Apple Watch Series 3 with & without cellular vs. Series 1: Which model is right for you?

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited September 2017
The Apple Watch now has three distinct models at three separate price points, giving consumers more options than ever -- but also making buying decisions more difficult. Should you get a Series 3 with cellular, without cellular, or a Series 1? AppleInsider is here to help.


If you're an outdoor runner or cyclist, get the Series 3 with cellular

If you run or bike outside, odds are you listen to music while you exercise. For most runners and cyclists, that involves carrying a phone on your arm.

Phones continue to get bigger, and the prospect of carrying an iPhone 8 Plus on your arm while on a 5-mile jog is not particularly enticing.

Enter the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular.




If you subscribe to Apple Music or iTunes Match, the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular is almost a no-brainer. You can leave your phone at home when you run or go to the gym, and still have access to all of your music, text messages and alerts.

There are a few caveats. In addition to the $70 premium you pay for the LTE radio, you'll also have to pay your carrier $10 per month for a wearable data plan.

It should also be noted that Apple Music support will come later, likely in October.

Also unknown is whether third-party music streaming apps like Spotify will (or even can) add Apple Watch support. At the moment, there isn't a Spotify app for watchOS, and it's unclear whether Apple will limit streaming capabilities for data intensive third-party apps.

And you'll still need an iPhone for your Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular, even if you can leave your phone at home from time to time. The Apple Watch still requires an iPhone to set up, back up and more.

If you're an athlete and you're OK with those limitations, the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular is the best model for you.

If you're a swimmer or a hiker, get the Series 3 (with or without cellular)




With the launch of the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple no longer sells the Series 2 model. That means if you want adequate waterproofing and swim tracking, you'll need the Series 3, as the Series 1 does not offer those features.

New to the Series 3 this year is an altimeter, meaning the Apple Watch can finally track elevation separate from an iPhone.

An altimeter will be particularly welcome for outdoor hikers, as well as users who want their Apple Watch to track flights climbed on an average day. Apple has also noted that the altimeter will be appealing for skiers, with apps being updated to measure vertical distance traveled.

Settling on the Series 3 is easy, but choosing whether or not to get the cellular model is tricky, because it depends somewhat on how badly you want to leave your phone behind.

We think most people in this situation should still get the cellular model.

For one, it comes with twice the storage at 16 gigabytes, meaning more space for locally stored music and apps.

In addition, the cellular data plan is optional. So users can buy a cellular-capable Apple Watch Series 3, and add a data plan at a later date if they so choose.

At $70 more than the non-cellular version, most Series 3 buyers should opt for the model with an LTE radio.

If you mostly want notifications, consider the Series 1




If you don't care about cellular and don't plan on swimming with your Apple Watch, the Series 1 may be a better entry point. Priced at $249, it's $80 cheaper than the non-cellular Series 3.

If you go with the Series 1, you will sacrifice a faster processor, more robust waterproofing, GPS, swim tracking, the altimeter, and a brighter display. Most of those features appeal to outdoor athletes.

But if you're just looking for the convenience of notifications and Siri on your wrist, and you plan on always having your phone with you anyhow, you'll likely be pleased with the Apple Watch Series 1.

In addition, because all Apple Watch models have the same form factor, you'll be able to purchase the same bands and have the same basic look as the other models.

If you have a 2016 Apple Watch, only get the Series 3 with cellular




If you bought an Apple Watch Series 2 last year for GPS, or entered into the market with the Series 1, there is not enough in the Series 3 without cellular to justify the upgrade. All you'll get is a faster processor, support for Siri to speak out loud, and the altimeter.

While those are welcome upgrades, they don't really justify the $330 you'll spend, especially when the 2016 watches are all capable of adequately running watchOS 4.

If you bought an Apple Watch last year and are considering an upgrade this year, you'll want to opt for the cellular model.

If you have a first-gen Apple Watch, you can't go wrong




Sure, watchOS 4 runs on the first-generation Apple Watch. But Apple's debut hardware from 2015 is showing its age, particularly with respect to speed.

If you use Siri, for example, the response time is significantly faster on an Apple Watch Series 2. And that's only going to get better with the Series 3.

Even the Series 1, which debuted in 2016, outright replaced the first-generation model with a new dual-core processor. That's because Apple saw how slow the first watch was, and last year felt a need to get that initial model out of its lineup.

If you bought the first Apple Watch in 2015 and skipped on the 2016 refresh, now is a good time to consider an upgrade, for both speed and new capabilities. Whether you're focused on budget or connectivity, any of Apple's trio of models will be a welcome improvement.

