Picking the Best Apple Watch to Buy in 2024

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.

applewatchbuyersguide
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 (and the controversies surrounding it), heart rate tracking, ECG functionality, and more.

Apple Watch Series 9 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 starting 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.

series 9 blue
As of 2024, Apple is selling the Apple Watch Series 9, which starts at $399, and the ‌Apple Watch SE‌, which starts at $249, and there are multiple differences that make it easy to decide between the two. There's also a higher-end Apple Watch Ultra, outlined below.

The ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ and the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ have different form factors thanks to the redesign that Apple introduced with the Apple Watch Series 7 two years ago. The Series 9 comes in 41mm and 45mm case sizes, and it has a larger display with slimmer bezels.

The ‌Apple Watch SE‌ comes in 40mm and 44mm case sizes and has thicker bezels from the old Series 6 design. There are several major features that the SE is missing compared to the Series 9: ECG functionality, blood oxygen monitoring, temperature sensing, Double Tap gestures, on-device Siri, and an always-on display.

The Series 9 is the more durable model, plus it features a fast charging feature that charges it to full 33 percent faster. The Series 9 is equipped with the newer S9 chip, while the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ has the prior-generation S8 chip, so the Series 9 is faster. Apple also equipped the Series 9 with a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip for more accurate positioning, which the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ does not have. Crash Detection, the feature that alerts emergency services if you're in an accident, is available in both models.

If you want any (or all) of these features, the Series 9 is the best pick, but if you don't need the feature set offered by the ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ 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 decent amount of money opting for the ‌Apple Watch SE‌.

Apple Watch Series 9

  • 45mm or 41mm case size
  • Always-on Retina LTPO OLED display
  • Slimmer bezels with 20% more screen area
  • GPS and GPS + Cellular models
  • 64-bit dual-core S9 Chip
  • Double Tap gesture
  • W3 wireless chip
  • Haptic Digital Crown
  • Optical heart sensor
  • Temperature sensing
  • Heart rate notifications
  • Emergency SOS (International)
  • Fall Detection
  • Crash Detection
  • Noise monitoring
  • Water resistance up to 50 meters
  • 5GHz Wi‑Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Support for Family Setup
  • Compass and always-on altimeter
  • 32GB capacity
  • 18-hour "all-day" battery life
  • Gen 2 Ultra-Wideband chip
  • Blood Oxygen app (Disabled in some models)
  • ECG app
  • 33% faster charging
  • Aluminum and Stainless Steel options
  • Midnight, Starlight, Silver, Pink, and (PRODUCT)RED Aluminum Colors
  • Silver, Gold, Graphite, and Space Black Stainless

Apple Watch SE

  • 44mm or 40mm case size
  • Standard Retina LTPO OLED display
  • GPS and GPS + Cellular models
  • 64-bit dual-core S8 Chip
  • No gesture support
  • W3 wireless chip
  • Haptic Digital Crown
  • Optical heart sensor
  • Heart rate notifications
  • Emergency SOS (International)
  • Fall Detection
  • Crash 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 Ultra-Wideband chip
  • No Blood Oxygen app
  • No ECG app
  • Slower charging
  • Gold, Silver, and Space Gray
  • Aluminum only

It's also worth noting that the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ does not come in stainless steel, so your only option is an aluminum casing in silver, space gray, or gold if you opt for the more affordable model.

Apple Watch Ultra

In 2023, Apple introduced the Apple Watch Ultra 2, a higher-end Apple Watch that is aimed at those who need a more rugged, durable model. The Apple Watch Ultra is the most feature rich Apple Watch, but it is also the most expensive at $799.

apple watch ultra
Compared to the Series 9, the Apple Watch Ultra has an updated design with squared edges that are designed to protect the sapphire crystal display, along with a protected Digital Crown. It is equipped with a customizable Action button that is not on other Apple Watch models, with the button able to launch apps, workouts, and more. There is also a built-in 86-decibel siren, and it has more precise L5 GPS capabilities.

Battery life is also longer, the display is much brighter, and since it is titanium, it is light and durable. Water resistance is better so that it can support diving, plus it has all of the features in the Series 9.

