Apple Watch: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide 
Should you buy an Apple Watch? Are they worth it? Here is literally everything you need to know about Apple Watch inside a single guide, including its history, all the models, specs, and its features…
Apple released its first Apple Watch on April 24, 2015, and within the space of a couple of years, it became the world’s most popular smartwatch, outselling the ENTIRE Swiss watch market and earning Apple the lion’s share of the smartwatch market.
As of 2022, Apple controls around 50% of the smartwatch market, a market that includes long-standing brands like Garmin, Samsung, and Fossil.
Since 2015, there have been eight generations of Apple Watch. The latest being the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra, its most impressive, expensive, and powerful Apple Watch to date.
Packed with features and myriad health-measuring abilities, the Apple Watch is now more popular than ever – you literally see people wearing them everywhere. And they’re designed to work seamlessly with iPhone.
But is an Apple Watch worth it? Should you invest in one? What’s the PROS and CONS of owning an Apple Watch? And, most importantly, which model should you go for?
Let’s take a deep dive on EVERYTHING Apple Watch to find out…
By the end of this post, you’ll have a complete grasp of the following:
- Apple Watch’s history and development;
- Apple’s watchOS software that runs on Apple Watch;
- The different Apple Watch models you can buy;
- Apple Watch sizes and dimensions;
- Apple Watch health features and updates;
- And a broad overview of what Apple Watch can do.
First, let’s take a brief look at the history of the Apple Watch to see how it came to be and how it has developed between 2015 and 2022.
Apple Watch Development & Release
Bizarrely, the idea for Apple Watch came from the idea that people were spending too much time looking at their iPhones. Apple wanted to do something about this, and make some money in the process.
The company came up with the idea of doing a watch, something that would integrate seamlessly with iPhone and iOS, but live on your wrist and pack in lots of additional features that weren’t available on iPhone.
Features like advanced fitness and health tracking, for instance, which became a huge component of Apple Watch, allowing its wearers to get a better understanding of their base level activity and well being.
Apple hired Kevin Lynch to develop the concept for Apple Watch, in conjunction with Jony Ive’s design team. The Apple Watch was also Tim Cook’s first big release – he staked his early reputation on this product.
People are carrying their phones with them and looking at the screen so much. People want that level of engagement. But how do we provide it in a way that’s a little more human, a little more in the moment when you’re with somebody?Kevin Lynch
After testing more than 100 designs between 2011 and 2015, Apple eventually debuted the first Apple Watch in 2015. It wasn’t called “The iWatch” as many had predicted, that name was already trademarked, so the moniker Apple Watch was used instead.
Initially, the Apple Watch was marketed as a fashion accessory. Apple wanted to stay clear of the murky and little understood world of smartwatches.
Google was failing hard in the niche, so Apple focussed on making its Apple Watch feel more like a fashion product.
It worked too.
Initial sales and reviews were very positive, as it became clear that the Apple Watch was more than just a fashion accessory – it was laden with useful fitness-tracking and health features, and the way it integrated with iOS on iPhone was seamless, as expected.
The first Apple Watch was marketed in three styles:
- Apple Watch Sport (Aluminium case)
- Apple Watch (Stainless steel case)
- Apple Watch Edition (18kt gold model)
The Apple Watch Edition cost a fortune ($20,000 to $27,000) and, most agreed, was done more of a marketing stunt than anything else. It still sold, though – celebrities lapped it up, and oil barons and despots.
But the first Apple Watch series was merely setting the foundations for what was to come. Its destiny was never as an expensive fashion accessory; Apple knew this from the get-go.
In order for it to be commercially successful, it needed to be a utility, like iPhone, and that meant it needed features. Lots and lots of features…
- The History of Apple Watch
- How Long Does An Apple Watch Last?
- Will Apple Ever Make A Round Apple Watch?
Latest Apple Watch Version
As of 2022, the current latest version of Apple Watch is the Apple Series 8, the Apple Watch Ultra, and the Apple Watch SE (2022).
