, the aluminum Apple Watch is the best choice because it's ideal for all kinds of activities and it's the most affordable, starting at $399 for the 40mm model and $429 for the 44mm model. LTE models are $100 more. Aluminum ‌Apple Watch SE‌ models are even cheaper, starting at $279 for the 40mm model.

Apple Watch Stainless Steel

Stainless steel Apple Watches are the middle tier Apple Watches that Apple sells. They're more expensive than the aluminum models and less expensive than the titanium models.

applewatchstainlesssteel 1
Compared to the aluminum models that are designed for everyday wear including activity, the stainless steel models have more of a high-end professional look. Stainless steel Apple Watches are heavier than other options and may be preferred by those who like a heftier weight on the wrist.

Stainless steel Apple Watch models come in silver, gold, and space black, and the finish is shiny. Unfortunately, that shiny finish can be more prone to scratching than aluminum, but it looks nicer.

Apple's stainless steel models also feature sapphire crystal for the displays instead of Ion-X glass, so the displays are more resistant to scratching and damage.

Paired with Apple's cheapest band options, the stainless steel Apple Watches start at $699 for the 40mm model and $749 for the 44mm model. All models include support for LTE connectivity.

Apple Watch Titanium

The titanium Apple Watch is Apple's most expensive Apple Watch option for those who are looking for a higher-end, premium watch.

titaniumapplewatchmodels
The titanium Apple Watch is lighter than stainless steel but stronger, and it has a unique brushed titanium finish that's stain and fingerprint resistant. It comes in a standard titanium finish and space black.

The titanium Apple Watch models start at $799, with prices that go up based on band choice. The titanium models are best suited for those who prefer the look and feel of a more premium watch and who have the extra money to spend on the aesthetic.

Apple Watch Nike

Designed in collaboration with Nike and aimed at runners, the Apple Watch Nike models are identical in every way to Apple's aluminum Apple Watch models. They can be purchased with special Nike-branded bands, though, including reflective Sport Loops in unique colors and Sport Bands with perforations for better aeration.

applewatchnike 1
Nike Apple Watches also have unique Nike watch faces and come pre-installed with the Nike Run Club app. Like aluminum Apple Watch models, Nike Apple Watch options start at $399.

Nike Apple Watch models are ideal for runners, fans of the Nike brand, or those who simply prefer the look of Nike bands.

Apple Watch Hermès

Created in collaboration with Hermès and aimed at those looking for a higher-end luxury watch, the Apple Watch Hermès models are identical to Apple's stainless steel Apple Watches, but with high-end, expensive Hermès bands made from leather.

applewatch5hermes
Like Nike Apple Watch models, Hermès Apple Watches feature unique Hermès watch faces that are not available on other Apple Watch options. All Hermès Apple Watches also come with a special Hermès Orange Sport Band.

Apple Watch Hermès models are priced starting at $1249.

Band Choices

Apple's standard aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium Apple Watch models can be paired with almost any of the bands that Apple sells through the Apple Watch Studio feature on Apple's website.

On the Apple Watch purchase page, click on the "Apple Watch Studio" option to choose from available sport, leather, and stainless steel bands with any case pairing. Below is an overview of each band option that can be added to a standard watch:

  • Solo Loop ($49) - Similar to the Sport Band, the Solo Loop features a slip-on design with no buckle or clasping mechanism. It's made from a stretchy rubber that can fit over the hand and then collapse down to fit the wrist. These bands come in nine sizes, and finding the right size can be tricky, so it's best to get fitted in an Apple Store if you can. solo loop
  • Braided Solo Loop ($99) - The Braided Solo Loop is also designed without a buckle or clasp, and it is made from a stretchable recycled yarn interwoven with silicone threads so it can fit over the hand. As with the Solo Loop, getting the right fit can be challenging, so visiting an Apple Store is your best bet when purchasing this band because if it doesn't fit, the entire Apple Watch needs to be returned if you don't have an Apple Store nearby. braided solo loop
  • Sport Band ($49) - Sport Bands are made from a flexible and lightweight fluoroelastomer that's designed for use when exercising or vigorous activity. These bands are waterproof and come in a range of colors. new sport band 2020
  • Sport Loop ($49) - Sport Loops are made from a fabric material and they're designed to be soft, breathable, and lightweight. They're fabric so if you get them wet they're going to feel damp, but they dry quickly. Sport Loops are also available in a range of colors. new sport loop 2020
  • Nike Band ($49) - Sold with Nike Watches or standalone, Nike Bands are similar to Sport Bands but have a perforated design with holes for better breathability. There are also Nike Sport Loops in unique colors. nike bands 2020
  • Modern Buckle ($149) - The Modern Buckle is made from leather and is limited to the smaller 40mm Apple Watch models. It features a two-piece magnetic buckle and it has the bulkiest fastening mechanism of Apple's watch options. modernbucklebands
  • Leather Loop - ($99) - Made from a quilted leather material, the wrap-style Leather Loop is only available for 44mm Apple Watch models. leather loops 2020
  • Leather Link - The Leather Link is similar to the Leather Loop, but it has a magnetic clasp instead of a loop closure. The Leather Link is made from Roux Granada leather sourced from France and it comes in a range of muted colors. leatherlinkbands
  • Link Bracelet - ($349 to $449) - The Link Bracelet, made from a stainless steel alloy, is Apple's most expensive band. It's designed to look like traditional metal watch bands and it comes in silver and space black. linkbracelet 1
  • Milanese Loop - ($99) - The Milanese Loop is made from a flexible mesh material that wraps around the wrist. It's such a fine mesh that it's comfortable to wear, lightweight, and looks more professional than the casual Sport Loop and Sport Band options. milanese loop 2020
  • Hermès (Pricing varies) - Along with Hermès Apple Watches, Apple sells a selection of all-leather Hermès bands on a standalone basis, all of which are designed by the fashion house. hermes bands 2020

All of Apple's bands can also be purchased separately, so you can get several bands for a single watch if desired and switch between them. Hermès and Nike bands are only available in a bundle when purchasing a Hermès or Nike Apple Watch and can't be paired with a standard casing, but they can be purchased separately.

