There are now three different versions of Apple Watch on sale: The mid-tier Series 3 GPS-only, top-tier Series 3 GPS + Cellular, and the budget Series 1. Here's what you need to know about each of them.

With Apple's introduction of the Apple Watch Series 3, there are now three distinct versions of the company's wearable for sale: the GPS-only Series 3, GPS + Cellular Series 3, and existing Series 1. Including Apple's discontinued Series 2 and original "Series 0" watches, there are now five different Apple Watch models in the world.

Of course, it's all well and good to have generational labels, but as anyone who's ever read anything about "millennials" can attest, there's a lot of nuance and differences behind those monikers. What's the difference between each series of Watch — and more importantly, which should you buy? Here's the deal.

Everything you need to know about Series 3 GPS + Cellular Apple Watch

The GPS + Cellular Series 3 model is the latest and greatest in Apple Watch, and encompasses the current aluminum, steel, Hermès, Edition, and Nike+ versions of the watch.

What models fall under Series 3 GPS + Cellular?

  • 38mm & 42mm aluminum: Silver, Space Grey, and Gold
  • 38mm & 42mm Nike+: Silver and Space Grey aluminum with custom Sport bands
  • 38mm & 42mm steel: Silver and Space Black steel
  • 38mm & 42mm Edition: White and Grey Ceramic with Soft White/Pebble and Grey/Black Sport band
  • 38mm & 42mm Hermès: Noir Gala Leather Single Tour Rallye (42mm only), Marine Gala Leather Single Tour Eperon d'Or, Indigo Swift Leather Double Tour (38mm only), Fauve Barenia Leather Double Tour (38mm only), Indigo Swift Leather Single Tour (42mm only), Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour, Ébène Barenia Leather Single Tour Deployment Buckle (42mm), Fauve Barenia Leather Single Tour Deployment Buckle (42mm)

How much does a Series 3 GPS + Cellular Apple Watch cost?

These are the base prices for each model; specialized bands or anodization will bump up the price.

  • Aluminum: $399 for 38mm, $429 for 42mm
  • Steel: $599 for 38mm, $649+ for 42mm
  • Edition: $1299 for 38mm, $1349 for 42mm
  • Nike+: $399 for 38mm, $429 for 42mm
  • Hermes: $1149+ for 38mm, $1199+ for 42mm

What bands/accessories can you pair with the watch on purchase?

Sport

  • Sport band
  • Sport Loop

Steel

  • Sport band
  • Milanese Loop

Edition

  • Sport

Nike+

  • Custom Nike Sport band with perforations
  • Custom Sport Loop

Hermes

  • Single Tour (certain colors 42mm only)
  • Single Tour Rallye (42mm only)
  • Single Tour Eperon d'Or
  • Single Tour Deployment Buckle (42mm only)
  • Double Tour (38mm only)

All Hermes watches additionally come with a custom Orange Hermes Sport band.

What are the dimensions of the 38mm and 42mm cases?

They're essentially the same as their Series 3 GPS-only and Series 2 counterparts, but weigh in at 0.1-0.7g heavier.

Sport

  • 38mm: 38.6mm x 33.3mm x 11.4mm, weighing 28.7g
  • 42mm: 42.5mm x 36.4mm x 11.4mm, weighing 34.9g

Steel/Hermes

  • 38mm: 38.6mm x 33.3mm x 11.4mm, weighing 42.4g
  • 42mm: 42.5mm x 36.4mm x 11.4mm, weighing 52.8g

Ceramic

  • 38mm: 39.2mm x 34mm x 11.8mm, weighing 40.1g
  • 42mm: 42.6mm x 36.5mm x 11.4mm, weighing 46.4g

What are the features of Series 3 GPS + Cellular?

  • An aluminum, steel, or ceramic casing
  • S3 dual-core system-on-a-chip
  • W2 chip
  • LTE and UMTS3 Cellular antenna (must connect to same carrier as your iPhone; limited carriers at launch; approximately ~$10/month extra for service)
  • GPS/GLONASS antenna
  • 16GB Storage
  • Barometric altimeter (to measure flights and elevation)
  • Water resistance to 50m/150 feet, or "swim-proof"
  • Direct fire speaker that ejects water after a swim
  • Ion-X glass (Sport or Nike+) or sapphire crystal display (Steel, Ceramic, Hermes) and ceramic back (all models)
  • OLED Retina Display (1000 nits brightness)
  • Up to 18 hours battery life
  • Runs watchOS 4

What's different from past models?