- The Apple Watch Ultra is the most expensive option; prices start from $799 but that includes a larger display, more rugged design, advanced fitness tracking features, and a 60-hour battery life.
- The Apple Watch Series 8 is Apple’s standard model, the one 99.9% of people will buy. Largely similar to the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple updated a few elements and tweaked aspects of the design.
- The Apple Watch SE (2022) is the cheapest Apple Watch of the three. Prices start from $249, so if you’re looking at dipping your toe in the water, this is a great place to start.
- Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: What’s The Difference?
- Is The Apple Watch Series 8 Worth It?
- Apple Watch Ultra Review: Worth The Asking Price?
- Apple Watch Series 8 Features
Apple Watch Features
Like iPhone and iPad, the Apple Watch itself is just a conduit for Apple’s software and services which is where all the magic and benefits come from. And as watchOS developed, more and more features and abilities were added.
From its very inception, Apple Watch had some basic rudimentary health and fitness features but Apple quickly developed new and innovative features for its Apple Watch platform in short order.
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- How To Make A FaceTime Call On Your Apple Watch
- How To Use Apple Watch As A Remote For iPhone’s Camer
- How To Use The Handwashing Feature on Apple Watch
- Is Apple Watch Waterproof? NO – But It’s “Resistant”
Between 2015 and 2022, Apple has been pumping out watchOS updates with each new generation of Apple Watch, adding in new features, new abilities, and new tracking technology.
The first Apple Watch was pretty bare bones in this regard, focusing on things like communication, doodles, and sharing stuff with other Apple Watch users.
Once Apple figured out what Apple Watch was for – fitness tracking and health – things progressed rapidly with each new generation. Myriad new features like SP02 sensors, ECG, and even menstrual cycle tracking were added, bulking out the Apple Watch’s capabilities.
Here’s a quick breakdown of watchOS’ key developments and updated features between 2015 and 2021:
- Heart rate (inc. on Apple Watch 1st gen)
- Maximal aerobic capacity, AKA VO2 max (added in watchOS 4, enhanced in watchOS 7
- Electrocardiogram, AKA EKG or ECG (added in watchOS 5.1.2)
- Blood oxygen saturation, AKA SpO2 (added in watchOS 7)
- Menstrual cycle status (added in watchOS 6)
- Sleep duration & respiratory rate tracking (added in watchOS 7)
Within several years of its release, Apple Watch was by the smartest of smartwatches on the market. It also had market-leading health-tracking, its true USP and biggest potential ROI for Apple, and this is now where the bulk of Apple’s development focusses.
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- watchOS 9: All The New Features, Release Date, & Supported Devices
- watchOS 8: The Best New Features Coming To Apple Watch!
- How To Update Your Apple Watch
- The 10 Best Features Of watchOS 7
- All The Best Features Of watchOS 6
- Apple Watch SE Compatibility: Is YOUR iPhone Supported?
In true Apple-style, the Apple Watch can only run Watch Faces designed by Apple. Users have been crying out for the ability to run third-party Watch Faces on Apple Watch since the first model launched, but Apple has held fast on its position right up to the present day.
Not that this really matters; there’s loads of perfectly designed, well appointed Watch Faces available for Apple Watch with new designs landing with each new model and watchOS update. As for workarounds this issue, there are a couple but they’re very involved and not for the faint-hearted.
Why does Apple lock down the Apple Watch’s Watch Faces? Two reasons:
- It doesn’t want users using copyrighted images on the Apple Watch;
- And by forcing users to use ONLY Watch Faces deemed suitable by Apple, it keeps control over the look and feel of Apple Watch
It also allows Apple to do licensing deals with the likes of Disney and other content-owners. Micky Mouse features in one of Apple’s Watch Faces, for instance. And you know Apple paid a pretty penny for that.
One area where Apple is completely open to third-party brands is the Apple Watch’s bands. You can buy literally thousands of different types of Apple Watch bands from a range of retailers.