Nike, stainless steel and ceramic

There are, of course, more options for the Apple Watch, including a Nike fitness-focused version, and Hermes branded models with leather bands. But all of these Series 3 watches include the same internal hardware.

The Nike+ Apple Watch has unique bands, but they're also sold separately. The price is exactly the same as non-Nike Series 3 watches, coming in at $329 for non-cellular versions, and $399 for cellular.

On the high end, the stainless steel, Hermes and ceramic Edition Apple Watches come with cellular connectivity. Internally, they are the same as the $399 Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular.

Simply put, these options are a personal decision based on budget and fashion. From a technical perspective, there is nothing unique.

Where to buy

Apple authorized reseller B&H Photo is currently taking pre-orders for the new Series 3 watches with free expedited shipping and no sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ. At press time, the retailer expects to ship the devices on Sept. 25. Series 1 models are also available now with discounts of up to $15 off.

Apple Series 3 Watch Edition
38mm Watch Edition GPS + Cellular (White Ceramic, Soft White/Pebble Sport Band) for $1,299.00 *
($104 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm Watch Edition GPS + Cellular (Gray Ceramic, Gray/Black Sport Band) for $1,299.00 *
($104 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm Watch Edition GPS + Cellular (White Ceramic, Soft White/Pebble Sport Band) for $1,349.00 *
($108 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm Watch Edition GPS + Cellular (Gray Ceramic Case, Gray/Black Sport Band) for $1,349.00 *
($108 off in tax outside NY & NJ)

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Silver Aluminum, Fog Sport Band) for $399.00 *
($32 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Space Gray Aluminum, Black Sport Band) for $399.00 *
($32 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Space Gray Aluminum, Gray Sport Band) for $399.00 *
($32 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Gold Aluminum, Pink Sand Sport Band) for $399.00 *
($32 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Silver Aluminum, Seashell Sport Loop) for $399.00 *
($32 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Space Gray Aluminum, Dark Olive Sport Loop) for $399.00 *
($32 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Gold Aluminum, Pink Sand Sport Loop) for $399.00 *
($32 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Stainless Steel, Soft White Sport Band) for $399.00 *
($32 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Space Black Stainless, Black Sport Band) for $599.00 *
($48 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Silver Aluminum, Fog Sport Band) for $429.00 *
($34 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Space Gray Aluminum, Black Sport Band) for $429.00 *
($34 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Space Gray Aluminum, Gray Sport Band) for $429.00 *
($34 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Gold Aluminum, Pink Sand Sport Band) for $429.00 *
($34 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Silver Aluminum, Seashell Sport Loop) for $429.00 *
($34 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Space Gray Aluminum, Dark Olive Sport Loop) for $429.00 *
($34 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Gold Aluminum, Pink Sand Sport Loop) for $429.00 *
($34 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Stainless Steel, Soft White Sport Band) for $649.00 *
($52 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Space Black Stainless Steel, Black Sport Band) for $649.00 *
($52 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Stainless Steel, Milanese Loop) for $699.00 *
($56 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS + Cellular (Space Black Stainless, Space Black Milanese) for $749.00 *
($60 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Stainless Steel, Milanese Loop) for $749.00 *
($60 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS + Cellular (Space Black Stainless, Space Black Milanese) for $799.00 *
($64 off in tax outside NY & NJ)

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS Only)
38mm GPS Only (Silver Aluminum, Fog Sport Band) for $329.00 *
($26 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS Only (Space Gray Aluminum, Black Sport Band) for $329.00 *
($26 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS Only (Space Gray Aluminum, Gray Sport Band) for $329.00 *
($26 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm GPS Only (Gold Aluminum, Pink Sand Sport Band) for $329.00 *
($26 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS Only (Silver Aluminum, Fog Sport Band) for $359.00 *
($29 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS Only (Space Gray Aluminum, Black Sport Band) for $359.00 *
($29 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS Only (Space Gray Aluminum, Gray Sport Band) for $359.00 *
($29 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm GPS Only (Gold Aluminum, Pink Sand Sport Band) for $359.00 *
($29 off in tax outside NY & NJ)

Apple Watch Bands
38mm Blue Cobalt, Stainless Steel Pin Sport Band for $49.00 *
($4 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
38mm Dark Aubergine Classic Buckle Band for $149.00 *
($12 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm Pure Platinum/Black Nike Sport Band for $49.00 *
($4 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
42mm Midnight Blue Check Woven Nylon Band for $49.00 *
($4 off in tax outside NY & NJ)
*B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 46
    You know, I have to agree with Neil's comments in the podcast. The red dot is really ugly and spoils the appearance of the Watch. I was horrified when I first saw it and it seems like a pointless distinction.  I don't care whether friends see the red dot and admire my Watch's 4G capabilities - I just want a plain Apple Watch. 