The Cellular Series 3 watch has a slightly different feature-set than all of the other Series watches; here's how it compares.

Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular vs GPS-only: What's the difference?

Versus all other models

  • Requires iPhone 6 or later to pair (iPhone 5s or later for other models)
  • Cellular LTE service (Wi-Fi only or iPhone-paired cellular for other models)
  • Apple Music streaming available for GPS + Cellular (only paired music for other models)
  • More storage (16GB vs 8GB)
  • All casing styles available (aluminum, steel, Hermès, and ceramic vs only aluminum)
  • Ceramic back (vs composite for Series 3 GPS-only, Series 1, and Series 0)
  • Red dot on the crown (black on all other models)
  • Limited carrier and country availability (other models have wider availabilty)

Versus Series 2, 1, and 0

All of the above, plus:

  • S3 dual-core processor (1.7x faster than S2 and S1P, and ~2.5x faster than S1 single-core*)
  • Siri can respond verbally to your queries (silent on older models)
  • Barometric altimeter which counts floors and elevation (only available when iPhone present on older models)

*S1 speed jump based on existing speed metrics for prior Apple Watches from Apple

Versus Series 1 and 0

All of the above, plus:

  • OLED 1000-nit Retina Display with Force Touch (Twice as bright as 450-nit display on Series 1 and 0)
  • Water resistant to 50m (vs splash resistant)
  • Direct fire speaker (which ejects water after you've been swimming)
  • Built-in GPS antenna (not present in S1 or S1P chip)
  • Bigger and heavier (11.4mm depth vs 10.5mm for Series 0/1), and weights range from 28.2g on the 38mm Sport to 46.5g on the 42mm Ceramic. (In contrast, the Series 1 38mm Sport weighs 25g.)

When are they available?

You can pre-order a Series 3 GPS + Cellular Apple Watch on September 15, or pick one up outright on September 22.

See at Apple

Should you buy a Series 3 Apple Watch?

If you have a Series 0 Apple Watch, there are a few reasons to upgrade to either Series 3 model, including the faster chip, GPS, altimeter, LTE, more storage, better battery life for 38mm users, and higher water resistance. If you care about any of this, the watch is a pretty great upgrade.

If you have no Apple Watch and are debating between a Series 1, Series 3 GPS-only, or a Series 3 GPS + Cellular, the question is whether the better screen, GPS, LTE, the altimeter, swim resistance, faster chip, more storage, and a ceramic back is worth a $80-$150 increase in price. If you need LTE and more storage, the Series 3 GPS + Cellular is a no-brainer: Starting at $399, it's the best version of Apple's smartwatch yet, and with LTE set to further expand its abilities and the developer ecosystem, it's a great model with which to enter the Apple Watch ecosystem and should last you a long while.

Series 3 is also your only option non-aluminum versions of the watch, like the steel, Nike+, Hermes, or Ceramic Edition models.

Everything you need to know about Series 3 GPS-only Apple Watch

The Series 3 GPS-only may not have the bells and whistles of the Series 3 GPS + Cellular model, but it's still a pretty great — and discounted! — option to get some of the latest and greatest Apple Watch technology. It's like the iPhone 8 in an iPhone X world.

What models fall under Series 3 GPS-only?

  • 38mm & 42mm aluminum: Silver, Space Grey, and Gold
  • 38mm & 42mm Nike+: Silver and Space Grey aluminum with custom Sport bands

How much does a Series 3 GPS-only Apple Watch cost?

These are the base prices for each model; specialized bands or anodization will bump up the price.

  • Aluminum: $329 for 38mm, $359 for 42mm
  • Nike+: $329 for 38mm, $359 for 42mm

What bands/accessories can you pair with the watch on purchase?

Sport

  • Sport band

Nike+

  • Custom Nike Sport band with perforations

What are the dimensions of the 38mm and 42mm cases?