All Hermès Apple Watch models ship with a Hermès band, while all Nike Apple Watch models ship with a Nike band. Current color options for each type of Apple Watch can be found on Apple's website.

Cellular vs. GPS-Only

Since the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple has offered both cellular models with LTE connectivity and less expensive GPS-only models that do not have cellular connectivity.

apple watch lte duo
With an LTE connection, the Apple Watch is untethered from the iPhone and does not require an ‌iPhone‌ or a known Wi-Fi network for an internet connection. This means that Maps, Phone, Messages, Apple Pay, and more can all be used on the Apple Watch without an ‌iPhone‌.

With the dedicated App Store available as of watchOS 5, the Apple Watch can be used almost entirely independently of an ‌iPhone‌, though an ‌iPhone‌ is still needed for some functions like updates.

LTE connectivity through a carrier also requires that an ‌iPhone‌ be on the cellular plan, so a cellular Apple Watch cannot be purchased and used without an ‌iPhone‌. Most cellular plans for the Apple Watch add a $10 monthly fee to your cellular phone bill. LTE connectivity is the default in the higher-end Apple Watches, but aluminum LTE models are $100 more expensive.

If you're always going to use an Apple Watch with an ‌iPhone‌, there's probably no need for cellular connectivity, but if you'd like to leave the ‌iPhone‌ behind for activities like runs and hikes, the cellular feature is worth considering.

Apple Watches with LTE are available in many countries around the world, with a list available on Apple's website. Note that LTE Apple Watches have a red ring around the Digital Crown on the Series 5 models.

Pricing

A full comparison of the Apple Watch pricing in each finish with both LTE and GPS-only options is below, so you can see the cost differences at a glance. Note that these are the starting prices for each model, and the final price could vary based on band choice.

Apple Watch Series 6

  • 40mm Aluminum Non-LTE - $399
  • 40mm Aluminum LTE - $499
  • 44mm Aluminum Non-LTE - $429
  • 44mm Aluminum LTE - $529
  • 40mm Stainless Steel (LTE only) - $699
  • 44mm Stainless Steel (LTE only) - $749
  • 40mm Titanium (LTE only) - $799
  • 44mm Titanium (LTE only) - $849
  • 40mm Nike Non-LTE - $399
  • 40mm Nike LTE - $499
  • 44mm Nike Non-LTE - $429
  • 44mm Nike LTE - $529
  • 40mm Hermès (LTE only) - $1249
  • 44mm Hermès (LTE only) - $1299

Apple Watch SE

  • 40mm Aluminum Non-LTE - $279
  • 40mm Aluminum LTE - $329
  • 44mm Aluminum Non-LTE - $309
  • 44mm Aluminum LTE - $359

‌Apple Watch SE‌ models are aluminum only so there are no options for stainless steel or titanium.

Which Apple Watch is Best For You?

If you want all of the latest bells and whistles for the best price, the aluminum ‌Apple Watch Series 6‌ models are going to be your best bet. The aluminum Apple Watch is the Apple Watch that we recommend for most people given its rich feature set, its light weight, and its affordable price point. The Nike models, if you prefer that aesthetic, are identical to the aluminum Apple Watch models.

applewatchseries5
Those looking for a higher-end watch that's still affordable should check out the stainless steel models, while those who want the best Apple has to offer should take a look at the Edition Apple Watch models and the Hermès Apple Watch models. Note that if you're choosing one of these models you're not getting additional functionality for the price - all of the Apple Watches have the same internals.

What you do get with the higher-end models is a different casing material that's higher quality and a higher-quality display that's less resistant to scratching.

Band choice and size is pretty much personal preference. Sport Bands and Sport Loops are some of the most comfortable options and come in a range of colors that change seasonally, while Apple's higher-end leather and metal bands offer a classier look. The new Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop options are comfortable, but use caution if ordering online because sizing is tricky.

For those who just want a basic Apple Watch primarily for activity tracking and don't want to spend a whole lot of money for health features like ECG and blood oxygen tracking along with the faster chip and the always-on display, the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ offers a great value.

Priced starting at just $279, the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ offers all of the same fitness functionality as the Series 6 and the older S5 chip is still plenty fast for everyday usage. The Apple Watch Series 3 is even cheaper at $199, but this is older, slower technology and we don't recommend it. If you can afford it, it's best to choose the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ over the Series 3 because the Series 3 isn't going to have the same longevity or software support as the two newer models, so its lifespan won't be as long.

For an in-depth overview of the features available in the Apple Watch and a closer look at the different models, make sure to check out our Series 6 Apple Watch roundup and our Apple Watch SE roundup.

Guide Feedback

Have a question about the Apple Watch, need to know more about a feature, or want to offer feedback on this Buyer's Guide? Send us an email here.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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