You have decided that you need an Apple Watch in your life, but now the question is which one? There have been six different versions of the watch over the years, and a new version may be available in a few months. Apple currently offers two models to choose from: the Series 5, which starts at $ 399; and Series 3, which starts at $ 199.

The good news is that you can't go wrong if you've set your heart on an Apple Watch. Both have the same fitness tracking features, notifications, and seamless integration with your iPhone. So if price is your main concern, just rest, get everything you need from Series 3 for $ 200 less. However, if you have some leeway in your budget, Series 5 offers some outstanding features that may be worth your while.

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Apple Watch Series 5

The Apple Watch Series 5 is on when you need it

Sarah Tew / CNET

Series 5 is the gold standard when it comes to smartwatches. It has all the basics, plus some additional features like a permanently on display and an FDA-approved electrocardiogram app that sets it apart from the others. And if you need your Apple Watch to pass the test of time, the Series 5 is the better choice. With the latest update to WatchOS 7, Apple has discontinued the first three generations of the Apple Watch, and Series 3 could be on the chopping block next.

Apple Watch Series 3

The better value


Josh Miller / CNET

If you're buying your first smartwatch and on a budget, Series 3 is the Apple Watch for you. It has exactly the same fitness tracking functionality as the Series 5, heart rate alerts to keep you up to date, and seamless integration with your iPhone. More importantly, it's half the Series 5 price, so you can use the money you save on the cellular model or keep the extra $ 200 in your pocket.

Always on is practical, but not a must

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The cellular version of the 3 series has a red dot on the crown, while the 5 series has only one outline.

Angela Lang / CNET

The first big difference between the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Series 3 is the display. The Series 5 screen is always on, so you can view the time or your exercise statistics without lifting your wrist while the Series 3 screen turns off when you are not using it. It may not seem that big of a deal, but once you get an idea of ​​the always-on screen, it's hard to go back. Good luck with discreetly checking the time during a meeting, because viewing items on the Series 3 screen requires very deliberate movement of the wrist. Series 5 has a darker version of your dial that is always visible. And even with the display always on, the Series 5 battery won't discharge faster than the Series 3 battery.


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Slightly better battery life with the Series 5

Both the Series 5 and Series 3 last about 18 hours in normal use. This includes getting notifications from your phone, checking the time, and tracking a workout (battery life is a bit shorter if you use GPS during exercise). The advantage of the Series 5 Apple Watch is that you can disable the always-on feature if you need to get more miles out of the battery. In this case, you may be able to press almost two full days or 24 hours once sleep tracking is available with the update to WatchOS 7 in the fall. You also get an extra hour of battery life while training outdoors, which can be important when training for a race. Series 5 records continuous activity worth approximately 6 hours (5 with LTE enabled) compared to 5 hours (4 with LTE enabled) in Series 3.

Better visibility during training

Series 5 is only a few millimeters larger than Series 3, but the screen appears noticeably larger because it has smaller frames. It's still a tiny screen compared to your phone, but it's definitely easier to read. The Series 5 display is also brighter than the Series 3 display, so you can see it better outdoors and in direct sunlight. This is especially useful for checking live statistics during a run without having to pause and blink on the screen to view your data.

They are both great at tracking workouts

Both watches are great fitness companions that track almost every workout and remind you to get moving on your days off. Both have built-in GPS, so you can leave your phone behind while running and still be able to track route and distance information via the watch. They are water and fresh up to 50 meters waterproof – swim water. The main difference is that the Series 5 has a compass that can come in handy if you hike a lot.

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The Apple Watch Series 5 is always on.

Angela Lang / CNET

Same cardiac features, minus the EKG app

Both watches monitor your ticker with heart health notifications that notify users when their heart rate is too high or too low or show signs of atrial fibrillation (aFib), a serious heart condition. But only the 5 series has an integrated ECG function (electrocardiogram). In addition to the conventional optical sensor that measures heart rate, the 5 Series has a sensor that allows users to use the EKG app to create an electrocardiogram that can then be shared with their doctor.

