Picking an Apple Watch isn’t like picking out your next iPhone—forget about focusing on specs and storage size. Instead, you’ll be looking at alloys (aluminum, stainless steel, or solid gold?), style (sporty, classic, or bling-bling?), and price ($349, $549, or the cost of iPad Air 2’s for you and 19 friends?) The Apple Watch is unchartered territory, but we’re here to help you navigate. Here are some things to consider before you pre-order your Apple Watch on April 10.
The Watch itself
Under the hood, the Apple Watch hardware is exactly the same. The only differences between the three models are cosmetic ones, so if you opt for a $10,000 Edition, it will function just the same as a $349 Sport (more on price in a little bit). The storage and battery life is the same across the board: You’ll get 8GB of storage (Apple says you’ll be limited to 2GB of music storage and 75MB for photos within the Photos app) and up to 18 hours of battery life on a single charge.
A big criticism of smartwatches so far has been on size: The ginormous faces of some of these watches look ridiculous on a smaller wrist (namely, women’s wrists). That’s why Apple made two size options for the Apple Watch: 38mm and 42mm. You can see what each of these look like on your own wrist within the Apple Store app on your iPhone—the app shows their actual sizes. Once you’re on the Apple Watch landing page within the app, go to Learn more > View pricing > Compare case sizes.
Bands on the run
Most of the watch bands come with different size options, but don’t pick your favorite band until you’ve measured your wrist: Some bands are limited to one case size, and others only cover a limited range. (I like the Leather Loop, but my wrist is 146mm around—and the Leather Loop isn’t available for the 38mm case, which is my preferred size—so I’ll have to pick a different band. Bummer.) Apple has a comprehensive sizing guide, so keep that in mind when picking your band and case.
Here’s a breakdown:
Modern Buckle: Sorry, dudes—the Modern Buckle is only available for the 38mm version, in three sizes:
- Small: Fits wrists 135mm to 150mm
- Medium: Fits wrists 145mm to 165mm
- Large: Fits wrists 160mm to 180mm
Leather Loop: …and sorry, ladies, the Leather Loop is only available for the 42mm version, in two sizes:
- Medium: Fits wrists 150mm to 185mm
- Large: Fits wrists 180mm to 210mm
Milanese Loop: The Milanese Loop is a one-size-fits-all situation, with a wide range for each of the case models.
- 38mm: Fits wrists 130mm to 180mm
- 42mm: Fits wrists 150mm to 200mm
Link Bracelet: The Link Bracelet also only comes in one size per case:
- 38mm: Fits wrists 135mm to 195mm
- 42mm Fits wrists 140mm to 205mm
Classic Buckle: Again, the Classic Buckle only has one size for each case:
- 38mm: Fits wrists 125mm to 200mm
- 42mm: Fits wrists 145mm to 215mm
Sport Band: The Sport Band comes in two sizes— small/medium, and medium/large—and you’ll get both sizes if you order this band.
- 38mm: Small/medium fits wrists 130mm to 180mm; Medium/large fits wrists 150mm to 200mm
- 42mm: Small/medium fits wrists 140mm to 185mm; Medium/large fits wrists 160mm to 210mm
All of the bands are interchangeable with each of the Watch models, as long as they’re for the right Watch case size. So, if you get the 42mm Watch case, you could pick any band designed for the 42mm version.
Be a good Sport
Yes, yes, yes: Cases and bands are all about size. But the models themselves are all about materials, style, and price. Which one should you pick?
For fitness buffs—or for those of you who have to have an Apple Watch, but are on a tighter budget—your pick is a no-brainer: Go with the Apple Watch Sport. Priced at $349 for the 38mm version and $399 for the 42mm version, the Sport has an aluminum case, features Apple’s Ion-X glass display, and ships with the fluoroelastomer (say that three times fast…) Sport Band. There’s actually a lot to like about the Sport Band, too: It’s comfortable, durable, and sweatproof, and it’s available in black or white if neon colors aren’t your thing.
The Sport is also a good pick if you’re still not entirely sure about this whole Apple Watch business. Because it’s more affordable, it makes a great starter device—for those of you who have first-generation device jitters. And if you end up loving your Apple Watch Sport, you can upgrade its band later, though the metals won’t precisely match.
The (classic?) Apple Watch
Apple’s mid-range offering is simply called the Apple Watch, which is a little confusing, considering that Apple refers to its entire product line as the Apple Watch Collection. (Thanks, Apple!) Name aside, the (classic? basic?) Watch offers a bit of both sides of the coin—it packs extra style that the base Apple Watch Sport lacks without breaking the bank like the Apple Watch Edition. Prices range between $549 and $1,099 depending on case size and band style.
The Watch costs $200 more than the Sport because of its stainless steel case (instead of aluminum), sapphire crystal covering the display, and black accent on the digital crown. Apple boasts that its signature stainless steel is 80 percent harder than normal stainless steel, and it certainly is sleek-looking.
The lowest-price Watch ships with a Sport Band, but the stainless steel case really shines when paired with a leather (Classic Buckle, Modern Buckle, or Leather Loop, all with stainless steel finishes) or a stainless steel (Milanese Loop or Link Bracelet) band. Yes, you can pair the Apple Watch Sport case with a Milanese Loop band, but the aluminum will clash with the stainless steel, while the classic Watch was made for these bands. Plus, the Apple Watch also has a space gray stainless steel case option that’s super svelte, with bands to match.
So if you have a somewhat flexible budget, and want a more polished look, go with the Apple Watch.
We all want to be worthy of the Apple Watch Edition, but really, this one flat out comes down to price: Apple’s crème-de-la-crème offering ranges from $10,000 to $17,000. (Seventeen. Thousand. Dollars. There goes my Apple Watch pipe dream of the rose gold Edition with the rose gray Modern Buckle band.) It’s gorgeous, and one of the priciest products the company has ever made. That kind of dough gets you either a yellow gold or (drool-worthy) rose gold case, and ships with a Sport Band, Modern Buckle, or Classic Buckle.
Though you could pre-order the Edition online, this seems like something you’d want to try on first, if you can find a store that carries it: The Edition will be available in limited numbers, in select Apple and high-end retail stores. Even though it’s available in both the 38mm and 42mm case sizes, it looks like a piece of high-end jewelry—meaning it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, style-wise.
So, if you have a sky-high budget, if your name is Beyonce, or if you simply must have a gold watch to match your daily Oscar de la Renta, then the Edition is for you.
Just remember: Even though the battery will be replaceable, the Apple Watch is still a first-generation mobile gadget with a limited shelf life—it will likely be technologically outdated after a couple of years at most. Are you willing to take the plunge, or are you going to wait for the second round?