Best Apple Watch 2020: which model should you buy?

There are a number of different Apple Watch options out there, but which is best for you?

Best Apple Watch

If you have had your eye on an Apple Watch for a while, you’ll probably be excited to get your hands on the new Series 5, but choosing which design might be for you (or whether you would get all the features you need from the cheaper Series 3) might be a tougher decision. 

To make life easier, we’ve broken down the options for you, comparing everything from screen size, design and fit, to the nitty-gritty of processing power and more.

Apple Watch Series 6 and SE update: Apple has recently announced the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE, while we have no doubt these models will earn its place in our list, we're waiting to review Apple's latest smartwatch model before we recommend it. 

Up until recently the latest and greatest Apple Watch is the Apple Watch Series 5. It features a stunning design and an always-on display. It's not the biggest update over the Series 4, but the small things make a difference. Prices for the Apple Watch Series 5 start at £399.

Despite looking pretty similar, there are lots of differences between the Series 3 and Series 4 watches - not least the price, as the Series 4 can be picked up with a pretty big discount, while the equivalent older model can be picked up for as little as £199.

Aesthetically, the Series 4 and 5 are considered to be better looking. They have a 30% larger screen and is thinner, with more metallic colour options, a  louder speaker, a ceramic backplate that’s meant to boost reception and the new digital crown with haptic feedback, which is used to navigate the watch's features. 

One other big difference is what's inside the watches. The new one has an S4 64-bit dual-core processor and is up to two times faster than the S3 processor in the Series 3 Apple Watch. It also comes with a second-generation optical heart sensor and an electrical heart sensor, allowing it to do a whole lot more health monitoring including ECG tests.

However, there are lots of similarities too, which are worth considering if you are not hell-bent on having the latest model and are looking for extra value for money.

Once you’ve chosen between the two available models (Series 1 and 2 have been discontinued) you’ll need to consider which size of watch face you prefer (there are two choices) and whether you want it to have the ability to make calls via your phone network, as cellular connectivity comes at a price.

The standard GPS watch starts at £399 for the Series 4 and £279 for the older Series 3, while the cellular equivalents are £100 more expensive in both cases. So just what do you get for the money? The cool ability to make phone calls from your watch, thanks to an electronic SIM card inside the GPS + Cellular models. 

As well as the higher price of the watch itself, you'll incur extra running costs for data usage and network fees, so it’s worthwhile thinking about whether you really want this feature. 

If you do (and aren’t that bothered about extra health monitoring) it’s worth considering that a Series 3 + Cellular is still cheaper than the Series 4 without the ability to make calls. 

But if you’re someone who has their phone with them all the time, you’ll probably want to plump for the cheaper GPS versions and save your pennies.

Last but not least, you’ll want your watch to look good, and there are a lot of decisions to make. The watch’s body comes in aluminium, which is the cheapest option, or stainless steel, with lots of colours and materials to choose from for straps. There are even offerings from Nike and luxury fashion house Hermès.

Amazon Prime Day 2020
Looking for cheap Apple Watch deals? Well, we’ve got some good news for you – Amazon Prime Day is expected to take place mid-October. That’s a little later than previous years, be we’re expecting equally excellent deals.

Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday Apple Watch deals

We're certain to see some Amazon Prime Day deals and Black Friday deals on Apple Watch models this year. The obvious candidate is the Apple Watch Series 5, since there will still be stock of this now-discontinued model, and retailers will want to clear them out – there could make for some great deals, since there's really not much difference between it and the Series 6.

We wouldn't rule out some great deals on the Series 6, though – last year, we saw some models of the then-brand-new Series 5 have around £100/$100 slashed off them in flash sales, so maybe there'll be more of the same.

Discounts on the Watch Series 3 seem less likely, since it's already down to a lower price. But an extra 10% off here and there wouldn't surprise us, particularly of model/band combinations that Apple isn't offering any more.

Best Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 5

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple Watch Series 5

Surprise! The most modern Apple Watch is the best Apple Watch!

Reasons to buy
+Excellent design (and new titanium finish)+Fantastic health features, including ECG+Good, comprehensive fitness options+32GB of on-board storage+Always-on screen is lovely
Reasons to avoid
-Reduced battery life compared to Series 4-Doesn't work with Android at all, still

The Apple Watch Series 5 is not only the best Apple Watch available, it's the best smartwatch on the market. It takes everything that was great about the Series 4 – stylish looks, great fitness features, potentially life-saving health tools, slick notifications and apps – and adds that lovely always-on screen. 