The third-party Apple Watch band market is an industry in and of itself, generating billions of dollars of revenue every single year.
All third-party Apple Watch bands are based on Apple’s design, however, and use the same hook and slide mechanism to attach and secure the band in place. All Apple Watch models use the same band latches and sizes too.
You can get leather bands, metal bands, official Apple bands, and even its new Solo Band that stretch over the hand and do not require a fastener. Essentially, the Apple Watch band is the easiest and most inexpensive method for customising the look of your Apple Watch.
- Can The Apple Watch Pro Use Apple Watch Bands?
- How Often Does Apple Release New Apple Watch Bands?
- How To Clean Apple Watch Bands
The Digital Crown on the Apple Watch has been around since the first ever Apple Watch. Designed to look like traditional time-setting crowns from analog watches, Apple’s Digital Crown effectively became the home button for the Apple Watch.
You use the Digital Crown to navigate around Apple Watch’s settings, menus, and applications, and on later models it was repurposed for things like ECG (*Apple Watch Series 4). You can also use the Digital Crown to summon Siri and, with watchOS 7.2, monitor and detect for arterial fibrillation.
The Digital Crown became so useful and beloved that Apple eventually included it on its AirPods Max and it is rumoured to be making an appearance on Apple’s long-awaited Apple VR headset.
Since day one, Apple Watch has counted your steps. But as things progressed, new fitness-focussed features and abilities were added. The heart-rate sensor and accelerometer track workout intensity and movement throughout the day and feed data into Apple Health, where it is viewable in granular detail as well as in Activity Rings.
Activity Rings are a useful, visual tool that lets you quickly see how much activity to have done in a single day. A complete Activity Ring means you have met your daily targets. Activity Rings can be shared with other users too. All of the data your Apple Watch collects, both fitness and health-related, feeds into Apple’s extensive Health app which you can view on iPhone and iPad.
If you’re keen on keeping tabs on your heart rate, your overall health, your daily steps, or you’re simply trying to move more and lose weight, an Apple Watch and Apple’s Health app are two brilliant allies. With them, you effectively remove any and all guess work. And when you’re trying to lose weight and improve your fitness, data is key.
Remember the iPhone 6s’ 3D Touch? Well, up until 2020, Apple used this tech inside Apple Watch – only in this context it was called Force Touch.
Force Touch on Apple Watch allowed the user to effectively press-through the display to interact with Watch apps and contextual menus and settings. It was a nice feature but because of the nature of the Apple Watch’s display and its meagre size Apple decided to kill off the feature inside watchOS 7.
Post 2020, no Apple Watch models feature Force Touch. Instead, you now use the Digital Crown and gestures to do everything.
Another core but often overlooked feature of Apple Watch is Family Setup. What this feature does is simple but it is super useful if you have kids and you don’t want them using phones.
With Family Setup, you can effectively turn Apple Watch into a phone, allowing to it make and receive calls. You have full control over who has access to the Apple Watch, who can call it, and what numbers can be called from it. And it even has a Schooltime Mode which is basically a Do Not Disturb mode for school.
Beyond this, Family Setup allows parents to key track of their children’s locations at all times, track their activity levels, heart rates, and sleeping patterns. As I said, it’s a really cool feature of Apple Watch that is all too often overlooked.
Family Setup is available on Apple Watch Series 4 and above and requires a cellular connection.
Apple knows its products are only as good as the things you can do with them – meaning services – which is why Apple has been investing billions in supplementary services for its products during the past decade with things like Apple TV+ and Apple Fitness+.
Apple Fitness+ isn’t an exclusive Apple Watch feature but it does work best with an Apple Watch because with an Apple Watch you can track all your most important heath and fitness metrics.
