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The best Apple Watch models of 2022


The Apple Watch has set itself up as a gold standard for wearable tech, and with the announcement of the Series 8, Apple Watch Ultra, and updated Apple Watch SE, the trend continues. Each new model will support more robust health tracking features for monitoring heart health, body temperature, sleep habits, and cycle tracking. And they’ll also have updated sensors and processors which work with the new fall and crash detection feature, which allows you to contact emergency services if you can’t reach your phone.

The Apple Watch Ultra is the most rugged model yet, designed with extreme outdoor sports in mind. It sports an aerospace-grade titanium case and sapphire crystal face for resisting everything from dust and rain to scratches, drops, and cracks. It’s also MIL-STD-810H certified for water, shock, and temperature resistance, so you can have peace of mind while camping, hiking, or diving.

To help you decide which Apple Watch is the right fit for you, I’ve rounded up 5 of the best models you can buy right now. I’ve broken down all of their features and price points to help you choose the best fit for both your needs and your budget.

pros

  • Lots of new health features
  • Extended battery life
  • Updated chip and sensors
cons

  • Satellite SOS requires monthly fee
  • GPS + Cellular model is on the pricey side

Specs

  • Display Size: 41 or 45mm
  • Battery life: 36 hours (with Low Power mode)
  • Storage capacity: 32GB

The Apple Watch Series 8 is a big leap forward for the flagship smartwatch. It not only features an updated S8 chip but also two new sensors to detect falls and car accidents. This allows you to use the watch to contact emergency services and emergency contacts when you can’t reach your phone or the OnStar button in your car.

The case is made of 100 percent recycled aerospace-grade alloy, giving the watch face plenty of strength to handle everyday wear and tear as well as the occasional accident. The glass watch face is also designed to be tough, using Apple’s Ion-X glass to protect against scratches and cracks while still providing great usability.

The Series 8 also focuses on health features like a built-in ECG and heart sensor to give you feedback on your heart rate, rhythm, and even blood oxygen levels to help you monitor your overall health as well as quickly treat any sudden issues. It also helps with women’s health issues, letting you more accurately track your cycle so you can discuss any issues with your doctor.

Another new feature for the Series 8 is the ability to use SOS calling and messaging even when a cellular network is out of range. The updated SOS feature allows the watch to connect to satellites in order to contact emergency services and contacts in case of a fall, crash, or medical emergency. And the battery has been updated as well, giving you up to 36 hours of use with the new battery saver mode.

pros

  • Toughest Apple Watch yet
  • Titanium case and sapphire crystal
  • Enhanced safety and health features
  • Dual-frequency GPS
cons

  • Very expensive
  • Most people won’t use all features
  • Satellite SOS requires monthly fee

Specs

  • Display Size: 49mm
  • Battery life: 60 hours
  • Storage capacity: 32GB

The Apple Watch Ultra is a totally new iteration of the smartwatch, designed from the ground-up to handle the toughest outdoor challenges you can find. The case is made of aerospace-grade titanium with a sapphire crystal face for extra durability to handle everything from everyday wear and tear to extreme weather conditions.

Along with all of the updated health and safety features that the Series 8 introduced, the Apple Watch Ultra also has updated GPS capabilities, utilizing dual-frequency tracking technology to give you accurate location information even in mountainous terrain. The watch is rated for water resistance up to 100 meters (328 feet) and scuba diving up to 40 meters (131 feet), making it a great choice for divers, snorkeling enthusiasts, and competitive swimmers. And with MIL-STD-810H durability, the Apple Watch Ultra is able to handle temperatures as low as -4F (-20C) and as high as 130F (55C), shocks and sustained vibrations, and high altitudes.

The integrated battery can give you up to an impressive 60 hours of use with the low battery mode, giving you peace of mind on long camping trips or hiking and diving excursions.

The all-new action button lets you create custom controls for indoor workout tracking, adding waypoints to your hiking compass, or tracking your dive time. And with dual integrated speakers, calls, music, and even Siri can be heard loud and clear. There’s even an integrated emergency siren that blasts an 86-decibel sound pattern to help emergency workers find you if you’re lost or hurt or to scare away dangerous animals while hiking.

pros

  • Large display
  • Fast charging
  • Health-focused features
  • Water, Dust, and crack resistant
cons

  • Expensive
  • Not all users will need all features

Specs

  • Display size: 41mm or 45mm
  • Battery life: Up to 18 hours
  • Storage: 32GB

Released in October 2021, the Apple Watch Series 7 is the latest and greatest product in Apple’s smartwatch line. It made several improvements over the previous model, including a bigger screen, faster charging capability, and more durability than its predecessors.

On top of the standard smartwatch features (like sending/receiving messages and tracking your steps), the Series 7 also lets you measure your blood oxygen, take an ECG, and analyze your sleep — which is a huge bonus if you’re health-conscious. It’s also dust-, water-, and crack-resistant, so you can feel comfortable taking it on even the hardest workouts.