For iPhone owners with the money to spend, it's unquestionably the Apple Watch you should buy.

If you already have the Apple Watch Series 4, however, you can feel free to skip this model. The Series 5 is better than the Series 4, naturally, but the new features aren't transformative enough for us to recommend the update. 

If you have an Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 2, however, you might want to consider upgrading. The Series 3 is still a great watch, with impressive battery life and plenty of speed, but the design of the Series 5 makes it worth the upgrade.

Best Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 4

2. Apple Watch Series 4

Still an excellent buy, and now at a cheaper price

Reasons to buy
+Largest screen+Modern, slim design+ECG function+Best battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Running features still behind Garmin-Flush button a little tricky to press

‘All new. For a better you’ is how Apple describes its Series 4 watch. If you’re an Apple fanboy this is the one you want, and it does pack more of a punch than its predecessor.

On the outside, the watch is sexier, with 30% more screen and nicely curved edges that makes for a more rounded appearance and allows imagery and the watch’s touch surface to go right to the edge of the screen. This means, for example, the new ‘Infograph’ watch face can accommodate up to ‘eight complications’, so you can see more and do more at a glance, including clicking on a photo of a friend to give them a call, or checking out some fitness stats. And it’s thinner too.

Like all Apple Watches, the Series 4 has a Digital Crown, allowing users to scroll without obstructing the display, only the new one has haptic feedback  to deliver a pleasing ‘precise, click-like feel as you scroll’. But there are bigger changes beneath the watch’s shiny exterior. The Series 4 is the most powerful Apple Watch yet thanks to the new S4 chip, which makes it twice as fast as its predecessor, while an inbuilt speaker is 50% louder, providing better audio quality for Siri and Walkie-Talkie functions. All these little changes, including a more efficient display, means the watch has up to 18-hours of battery life on a single charge, according to the company (although, we've found this is an underestimation).

As well as its looks and hi-tech spec, Apple is boasting about the Series 4’s new health and fitness capabilities. On the back, the optical heart sensor present on the first three iterations has been upgraded. It can now even do ECGs thanks to the new electrical heart sensor. It lets you check your heart rate and notifies you if it’s above or below your specified threshold and there’s Fall Detection and Emergency SOS, which could prove handy for more vulnerable users. All your heart data, as well as information from health and fitness apps, is collected in your iPhone Health app. Activity, sleep, mindfulness and nutrition are highlighted there in one snapshot too.

While the Apple Watch has always been pretty handy for runners, it now includes yoga and hiking thanks to a more flexible Workout App, which automatically detects the type of exercise you’re doing. You can set individual goals, measure your calorie burn and track your progress over time in the Activity app too. For example, with a gentle tap, new pace alerts let you know whether you’re ahead of or behind where you want to be. You can also pair your watch with compatible gym equipment by tapping. Like the Series 3 before it, the new watch is water resistant to 50 metres but it has a cool new function that allows it to eject water from the speaker with a burst of sound. 

The Series 4 comes in two sizes: 44mm and 40mm and costs from £399, or £499 for the + Cellular version, find the best contract prices below:

Best Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 3

3. Apple Watch Series 3

Not the most recent Apple Watch, be still a great contender for your cash

Reasons to buy
+Still has GPS and 4G+Runs the latest software+More affordable than the Series 4
Reasons to avoid
-Not the latest generation-Shorter battery life

The Apple Watch Series 3 may not be as exciting as the newest counterpart, but it offers some serious bang for its buck, with any of the ‘essential’ features covered for £100 less. Yes, it’s slightly chunkier with a smaller screen (42mm or 38mm), but it still have the ‘digital crown’ for easy and unobscured navigation, the same capacity level of water resistance and optical heart sensor. This means that it can be used for all the main exercise and health functions, but may not support the latest apps that make use of the Series 4’s electrical heart sensor, for example.

The watch has Apple’s ‘Activity Rings’, which show the ways you move each day at a glance and lets you track your exercise easily, while the sensors monitor your heart rate and the Breathe app can help you manage stress. You can download a choice of health apps too.