The Apple Watch Ultra is only available in titanium and it only comes in a 49mm size, which may not fit all wrists. With its long list of features, the Apple Watch Ultra is the absolute best and most advanced Apple Watch you can buy at this time.

  • 49mm case size
  • Always-on Retina LTPO OLED display
  • 27% larger, brighter screen (3000 nits)
  • Dedicated Wayfinder Face with Night Mode for low-visibility conditions
  • Customizable Action Button
  • Mil-STD-810H durability rating
  • Dual speakers and three-mic array with beamforming
  • Cellular connectivity + L5/L1 GPS for better accuracy
  • 64-bit dual-core S9 Chip
  • Double Tap gesture
  • W3 wireless chip
  • Haptic Digital Crown
  • Optical heart sensor
  • Temperature sensing
  • Heart rate notifications
  • Emergency SOS (International)
  • Fall Detection
  • Crash Detection
  • 86-decibel siren
  • Noise monitoring
  • Water resistance up to 100 meters, EN13319 certification
  • Depth gauge and water temperature sensor, plus Dive app
  • 5GHz Wi‑Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Compass and always-on altimeter
  • 32GB capacity
  • 36-hour battery life, 2x Series 9
  • Gen 2 Ultra-Wideband chip
  • Blood Oxygen app
  • ECG app
  • 33% faster charging
  • Titanium casing

Apple Watch Sizing

The ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ comes in two sizes: 41mm and 45mm, while the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is available in a single 49mm size. Apple says that the 40mm/41mm Apple Watch is designed to fit 130 to 200mm wrists, while the 44mm/45mm Apple Watch is designed to fit 140 to 220mm wrists. The 49mm Apple Watch Ultra can fit wrists sized 130mm to 220mm.

apple watch series 7 sizes
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/41mm model, while people with larger wrists will want to opt for the 44mm/45mm model. The 49mm Apple Watch Ultra is very large and can look oversized on many wrists, but it should fit anyone able to wear a 44mm/45mm Apple Watch.

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. We especially recommend trying the Apple Watch Ultra in person because it is large, but sized to fit on any wrist.

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. 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.

apple watch series 7 aluminum colors
The aluminum is a soft, brushed aluminum and these watches are not as shiny as the stainless steel nor as durable as titanium. 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 Series 9 41mm model and $429 for the 45mm model. LTE models are $100 more. Aluminum ‌Apple Watch SE‌ models are even cheaper, starting at $249 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.

apple watch series 7 stainless
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 graphite, 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 41mm model and $749 for the 45mm model. All models include support for LTE connectivity.

Apple Watch Ultra in Titanium

The Apple Watch Ultra is Apple's most expensive Apple Watch option for those who are looking for a higher-end, premium watch, and it is the only model made from titanium this year. Apple previously sold the Series 7 in titanium, but since 2022 that material is reserved for the Apple Watch Ultra.

Apple Watch Ultra Orange Alpine Loop Action button 220907 big
Titanium 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 it is worth noting that while the titanium Apple Watch Ultra is heavier than the 45mm stainless steel option, reviews have suggested it is light and comfortable on the wrist because of the material and the size distribution.

The Apple Watch Ultra is priced at $799. It is ideal for those who need the more advanced durability and functionality for specialized activities like diving and hiking in remote areas where more advanced GPS can come in handy.

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.

apple watch series 7 nike
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.

apple watch series 7 hermes
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 $1229, and they are available in either standard silver stainless steel or an exclusive Space Black stainless steel.

