The People's Apple Watch

Apple Watch Aluminum

Elegance at a price

Apple Watch Stainless Steel

The Apple Watch aluminum version is the one to beat this season. It offers the same great features as the stainless steel version for much less.

from $199 at Apple

Pros

  • Price
  • Choice of with or without cellular
  • Same features for much less
  • Lighter
  • Nike+ version
  • Comes in more colors

Cons

  • Durability vs. stainless steel
  • Ion-X strengthened glass not as good as sapphire crystal

Durable yes, but this Apple Watch costs $300 more than the aluminum model. Thanks to the polished shine, it also shows those microabraisions easier.

from $699 at Apple

Pros

  • Stainless steel is a stronger material
  • Saphire Crystal glass front

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Scratches are more noticable
  • No Nike+ version
  • Weighs more

The Apple Watch is available in aluminum and stainless steel (as well as titanium). Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are available in aluminum. Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5, and Apple Watch Series 6 are available in both aluminum and stainless steel, which is made of stronger material. But that might not matter for those that upgrade each year and want to save a few dollars.

Let's compare

From a features perspective, Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5, and Apple Watch Series 6 in aluminum or stainless steel are identical. They all, for example, can track your heart rate, include fitness tracking, and alert you to incoming messages. They all include available storage for onboard music and podcasts. You can use the same third-party apps on all models. There are a few things to consider when choosing aluminum vs stainless steel Apple Watch, like weight, material durability and more. Below is a list of important details.

Apple Watch Aluminum Apple Watch Stainless Steel
Lowest Price $399 $699
Highest Price $529 $1,499
Color choices Gold
Space Gray
Silver
Gold
Space Black
Silver
Weight 30.1g (40mm)
36.7g (44mm)
39.8g (40mm)
47.8g (44mm)
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 aluminum vs stainless steel Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5, and Apple Watch Series 6 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.

The Apple Watch Series 6 comes in five different colors, including Space Gray, silver, gold, blue, and (Product)RED, while the stainless steel Apple Watch Series 6 comes in only three colors, including silver, gold, and graphite. Depending on your personal preference, you may prefer the stainless steel gold Apple Watch, which is has a more yellow hue, or the aluminum gold version, which has a more pinkish hue.

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 looks
  • want a variety of color options, including blue and (Product)RED

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
  • prefer the "classic gold" look.

So which is better when choosing between aluminum vs stainless steel Apple Watch? 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.

No matter which Apple Watch model you buy, be sure to check out our picks for the best Apple Watch bands.

Great product, better price

Apple Watch Aluminum

Stylish and practical

Experience all the great features of the Apple Watch for less. Choose from silver, space gray or gold aluminum.

Beautiful but pricey

Apple Watch Stainless Steel

Stylish choice

If you're really worried about breaking your Apple Watch, this is the one to get. Still, watch out for those inevitable scratches!

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.