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Which Apple Watch should I buy?

By Hannah Walsh

Confused by the number of Apple Watch versions available? We explain the differences and reveal which came out on top in our tests.

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Apple is the leading name in the smartwatches market. An Apple Watch puts your phone’s screen on your wrist, so you can receive texts, calls, emails and calendar alerts with your phone firmly in your pocket. While all models look very similar, we’ve found that they aren’t all created quite the same.

Processor, price and features – these are just some of the differences between Apple Watch devices. In the table below, we take a look at the two latest smartwatches from Apple, the Series 1 and Series 2, and the older Apple Watch Sport. We’ve found models that track steps without error, but we’ve also found one Apple Watch version that overstated calorie-burn by more than 30%.

We compare the notification and messaging features of every Apple Watch, as well as how quickly it completes tasks, to help you pick the right one for you. To check the accuracy of the fitness tracking, our test participants walk on a calibrated treadmill at 4.8km/h for 10 minutes and run at 9-10km/h for 10 minutes. They also complete a routine of daily tasks, such as loading and unloading the dishwasher, and carrying the shopping. To find out more about the challenges all wearables face in our labs, see how we test smartwatches.

Only logged-in Which? members can view the full Apple Watch results in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which?.

Apple smartwatches

Apple Watch Series 1
Typical price £269.00
Which? score 74%
Reviewed Dec 2016
Best Buy
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Smart notifications overall:
5 out of 5
Health:
4 out of 5

The most accurate Apple Watch model we've tested.

Apple Watch Sport
Typical price £269.00
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Jul 2016
Best Buy
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Smart notifications overall:
5 out of 5
Health:
4 out of 5

This smartwatch combines accurate fitness tracking and a comfortable strap.

Apple Watch Series 2
Today's best price £369.00
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Nov 2016
Best Buy
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Smart notifications overall:
5 out of 5
Health:
4 out of 5

A fast processor and plenty of memory make this a speedy smartwatch. It’s packed with features, too.

How much will an Apple Watch cost? 

The price you pay will depend on which Apple Watch options you choose, including the size of the screen, and the material of the band and casing. Apple has also partnered with other brands, such as Nike, and designers to offer additional options.

The current Apple Watch series of smartwatches ranges in price from just over £250 for a 38mm Series 1 with an aluminium case and rubber sports band, right up to £1,500-plus for a designer Hermès version. The original Apple Watch and Watch Sport aren’t available to buy via Apple, but you may be able to pick up a second-hand one on the cheap. 

Choosing the best Apple Watch

The original Apple Watch models were launched in early 2015, with three design versions of the same device – the Watch, Watch Sport and Watch Edition. In September 2016, the models were replaced by the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2. All of the models in the range are compatible with iOS devices, such as your iPhone and iPad, and offer similar features. So what sets them apart, and what should you look for?

watchOS

All Apple Watches run watchOS, which is designed to work exclusively with iOS devices and so can’t be used with Android or Windows. Check out our smartwatch reviews for devices that are compatible with other operating systems. 

In September 2016, Apple revealed the next version of the operating system – Apple watchOS 3 – which all Series 1 and Series 2 models come equipped with. Older models can be updated with the latest OS version, too.

Apple’s operating system is a touch-based interface that offers the gamut of smart features. You can read and respond to texts and emails, answer and make phone calls, and get social media notifications. You can also use the watch to craft social media posts, such as tweets, from scratch, and make contactless payments via Apple Pay. You can use the voice-command feature courtesy of Siri.

Design

All Apple Watches look similar, with a rectangular face, touchscreen display and circular button on the side for scrolling through menus and notifications. There are two screen sizes available: 38mm and 42mm. The Series 1 comes with an Ion-X glass screen, while you can pick from Ion-X or the even more hard-wearing Sapphire Crystal for the Series 2.

For the casing, you can choose from aluminium or stainless steel. There’s also a pricey ceramic option available for the Series 2, which costs more than £1,200. The Series 1 can only be bought with a rubber strap, which is good if you plan to exercise wearing your smartwatch as it will be easy to keep clean. The Series 2 comes with a variety of strap options, including rubber, leather or stainless steel link.

Processor

All Apple Watches use an on-board processor. The original models have an S1 chip, while the Series 1 models have an updated S1P dual-core processor. The Series 2 is equipped with an S2 processor, which is more powerful and includes on-chip GPS functionality.

Built-in GPS

A new addition to the Apple Watch range, built-in GPS lets you track your routes without relying on your smartphone, so you can leave your mobile at home when heading out for a run. It’s only available on the Series 2. 

Water-resistance

The Watch Series 2 was the first range of smartwatches from Apple to be made water-resistant, with a rating of 5ATM. This means it’s fine to wear it while showering or swimming, even in open water, but it won’t be suitable for watersports or diving.

It’s currently impossible to seal a speaker, because it needs air to produce sound, but Apple has got round this by creating a speaker that lets water in and then uses sound vibrations to eject it back out. We checked the waterproofing claims for the Series 2 in our labs – find out if it passed, and if it’s a good option for keen swimmers, by diving into our full review

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