They're essentially the same as their Series 3 GPS counterparts, but weigh in at 1-3g lighter.

Sport & Nike+

  • 38mm: 38.6mm x 33.3mm x 11.4mm, weighing 26.7g
  • 42mm: 42.5mm x 36.4mm x 11.4mm, weighing 32.3g

What are the features of Series 3 GPS-only?

  • An aluminum casing
  • S3 dual-core system-on-a-chip
  • W2 chip
  • GPS/GLONASS antenna
  • 8GB Storage
  • Barometric altimeter (to measure flights and elevation)
  • Water resistance to 50m/150 feet, or "swim-proof"
  • Direct fire speaker that ejects water after a swim
  • Ion-X glass and composite back
  • OLED Retina Display (1000 nits brightness)
  • Up to 18 hours battery life
  • Runs watchOS 4

What's different from other models?

The GPS-only Series 3 Apple Watch is very similar to the GPS + Cellular, with a few key differences; its feature-set is further distinguished when compared to the Series 1, Series 2 and original Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular vs GPS-only: What's the difference?

Versus Series 3

  • Requires iPhone 5s or later to pair (iPhone 6 or later for GPS + Cellular model)
  • Wi-Fi only or iPhone-paired cellular (autonomous Cellular & LTE for GPS + Cellular)
  • Only paired music (Apple Music streaming available for GPS + Cellular)
  • Less storage (8GB vs 16GB for GPS + Cellular)
  • Only aluminum casing available (all casings for GPS + Cellular)
  • Composite back (ceramic back on GPS + Cellular)
  • Black dot on the crown (vs red dot)
  • Wide availability (vs limited in certain countries)

Versus Series 2, 1, and 0

  • S3 dual-core processor (1.7x faster than S2 and S1P, and ~2.5x faster than S1 single-core*)
  • Siri can respond verbally to your queries (silent on older models)
  • Barometric altimeter which counts floors and elevation (only available when iPhone present on older models)

*S1 speed jump based on existing speed metrics for prior Apple Watches from Apple

Versus Series 1 and 0

All of the above, plus:

  • OLED 1000-nit Retina Display with Force Touch (Twice as bright as 450-nit display on Series 1 and 0)
  • Water resistant to 50m (vs splash resistant)
  • Direct fire speaker (which ejects water after you've been swimming)
  • Built-in GPS antenna (not present in S1 or S1P chip)
  • Bigger and heavier (11.4mm depth vs 10.5mm for Series 0/1), and weights range from 28.2g on the 38mm Sport to 46.5g on the 42mm Ceramic. (In contrast, the Series 1 38mm Sport weighs 25g.)

When are they available?

You can pre-order a Series 3 GPS-only Apple Watch on September 15, or pick one up outright on September 22.

See at Apple

Should you buy a Series 3 GPS-only Apple Watch?

The main debate between Series 3 models is whether you need LTE or not, along with the nicer casing options and larger storage. If you're not in a country that supports the GPS + Cellular model on launch, you may not have a choice if you want to buy a Series 3 on launch day.

For upgraders who don't need or want LTE, the GPS-only Series 3 is an amazing upgrade over the Series 0, 1, or 2, with huge processor gains (1.7x faster than the Series 2, and up to 2.5x over the original Apple Watch), better battery life for 38mm users, and the altimeter for more accurate walking and hiking. If you care about any of this and don't need LTE, you'll want the GPS-only model.

If you have no Apple Watch and are debating between a Series 1, Series 3 GPS + Cellular, or Series 3 GPS-only, the question is mainly whether you need LTE; if you've eliminated that, decide whether the better screen, GPS, altimeter, swim resistance, and faster chip is worth a $80 increase in price over the Series 1. If you can manage it, the Series 3 GPS-only option is a speedy, solid model with which to enter the Apple Watch ecosystem.

Everything you need to know about Series 1

Series 1 was first released in 2016 alongside the Series 2 as Apple's low-cost model for those looking to enter its ecosystem, and it is remaining that way alongside the Series 3 — though it has gotten a small reduction in price.

What models fall under Series 1?

