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Which Apple Watch Should You Buy?


Apple sells an Apple Watch for every budget. There’s the cutting-edge Series 7 Watch, the mid-range Apple Watch SE, and the affordable Apple Watch Series 3. But aside from their price tags, what’s the difference between them? And which one should you buy for yourself, a friend, or a family member?

Update, 11/4/21: Updated to include information for Series 7 watch.

A Quick Overview: Series 7, SE, and Series 3

Before we get into the weeds, let’s do a quick overview of the Apple Watch Series 7, SE, and Series 3. These are the three wearables currently offered by Apple, and all three of them offer the fitness, health, and communication features that you expect from an Apple Watch. They’re all available in GPS varieties, although the SE and Series 7 also have a GPS + Cellular option (which are useful when you exercise without your iPhone) for up to $100 extra. They’re all also water-resistant and feature the digital crown.

So how are the Series 7, SE, and Series 3 Watches different from one another? Here are their special features, along with their basic pricing:

  • Apple Watch Series 7 ($400)
    • Highest Resolution Always-On Display
    • Blood Oxygen Sensor
    • Always-On Altimeter (Measures Altitude)
    • Heart Sensor with ECG and Irregular Heart Rate Notifications, SP02 readings
    • Fall Detection and Emergency SOS
    • Faster Charging
    • Family Setup Support
    • Crack-Resistant Front Crystal
    • IP6X Dust Resistance, Swimproof Design
    • Nike Design and Hermes Upgrade Options
  • Apple Watch SE ($280)
    • Highest Resolution Display
    • Always-On Altimeter (Measures Altitude)
    • Heart Sensor with Irregular Heart Rate Notifications
    • Fall Detection and Emergency SOS
    • Family Setup Support
  • Apple Watch Series 3 ($200)
    • Heart Sensor with Irregular Heart Rate Notifications
    • Emergency SOS
    • Runs the Latest Version of watchOS

Now that we’ve covered the stand-out features for each Apple Watch, let’s go over some of their biggest selling points. You’ll find that the Series 7, SE, and Series 3 Watch all feature a modern design with fantastic health and communication tools, but you have to spend a bit extra to get some of the flashiest newest features.

Everything You Need in an Affordable Package

Apple Watch Series 3 [GPS 38mm] Smart Watch w/Space Gray Aluminum Case & Black Sport Band. Fitness & Activity Tracker, Heart Rate Monitor, Retina Display, Water Resistant

If you don't care about always-on displays or advanced health-tracking features, then the affordable Series 3 Watch is the way to go. It has all the basic fitness and wearable features you expect from an Apple Watch.

Design Options: Colors, Watch Faces, and Watch Bands


Different colors and styles of Apple Watch bands

Let’s start with style. Even the cheapest Apple Watch, the Series 3, looks cool and modern, thanks to Apple’s forward-thinking design and digital watch face support. And while the Series 3 has a smaller lower-resolution display than its successors (with the option for a 38mm or 42mm size), it still fits Apple’s flashy new 41mm- and 45mm-sized watch bands.

The only problem with the older Apple Watch Series 3, aside from its smaller display, is that it’s about a millimeter thicker than the new Series 7 and SE watches. It also comes in only aluminum and black aluminum shells, while Apple’s highest-end wearable is available in a fleet of fun colors.

And while the SE sports more colors than the Series 3, it still lacks the robust color options and always-on display of the Series 7, which allows you to quickly glance at your Apple Watch as if it’s an old-fashioned wristwatch. Visually, it’s identical to the Series 6 Watch but noticeably different from the Series 7, which has slimmer bezels and a larger screen.

Modern Display and Swappable Watch Bands

Apple Watch SE (GPS, 40mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band

The affordable Apple Watch SE has the same bright display as the Series 7, along with colorful, interchangeable watch bands, an altimeter, and basic fitness features.

Fitness and Health Tracking: Pay Extra for Specialized Features


Different health metrics displayed on three separate Series 7 watches

Health and fitness features are the great dividing point between the Series 7, SE, and Series 3 Apple Watch. As you can imagine, the expensive Apple Watch Series 7 has the most health and fitness features, including an ECG scanner and a blood oxygen sensor. But are those features with the extra money?

For most people, the cheaper Apple Watch SE and Series 3 offer plenty of health and fitness features. They can count your steps, track your sleep, and alert you if your heart rate goes out of wack. The cheaper Apple Watches can also send out SOS alerts and run apps like Spotify or Apple Maps. Of course, only the SE and the costly Series 7 Watch include fall detection, and the Series 7’s always-on display may appeal to some outdoor fitness geeks (as will its IP6X dust resistance rating and swimproof design).

Now’s a good time to think about display size. If you plan to spend a lot of time monitoring your health or checking your steps from the Apple Watch, then you may want to opt for the SE or Series 7 devices, which come in 41mm and 45mm form factors.

On the other hand, you might want to go for the smaller and cheaper Series 3 Watch if you plan to pay extra for cellular support as it’ll help offset the cost. An LTE Apple Watch can play music or give directions while disconnected from your iPhone, which is handy if you’re a runner or bicyclist.

The Latest, Fastest Fitness and Health Sensors

Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm) - Gold Stainless Steel Case with Gold Milanese Loop

Apple's Series 7 Watch offers the latest health and fitness features, with faster ECG reading and a cutting-edge blood oxygen sensor. It also has a bright always-on display.

What About the Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6?

A photo of the Apple Watch SE.

With all this talk of the Series 3 and the Series 7 watches, you can’t help but ask what happened to the older models—Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6. Well, they’re discontinued! Production for the Series 4 Watch ended with the launch of the Series 5, as the products look nearly identical and are only slightly different from one another. Now the Series 6 Watch is going through the same process, but it may be worth buying if you can find it on sale (or don’t mind a renewed or refurbished model).

The Apple Watch Series 5 is about the same price as the new Apple Watch SE, despite the fact that it has an always-on display and the ability to perform ECGs. It’s missing the Apple Watch SE’s always-on altimeter and the Series 7’s blood oxygen sensor, but it’s still a fantastic product that works with new Apple Watch bands.

As for the Series 6, it’s still available to purchase. However, it’s missing all of the fantastic new features the Series 7 offers, like a slimmer design, an IP6X rating, and a larger display.

Like the SE, But With ECG and Always-On Display

Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS, 44mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band

The Apple Watch Series 5 has an always-on display and can perform ECGs---two features that are missing from the SE. If you can still find the Series 5 Watch, it may be worth buying.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »