Apple Watch Series 7s on table
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What to Look For in an Apple Watch in 2021

The Apple Watch is much more than a timepiece with a screen instead of dials. When the smartwatch first debuted, it might have been mostly a fun gadget that could show the time and buzz you with notifications, but the Apple Watch has come a long way since then.

These days, the Apple Watch is a fitness tracking device, a GPS beacon, and a way to make sure you never miss out on an important message. It’s also a flexible fashion accessory.

All models of the Apple Watch are also waterproof, so you can even wear them while swimming. The latest models like the Series 7 even include features like an FDA-approved ECG monitor and a blood oxygen sensor to monitor your vitals. When it comes to smartwatch technology, the Apple Watch is simply hard to beat.

The biggest new feature in the Apple Watch Series 7 is the addition of a full-size keyboard, making use of the extra screen real estate. This is on every model of the Series 7, but not older models, so if this is a key feature for you, make sure to grab a Series 7 Apple Watch.

Earlier Apple Watch models played it fairly safe with finish and color options, but now you get can the newest Apple Watch in a variety of finishes and colors. Not to mention that you can accessorize with a variety of Apple Watch bands, as well.

Now that you know what you’re looking at, let’s get into the best Apple Watches you can buy on the market today.

Best Apple Watch Overall: Apple Watch Series 7 GPS

Red Apple Watch 7 on pink background
Apple

Pros

  • Best display on an Apple Watch to date
  • Keyboard is nice to have
  • Always-on screen is useful

Cons

  • Screen isn't as scratch-resistant as Stainless Steel and Titanium models

The Apple Watch Series 7 GPS is the latest and greatest model of the Apple Watch, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that it’s our pick for the best overall option for most people.

As mentioned above, the star of the show for the Series 7 might be the keyboard, but that’s because of the larger display on the smartwatch compared to previous generations. The screen is not only bigger, but it’s always on (just like on the Series 6), meaning you no longer need to raise your wrist or tap the screen just to see the time, your heart rate during a workout, or anything else you can display on your screen.

It isn’t just the keyboard that takes advantage of the Series 7’s screen real estate, either. Apple has redesigned apps across the watchOS ecosystem with larger buttons, making them easier to use compared to prior Apple Watch models. Given that smartwatch screens are often small, this is a great update.

All of the health and fitness features—the ECG sensor and the blood oxygen monitoring, for example—from previous Apple Watch models are here and better than ever. If you’re someone that wants to keep track of these features without expensive equipment or doctor’s visits, this is the best Apple Watch to buy, and a great fitness tracker.

The Series 7 also charges the fastest of any Apple Watch to date. The Series 7 can charge up to 80% in 45 minutes, while just eight minutes of charge time will get you eight hours of sleep tracking, according to Apple’s about page.

The Series 7 is also tougher than any Apple Watch to date, with an IP6X certification for dust resistance and WR50 water resistance. The screen is the most durable it’s ever been, though if you need the toughest possible Apple Watch, we’ve got another recommendation for you.

Note, however, that we’ve opted for the Wi-Fi only version of the Apple Watch Series 7. Most people don’t really need the cellular option. If you want to add a cellular plan to your Apple Watch, though, we have you covered.

Best Apple Watch Overall

Apple Watch Series 7 GPS (41mm)

The latest and greatest Apple Watch is just that, so unless you're looking for something specific or you're on a budget, this is the best pick for you.

Best Apple Watch Overall

Apple Watch Series 7 GPS (45mm)

The most recent Apple Watch also happens to be the best for most people who aren't on a budget.

Best Budget Apple Watch: Apple Watch SE

grey Apple Watch SE on green background
Apple

Pros

  • More storage than the Series 3
  • Cellular option available
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • More expensive than the Series 3

The Apple Watch SE isn’t the cheapest model that the company offers new. That would be the Apple Watch Series 3. But at this point, you shouldn’t bother with that model.

Why should you buy an Apple Watch SE instead? For starters, it’s only slightly more expensive than the Series 3, and it will last you a good deal longer.

The SE also has a cellular option, making it a much better choice if you like to go for a run without bringing your phone, for example. The smartwatch is no slouch in the speed department, either—while the Apple Watch Series 7 is faster than the SE, it’s by about 20%. For the price difference between the two, that’s more than acceptable.

With the SE, you miss out on the always-on screen found in the Series 7. The SE also has a smaller screen and charges more slowly. There’s no blood oxygen sensor or ECG, either. There’s no option for a tough, high-end Titanium version—that’s found only on the more expensive Series 7, naturally.

But, if you want to jump into the world of Apple Watches but don’t want to spend the premium prices for the Series 7, the SE is a solid choice.

Best Budget Apple Watch

Apple Watch SE (40mm)

The Apple Watch SE isn't just a better buy than the Series 3, it's a great option for anyone on a budget.

Best Budget Apple Watch

Apple Watch SE (44mm)

The Apple Watch SE might be our budget pick, but it still looks and operates like a premium product.

Best Apple Watch with Cellular: Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular

Green Apple Watch 7 on yellow background
Apple

Pros

  • Works better without your phone than non-cellular models
  • Streams Apple Music

Cons

  • More expensive than Wi-Fi only option

The Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular is essentially the same as our pick for the best overall Apple Watch, except this model has cellular connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi. Whether you should opt to spend the extra cash on the feature depends on how you use your watch.

If you’re never without your phone, you probably don’t need a watch with its own data connection, as the Apple Watch can just use your phone’s signal. Even if you leave your phone behind when you go out for a run or a bike ride, a data connection isn’t necessary.

That said, if you’re training for a marathon or want to disconnect from technology as you go for a long bike ride, that data connection will be useful. You can have the safety of the connection, should you get lost or get in an accident, without needing to be tethered to your iPhone.

It’s not all serious business, either. With the cellular model, you can stream Apple Music on the go, even if you left your iPhone at home. It’s a really neat touch if you want to leave the distracting phone at home, but still want to listen to music easily. (If you get an Apple Watch without a cellular connection, you can still download music to an Apple Watch and listen offline, however!)

With the arrival of the Series 7’s full-size keyboard, that data connection is more useful than it has ever been, too. The ability to respond to text messages on your wrist is very handy, and it makes sure you won’t miss anything important, even without your phone nearby.

The cellular connection is the only difference with this version of the Series 7 watch, so if you don’t need it, stick with the Series 7 GPS.

Best Apple Watch with Cellular

Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular (41mm)

Reply to messages and stream music while you're out on a walk or run, all without your phone.

Best Apple Watch with Cellular

Apple Watch Series 7 GPS + Cellular (45mm)

Feel like leaving your phone behind? With this Apple Watch, you can ditch the phone without being totally unreachable.

Best Apple Watch for Durability: Apple Watch Series 7 Titanium

Titanium Apple Watch 7 on pink and yellow backgound
Apple

Pros

  • Toughest, most scratch resistant Apple Watch case
  • Sapphire display is tougher than the standard Apple Watch display
  • Titanium matte finish options look great

Cons

  • More expensive than Aluminum

The Apple Watch Series 7 comes in three different case material options—Aluminum, Stainless Steel, and Titanium. Our pick for the most durable is the Apple Watch Series 7 Titanium, but the difference is bigger than just the case material.

The most important difference is the display. The base Aluminum Series 7 model uses Ion-X glass clock face. This is fairly tough, but not as tough as the Sapphire displays Apple uses on the Titanium and Stainless Steel models.

Combine that tougher display with more rugged case material, and you’ve got an Apple Watch that can stand up to everything you throw at it. But why Titanium instead of Stainless Steel?

Both the Titanium and Stainless Steel models are tougher than the base Aluminum case option, but the Stainless Steel is more likely to show scratches because of its glossy finish. The matte finish of the Titanium doesn’t show scratches as easily, making sure it’ll look great even as time passes.

That said, if you’re seeking something sturdier than the Aluminum Series 7 but with a little extra shine, the Apple Watch Series 7 Stainless Steel is still a great option.

Best Apple Watch for Durability

Apple Watch Series 7 Titanium

Both the Titanium and Stainless Steel Apple Watch models are tough with near-indestructible screens, but the Titanium model will show fewer scratches.

Best Apple Watch Bands

Apple Solo Loop on blue and purple background
Apple

If you thought that picking an Apple Watch was difficult, just wait until you try to pick a band. While you’ve got a handful of models and finishes for the Apple Watch itself, there are too many types of bands in various color options to try and narrow down in this roundup.

Even limiting your options to those offered by Apple, you still need to choose between about seven or so different models. That’s not even including all the third-party bands on the market!

The Solo Loop is one of the best starter options if you’re not sure what kind of band you want. It’s affordable, simple, and comes in a variety of colors. Once you’ve got a better idea of what you’re looking for, you may be ready to move on to other bands.

But don’t worry, you don’t need to make this choice alone. For a little help in narrowing down your options, take a look at our roundup of the best Apple Watch bands.

Best Starter Apple Watch Band

Solo Loop Band for Apple Watch

The Solo Loop isn’t the flashiest Apple Watch band, but it’s the most affordable option made by Apple and a great place to start.

The Best Apple Watch Bands of 2021

Best Apple Watch Band for Running
Nike Sport Band
Best Apple Watch Band for Weight Lifting
Nike Sport Loop
Best Apple Watch Band for Swimming
UAG Active Watch Strap
Best Apple Watch Band for Large Wrists
Carterjett Tire Tread Band
Best Apple Watch Band for Small Wrists
Apple Braided Solo Loop
Best Designer Apple Watch Band
Hermès Attelage Double Tour Band
Best Leather Apple Watch Band
Nomad Modern Band
Best Apple Watch Band for Sensitive Skin
Apple Sport Band
Best Metal Apple Watch Band
KADS Link Bracelet
Profile Photo for Kris Wouk Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk is a freelance tech writer and musician with over 10 years of experience as a writer and a lifetime of experience as a gadget fan. He has also written for Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, Android Authority, and Sound Guys. At MakeUseOf, he was Section Editor in charge of the site's Mac coverage.
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