Which Apple Watch to Buy in 2021?

This Apple Watch comparison will help you determine which watch is best for you!

The Apple Watch is the most popular watch in the world! So far, there have been eight different Apple Watch models, with a new one expected to come this fall. I'll tell you all about the best Apple Watch, the most expensive Apple Watch, and the cheapest Apple Watch. Keep reading to discover which watch is best for you!

Related: 25 Best Apple Watch Complications by Third-Party Developers

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The Quick New Apple Watch Differences Guide

Although you can buy any model of Apple Watch used, there are only three that Apple currently sells new or refurbished:

Technically, you only have five options if you are buying a new Apple Watch. See my tree diagram below to help you decide quickly. However, I recommend that you keep reading or do more research before you make your purchase.

which apple watch to buy

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What Is the Newest Apple Watch Series?

The latest Apple Watch is the Series 6, which I happen to have! If you get the Series 6 in the larger 44mm size and opt for GPS + Cellular, you can expect to pay $529. It could cost you even more if you pick a more expensive Apple Watch band. This is the most expensive Apple Watch.

Even though Series 6 is considered to be the latest model, the Apple Watch SE was launched at the same time. This more affordable Apple Watch has fewer features than the Series 6 but has the same sleek design at a starting price of $279. This is impressive considering the base price of $199 for the Series 3. Next, I’ll compare the different models.

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Apple Watch Differences & Model Comparison

Here are some things to consider when getting an Apple Watch. Older models have to be bought used, and they don't all come with software support. This means that you cannot update certain Apple Watch models.

Used Apple Watch Models Compared

The following Apple Watch Series can only be bought used. They might work well, but they cannot be updated, and they run on an older watchOS.

Apple Watch Series 0 ($35+)

Although it came out as an Apple Watch Series 1, it was soon replaced by a better model with the same name. The original watch then became known as the Apple Watch Series 0, or the first-generation Apple Watch.

You can still buy this Apple Watch if you shop around on eBay or another marketplace. It can cost you as little as $35, and it has many features for a 2015 smartwatch. Keep in mind that it is not water-resistant and therefore cannot track swimming workouts. However, I don’t recommend that you buy anything older than a Series 3 due to the lack of software support.

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Apple Watch Series 1 ($80+)

This is technically the second model of the Apple Watch that stole the name from the first generation watch. It can cost as much as $80, which makes it a questionable purchase since a new Series 3 is only twice the cost with many improvements. This model is significantly better than the first generation but pales in comparison to the newer Apple Watch models.

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Apple Watch Series 2 ($100+)

This is the first Apple Watch that can safely be worn swimming and can track your workouts in the water. However, you still can't update this watch beyond watchOS 6. The most current operating system is watchOS 7, and watchOS 8 was already announced for fall 2021. The average used Apple Watch Series 2 will set you back $100 but can occasionally be found cheaper.

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Apple Watch Series 4 ($180+)

No, I did not miss Series 3. You can buy a Series 3 new and run it on the current watchOS. Why doesn't Apple sell Watch Series 4? It was discontinued. Maybe the reasoning was that it was just too similar to the Series 5? 

If you want to be unique and buy a used Series 4, you can expect to pay at least $180 for the GPS-only watch. This model does run the current watchOS 7, but there is a chance that software support will be discontinued once the new Apple Watch and watchOS come out this fall.

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Apple Watch Series 5 ($230+)

Apple Watch Series 5 was also discontinued, this time with the release of Series 6. You can still buy it used on eBay or other marketplaces for $230 or more. It is a great watch that I enjoyed having, and it runs on the current watchOS 7, but a used one costs almost as much as a new Series SE.

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The Difference between Apple Watches Series 3, Series SE & Series 6

These are the only three models that you can currently buy new from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 is only available with GPS, but both the SE and Series 6 can either be GPS-only or GPS+Cellular. You can refer to my tree diagram for a quick reference of the most significant differences. Here is some more information about the differences:

Apple Watch Series 3 ($199+)

The Apple Watch Series 3 is your best option if you want a great Apple Watch but are on a budget. It is water-resistant, offers high and low heart rate notifications, irregular heart rhythm notifications, and many other excellent features.

Some downsides include the outdated display that's 30 percent smaller than the Series SE and Series 6. It also doesn't support Family Setup and isn't available with cellular data. It is still a great watch, but personally, I feel like the Apple Watch Series SE is more worth it.

Don’t forget that you can always shop for refurbished Apple Watch Series 3 directly on Apple. These come with the option of GPS+Cellular and can save you some money. You can also find a used Apple Watch Series 3 for even less on eBay or other marketplaces.

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Apple Watch Series SE ($279+)

My personal pick for the best budget Apple Watch is the Series SE. It has a sleek look and the larger display of the Apple Watch Series 6 without the steep price tag. It is available as a GPS+Cellular watch and has many great features, like support for Family Setup. 

The main difference between the Apple Watch Series SE and the Series 6 is that the SE doesn't have as many heart health features. You cannot measure your blood oxygen level or do ECGs. However, it is still a great fitness watch.

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Apple Watch Series 6 ($399+)

The Apple Watch Series 6 is the latest and most expensive model at the moment. It looks the same as the more affordable SE, but it can measure your blood oxygen level and has an ECG app. The larger size drives the price up, as does the GPS+Cellular option.

I currently have the Series 6 40mm GPS+Cellular, and I do love it. However, I don't regularly use all the functions. At my age, I don't have a real need for extra heart health features. Plus, I have only taken advantage of the cellular connection once during a power outage when my phone ran out of battery.

The Series 6 is an excellent option for those who want the latest tech or want to know more about how their heart health impacts their fitness. However, the price tag can be intimidating, especially since it isn't significantly different from the SE.

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The bottom line is that there is no "best Apple Watch for you;" it depends on your lifestyle, needs, and budget. Also, keep in mind that there are different sizes. You can read more about the sizes and the Apple Watch bands that fit them here. Plus, don't forget to check out all the features of watchOS 8, coming to Apple Watch this fall!

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Author Details

Olena Kagui's picture

Author Details

Olena Kagui

Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life who lives in Rhode Island. With a BA in International Relations from Anglo American University, Olena traveled the world. She has lived in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, China, and the USA. Olena won an excellence award for a controversial article, got a grant to blog from a war-zone, and published a short fictional story. She hopes to publish a full-length novel and continue writing up a storm on her blog The Travel Bug Bite! When she’s not typing or flying, she is loving on animals, crafting bizarre creations, and devouring all-you-can-eat sushi.