Until a few years ago, none of the The best Apple Watch Which models to choose was fairly easy, as there was only one flagship model released each year. However, Apple has changed a few things since then. In 2020, it introduced the Apple Watch SE, which was basically a budget option that offered more or less the same functionality as the flagship model. 2022 saw the release of three new watches: Apple Watch Ultrathe Apple Watch Series 8and the second generation Apple Watch SE2.
Apple no longer sells the first-generation SE, as well as all previous Series 8 predecessors, but you can still buy Series 7 and below from third-party retailers, or get a refurbished watch that expands the number of options you have. Deciding on which model to choose can be difficult, considering the difference in price, features, and functionality. Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you. We’ve tested enough versions of the Apple Watch to be able to recommend which one to spend your dollars on.
How to choose the right Apple Watch for you: Price
The Apple Watch Ultra is the most premium and feature-rich option in the current lineup. It is remarkably durable and more durable than other Apple watches. It’s aimed at adventurers and weekend warriors whose lifestyles require the watch to operate in extreme conditions—or at least, people who like to say it can, if they want to test it. It comes in at 49mm and costs $799 / £849 / AU$1,229.
The Series 8, on the other hand, is a mid-range option that starts at $429 / £449 / AU$679. It comes in 42mm and 45mm sizes and features fairly thin bezels. The SE2 costs around $249 / £259 / AU$399, features a 40mm or 44mm case and features the same processor as the Ultra and Series 8. It may be important to note that the above prices are for GPS models only. If you decide to opt for a watch with cellular connectivity, you will pay about $100 more on top of the monthly fee that your service will cost.
If none of these watches fit your budget and/or if you care a lot about the environment, buying a refurbished watch is also a great option. If you’re thinking of buying a refurbished watch, don’t go for anything older than the Series 6. You might be tempted by cheap offers like around $100 for models like the Series 3. However, since they can’t upgrade to the latest software, they’ll be of no use to you. We recommend checking your future purchase with Series 6 or Series 7 for refurbished models, since they’re both compatible with watchOS 9.
How to choose the right Apple Watch for you: Luxury
As mentioned above, the Apple Watch Ultra is for people who will benefit from the extra ruggedness that it features. It’s designed for serious hikers, divers, or runners, and features enhanced durability and a water-resistant body. The massive titanium case also offers a thicker digital crown and a raised lip with squared edges that help protect the sapphire crystal display from accidents.
Another feature on the Ultra that you won’t see on other watches is the customizable Action button. As the name suggests, this button can be programmed to launch apps, activities, or workouts for you. It can also be configured to sound an 86dB siren, which is useful if you’re ever stranded in the wilderness. The Ultra also has two large buttons on its side that allow you to navigate it without having to use its screen.
The Series 8 and SE2 both come with GPS capabilities, but the L5 GPS on the Ultra is said to be the most accurate satellite navigation in an urban smartwatch. Likewise, the screen of this watch is larger and brighter than the other two. Other differences include the Dive and Oceanic+ apps, which turn the Ultra into a dive computer (we interviewed a dive instructor about the Apple Watch Ultra here). However, and it’s important to mention, aside from the adventure-specific aspects of the Ultra, it works like any other Apple Watch. Thus, unless you are sure that you will make the most of these features, the watch is not worth paying $799 for.
The 45mm Series 8 model is slightly larger than the SE2. This makes the former better for readability. Moreover, while both models are offered in aluminum cases, the Series 8 also comes with a stainless steel version. Besides being durable enough, the Series 8 also offers very advanced actuation metrics. If you want the extra layer of protection that steel will offer as well as very accurate data on your step count, definitely consider opting for the Series 8. It’s much more expensive than the SE2, but will support your investment in the future somewhat, along with making sure it doesn’t break the bank. As does Ultra.
Other health features are slightly different, resulting in a vastly different experience you may have with each watch. The Series 8 and Ultra Host wrist temperature sensors that help power advanced lap tracking, no one using the SE2 will be able to take advantage of it. These sensors provide ovulation data which is very useful for family planning and other healthcare decisions that women need to make.
How to choose the right Apple Watch for you: Features
The 2022 Apple Watch lineup shares the same processor as the S8 series, so you can be confident in the fact that you’re getting the same processing power on all three watches. The three watches also share the new high-powered sensors and improved gyroscopes that help make Apple’s Car Crash Detection feature easier and can be extremely helpful to you in the event of an accident.
However, there are three major features absent from the SE2 compared to the Series 8. These are ECG functions, blood oxygen monitoring, and the always-on display. However, the SE2 does support most of the other basic Apple Watch features which is usually enough for most people who don’t need all the bells and whistles that the other two watches offer. These include fall detection, family setup, SOS emergency service, and international emergency calling.
It is clear from the above analysis that, in terms of features, the SE2 falls slightly short of the Series 8 and Ultra. And in terms of performance, the Series 8 ranked just below the Ultra, not performing as well in our scratch and durability tests. This makes the Ultra the most superior watch of the three: Even discounting its health and fitness credentials, it features three microphones and two speakers for unrivaled call clarity, and battery life on the Ultra is the best ever on an Apple Watch. With Low Power Mode enabled, you can get up to 60 hours before it runs out of power.
If you don’t need any of the above features and are looking for an Apple Watch for casual daily tasks, the SE2 will easily do the job for you. When making a decision, it is also important to consider the size of the wrist. The 49mm Ultra may be too uncomfortable for people with small wrists. Likewise, people with large wrists may find the 42mm version of the SE2 to be too small.
How to choose the right Apple Watch for you: The verdict
While the Ultra is clearly superior in terms of performance and features, first-time Apple Watch buyers will overspend. You may not need, or want, a wrist-based computer or a wild siren. It’s pretty pricey, and you probably only need the Ultra if you’re a distance runner, big hiker, regular diver, skier… basically, if you’re going to take advantage of some of its powerful built-in abilities.
Casual or novice health enthusiasts should opt for something a little less hardcore, like the SE2. Additionally, it’s not as if SE2 is unable to provide any information about your health. The heart rate sensors are very accurate, and you can count on them to provide you with accurate data. If you’re in good health, you might not even need all of the advanced health data that the Ultra and Series 8 provide.
In addition, the SE2 is an excellent choice for people who want to protect their devices in the future because it is compatible with the latest watchOS 9, along with making sure that their purchases are within their budget. After all, you get the same processor and a couple of other essential features found in the other two watches.
The Series 8 makes sense for buyers upgrading from their existing Apple Watch, or hse looking for great functionality and something a little more premium than the SE2, without signing up for an expensive watch like the Ultra. It’s the perfect compromise. It will also provide you with an always-on display and improved health tracking.
Not convinced that the Apple Watch is the right choice? Take a look at our lists of the best smartwatches and the best running watches.