If you have an iPhone and want a smartwatch, there’s only one choice to make: how much do you want to spend on an Apple Watch?
That’s because the competition in the smartwatch space is not very good right now. Although there are a few different smartwatch and fitness band options out there, none of them can work as well with iOS as the Apple Watch does. Some of those competitors have better battery life, but none of them combine as many features as well as Apple does.
It would be nice if Apple opened up iOS so that it was even possible to make a competitive smartwatch, but don’t hold your breath. You could worry about the lack of competition and what it portends from a platform monopoly point of view (I certainly do), but our best advice when it comes to actually buying something is to just buy whatever Apple Watch you can afford.
Lucky for all of us, the Apple Watch just happens to be excellent on its own merits.
Apple finally made a change everyone has been waiting for in 2019: it allows you to have an always-on screen that continuously displays the time. In our review of the Apple Watch Series 5 we noted that it does slightly impact battery life, but not so much so that you can’t get through a day. I’ve been using a cellular edition Apple Watch Series 5 for months and I can report that it, too, can make it through a full day.
That always-on display is the main reason we recommend the Series 5 over older Apple Watches, but the larger screen size and faster processors don’t hurt either. The Series 5 is also an excellent fitness tracker and has health-monitoring features that could provide warnings to you or your loved ones in case of falls or irregular heartbeat issues.
Although the app ecosystem is nowhere near what the iPhone has, there are a few third-party apps that you might find useful — including some that offer sleep tracking, the big feature still lacking on the Apple Watch out of the box.
If you don’t want a screen on your wrist, there are a few other ways to track your steps or even get notification alerts — like a Withings Steel HR or a FitBit. They are proficient at what they do and have long-lasting batteries, but they don’t let you reply to iMessages or have other rich integrations with iOS.
But if you don’t mind having a screen, don’t overthink it: get the Apple Watch.
When Apple released the Series 5, it discontinued the Series 4 but kept the Series 3 around. That seems confusing, but don’t worry about the strategy, worry about the price: $199.
For half of the cost of a Series 5, you will still get a very capable smartwatch with an all-day battery. Your only sacrifices are the screen size, the always-on display, and the processor is slightly slower. For a lot of people, those things won’t matter. It is possible that over the long term, the Series 3 won’t hold up as well as the Series 5 — in terms of running watchOS well. It’s possible, but it’s also a hypothetical problem for a few years from now. Apple typically offers excellent software updates for several years for all its products.
If you can find a newer Apple Watch on sale for the same price, go get it with our blessing. But the Series 3 at $199 is still a good price for a good product, and a great purchase if you don’t want to spend a lot more on the Series 5.
Most of the rest of these watches are better for Android users than iPhone users. The main reason to pick any of them over the Apple Watch is aesthetics. Just be aware that if you really want that round watchface, it comes with significantly hampered functionality when paired with an iPhone.
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