Series 4 vs. Series 3: Which Apple Watch is right for you?

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Apple Watch Series 4
Our comparison will help you decide.
Photo: Apple

Apple Watch Series 4 is now available to preorder ahead of its official launch on September 21. It’s packed with new features, but considerably more expensive than its predecessors, with prices starting at $399.

Last year’s Apple Watch Series 3 is also still available. It’s not quite as impressive as the latest model, but it’s now more affordable at $279.

Which one should you buy? Find out right here in our 2018 Apple Watch comparison.

Apple Watch Series 4 vs. Series 3

Choosing between the Series 4 and Series 3 Apple Watch is easier than you might think. One offers the very best Apple has to offer at a premium price. The other offers slightly older technology at a much lower price.

Here’s how they compare.

Apple Watch Series 4 comparison
The specs.
Table: Cult of Mac

Series 4 vs. Series 3: Performance

Apple Watch Series 4 is powered by Apple’s brand new S4 chip. It’s up to twice as fast as last year’s S3, which means snappier performance for everything you do.

Apple Watch Series 3 is certainly no slouch, however. It has two processing cores just like the S4, and it continues to run smoothly with watchOS 4 and the upcoming watchOS 5.

The S4 will obviously have a longer lifespan now, but for the foreseeable future, the S3 chip is more than enough for most Apple Watch wearers.

Apple Watch Series 4 health features: ECG and fall detection

The biggest difference between Series 4 and Series 3 is that the new model will be capable of delivering on-demand electrocardiograms. With just a tap of the Digital Crown, it can read your heart’s electrical signals and produce an ECG waveform in just 30 seconds.

This data can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation — a serious form of irregular heart rhythm. You can share easily share the data with your doctor to keep them up-to-date on your condition.

Series 4 is the first device of its kind with this functionality, which Apple describes as “a momentous achievement.” For some, this feature alone is worth the upgrade fee. (Note: The ECG app won’t work out of the box with Apple Watch Series 4. Apple plans to ship a software upgrade “later this year.”)

Series 4 also includes a new fall-detection feature that “utilizes a next-generation accelerometer and gyroscope, which measures up to 32 g-forces, along with custom algorithms to identify when hard falls occur,” Apple says. If you take a tumble while wearing the Apple Watch, it will send you an alert that you can either dismiss or use to call emergency services. If the devices senses that you remain immobile for 60 seconds after a fall, it will call an ambulance and notify your emergency contacts.

Apple Watch models
The latest Apple Watch lineup.
Photo: Apple

Series 4 vs. Series 3: Displays

We’re all familiar with the OLED display packed into Apple Watch Series 3. It’s the same display Apple used in the Series 2 model. It’s still sharp and bright, and more than good enough for most smartwatch wearers.

But Series 4’s OLED display is even more spectacular. It stretches to the edges of the watch to provide over 30 percent more space, which means larger apps and larger faces with more room for complications.

The new display uses a technology called LTPO to improve power efficiency. So, despite its size, it won’t sap Apple Watch’s tiny battery.

Series 4 vs. Series 3: Design

For the first time since Apple Watch debuted in 2018, Apple made noticeable changes to the device’s design.

Series 4 is slightly thinner than Series 3, and it boasts a new Digital Crown that uses haptic feedback to deliver a precise, click-like feel as you scroll. It features a new speaker that’s 50 percent louder than previous models. That should help when making calls or using watchOS 5’s new Walkie-Talkie feature.

Series 4 is also the first Apple Watch with a back that’s made entirely of black ceramic and sapphire crystal. This allows radio waves to pass through more easily for improved cellular service, Apple says.

Despite all of this, Series 4 still delivers the same battery life — up to 18 hours on a single charge — as Series 3.

Apple Watch Series 4
Apple Watch Series 4 looks simply stunning.
Photo: Apple

Series 4 vs. Series 3: Connectivity

Just like Series 3, Series 4 is available with or without cellular connectivity. You can save money by buying the GPS version if you don’t need LTE. If you go with the LTE version, you’ll need a service plan to go with it.

It’s worth remembering that you can’t make calls on Apple Watch — or receive notifications when you leave your iPhone behind — if you don’t buy a cellular model.

Apple Watch Series 4 vs. Series 3: The verdict

Apple Watch Series 4 is an incredible advancement for Apple Watch. You have to be amazed by how far Apple has pushed it forward. It’s by far the best smartwatch money can buy, and there are plenty of reasons why you should spend more on the latest model if you can afford it.

If you’re on a tight budget, however, Apple Watch Series 3 is well worth its cheaper price tag. It’s still a very capable device that’s great for fitness tracking, staying connected at all times, and lots more.

Which one are you buying?