    Applying a grey sticker over over the red dot sounds like a great plan and I look forward to the first ever "grey dot sticker review"...
    edited September 2017 nhughesjahblade
  • Reply 2 of 46
    Or look for deals on “obsolete” Series 2, which is a better choice than Series 1.
    bb-15jahblade
  • Reply 3 of 46
    The telcos’ absurd pricing for LTE capability, which is an approximate 50% tax on the watch over two years, keeps me from buying the LTE version. This reminds me of cell providers charging for texting when it costs them NOTHING. 
    mdriftmeyerHeliBumpscooter63
  • Reply 4 of 46
    Hikers should be in the same category as runners/bikers. The altimeter and the cell ping matter, especially for fast walks.
    pscooter63GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 46
    The telcos’ absurd pricing for LTE capability, which is an approximate 50% tax on the watch over two years, keeps me from buying the LTE version. This reminds me of cell providers charging for texting when it costs them NOTHING. 
    They're running out of ways to make money. It's the reason they are moving in the content producer angle of ownership.
  • Reply 6 of 46
    If you are a bike rider: instead of getting a new 400 dollar Apple Watch Series 3 solely for LTE you could just get a phone mount on your bike. I have an Apple Watch and really see no need for LTE unless you have money to burn.
  • Reply 7 of 46
    If the Series 1 were waterproof, then it would have everything I need. I don't mind carrying my phone, so I don't need GPS on the watch. But I need it to be waterproof.
  • Reply 8 of 46
    uktechie said:
    You know, I have to agree with Neil's comments in the podcast. The red dot is really ugly and spoils the appearance of the Watch. I was horrified when I first saw it and it seems like a pointless distinction.  I don't care whether friends see the red dot and admire my Watch's 4G capabilities - I just want a plain Apple Watch. 

    Applying a grey sticker over over the red dot sounds like a great plan and I look forward to the first ever "grey dot sticker review"...
    This "red dot" thing has a history much older than Apple. It has been used on Leica cameras since the 1960s... the logo being owned by Leica Microsystems IR GMBH who allow Leica Camera AG to use it. The "red dot" is held in such high regard by many if not most photographers using those premium German SLR and rangefinder cameras, that when the occasional model is released without that distinctive red dot logo - the M8 digital rangefinder in 2006 for example used a black logo - many of that community reacted literally in shock!

    Maybe Jony Ive is a long-time Leica owner and wanted to add a subtle 'touch of distinction' to the Watch design?

    uktechiepscooter63bb-15jahblade
  • Reply 9 of 46
    Hikers should be in the same category as runners/bikers. The altimeter and the cell ping matter, especially for fast walks.
    The barometric altimeter is in both Series 3 with and without cellular. I would argue cellular is less essential for hikers, because they are probably bringing a pack with them and the "bulk" of a phone isn't a problem.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 46
    Ah, the skeptics are alive and well for yet another Apple product release!

    Funny, then, that my sweet wife is now finally excited after all this time since I got my 1st generation watch to get an Apple Watch WITH cellular! And she pays the bills! Funny also that we don't think AT&T's rates for the added device are unreasonable at all!

    What we like is the enhanced functionality and convenience, which is its main purpose, after all.

    She doesn't have pockets and doesn't carry a purse big enough for her iPhone. So where does she carry it? In her bra. She finally found Bluetooth earphones, Beats X, which she loves, but even though Siri announces callers, it's easy to miss what she says, so she often doesn't know who's calling. With an Apple Watch, she will, as the caller displays on the watch. And she can answer/hangup on the watch with a tap instead of fumbling for the cord switch on the earphones. And now with a cellular Apple Watch, she may not even have to carry her phone with her—at least not in stores or at home in the office when she's out and around the apartment.