As Series 1 is designed solely as an entry-level option, the only casings available are the low-cost aluminum designs. If you want a steel casing, you'll have to pick up a Series 3 GPS + Cellular watch.

  • 38mm & 42mm Sport Silver Aluminum with White Sport Band
  • 38mm & 42mm Sport Space Gray Aluminum with Black Sport Band

How much does a Series 1 Apple Watch cost?

38mm Series 1 watches are even cheaper than they were in 2017: $249 vs $269, while the 42mm version is now $279 (originally $299).

What are the dimensions of the 38mm and 42mm cases?

  • 38mm: 38.6mm x 33.3mm x 10.5mm (height x width x depth), weighing 25g
  • 42mm: 42.5mm x 36.4mm x 10.5mm, weighing 30g

What are the features of Series 1?

The Series 1 Apple Watch option hasn't changed since its introduction in 2017. It currently has the following features:

  • An aluminum Sport casing
  • S1P dual-core system-on-a-chip
  • IP7 water resistance, or "splash-proof"
  • Ion-X glass display and composite back
  • OLED Retina Display (450 nits brightness)
  • Up to 18 hours battery life
  • Runs watchOS 4

What's it missing?

The Series 1 Apple Watch is the low-budget model, and thus loses most of the high-end features found on the Series 3 or discontinued Series 2 — but it still does well against the original Apple Watch.

  • Requires iPhone 5s (iPhone 6 for GPS + Cellular)
  • Paired music only (Apple Music available for GPS + Cellular)
  • 8 GB storage (vs 16 for GPS + Cellular)
  • aluminum only (aluminum, steel, Hermès, and ceramic available for GPS + Cellular)
  • Composite back (Ceramic back on GPS + Cellular models)
  • Black dot (Red dot on GPS + Cellular models)
  • Silent Siri (Series 3 Siri can respond verbally)
  • iPhone required for altimeter readings (Series 3 has built-in altimeter)
  • S1P dual-core processor (1.7 slower than S3, 50% faster than S1 single-core)
  • No GPS (available for Series 2 & 3)
  • OLED 450-nit Retina display with Force Touch (2x dimmer than Series 2 & 3)
  • Splash resistant (Series 2 and 3 are water resistant to 50m)
  • Lighter and thinner than Series 2 & 3 (10.5mm vs 11.4mm depth for Series 2/3; 25g for 38mm Series 1 vs 28.2g for the 38mm Series 2 & 3)

When are they available?

You can order a Series 1 Apple Watch right now from Apple.com.

See at Apple

Should you buy a Series 1 Apple Watch?

If you have a Series 0 Apple Watch, the main reason to upgrade to Series 1 would be to get the dual-core processor; until we've done more thorough testing on what kind of speed and battery benefits you'll receive, I can't definitively recommend upgrading.

If you have no Apple Watch and are debating between a Series 1 or Series 2, the question is whether GPS, swim resistance, and a ceramic back is worth a $100 increase in price. If you want to dip your toe into the Apple Watch ecosystem and don't plan to do much run-tracking or swimming, you can easily grab a Series 1 watch and enjoy the same internal performance improvements.

If money is no object, keep in mind that Series 1 is limited to the Sport aluminum casing; if you want a steel or ceramic casing, Hermes edition, or Nike+ edition, you'll want to invest in a Series 2 watch.

Discontinued models

Have an older Apple Watch and wondering how they stack up against the new Series 3? Here you go.

Will I be able to run all my apps and watchOS 4 on a discontinued watch? There's currently nothing in watchOS 4 or the developer documentation that would bar you from running an app on an older watch. It may run more sluggishly on a Series 0 wearable than Series 3, but you should still be able to launch it without problems.

Apple Watch Series 2

The Series 2 was Apple's 2016 fall smartwatch, and encompassed all casings — aluminum, steel, ceramic edition, and special-edition Hermès and Nike+ steel and aluminum models.

It cost $369 (Sport 38mm) up to $1299 (42mm Edition), and introduced the Woven Nylon band into the Apple Watch collection. It also introduced a slightly thicker and heavier case into the mix, which the Series 3 has kept.

