Best Cheap Apple Watch iMore 2020
The Apple Watch Series 3 is the Apple Watch to get if you're looking to save some money on one. The Apple Watch Series 3 is still an excellent Apple Watch, and while it lacks features of the Series 4 such as the new and improved heart rate monitor, ECG, and fall detection, it will still do everything else you'd expect an Apple Watch to do.
- Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)
- Best Cellular Option: Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)
- Best Step-up Option: Apple Watch Series 4
- Best New Watch: Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS)
Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 3
An Apple Watch is an excellent accessory for any iPhone owner, whether you're looking for a device that tracks your general fitness and workouts, or something that will make your notifications even easier to view. If you're looking for an Apple Watch, but don't want to shell out for the absolute latest and greatest, you should get the Apple Watch Series 3.
When it was released in September 2017, the Apple Watch Series 3 was said to be up to 70% faster than the previous year's Series 2. Even now, its performance should still be enough to carry it through several years of workout-tracking, notifications, and app usage, even though it is not the latest and greatest Apple Watch.
- Water-resistant (50m)
- Fits accessories for older watches
- Design is a bit dated
- Might feel slow next to newer watches
Great Apple Watch entry point.
Apple's entry-level Apple Watch is still a great companion to your iPhone, offering great features at a great price.
Best Cellular Option: Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)
The primary alternative to the Apple Watch Series 3 is still the Apple Watch Series 3, but with a cellular option. The inclusion of a cellular model was actually Apple's chief selling point for the Series 3 when it was first unveiled. It's the same fast watch as the GPS-only Series 3, just with the added option of using it on your cellular carrier.
What I've found to be really impressive about the cellular Apple Watch is that there's only ever one model. While there have been, for instance, GSM-only or CDMA-only iPhones, even in recent years, the cellular Apple Watches can work with any of the four major U.S. carriers.
For those who would like to leave their iPhone at home once in a while, such as when they're exercising or even just going out for a bit, the utility of the cellular Apple Watch cannot be overstated. It can keep you connected to the world without tying you to your phone, and it's a great way to get your phone's (comparatively) big screen away from your eyeballs for a while.
- Everything the Apple Watch Series 3 is and more
- Built-in cellular networking
- Same model works with all major carriers
- Battery life takes a hit on cellular
Best Cellular Option
Leave your iPhone behind.
This watch has everything great about the standard Apple Watch Series 3 but adds cellular networking.
Best Step-up Option: Apple Watch Series 4
If you want something newer than the Series 3, but don't want to pay full price for the Series 5 and don't mind getting a refurbished product, check out the Apple Watch Series 4. It has features like fall detection and the ECG; the Series 4 is more focused on your health than any Apple Watch before it.
The unfortunate thing here is that, unlike previous years where the older model has become the entry-level Apple Watch, Apple is no longer making the Apple Watch Series 4. That being said, you can still get your hands on it if you don't mind buying a refurbished product. While that's less than an ideal scenario, if you can trust where you're buying it from, the Series 4 is a great watch to get and will serve you well for years to come.
- Faster than Series 3
- Updated design
- Bigger displays without much bigger bodies
- Only readily available renewed
- Cellular option even harder to find
Best Step-up Option
A step up in every way.
The Apple Watch Series 4 offers new health features like an ECG in a newer design that still fits your old watch bands.
Best New Watch : Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS)
If you still want the latest and greatest Apple Watch, but don't want to pay full price, now is the time to get it. You can find the Apple Watch Series 5 at a discount at certain retailers, which is great if you want the best watch Apple makes right now.
In terms of performance, the Apple Watch Series 5 is on par with the Series 4. While it uses the newer S5 system-in-a-package, it's still powered by the same processor and GPU as the Series 4; it's just that the S5 has a built-in magnetometer.
The real star of the Series 5 show is the always-on display. Apple did a lot of work to bring this display to the Apple Watch in a way that is supposed to minimize the impact on battery life. Apple's watch faces and built-in apps have all been updated to support low-refresh operation for when you're not looking at the watch, and then immediately resume normal operations when you are.
Features like the built-in magnetometer allow for the inclusion of the new Compass app, as well as for compass-aided navigation using your Apple Watch.
- Always-on display
- Included magnetometer allows for better directions
- Not a massive improvement over Series 4
- Cellular option is still expensive
Best New Watch
Always on, always ready.
With the inclusion of an always-on display, the Apple Watch Series 5 is a more fully-functional watch than it's ever been.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is still a solid Apple Watch pick in 2020, particularly at its discounted price point. It's fast, runs the latest version of watchOS well, and is a great companion to your iPhone for tracking your workouts, getting notifications, and quickly paying for purchases using Apple Pay.
It's outstripped in performance and features by the Apple Watch Series 5, with features like fall detection, the ECG, and the always-on display only available on the newer watch. But the Series 3 remains a worthy purchase if you're looking for an Apple Watch that won't break the bank. It's still a great fitness tracker and notification center, and a perfect companion to any iPhone.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joseph Keller is a senior writer at iMore. An Apple user for more than a decade and a half, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Karen S. Freeman is a travel enthusiast, teacher, writer, and an early adopter who has stood in more release-day lines than she can count. She's a former Apple retail store Specialist and has been writing Apple-focused product reviews for over seven years. You can find her on Twitter as @KarenSFreeman and Instagram as @Karefree2.
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