    I'm looking forward to the new watch when I'm out on walks and being able to make and take calls without pulling the phone out of my pocket.
    edited September 2017 Solibb-15watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 46
    The telcos’ absurd pricing for LTE capability, which is an approximate 50% tax on the watch over two years, keeps me from buying the LTE version. This reminds me of cell providers charging for texting when it costs them NOTHING. 
    They're running out of ways to make money. It's the reason they are moving in the content producer angle of ownership.
    Plus, there’s no real competition between the various dumb-pipes providers — they’re all charging the same for LTE service on AW, and with AT&T, it’s as much as LTE for iPad. They’re ripping off the consumer, plain and simple!
    mdriftmeyerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 46
    On the high end, the stainless steel, Hermes and ceramic Edition Apple Watches come with cellular connectivity. Internally, they are the same as the $399 Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular. Simply put, these options are a personal decision based on budget and fashion. From a technical perspective, there is nothing unique
    The higher end models have a sapphire crystal face. Definitely should be a consideration for those prone to hitting things...
    bb-15watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 46
    "But Apple's debut hardware from 2015 is showing its age, particularly with respect to speed." The thing I love most about my Series 0 is I've never owned a smartwatch, so everything it does, no matter how slowly it oozes from a Molasses Engine® processor, remains amazing.
    uktechiewatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 46
    On the high end, the stainless steel, Hermes and ceramic Edition Apple Watches come with cellular connectivity. Internally, they are the same as the $399 Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular. Simply put, these options are a personal decision based on budget and fashion. From a technical perspective, there is nothing unique
    The higher end models have a sapphire crystal face. Definitely should be a consideration for those prone to hitting things...
    Good point. Still the same processor and screen, though.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 46
    I'm about ready to jump in for the cellular watch- except for the $10/mo charge for the cell service. The cost makes no sense to me as the phone # is the same and the owner is very unlikely to use phone & watch at same time (is that even possible?).  Apple needs some leverage here as this coulld be a real drag on sales.
    palominewatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 46
    I have a Series 1 and it does everything I need. The only reason I might be tempted to get a Series 3 is for the brighter screen. As someone else mentioned, a used Series 2 would work just as well for that and I suspect we'll see a lot of Series 2 watches hitting the resale market.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 46
    I was disappointed by EE's pricing in the UK that equates to £8.33/month (over $11) if buying an Apple Watch 3 from EE on a 24 month tariff. Sure, they offer "unlimited data" but I'm not sure that's relevant on a Watch that will be using my iPhone's data or WiFi most of the time. 

    However, EE also offer a £5/month PAYG tariff for Apple Watch users with unlimited data and no charge for the first 6 months which is a much better deal. Just buy the Apple Watch 3 from Apple or an another retailer and then sign up with EE via the Apple Watch app to get this deal. The downside is the 10GB/month cap after the free unlimited 6 month period but I can't see many getting anywhere close on a Watch. 

    For more details see http://ee.co.uk/content/dam/ee-help/Help-PDFs/smart-watch-pay-monthly-simo-plan-terms-2017-v1.pdf
     
    It seems its available to customers with an iPhone on an EE business contract too. 

    After reading Fotoformats comment I may even learn to accept the ugly red dot too...
    edited September 2017
  • Reply 18 of 46
    • Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) requires an iPhone 6 or later with iOS 11 or later. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) requires an iPhone 5s or later with iOS 11 or later. Apple Watch Series 1 requires an iPhone 5s or later with iOS 11 or later.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 19 of 46
    bb-15bb-15 Posts: 245member
    On the high end, the stainless steel, Hermes and ceramic Edition Apple Watches come with cellular connectivity. Internally, they are the same as the $399 Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular. Simply put, these options are a personal decision based on budget and fashion. From a technical perspective, there is nothing unique
    The higher end models have a sapphire crystal face. Definitely should be a consideration for those prone to hitting things...
    I have a stainless steel Series 2 AW and the sapphire crystal was one of the reasons I got it over the Series 1. 
    This would also apply buyers of the Series 3. 
    Other reasons to pick the Series 3 over the Series 1;
    - The speaker and microphone on the Series 2/3 are better than the Series 1. 
    - The Series 2/3 have better waterproofing allowing for water activities while wearing the AW. 
    - Series 2/3 AWs have brighter screens than the Series 1.
    - Series 3 is faster than Series 1 (or 2).
    - Series 1 does not have GPS which is a feature of all Series 3 AWs. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 46
    On the high end, the stainless steel, Hermes and ceramic Edition Apple Watches come with cellular connectivity. Internally, they are the same as the $399 Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular. Simply put, these options are a personal decision based on budget and fashion. From a technical perspective, there is nothing unique
    The higher end models have a sapphire crystal face. Definitely should be a consideration for those prone to hitting things...
    As someone who has broken a watch face, I wonder if the better alternative is AppleCare and the possibility of a repair.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
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