Like previous versions, the Apple Series 5 is available in aluminum and stainless steel (as well as titanium and ceramic, but there's more to come on that). The stainless steel Apple Watch version includes stronger case materials. But that might not matter for those that upgrade each year and want to save a few dollars.
From a features perspective, both Apple Watch Series 5 versions are identical. Both, for example, can track your heart rate, include a built-in ECG, and support the Compass app. Each features the same available storage for onboard music and podcasts. You can use the same third-party apps and faces on both models.
|Series 5 Aluminum||Series 5 Stainless Steel|
|Display material||Ion-X strengthened glass||sapphire crystal|
|Charging puck||plastic||stainless steel topped|
|Wi-Fi only versions||Yes||No|
|Onboard storage size||32GB||32GB|
As you can see, the differences between both models mostly come down to the materials used. Whether you're talking about the casing, display, or charging puck, the stainless steel model offers better materials. The aluminum Apple Watch is a softer material, and the anodization could scratch or chip, as could its Ion-X-strengthened glass. The stainless steel Apple Watch is much, much harder, especially the black model with diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating. Still, stainless steel does have a drawback -- scratches are more noticable than the aluminum version. These so-called microabrasions can appear on glossy stainless steel soon after you start wearing one, especially on the silver version.
There's also the issue of cellular abilities. All Apple Watches with stainless steel include GPS and cellular capabilities. The latter increases the price of the watch and when the feature is activated, requires a monthly data plan. If you don't care about cellular, you pay for it anyway which is a waste. With the aluminum models, by contrast, Apple gives you a choice between GPS only and GPS plus cellular.
You should get the aluminum Apple Watch if you are:
- into physical fitness and you want the lightest Apple Watch you can get
- going to be rough enough with it — or likely to lose it — and want the most affordable replacement option possible
- not sure about Apple Watch and want to try it out at the lowest cost-of-entry
- simply loving the way the bead-blasted aluminum gold option looks
You should get the stainless steel Apple Watch if you:
- love watches and want something heavy but not too heavy
- want something classic on the outside but ultra-modern within
- need a watch made out of strong materials like stainless steel and sapphire crystal
The bottom line: We think the aluminum model is best for most folks. If you're overly worried about possible damage, get an AppleCare+ subscription for peace of mind. Besides, Nike+ only comes in aluminum, which is something to also consider. If you plan on keeping your watch for more than two years, the stainless steel model might be best.
Great product, better price
Stylish and practical
Experience all the great features of the Apple Watch Series 4 for less. Choose from silver, space gray or gold aluminum.
Beautiful but pricey
If you're really worried about breaking your Apple Watch, this is the one to get. Still, watch out for those inevitable scatches!
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