Series 5 is better in an emergency

Series 3 and 5 have an SOS function that can be triggered by a long press on the side button. After activation, the watch automatically calls 911 and then sends a text with your coordinates to your emergency contacts. With the 5 series, this function also works when you travel abroad. The 5 Series also features fall detection, which is similar to an automated version of the SOS function, which is triggered by a hard fall instead of a long push. If the user does not move for about a minute, the watch notifies both the emergency services and the emergency contacts.

Faster processor and more storage space in the 5 series

If you don't run both clocks side by side, you may not even notice the difference in speed. However, the 5 Series has a faster processor and a faster Wi-Fi chip, so it generally responds faster to tasks like starting a workout and switching apps. It is also more reliable when connected to LTE and offers more storage space for listening to your music offline.

The best offer can be short-lived

When you buy your first smartwatch, Series 3 seems to be the better deal. It has almost the same features as the Series 5 and costs $ 200 less. There is one more thing to consider when making your decision: the durability of the watch. Apple is known to stop updating older models. Series 3 is currently the oldest model compatible with WatchOS 7. This means that the next thing on the chopping block is no longer receiving support for future operating system versions. Whether this means that there will be no update for WatchOS next year remains to be seen. However, it should be checked whether you want to keep your watch for a few years and continue to receive the updates.

Apple Watch Series 5 vs. Series 3 specifications

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 3

Display size, resolution

40 mm, 44 mm retina OLED 368 x 448 pixels

42 mm, 38 mm retina OLED 312 x 390 pixels

Always on

Yes

No

Dimensions (millimeters)

40 mm: 40 mm (height), 34 mm (width), 10.74 mm (depth) 44 mm: 44 mm (height) 38 mm (width) 10.74 mm (depth)

38mm: 38.6mm (height), 33.3mm (width), 11.4mm (depth) 42mm: 42.5mm (height) 36.4mm (width) 11.4mm (depth)

Weight (grams)

40 mm WLAN: 30.8 g, WLAN + mobile radio: 30.8 g 44 mm WLAN: 36.5 g WLAN + mobile radio: 36.5 g

38mm WiFi: 26.7g, WiFi + cellular: 28.7g 42mm WiFi: 32.3g WiFi + cellular: 34.9g

Materials / surfaces

Aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic, titanium

aluminum

Colours

Silver, Space Gray, Gold, White (ceramic)

Space gray and silver

Interchangeable straps

Yes

Yes

GPS

Built-in

Built-in

Automatic training detection

Yes

Yes

compass

Yes

No

Altimeter

Yes

Yes

Water resistance

Yes, up to 50 m

Yes, up to 50 m

Calls

Yes

Yes

Notifications

Text responses

Text responses

microphone

Yes

Yes

speaker

Yes

Yes

Voice assistant

Siri

Siri

music

Onboard, playback and streaming (with cellular model)

Onboard, playback and streaming (with cellular model)

Mobile payments

Apple Pay

Apple Pay

Sleep tracking

No (from WatchOS 7)

No (from WatchOS 7)

Period tracking

Yes

Yes

Special features

ECG app and HR notifications, fall detection, hearing health warnings

HR notifications and warning messages about hearing health

Emergency functions

Emergency SOS, international emergency call, fall detection

SOS emergency call (911 and emergency contacts)

compatibility

IOS / iPhone only

IOS / iPhone only

software

WatchOS 6

WatchOS 6

processor

S5 chip dual core processor and W3 wireless chip

S3 chip dual core processor and W2 wireless chip

Connectivity

Wi-Fi and cellular option ($ 100 more)

Wi-Fi and cellular option ($ 100 more)

camp

32 GB

16 GB (Wi-Fi and cellular model), 8 GB (Wi-Fi model only)

Bluetooth

5.0

4.2

power

Magnetic Apple charging cable and USB port (backward compatible)

Magnetic Apple charging cable and USB port (backward compatible)

Battery life

All day (18 hours)

All day (18 hours)

Price (USD)

Starting at $ 399 (40mm aluminum)

Starting at $ 199 (40 mm aluminum)

Price (GBP)

£ 399

£ 199

Price (AUD)

AU $ 649

AU $ 399

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