After eight series and several spin-offs, the Apple Watch is now the wearable equivalent of a TV box set. But when it comes to choosing the right one, it’s not as simple as starting with the latest episode.
From connected apps to fitness tracking to contactless payments, every recent Apple Watch has the smarts to embarrass traditional timepieces. But there are also important differences between each edition. They don’t all share the same screen size, dimensions or sensor setup, for starters. And the price varies considerably depending on which ticker you pick.
Don’t know your Series 8 from your SE 2? Our guide below explains the distinguishing features of every Apple Watch model available in 2022 – and suggests which one might be the best fit for your wrist and budget. Whether you’re shopping for your first Apple Watch or upgrading from an older version, we’ve covered all of the options.
Our pick of the top Apple Watch options
Apple Watch Series 8
The best Apple wearable overall
Evolution not revolution, the Series 8 doesn’t deliver the design overhaul many hoped for. Instead, it carries over many of the specs that made its predecessor popular. Besides identical styling, it adopts the same always-on Retina display, 18-hour battery life and 50m water resistance. So what’s new? An S8 chip runs the show, but doesn’t offer any major performance enhancements. More significant is the Series 8’s ability to take temperature measurements: with a sensor on the back and another beneath the display to adjust for ambient warmth, it uses body temp readings to augment the suite of health features already found in watchOS 9. Specifically, this data should improve the accuracy of menstrual cycle tracking. Other tweaks are broadly software-based: a low-power mode promises to stretch longevity to 36 hours, while Crash Detection algorithms can sense if you’ve had a serious car accident and dial emergency services if you’re unresponsive.
Apple Watch Ultra
The ultimate Watch for outdoorsy sorts
Bigger, beefier and built for the great outdoors, the Watch Ultra is Apple’s premium take on a technical ticker. At 49mm, its case is large and in charge, with chunky hardware reflecting its hardcore credentials. Shielded by a rugged rim, the flat panel is twice as bright as any previous Watch screen, for enhanced visibility on expeditions. A customisable Action button can be set to start workouts or mark segments, while dual-frequency GPS works with fresh positioning algorithms to deliver Apple’s most accurate wrist-based location tracking to date. Heading into the hills? Battery life can be eked out to 60 hours on the low-power setting. Twice as waterproof as the Series 8, it’s also down for diving: the Depth app launches when the Ultra is submerged, displaying underwater info. And if the aerospace-grade titanium shell doesn’t impress your fellow explorers, the Wayfinder face is guaranteed to give them data envy.
Apple Watch SE (2022)
The best entry-level Apple Watch
Offering the core Watch experience without breaking the bank, Apple’s second-gen SE follows a similar formula to the first. Not a groundbreaking upgrade, it ships with the same design as its predecessor. What’s new is a nylon composite back, which shaves 2.9g and 3.4g off the 40mm and 44mm cellular versions respectively. Besides the lighter load, the updated SE shares a dual-core processor with the Series 8 and Ultra, giving it a 20% speed boost. Like those models, it also offers Crash Detection to assist you in a car accident. But arguably the biggest shift is the price: it starts at $249 in the US, which is a chunk cheaper than the 2020 edition’s $279 tag. And even with Sterling struggling, the updated SE is still £10 less than the last one was at launch.
Apple Watch Series 7
Apple’s last-gen flagship at a lower price
Previously the top ticker in Apple’s Watch family, the Series 7 remains a capable smartwatch that’s even more tempting at its updated price. Larger than previous editions at 41mm and 45mm, its packaging was also more rounded and more durable – including the crack-resistant front crystal. Similarly, the always-on Retina display increased in both size and brightness from the Series 6, with thinner bezels contributing to a more immersive setup for swifter typing. Updated with watchOS 9, the Series 7 is still a slick and stylish timepiece today. Blood Oxygen and ECG sensors offer the full fitness experience, while three metal jackets let you spec it to taste. Battery life did leave us wanting more, but find the right discount and this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
Apple Watch SE
A smart and affordable Watch option
Launched in 2021, the original SE was pitched as a more accessible route to Apple Watch ownership. While affordability is a relative term in Cupertino, the first-gen SE today gets close to the sweet spot of price and performance. And while it misses out a few features offered by newer, more expensive Apple Watch models, it remains a premium wearable with most of the smarts everyday wearers will want. The screen is smaller, there’s no always-on display and you don’t get ECG or blood oxygen sensors. But the Apple Watch SE is still a swim-proof smartwatch with a premium aluminium finish, Retina OLED display and plenty of health-tracking skills. Besides a sizeable app library, the SE also supports watchOS 9 – Apple’s slickest interface to date.
Apple Watch Series 3
An ideal choice for buyers on a budget
A survivor from 2017, Apple’s third-gen Watch might seem like a has-been in present company. Yet there’s a good reason why Apple continued to ship the model for so long: it’s easily the best-value Watch you can buy. And as a straightforward wearable that nails the basics, it still has a lot going for it. Sure, it’s not the fastest, sharpest or brightest by current standards. But if you want a reliable, water-resistant Apple Watch for logging workouts, controlling music and receiving notifications, the Series 3 delivers at a palatable price. Positively dinky compared to its younger cousins, the 38mm version is also a great fit for smaller wrists. And while it’s now been officially discontinued, move fast and you should find it stocked online.