Apple Watch Series 3

What's the fastest, most convenient way to buy the Apple Watch Series 3? Here are your options.

Apple Watch Series 3 hits store shelves on September 22. You can still preorder online or within supported apps, though shipping time has slipped to a few weeks in some cases. There are a few options for getting Apple Watch ASAP and here are the best ways available right now.

Best overall

Apple Online Store

Preordering through the Apple Online store offers the most versatile of options. You can choose from every model, band style, and case size. Even if you have a credit card on file through your Apple ID, you can change it quickly if you have Safari Keychain enabled to auto-fill your information. The filter option user interface is a nice design upgrade, making it easy for you to see your selections at a glance.

Depending on what your local Apple Retail Store will have in stock, you might actually be able to pick yours up on launch day (There will be in-store pickup available in select Apple Retail Stores).

Bottom line: Because you can pay with an Apple gift card and change your credit card information without having to jump through hoops ahead of time, ordering online at apple.com is the best way to get your Apple Watch.

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Why it's the best

Let me tell you a story. A year ago, when I was preparing to preorder my Apple Watch Series 2, I got everything ready in the Apple Store app. I picked my favorite and had a backup option. At 12:01 a.m. PT, I began my preorder process. When it came time to pay, I decided that I wanted to use a different credit card than the one I have on file with my Apple ID. Guess what? There was no way to easily change my credit card during the checkout process.

I ended up going to Apple.com and finishing the process online. Because I have a variety of credit cards stored in Safari Keychain, I was able to simply pick a different one and just enter my card security code.

You can change your credit card in the Apple Store app, and you can even add a Gift Card now. But, you can't autofill your information, which means you will have to type everything in manually. In the middle of the night, that's not easy to do.

It is for this reason alone that I recommend using Apple's online store to preorder your Apple Watch.

Best for quick-buy

Apple Store App

If the credit card you have set up with Apple Pay is the one you want to use to buy Apple Watch, the Apple Store app has a very convenient way of moving through the preorder process. You can quickly find the product you are looking for and add it to your bag with one tap. When you are ready to check out, if all of the information looks correct, You can simply tap Buy with  Pay and your order will begin processing. No fuss. No muss.

Bottom line: Use the Apple Store app if you are set up with Apple Pay and want to use that credit card to pay for your Apple Watch.

If you missed the preorder

In-person at Apple Retail Store

If you missed your chance to get your Apple Watch delivered to your doorstep on September 22, you still have a chance to put one on your wrist on release day, but it will cost you a bit of your time and a minor level of stress. You can take your chances that your local Apple Retail Store will have the Apple Watch of your choice in supply.

Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing ahead of time what each Apple Retail Store will have in stock. There will probably be a lot of each model, case size, and band style, but other Apple Watch fans might be a little more dedicated than you are to standing in line.

If you are willing to take this route, I recommend arriving a few hours before your local Apple Retail Store opens. First, find out whether the store will have special hours on September 22. Then, grab a blanket and a chair and be prepared to stand in line for a long time.

Although you will have a chance to get your favorite style Apple Watch by showing up in person, you should also have a second option in mind, in case your first choice is already sold out by the time you get into the store.

Bottom line: This is kind of a last-ditch-effort for getting your Apple Watch on launch day if you weren't able to get it preordered for delivery on September 22. It's worth it if you experience severe FOMO (fear of missing out).

Best third-party seller

Target

It's not clear at the moment whether Target is participating in the preorder program for the Apple Watch Series 3. The company does have both the GPS + Cellular model and the GPS-only model in 38mm and 42mm with all three colors of aluminum cases (silver, space gray, and gold), with a variety of Sport Loop color options, plus the Nike+ Series 3 GPS in silver with a white Nike Sport band or space gray with a black Nike Sport band. If you aren't worried about shipping dates slipping, you can try Target first to see if you can preorder through them. We'll update as soon as we have more information.

Best Buy

Best Buy is also going to be selling the Apple Watch Series 3, but it is unclear at this time whether it will offer preorders. Best Buy has a larger selection of Apple Watch models, including the aluminum, stainless steel, and even ceramic case. You can pair your case with a variety of band options, including the elastomer Sport band and the new nylon Sport Loop band. There are even a wide variety of Nike+ Apple Watch case and band options (including a Sport Loop option). If you're not worried about shipping dates slipping, you can check out Best Buy first to see if you can preorder through them. We'll update as soon as we have more information.

Bottom line: If you've exhausted your preorder options and don't want to wait in line at an Apple retail store, check with one of these third-party sellers, just in case. If you still have to wait to get your Apple Watch, you can, at least, use any store gift cards to help cover the cost.

Carrier options for Series 3 Cellular + GPS

This year, for the first time, cellular carriers are selling the Apple Watch. That's because, for the first time, the Apple Watch supports LTE. The Series 3 Cellular + GPS is available through the major U.S. carriers. Here's what you need to know about ordering your Apple Watch through them.

Here's how your monthly Apple Watch LTE plan works

AT&T

You can preorder the Apple Watch Cellular + GPS from AT&T paid in full, or pay it off in installments with 0% APR on a 20-month plan. Here are the models available and monthly installments for each.

  • 38mm aluminum with Sport band: $20/mo
  • 42mm aluminum with Sport band: $21.50/mo
  • 38mm stainless steel with Sport band: $30/mo (silver only)
  • 42mm stainless steel with Sport band: $32.50/mo (space gray only)

Verizon

You can preorder the Apple Watch Cellular + GPS from AT&T paid in full, or pay it off in installments with 0% APR on a six-month payment plan. Here are the models available and monthly installments for each.

  • 38mm aluminum with Sport band or Sport Loop: 66.66/mo
  • 42mm aluminum with Sport or Sport Loop: 71.66/mo
  • 38mm stainless steel with Sport band or Sport Loop: $99.99/mo
  • 42mm stainless steel with Sport band or Sport Loop: $108.33/mo
  • 38mm stainless steel with Milanese Loop: 124.99/mo
  • 42mm stainless steel with Milanese Loop: $133.33/mo
  • 38mm Nike+ with Sport Loop: 66.66/mo (preorders being Oct.)
  • 42mm Nike+ with Sport Loop: 71.66/mo (preorders begin Oct.)

Sprint

Sprint does not offer a payment plan to pay off the Apple Watch Cellular + GPS. However, you can purchase one paid in full. Spring only offers the aluminum case with Sport band option.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile is known for trying to help people with poor credit get a leg up. The company has two tiers of 24-month payment plans for the 38mm Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular + GPS (there doesn't appear to be a payment plan option for the 42mm model, but T-Mobile does sell it): good credit and average credit. Here are the models available and monthly installments for each.

  • 38mm aluminum with Sport band (great credit) $16.67/month
  • 38mm aluminum with Sport band (average credit) $303.99 down and $4/mo

Conclusion

Apple Online Store

The Apple Online Store is the best option for ordering your Apple Watch Series 3.

If you are hoping for the most versatile shopping experience with credit card options at checkout, it makes the most sense to visit Apple's Online Store. The only drawback is that, the website doesn't load quite as fast as the Apple Store app, so you're going to have to be quick on the draw.

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Any questions?

Do you already have your first (and second) choice of Apple Watch picked out? How will you preorder? Let us know about your experience.