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Why I'm going with the 42mm Apple Watch

If you haven't seen an Apple Watch in person, you're missing out. Aluminum Sport, stainless steel Watch, or gold or rose gold Edition, they're all built spectacularly well — this isn't your other vendor's smartwatch. They're also, regardless of whether you go 38mm or 42mm, quite moderately sized. The small isn't too small and the big isn't too big. That means most people will have a choice as to which size they want to get. I found myself in just that position and, ultimately, here's why I decided to go big.

Right sizing

I've worn almost every major fitness band out there, from the Fitbit to the Jawbone Up to the Nike Fuelband. I've owned a Pebble and I've tried a couple of the Android watches, including a Samsung and the Moto. None of them had anywhere near the fit or finish of the Apple Watch, but the smartwatches especially were kind of big and clunky.

That made me a little nervous about the 42mm Apple Watch, at least initially. Sure, 42mm is only 4mm more than 38mm, but at that scale, that's ten percent of the size. At the September 2014 introduction event, the Apple Watch I was given to try on was the 38mm Sport and I enjoyed the size a lot. There was something sleek and understated about it, and from the angle of the wearer, even the thickness disappeared.

At the March event I got to try on several 42mm Apple Watches, both stainless steel and Edition. They were heavier than the 38mm Sport, of course, and the difference in size was also noticeable. But they weren't too heavy or too big. It was at that point that I realized I could be happy with either one of them, and that's also when I decided I had to go big.

38mm — Almost enough

There's a lot to love about the 38mm Apple Watch Sport. With the right band, it's the lightest watch Apple makes, and that means it's ideal for anyone who wants as next-to-nothing as possible on their wrist, especially for exercise and athletics.

Both Apple Watch sizes have the same depth, so neither fits under a shift cuff more easily than the other, but the smaller size of the 38mm does make it seem lower profile.

The 42mm Apple Watch, however, has some major advantages. It can fit a slightly bigger battery and so gets slightly better battery life, though Apple hasn't said how much yet. It also has a higher resolution screen, offering more pixels not necessarily for content — that scales — but for touch targets.

I can navigate the Apple Watch regardless of size — I've had plenty of time to try both repeatedly by now — but the 42mm being bigger just makes it that much easier.

It's not exactly the iPhone 6 vs. iPhone 6 Plus — I feel like we'd need a 46mm Apple Watch to make that comparison — but it's enough to be more usable without being excessively bulky.

That's why, at the end of the day, I ordered the 42mm Apple Watch. If I'm going to wear something on my wrist, I want to wear something on my wrist. I want every millisecond of battery life and every pixel of tap target I can get.

After her try-on, my mom ended up canceling her 38mm Apple Watch and re-ordering a 42mm as well. She liked the bigger touch targets, and the slightly bigger text and graphics as well. (My sister and Georgia ended up sticking with 38mm since they preferred how that looked on their wrists.)

Ultimately it's going to be a very personal choice. If your wrist is really slender or really thick, it may be an easier one, but if you're in the middle, it's also tough to go wrong. An Apple Retail Store try-on, if you have one in your area, is the best way to know for sure before ordering.

For me, however, I know I made the right choice to suit my tastes and use case, and I can't wait for my 42mm Apple Watch to get here!

- Buyers guide: 38mm vs. 42mm — Which Apple Watch size should you get?

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

11 Comments
  • Rene, I could not agree with you more. And I, too, want "...every millisecond of battery life and every pixel of tap target..."
  • Definitely I agree. I got the Space Grey 42mm Apple Watch Sport on Pre-order (delivery in June). I've seen it modeled on many wrists online, and it makes the most sense (for just about anyone I think).
  • I've tried and ordered a 38mm Stainless Steel Watch and I won't undo that choice :)
    The clerk at the Apple Store told me it really depended on the wrist, and mine is super small (158mm circumference).
    I've tried both, and the 42mm felt a bit too bulky for me, whereas the 38mm felt like a perfect piece of jowelry on my wrist! For some who can't decide: try at the Apple Store *AND* try with several bands. Some bands add length to the case, with the hinges.
    42mm was still ok for me, with bands like Milanese, but the Classic Buckle adds a small hinge, which makes it a no go for 42mm on my small wrist.
  • I went with the 38mm for a few reasons. One was to be able to swap bands with my girlfriend who also got a 38mm. But most importantly, I felt like the 42mm can be seen and read from too far away for a device that will be on my wrist all the time. During my try on I could easily watch the demo loop of other people at the table because of the richness of the screen. Sent from the iMore App
  • This is a really tough call for those of us without access to an Apple store (350 miles in my case). My thought process was much like yours - max screen readability and battery life trumping "style" although I have to admit that smaller in this context has got to be more fashionable. I was a Pebble Steel user since its release (sent to eBay heaven right after the March event), and it looks to me that the 42mm Apple Watch is no larger than that. Now, if only my 4/24-5/8 delivery window were CLOSER to 4/24...
  • I made some measuring and it looks like both 38 and 42mm Watches fits me, and my wrists are tiny (like really tiny!). Just have to wait before it can ordered in Finland. Sent from the iMore App
  • The 42 mm is still small for me. Next year there is going to be a 46 mm (in height off course. That is not too big, it is the lug to lug height of the rolex submarainer) and it is going to be a big hit because of the much better battery life it will enable.
  • +1 - I have slim wrists, and yet the 42mm is disappointingly small. I was hoping pictures were misleading, until I had the opportunity to try it on at an Apple Store. Reminds me of returning a pebble steel, last year, because it's just too small compared to the original one (despite an identical screen size). Sent from the iMore App
  • http://clockmaker.com.au/rolex_case_size.html I'm seeing a bezel dimension of 40 mm.
  • Actually the size difference is not just 10%, it is 22%. Compare face areas not length.
  • I totally agree; I blogged about this twice (http://www.virginiaroberts.com/manly-wrists-apple-watch and http://www.virginiaroberts.com/smartwatch-look-like-jewelry ) because I'm equal parts geek and femme, but geek wins out hands-down when it comes to something I wear on my wrist. And you didn't mention my favorite aspect of the bigger screen—doodles! I've been sending messages with a bunch of guy pals who got the 38mm and are jealous of my slightly bigger drawing canvas. My half-assed Game of Thrones sketches are much more robust than theirs. Valar dohaeris.