If you plump for the cellular version of the Series 3 you can make a call without your phone, just as with the Series 4. And you can also ask Siri to send a message, stream your favourite songs and uses emergency SOS if you need it – just like with the newer watch.

Of course there are some drawbacks of buying an older model. For example, it as Apple’s S3 processor, which isn’t as fast as the S4 but this won’t a problem for people using it as an ‘extra’ device or as a fitness aid. And for fashion fanatics, its face isn’t as complex and there is no gold hardware option. The watch is also only available in aluminum, but on the upside, that keeps the cost down. And the screen isn’t quite as clear or as efficient as the Series 4’s, which takes its toll on battery life.

In short, the Series 3 offers a lot of the most important features, but is slightly more sluggish and lacklustre, with the possibility that some high tech health apps using the electrical sensor, may not work. But, if you’re looking for a smart watch that looks great and offers all the main capabilities at a good price point – from £279 - the Series 3 might be for you.

Best Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 5 Hermès Edition

4. Apple Watch Series 5 Hermès Edition

We love this Apple Watch from the luxury fashion house

Reasons to buy
+Rarity kudos+Great strap selection+Custom faces+Great brand
Reasons to avoid
-It will be obsolete at some point

If money is no object, then you might like to consider the Apple Watch Hermès. The ultimate high-tech fashion statement, the watch has specially designed faces and handcrafted leather straps. But under its stylish bonnet, the Apple Watch Hermès is the same as any other Series 5. 

When it comes to straps, the choice is wide. The extra-long strap of the Double Tour wraps twice around the wrist and is available in four colour-ways. Then there's the classic Hermès design with a buckle inspired by a horse's saddle, also available in four colour-ways and there's a hidden deployment buckle version too. The strap, which is available in a choice of two colours, opens with a click of the two side buttons. 

There's also a rubbery Sport Band in signature Hermès orange and a more luxurious 'Single Tour Rallye' strap in Fauve grained Barenia calfskin, which references the design of a classic Hermes driving glove - i.e. it has holes in it.

But these designer straps come at a hefty price, with the watches costing between £1,249 and £1,499. It’s worth remembering that for the same price you could splash out on a Series 4 and a seriously luxurious handbag or holdall for the same price, making this watch one for collectors.

Best Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 5 Nike+ Edition

5. Apple Watch Series 5 Nike+ Edition

The most recently Apple Watch for sporty types

Reasons to buy
+Breathable straps+Custom Nike watch faces+Bright designs
Reasons to avoid
-No additional features

This watch has all the standard Series 5 software features, including the sports and health ones, but is a sporty iterations designed for gym enthusiasts and athletes. The big differences are the straps available and on-board apps.

The Watch is described as 'the perfect running partner' for the Nike Run Club app, and the Nike Training Cub app is optimised for the watch too. They include all the usual tracking features as well as a new audio-guided run every week with a curated soundtrack and 'custom cheers', while the training app has over 180 free workouts and notifications to provide workout recommendations to close your 'Exercise ring' (the colourful tracker) for the day. There are also special Nike watch face designs

There are two types of straps - one rubbery ‘particle’ design with air holes to keep your sweaty wrists cool, and another fabric version - the Nike Sport Loop - with reflective thread for those who like to run in the dark.

The Nike+ Series 5 watches are some of the cheapest at £399 and £499 depending on connectivity, making them a great option for those who like the latest fitness gadgets.

Best Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 2

6. Apple Watch Series 2

No longer available to buy new

Reasons to buy
+Still offers most functions+Still an attractive product
Reasons to avoid
-No cellular or GPS-No swimming-Will stop receiving updates soon

Moving back even further still is the Apple Watch Series 2. This model was released in September 2016, so it's getting on a bit now, but, if you're looking for the cheapest (but still good) Apple Watch model, then this is it.

The Series 2 still has all of the main features covered, such as notifications on your wrist, a selection of apps, fitness features, and compatibility with all stands, docks, chargers, straps and accessories.

It even has built-in GPS, but no option for cellular.

The ageing Apple Watch also falls slightly short when it comes to processing power, battery life, and durability (this one isn't waterproof, so you can't use it to track swimming).

In short, the Apple Watch Series 2 offers a lot of functionality in a device which can be had for less than £200. It's ideal if you're still unsure whether you'll like a smartwatch. It'll quickly become outdated though, and will make you wonder why you didn't just by a Series 4 in the first place.

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