Features

  • An aluminum, steel, or ceramic casing
  • S2 dual-core system-on-a-chip
  • GPS antenna
  • Water resistance to 50m/150 feet, or "swim-proof"
  • Direct fire speaker that ejects water after a swim
  • Ion-X glass (Sport or Nike+) or sapphire crystal display (Steel, Ceramic, Hermes) and ceramic back (all models)
  • OLED Retina Display (1000 nits brightness)
  • Up to 18 hours battery life
  • Runs watchOS 4

Versus other models

  • Requires iPhone 5s (iPhone 6 for GPS + Cellular)
  • Paired music only (Apple Music available for GPS + Cellular)
  • 8 GB storage (vs 16 for GPS + Cellular)
  • Aluminum, steel, Hermès, and ceramic were sold (aluminum only for Series 1 and GPS-only Series 3 models)
  • Ceramic back (Composite back on GPS-only Series 3 and Series 1 models)
  • Black dot (Red dot on GPS + Cellular models)
  • Silent Siri (Series 3 Siri can respond verbally)
  • iPhone required for altimeter readings (Series 3 has built-in altimeter)
  • S2 dual-core processor (1.7 slower than S3, 50% faster than S1 single-core)
  • GPS available (No GPS on Series 1 or 0)
  • OLED 1000-nit Retina display with Force Touch (2x brighter than Series 0 & 1)
  • Water resistant to 50m and direct-fire speaker (Series 0 & 1 only splash resistant and tinier speaker)
  • Bigger and heavier (11.4mm depth vs 10.5mm for Series 0/1), and weights range from 28.2g on the 38mm Sport to 46.5g on the 42mm Ceramic. (In contrast, the Series 1 38mm Sport weighs 25g.)

Original "Series 0" Apple Watch

The first-generation Apple Watch (or, as I've started calling it, "Series 0") was released April 2015, and discontinued in September 2016. Every watch Apple has manufactured up until September 2016 falls under this designation.

The Series 0 Apple Watch was made in aluminum, steel, gold Edition, and Hermés special editions, in 38mm and 42mm models. It is roughly the same size as the Series 1.

Features

  • An aluminum, steel, or 16k gold case
  • S1 single-core system-on-a-chip
  • IP7 water resistance, or "splash-proof"
  • Ion-X glass or Sapphire crystal display and composite or ceramic back
  • OLED Retina Display (450 nits brightness)
  • Up to 18 hours battery life
  • Runs watchOS 4

*Nit = Unit of measurement that measures the light from a single candle. Thanks, Apple!

Versus other models

  • Requires iPhone 5s (iPhone 6 for GPS + Cellular)
  • Paired music only (Apple Music available for GPS + Cellular)
  • 8 GB storage (vs 16 for GPS + Cellular)
  • Aluminum, steel, Hermès, and ceramic were sold (aluminum only for Series 1 and GPS-only Series 3 models)
  • Composite back (Ceramic back on GPS + Cellular Series 3 and Series 2)
  • Black dot (Red dot on GPS + Cellular models)
  • Silent Siri (Series 3 Siri can respond verbally)
  • iPhone required for altimeter readings (Series 3 has built-in altimeter)
  • S1 single-core processor (2.5x slower than S3, 1.7x slower than S1P dual-core)
  • No GPS available (Series 2 or higher supported)
  • No GPS (available for Series 2 & 3)
  • OLED 450-nit Retina display with Force Touch (2x dimmer than Series 2 & 3)
  • Splash resistant (Series 2 and 3 are water resistant to 50m)
  • Lighter and thinner than Series 2 & 3 (10.5mm vs 11.4mm depth for Series 2/3; 25g for 38mm Series 0 vs 28.2g for the 38mm Series 2 & 3)

Anything else?

Series 0 and 2 models have been discontinued from sale, so if you own an original Apple Watch or Series 2, you now own a limited-edition piece of the company's history. If you have an Hermès Cuff watch, this is doubly so: Both the Cuff and the Cuff version of the watch have been discontinued in Series 2.

Questions?

Still have questions about how Series 0, Series 1, Series 2, or Series 3 models of the Apple Watch differ? Let me know below.

Updated September 2017: Completely rewritten to add the Series 3 Apple Watch.