Broadly speaking, recommending an Apple Watch is simple: If you use an iPhone and want a smartwatch, staying in-house with Apple will usually be your best bet.
But there are several Apple Watches on the market right now. The introduction of the Apple Watch Series 7 in September 2021 brought Apple’s lifetime total to nine, with the company currently offering three models in stores: the Series 7, SE, and Series 3. Among those, there are multiple variants that differ in size, connectivity, design, and price.
Then there are older-but-still-updated generations you can dig up from third-party retailers like Best Buy and Amazon, as well as options to buy refurbished devices. Everyone has different needs, and you may be able to find an Apple Watch that’s less expensive and more attuned to your desires by going these routes.
The impending launch of watchOS 9 will further complicate these decisions, and as usual, Apple is expected to launch new models in the fall. For those seeking to take the plunge today, however, we’ve sifted through the market of old, new, and refurbished Apple Watches and tested the current options to help determine the best one for you. We’ll keep this guide updated over time as new models are introduced, so if you’d like to upgrade from an older model or hop aboard for the first time, allow us to do your research for you.
The best Apple Watch for most people
Apple Watch Series 7
The Apple Watch Series 7 is the best smartwatch you can buy right now. It’s the most well-equipped, well-supported wearable on the market, making it the truest extension of your phone available. The number of apps and integrations is unparalleled, allowing you to do everything from opening your garage door to checking the ocean tides right from your wrist. It’s not the most decked-out fitness accessory—we’d go with a Garmin smartwatch for serious athletes and outdoors people wanting longer battery life and deeper training features—but the Series 7 is closing some ground here, too.
Packing sensors for ECG monitoring, blood-oxygen readings, and heart rate, the Series 7 hits the top-tier trifecta for health metrics in wearables. Throw in GPS, a compass, an always-on altimeter, built-in fall detection, 50-meter water resistance, and the option for cellular capability, and you have a fitness companion you can bring with you anywhere for both tracking and safety purposes.
Apple’s “digital crown” mechanism is still an intuitive way to scroll on the watch, and there are fun case colors and a plethora of band options to suit your style, including the Nike sport bands, stylish metal options, woven bands, and a ton more.
With the impending release of watchOS 9 this fall, the Series 7 will also gain the ability to provide advanced running metrics (e.g., stride, cadence, pace), heart rate zones, and new multisport tracking modes, among other features.
The Series 7 also sports the largest display of any Apple Watch, thanks to its smaller bezels and 1-mm-larger watch case compared to the Series 6. It’s not a huge difference—except that the larger size facilitates a QWERTY keyboard for text input—but it enables larger text formats that can be a game-changer for those with visual impairments.
With charging coils and a USB-C-based charger, the Series 7 is also the fastest-charging Apple Watch, juicing up from 0 to 100 percent in just over an hour in our testing. That’s about half the time it takes to charge any other Apple Watch model. This is also the only dustproof (IP6X) Apple Watch and the only one that supports typing through a full QWERTY keyboard.
To be clear, the Series 7, like every Apple Watch in this guide, isn’t perfect. While Apple’s smartwatches enjoy the broadest level of third-party app (and accessory) support, you won’t find every iPhone app on the Apple Watch—far from it. And not every app is especially useful. (Do you really want to be able to scroll through Twitter on your wrist?) Still, just about any relevant apps for a wrist-based experience are on there.
The bigger sacrifice you’ll make with owning any Apple Watch is the battery life; it only lasts a day or so. Other smartwatches, like those from Garmin and Fitbit, can last a week or longer, although you won’t find the same level of app support (third- or first-party) as with your iPhone. And yes, Apple Watches are still iPhone-only, and that will likely never change. But taken as a whole, and especially for iPhone owners, the Apple Watch is the most well-rounded wearable platform on the market—and right now, the Series 7 is the most complete offering for the majority of people.
Who’s it for: Those who want the latest in health and fitness features or those who simply need a bigger screen
Worth the upgrade for: Series 5 and below