Apple Watch Aluminum vs Titanium: Which should you buy?

Apple Watch titanium
(Image credit: iMore)

The titanium and aluminum versions of Apple Watch Series 6 are nearly identical in every way. The both come in 40mm or 44mm sizes, and the both have all the same new features of Apple Watch, including the always-on screen, international emergency calling, and built-in compass. The real difference is in the price and weight, which is significant.

Titanium vs aluminum: What are the differences?

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The two different material options are identical in many ways for the Apple Watch Series 6, like screen size, sensors, battery life, and Bluetooth support. There are, however, enough differences that it's important to consider them when deciding which one is right for you. The spec table below lists the features of the Apple Watch Series 6 for a better comparison.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Titanium Apple WatchAluminum Apple Watch
Starting price$799$399
Weight35.1g (40mm)
41.7g (44m)
30.8g (40mm)
36.5g (44m)
Screen materialSapphire crystalIon-X glass
Back materialSapphire crystal and ceramicSapphire crystal and ceramic
Display- Always-On Retina display with Force Touch
- LTPO OLED display (1000 nits)
- Always-On Retina display with Force Touch
- LTPO OLED display (1000 nits)
ProcessorS5 with 64-bit dual-core processorS5 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Wireless chipW3W3
- Barometric altimeter
- Optical heart sensor
- Electrical heart sensor
- Accelerometer up to 32 g-forces
- Gyroscope
- Ambient light sensor

- Barometric altimeter
- Optical heart sensor
- Electrical heart sensor
- Accelerometer up to 32 g-forces
- Gyroscope
- Ambient light sensor
Storage capacity32GB32GB
Battery lifeUp to 18 hoursUp to 18 hours
GPS+ CellularYesYes
Space black
Space gray
Water resistance50 meters50 meters

Titanium or aluminum: which brushed metal is for you?

If you've always favored the brushed metal look, whether for aesthetic or to avoid those microabrasions, you now have two choices for Apple Watch; aluminum and titanium. The material, however, makes them look completely different.

The aluminum case on the Apple Watch is bright and light to look at. It's got a fitness aesthetic. Even the Space gray model looks like it's lightweight.

The titanium case, on the other hand, has darker, richer tones. The best way to describe it is that titanium looks more like jewelry (like a fashion watch) and aluminum looks more like a fitness band.

That doesn't mean the aluminum Apple Watch doesn't dress up nicely. I owned two aluminum Apple Watches and successfully paired the look with the Milanese Loop and Modern Buckle and they looked quite fashionable.

The silver aluminum and titanium cases have the most significant differences in terms of looks. The latter has a deeper silver hue. Silver aluminum looks lightweight — like a runner's watch.

The space gray aluminum and space black titanium are less noticeably different, but when you see them side-by-side, you can tell that titanium has a darker shine to it.

Weighing the weight factor

Aluminum looks lightweight because it is lightweight. The aluminum Apple Watch has long been a fan favorite of runners, one reason it's the only case material available for the Apple Watch Nike version.

The titanium Apple Watch is lighter than the stainless steel model, but it's still heavier than aluminum by about 5 grams.

To a lot of people, 5 grams doesn't make that much of a difference, but to runners especially, it makes all the difference.

Sapphire vs Ion-X and does it really matter?

The choice of sapphire crystal or Ion-X glass is not about higher or lower quality. It's about what the Watch's intended purpose is. The aluminum Apple Watch is designed with athletes in mind, which is why apple sticks to Ion-X every year. Greg Koenig wrote about the differences between the two for iMore back in 2015.

Sapphire is very hard, making it resistant to scratches, but somewhat brittle. Ion-X is a more yielding material, able to withstand bending and impacts sapphire would crumble under, but it's softness also makes it more susceptible to surface damage.

Ion-X is more likely to experience microabrasions, but the tradeoff for what athletes would use it for is worth it.

Color variety can matter

Currently, Apple doesn't offer titanium in any other color but titanium and space black. Since this is Apple's Edition Apple Watch, it's likely that there just isn't enough market interest in investing in multiple colors.

Aluminum, on the other hand, comes in silver, space gray, gold, blue, and (Product)RED. If you're a little bit flashy, aluminum has the flair. You can also pick up an awesome Apple Watch band to go with your Apple Watch, no matter which material and color you choose.

Apple Watch model options.

The titanium Apple Watch is only available for the Apple Watch Series 4 and Apple Watch Series 3, while the aluminum Apple Watch is available for the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5, and Apple Watch Series 6.

Bottom line

Your decision on whether to go with titanium or aluminum on the Series 5 comes down to a few features. There are a lot of similarities, but the differences are significant.

  • If you want the absolute lightest material, the aluminum Apple Watch is designed for fitness and the lightest of all Apple Watch models, including titanium.
  • If you want a look that's more fashion jewelry than fitness focused, the brushed titanium has a more elegant look.
  • If you gotta have color, you gotta have aluminum.
  • If you want GPS-only, you'll have to choose aluminum. Titanium isn't available without cellular capabilities (though you don't have to sign up for a cellular plan).
  • If cost is a deciding factor, the aluminum Apple Watch is much cheaper than the titanium model. You can get the Series 3 for only $199.
Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).