Best Apple Watches

Updated November 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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HOW WE TESTED

After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested Apple Watch Series 6 to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.

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Models
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60
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Researched

Buying guide for best apple watches

Like with most new tech, Apple wasn’t the first to market when smartwatches hit — but true to form, they perfected the technology when they launched the Apple Watch.

Apple Watches do all the things other smartwatches do — they can alert you when you get an email or text message, they can track your daily progress toward fitness goals, and they can act as a remote control for music apps, for starters — but they also integrate perfectly into Apple’s iOS ecosystem of complementary devices. That means that they’re designed to help you get more out of the Apple products you already own; so for example, every Apple Watch has the ability to make your iPhone emit a tone in case it gets lost nearby, and they can also be used to answer phone calls received on the iPhone.

If you’re ready to extend the iPhone experience to your wrist with apps and notifications, now’s the time: There are plenty of Apple Watch models to choose from, and they get discounted regularly. Read on for the essentials about the Apple Watch.

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While all Apple Watches can track basic exercises like walking, running, and biking, advanced models can also track snowboarding and skiing.

What can an Apple Watch do?

An Apple Watch is a smartwatch that works in conjunction with your iPhone and other Apple devices to perform a variety of functions.

  • You can make calls and send text messages. An Apple Watch has a built-in microphone and speaker, so you can take phone calls on it or dismiss them if you’re not interested in talking. You’re also able to dictate text messages or choose a stock message to send. Some Apple Watches require you to keep your iPhone nearby, while others offer their own internet and phone connectivity. The latter allows you to make calls and send messages even if your phone isn’t close by.

  • You can use apps. Apple Watches support a variety of apps just like an iPhone, including those for a photos, music, maps, and a calendar. They can also receive push alerts from apps that you have on your iPhone.

  • You can consult with Siri. Apple’s personal assistant app, Siri, is available through the Apple Watch. You can use Siri to get directions, perform basic searches, and send messages.

Expert Tip
Putting a new watch band on your Apple Watch is a great way to make it feel brand-new. Watch bands are affordable, so we recommend keeping at least a few around.
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  • You can listen to music. Using an Apple Watch, you can adjust the volume or change tracks for music on your iPhone. Some models allow you to stream music even if your iPhone isn’t in the vicinity.

  • You can track your fitness goals. Apple Watches offer convenient fitness tracking on your wrist, so you don’t need a separate fitness tracker. The watch can count steps, monitor your heart rate, track calories burned, and share your information with fitness and health apps. Some models are even swimproof, so you can use the watch to track laps. You can also choose a model with built-in GPS to automatically track runs.

  • You can utilize Apple Pay. An Apple Watch can make shopping easier because it supports Apple Pay, which uses an NFC chip to make secure purchases at a variety of retailers and restaurants without your credit or debit card.

  • You can use it as a remote for an Apple TV and other home theater devices. With an Apple Watch, you don’t have to worry about losing the remote in your sofa again. It allows you to scroll through menus, play, and pause content on Apple TV, as well as other home entertainment programs and devices.

  • You can monitor your car. Depending on the make and model of your car, you may be able to open and lock its doors, locate it in a parking lot, start the engine remotely, or check an electric car’s battery level.

  • You can control smart home features. If your home features a variety of smart technology, an Apple Watch can help you use it. Through the watch, you can turn on smart lights, adjust a smart thermostat, and control other smart devices remotely.

  • You can unlock your phone. It’s not always easy to unlock your phone with FaceID. For example, if you’re wearing a mask, it can be a big challenge. With an Apple Watch, you can unlock your iPhone with a single tap.

Key considerations

Screen and display

Most Apple Watches feature an Ion-X glass screen that is highly durable yet lightweight. However, some higher-end models have a sapphire glass screen, which is extremely durable and even less likely to scratch than an Ion-X screen. Sapphire glass is notably heavier, too.

In terms of display quality, 40mm Apple Watches offer a resolution of 394x324 pixels, while 44mm models are 448x368 pixels. If you're buying an older Apple Watch (such as a gen 3), the 38mm is 272 x 340 pixels and the 42mm is 312 x 390 pixels. They all also feature energy-efficient Retina displays for extra-crisp text and graphics.

Something to consider with the screen is the always-on display feature, which was introduced in the Series 5 model and is now the default. The always-on feature displays the time and notifications when idle, but consider turning it off if maximizing battery life is your goal.

"The Apple Watch offers a nightstand mode, which shifts its display to landscape orientation so you can easily read it when you’re lying in bed."
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Size

Series 4 and 5 Apple Watches are available with cases of two different sizes: 40 and 44 millimeters, while older iterations come in 38 and 42 millimeters. This measurement refers to the length from the top of the watch screen to the bottom.

  • The 40mm size works best for individuals with smaller wrists.

  • If you have larger wrists, the 44mm option would probably be the better choice.

  • In terms of width, the 40mm Apple Watch measures 34mm wide. The 44mm Apple Watch measures 35.9mm wide.

  • Both watch sizes have a depth of 10.7mm.

Materials

Apple watch cases are usually available in three material choices: aluminum, stainless steel, and ceramic.

  • Aluminum offers the most lightweight feel. If you’re active and want a comfortable watch, aluminum could be the right choice for you.