The Series 7 comes in aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel finishes, with colors like green, blue, graphite, silver, and gold. It’s also available in the special-edition Apple Watch Nike and Apple Watch Hermès collections. Depending on how you’d like to use your watch (and your budget), you can choose from either GPS or GPS + Cellular connectivity, but be aware you’ll pay $100 more for the latter option.

Read the full review: Apple Watch Series 7 review

pros

  • Most affordable Apple Watch
  • Family Setup for kids and older adults
  • Health and location tracking
  • Fall and crash detection
cons

  • Not as durable as other Apple Watch models
  • Satellite SOS requires monthly fee

Specs

  • Display Size: 40 or 44mm
  • Battery life: 18 hours
  • Storage capacity: 32GB

The Apple Watch SE is the brand’s more budget-friendly version of the smartwatch, offering a simpler and more streamlined device for users who just want to track workouts or stay on top of their call and text notifications. The SE also sports Apple’s updated sensors for crash and fall detection, allowing you to call for help if you can’t reach your phone or OnStar button in your car.

It also features Apple’s expanded health tracking, letting you track heart rate, rhythm, and even blood oxygen levels so you can discuss any issues with your doctor or treat any sudden symptoms. It also helps to track sleep, giving you detailed information about your nightly routines and habits so you can get more restful sleep.

Another great new feature for the Apple Watch SE is the Family Setup. Designed with children and older adults in mind, Family Setup lets you stay in touch with and track the health of family members even if they don’t have their own iPhone. This means that you can give kids and elderly parents freedom and independence while still keeping an eye on them in case of accidents and medical emergencies.

pros

  • Great features for affordable price
  • Health-focused features
  • Variety of colors
cons

  • Not available direct from Apple
  • Somewhat poor battery life compared to new models

Specs

  • Display size: 40mm or 44mm
  • Battery life: Up to 18 hours
  • Storage: 32GB

The Apple Watch Series 6 was announced in 2020, about a year about before the Series 7 came out. It was the first Apple Watch with blood oxygen detection, the ECG app, and an always-on altimeter. The Series 6 was also the first product to introduce the Family Setup function.

In many ways, the Series 6 is similar to the watches that came out before (Series 5) and after (Series 7). Like its predecessor, it’s available in 40mm and 44mm screen sizes and offers Apple’s Always-On Retina display — although its chip (S6) is slightly faster than the one that’s inside the Series 5 and SE (S5). On the other hand, it also shares many of the advanced health features of the Series 7, like the blood oxygen and ECG apps.

If you’re interested in the Series 6, you’ll need to get it from a third-party retailer. You can pick one up from your mobile provider (like AT&T or Verizon) or from a company like Amazon. You’ll pay more if you choose the larger display or GPS + Cellular connectivity.

Read the full review: Apple Watch Series 6 review

PLACEHOLDER

Apple Watch model

Price

Screen sizes

Chip

Apple Watch Series 8

$399

41 or 45mm

S8 SiP

Apple Watch Ultra

$799

49mm

S8 SiP

Apple Watch Series 7

$329

41 or 45mm

S7 SiP

Apple Watch SE

$249

40 or 44mm

S8 SiP

Apple Watch Series 6

$530

40 or 44mm

S6 SiP

If you’re still having trouble deciding which Apple Watch model is right for you, here is an easy decision tree that summarizes the main points as described above:

Choose this Apple Watch…

If you need…

Apple Watch Series 8

A well-rounded smartwatch for health tracking, calls, and texts

Apple Watch Ultra

A ruggedized Apple Watch for extreme outdoors conditions

Apple Watch Series 7

A last-gen Apple Watch for health tracking, calls, and texts

Apple Watch SE

A more budget-friendly Apple Watch

Apple Watch Series 6

An older, and more affordable Apple Watch

ZDNet has tested and reviewed nearly every Apple Watch model ever released. To determine which models to recommend you buy in 2022, we scanned the current lineup and researched and compared pricing as well as features like display size. There is something in this guide for everyone, no matter your budget or wrist size.

Yes, you’ll need an iPhone to set up your Apple Watch. However, if you have a newer Apple Watch, you can use the Family Setup function to pair one iPhone with multiple watches. Other Apple devices (including iPads) and non-Apple smartphones are not currently supported.

At a basic level, all Apple Watches can send and receive messages, answer calls, display notifications from your iPhone, track your steps and other fitness data, use Siri, and more. Newer versions will have additional features and functionality, like blood oxygen monitoring and international emergency calling.

Yes, older Apple Watches are supported by Apple and are still some of the best smartwatches on the market. But keep in mind that Apple has historically released a new Apple Watch every year, so after a few years, an already-dated watch would be four or five generations behind the current technology.

If none of the watches listed above excite you, you could wait until this year’s new product announcement from Apple. Or, you could consider an older generation of the Apple Watch that we didn’t include on our list, like the Series 4.



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