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 loops fall 2021
  • 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 so you don't have to hassle with returns. braided solo loops fall 2021
  • 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. sport bands fall 2021
  • 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. sport loop fall 2021
  • 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 sport band fall 2021
  • Modern Buckle ($149) - While the Modern Buckle was previously made from leather, it now constructed of a microtwill material dubbed "FineWoven" by Apple and is limited to the smaller 41mm Apple Watch models. It features a two-piece magnetic buckle and it has the bulkiest fastening mechanism of Apple's watch options. apple watch modern buckle 2023
  • Magnetic Link - Replacing the previous Leather Link style, the Magnetic Link is also made of FineWoven material with a magnetic clasp, and it comes in a range of muted colors. apple watch magnetic link 2023
  • 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
  • Alpine Loop - The Alpine Loop is two integrated layers constructed from a continuous weaving process that does not require stitching to ensure longtime durability. The top loops provide adjustability and an attachment point for the titanium fastener. It is designed for the Ultra, but compatible with other models. alpine loop bands
  • Trail Loop - The Trail Loop is Apple's thinnest band to date, modeled after the Sport Loop. It uses a lightweight woven textile material that is soft and flexible, and it has a pull tab to make size adjustments quick and easy. It is designed for the Ultra, but compatible with other models. trail loop bands
  • Ocean Band - The Ocean Band is made for extreme water sports and recreational diving. It is crafted from a flexible fluoroelastomer that is designed to stretch, and it has an added long tail that can allow it to fit over a wetsuit. The band is equipped with a titanium buckle and it has a spring-loaded loop. It is designed for the Ultra, but compatible with other models. ocean bands
  • 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 canvas, woven, braided, and rubber Hermès bands on a standalone basis, all of which are designed by the fashion house. apple watch hermes bands 2023

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 series 7 stainless steel colors
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, the Apple Watch can be used almost entirely independently of an ‌iPhone‌, though an ‌iPhone‌ is still needed for some functions.

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.

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 9

  • 41mm Aluminum Non-LTE - $399
  • 41mm Aluminum LTE - $499
  • 45mm Aluminum Non-LTE - $429
  • 45mm Aluminum LTE - $529
  • 41mm Stainless Steel (LTE only) - $699
  • 45mm Stainless Steel (LTE only) - $749
  • 49mm Titanium Ultra (LTE only) - $799
  • 41mm Nike Non-LTE - $399
  • 41mm Nike LTE - $499
  • 45mm Nike Non-LTE - $429
  • 45mm Nike LTE - $529
  • 41mm Hermès (LTE only) - $1249
  • 45mm Hermès (LTE only) - $1299

Apple Watch SE

  • 40mm Aluminum Non-LTE - $249
  • 40mm Aluminum LTE - $299
  • 44mm Aluminum Non-LTE - $279
  • 44mm Aluminum LTE - $329

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

Apple Watch Ultra

There is only one Ultra model, priced at $799.

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 9‌ 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.

Apple Watch Series 7 Pink and Green Feature
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 Apple Watch Ultra. If you want the extra durability and specialized functionality like Action button or siren, the Apple Watch Ultra is the device to choose.

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 bands offer a classier look, although many users have been critical of Apple's leather-replacement FineWoven material used in the Modern Buckle and Magnetic Link. The Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop options are comfortable, but use caution if ordering online because sizing is tricky.

The Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, and Ocean Band were new for the original Apple Watch Ultra in 2022 and are worth checking out, with the Alpine and Trail designed for comfort and the Ocean Band aimed at water use.

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 along with the faster chip and the always-on display, the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ offers a great value. Priced starting at just $249, the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ offers all of the same fitness functionality as the Series 9.

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 9 Apple Watch roundup, our Apple Watch SE roundup, and our Apple Watch Ultra roundup.

Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 Blood Oxygen Warning

Apple in late 2023 was found to have infringed on blood oxygen patents owned by Masimo, a company that makes medical devices. The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) imposed an import ban on ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ and Ultra 2 models.

1blood oxygen app
Apple briefly paused sales in December and attempted to have the ban stayed while an appeals process is ongoing, but the ITC denied Apple's request. As a result, Apple is now selling ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ and ‌Apple Watch Ultra 2‌ models with the blood oxygen sensing feature disabled. This is only applicable in the United States, and does not apply to other countries. Potential buyers in the United States should be aware that a new Apple Watch purchased from Apple at this time will have the blood oxygen measurement feature disabled. Third-party retailers can continue to sell through their supplies of units with the feature still enabled, but will be unable to procure additional units with it enabled until the dispute is resolved.

It is a software block, so should Apple be permitted to reinstate blood oxygen technology in the Apple Watch in the future, a software update could enable it.

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 9

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