  • Stainless steel has a mid-range weight, and it gives the device a traditional watch-like feel.

  • Ceramic Apple Watches are the heaviest, but they are also usually the most stylish and attractive options.
     

In terms of color, Apple watch cases are usually available in silver, gold, white, gray, and black.

"An Apple Watch offers a variety of fun, striking wallpapers to use as a background, but you can customize your watch with a personal photo if you prefer."
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Band

Every Apple Watch comes with a band. Many models come with a sports band made of lightweight rubber. Apple also offers nylon sports bands, which are lightweight but offer a slightly more stylish look. These sports bands are an ideal option for athletes and other exercisers.

If you want your Apple Watch to look like a traditional wristwatch, choose a model with a stainless steel or leather band. These watches are not as suited for physical activity, but they provide the most stylish appearance.

Apple Watch bands come in a variety of colors. The exact shades depend on the material, but you can usually choose from silver, white, black, gray, purple, pink, orange, red, brown, green, blue, and yellow.

Keep in mind that Apple also sells watch bands separately. If you choose, you can buy additional bands to change the look of your watch to match various activities and events in your life.

"If you’re allergic to synthetic rubber, avoid Apple Watch models that come with a fluoroelastomer sports band."
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Waterproofing

All Apple Watches resist water to a degree, which means that they can tolerate splashes and light rain showers. For most users, that’s enough water resistance. However, if you’re a swimmer and want to use the watch to track water workouts, you’ll want to choose a fully waterproof watch. Waterproof Apple Watches can function effectively in water up to a depth of 50 meters.

"While some Apple Watches are suitable for swimming, you shouldn’t wear one to scuba dive, water ski, or engage in other high-velocity or deep-water activities."
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Wireless technology

Apple Watches are designed to be used in conjunction with an iPhone. All models offer WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can easily sync your watch with your phone.

However, because it relies on this type of connection, your Apple Watch and iPhone must be in fairly close proximity to one another to work together for functions such as taking calls, sending texts, streaming music, and utilizing GPS to track your runs.

Some high-end Apple Watch models offer cellular LTE connectivity. This means the watch can function all on its own. These watches can make and receive phone calls, stream music, send texts, and perform other functions when your iPhone isn’t in the vicinity.

An Apple Watch with LTE connectivity obviously offers much more versatility; you can stay in touch even if you leave home without your phone. But it requires an eligible cellular service plan by a carrier that supports the iPhone, and both your watch and your iPhone must use that same carrier.

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Did you know?
Apple Watches are suited to handle stress. When you use the built-in heart rate monitor, you can get alerts before you get worked up, and use Apple’s “Breathe” app to help center you throughout the day.
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Essential accessories

Keep your watch safe and stylish with these accessories.

Watch bands

If you’re into swapping out your Apple Watch band on a regular basis, there are several options available to fit your aesthetic. If you’re looking to build a collection of watch bands for your Apple Watch our recommendations offer some variety. 

Screen protector

It’s really easy to scratch an Apple Watch screen, so we recommend getting a screen protector or a case from day one. The peace of mind knowing your screen is protected from water or cracks is worth the investment for many. 

Charging stand

You’re going to need to charge your Apple Watch on a regular basis, so why not do it in style? The OMOTON Apple Watch Stand is a must for any Apple fan who owns both an Apple Watch and an iPhone: it displays and charges both, so you can use it as a nightstand or just keep tabs on your screens at your desk. You’ll need to bring your own cables, but at this price point and for style this elegant, that’s a fair trade-off.

Apple Watch prices

Apple Watch prices vary based on wireless connectivity, water resistance, GPS capabilities, and band material. They usually range from $249 to $1,399.

Basic

An Apple Watch that only offers WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity, isn’t swim-resistant, and doesn’t provide built-in GPS can run from $269 to $309.

"An Apple Watch provides one year of warranty protection, but you can pay extra for Apple Care to extend your coverage."
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Mid-range

An Apple Watch that only offers WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity and isn’t swim-resistant but has built-in GPS can run from $329 to $359.

Advanced

An Apple Watch that offers cellular LTE connectivity, swim resistance, built-in GPS, and a sport band can run from $399 to $799

Models with these features plus a leather band can run from $1,149 to $1,399.

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If you choose an Apple Watch with built-in GPS, you’ll be able to track a run without bringing your iPhone along.

FAQ

Q. Do you need an iPhone to use an Apple Watch?

A. Apple Watches are only compatible with iPhones, so if you have an Android, you won’t be able to sync it with the watch. Only certain iPhones work with the watch, too; you must have an iPhone 5 or later that’s running iOS 8.2 or later.

Q. Can you wear an Apple Watch if you’re left-handed?

A. While the Apple Watch comes oriented for right-handed users, the case can actually be flipped. That allows you to turn it so the crown that controls the device is on the left side, making it easy for lefties to use.

Q. What kind of battery life does the Apple Watch offer?

A. After an overnight charge, the Apple Watch can provide up to 18 hours of battery life. The exact amount of time you’ll get with each charge varies based on how you use your watch. For example, using it to sync with your iPhone via WiFi/Bluetooth or using an LTE-connected model to make calls will drain the battery faster than listening to or streaming music.

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