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Best Apple Watch 2024: Our favourite Apple smartwatches

Testing an Apple Watch Series 8 smart watch

Struggling to decide which Apple Watch is best for you? Here’s our pick of the bunch

With a long line of wearables to its name, Apple is one of the biggest players in the smartwatch game. And with all the many different models and generations out there, choosing the best Apple Watch to buy certainly isn’t an easy task, particularly as the brand is constantly throwing new models into the mix.

That’s why we’ve put together this list to help you find the right Apple smartwatch for you, whether it be the Series 8, the Ultra or the more affordable SE. Before you make your decision, though, it’s important to ask yourself whether an Apple Watch really is the best option for you. The smartwatch market isn’t a narrow one, and there are heaps of wearables available from rival brands such as Garmin and Samsung, as well as lesser-known, budget-friendly options such as the Mobvoi Ticwatch E2.

With this in mind, be sure to check out our roundup of the best smartwatches you can buy, where you’ll find a handy buying guide covering the most important criteria to consider when buying a smartwatch.

With that said, read on for our picks of the best Apple Watches to buy.

Best Apple Watch: At a glance

Which Apple Watch is best for me?

1. Apple Watch Series 9: The best Apple Watch you can buy

Price: £394 (41mm) £409 (45mm) | Check price at Amazon

Apple Watch Series 9 against orange background, close up

There isn’t much new about the Apple Watch 9 versus the previous version, but it’s still the best Apple Watch for most people. The physical design is the same, and the battery life hasn’t changed, either, which continues to be a disappointment for Apple Watch fans. But Apple has introduced a few new features with this model.

Inside, it has an updated processor – the new S9 – which delivers faster, more responsive performance, plus a couple of key new features. On-device Siri improves voice recognition in certain circumstances, while gesture navigation means you can trigger certain actions by pinching together the fingers of the hand the watch is worn on. The Apple Watch Series 9’s display is now brighter as well – reaching a blinding maximum of 2,000 nits – although we’ve never found brightness to be an issue on previous Apple Watch models.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual. GPS accuracy is excellent – in our testing versus a Stryd foot pod, we recorded an average distance difference of only 0.72%, which is fantastic. However, the watch’s heart rate monitor isn’t as good and, as we said, battery life is poor. We struggled to get any more than a day out of it. Having said all that, the Series 9’s capabilities remain unmatched and, without a doubt, it’s the best choice for Apple users, especially as the more capable Apple Watch Ultra 2 remains so expensive.

Read our full Apple Watch Series 9 review for details

Key specs – Operating system: watchOS 10; Screen size and type: Always-on 35 x 41 (41mm), 38 x 45 (45mm), LTPO OLED display; Battery life: Up to 18 hours; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes

2. Apple Watch SE (2nd generation, 2022): Best value Apple Watch

Price: £249 | Buy now from Amazon

The Apple Watch SE is a great option if you don’t have the budget for the Series 7 or 8 Apple Watches. It does a lot of what these flagship smartwatches can do, at a much lower price.  It’s a fine option for those who want an Apple Watch but can do without the more flashy features such as ECG and blood-oxygen measurements, or the more expensive models’ always-on-display mode.

With a new chipset that’s only a notch behind the Series 9, the second-generation Apple Watch SE claims to run 20% faster than the original model (which we gave a five-star Best Buy review). At 18 hours, the battery life is no worse than the Series 9, either. Plus, you can still use the watch to reply to texts, answer calls and employ Siri to set alarms and reminders, and install all the same apps from the App Store. While it doesn’t have an ECG app, the SE does have all the same fitness motion tracking sensors, as well as an altimeter and irregular heart rate notifications. If you can’t afford to pay around £400 for a Series 9 the SE is still the perfect alternative.

Key specs – Operating system: WatchOS; Screen size and type: 1.57in 394 x 324 Retina LTPO OLED; Battery life: Up to 18 hours; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes

3. Apple Watch Ultra 2: The best Apple Watch for athletes

Price: £779 | Buy now from Amazon

Apple Watch Ultra 2 with colourful background

If you’re a fitness and outdoor activity fanatic, the Ultra 2 is the best Apple wearable you can buy. With a titanium alloy case, a hard sapphire-crystal glass lens and water resistance up to 100m, you can wear it pretty much anywhere with confidence.

The Watch Ultra 2 builds on the original in a number of significant, yet subtle ways. It runs on Apple’s latest WatchOS10 software, which revamps the WatchOS UI and comes equipped with a faster S9 SiP chip, which not only improves the watch’s responsiveness but also enables on-device Siri voice recognition. The latter enables faster dictation for replying to messages, among other things.

Apple’s double-tap gesture is another new feature that proves incredibly hand, allowing you to navigate certain functions – without having to tap the screen or press buttons with your free hand.

GPS and heart rate tracking have also been improved. In our testing, we compared the distance recorded versus our Stryd running footpod and heart rate chest belt and found there was barely any difference – an average deviation of 0.76% for heart rate and only 1.04% for GPS distance recorded across multiple runs.

And, in line with those impressive numbers, the quoted battery life is now longer, at 36 hours for “normal use” and 72 hours in low-power mode. In our testing, though, our reviewer found these times to be somewhat conservative, with the Ultra 2 lasting almost three days before running flat.

The only downside to this otherwise brilliant smartwatch is the price. If you’ve set a budget, it may be worth checking our best sports watch roundup before making a final decision.

Read our full Apple Watch Ultra 2 review for more information

Key specs – Operating system: WatchOS10; Screen size and type: 44 x 14 x 49mm (WDH) Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display; Battery life: 36 hours (normal use), 72 hours (low-power); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC payments: Yes

4. Apple Watch Series 3: A super cheap refurbished option

Price: £179 | Check prices at Amazon | Check price at BackMarket

When we reviewed the Apple Watch Series 3 way back in 2017, we said it was one of “the best smartwatches money can buy”. Of course, that was long before the Series 9 and SE came around. It’s now been discontinued by Apple, but if you can find it on the Amazon renewed store or Back Market, it’s worth a punt because it remains a very fine smartwatch,  and it’s a bargain at today’s prices.

Once again, you won’t find the ECG or an always-on display, but you get all the core features including heart rate monitoring, GPS and an altimeter. So, what stands in the way of recommending the Series 3 over the SE? Well, in terms of physical design, the SE has a larger retina display (30% larger to be exact), which makes it easier to read. The Series 3 also runs on an S3 processor chip, which isn’t quite as fast as the SE’s S5 chip.

That said, if you’re after a budget-friendly Apple Watch, you really can’t go wrong with the Apple Watch Series 3.

Read the full review of the Apple Watch Series 3

Key specs (Non-cellular) – Operating system: WatchOS; Screen size and type: 1.5in 272 x 340 OLED; Battery life: Up to 18 hours; Replaceable strap: No; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No

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