Launched in 2020, Apple Fitness+ is an interactive suite of workouts and exercise plans. It runs on a subscription model and is available on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
We built Fitness+ to be the most inclusive and welcoming fitness service in the world, and the response from our users has been overwhelmingly positive. We wanted the amazing impact of Fitness+ to reach iPhone users and make it easier than ever to get started on your health and fitness journey
Whether users want to get outside and go for a walk with Time to Walk, improve their running with ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, or get moving to one of their favourite artists, like Taylor Swift, there really is something for everyone to stay motivated.Apple
New workout plans from expert instructors are added all the time too, so if you like working out at home and want to challenge yourself, an Apple Fitness+ subscription could be just what you’ve been looking for.
Apple’s latest Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE, and Apple Watch Ultra, all support Apple’s new Crash Detection feature. With Crash Detection, your Apple Watch can detect whether you’ve been in an accident and, if it determines you have, contact the emergency services.
As features go, this isn’t something you’ll likely ever use. But in the event you are involved in an accident, it could very well save your life. Since its launch, there have been some issues – like it going off when people are on rollercoasters – but these will be ironed out with software updates.
“Crash Detection utilizes an upgraded high dynamic range gyroscope, high g-force accelerometer, barometer, GPS, microphone, and advanced motion algorithms to determine if a severe crash occurred,” notes Apple Insider. “Apple designed the algorithm to detect front impacts, side impacts, rear-end collisions, and rollovers.”
Getting Started With Apple Watch
Like all Apple products, the Apple Watch is designed to be easy and simple to set up. You unbox it, switch it on, and log in using your Apple ID. Next, you pair it to your iPhone, and you’re basically done.
The process is not particularly involved and there are no complex actions required. If you follow all the prompts, the Apple Watch setup process generally takes a few minutes – sometimes even less.
If you do run into any issues, however, either with best practices, the actual setup itself, or updating your Apple Watch’s software, check out the helpful resources listed below to troubleshoot your problems…
- Apple Watch Set Up Guide: Tips, Tricks & Best Practices…
- How to Pair An Apple Watch To A New iPhone
- How To Factory Reset Your Apple Watch
- How To Turn On An Apple Watch – And What To Do If It Won’t
- How To Turn Off Your Apple Watch – And Why It’s A Good Idea To
- How To Update Your Apple Watch – Get The Latest Version Of watchOS Now!
- How To Install watchOS Updates On The Apple Watch (The EASY Way)
Apple Watch Sizes & Dimensions
There are multiple models of Apple Watch you can buy, and each model comes in two distinct sizes (large and small). But over the years, Apple has switched and changed the sizing of Apple Watch quite a bit.
The Apple Watch Ultra is the largest Apple Watch ever built – it dwarfs Apple’s other models with its huge display and robust design.
The size you go for will depend on the size of your wrist, fortunately we have a complete guide to all the different sizes of Apple Watch available. Check it out in the Additional Resources section below.
Apple Watch Battery Sizes – All Models
If the Apple Watch has been beset by one problem since its launch, it would be battery life. Apple likes its design to be sleek and svelte, to make the Watch look good, but this approach to design comes with some significant caveats, battery life being the most significant.
If you buy an Apple Watch, you will have to charge it every 24 hours. This is the case with ALL Apple Watch models, save for the Apple Watch Ultra, and it includes Apple’s latest model, the Apple Watch Series 8.
For many, this is the only real drawback of Apple Watch – its battery only lasts around 18 hours.
But if battery life is a deal breaker for you, and you really want an Apple Watch, go with the Apple Watch Ultra; it has a battery life of 60 hours which is a damn sight better than 18 hours.
- Apple Watch Battery Size Comparison Chart
- How To Activate Apple Watch Low Power Mode
- Apple Watch Ultra Battery Life: How Long Does It Last?
- 4 Ways To Get Your Apple Watch To Stay Charged For Longer
- 10 Ways To Improve Your Apple Watch Battery Life (#5 Is A MUST)
Apple Watch History + All Models Released
Over the years, Apple has released eight full generations of Apple Watch, comprised of different models like its Nike+ branded ones, and also the Ultra brand Apple Watch that launched in 2022.
If you buy an Apple Watch in 2022, chances are it will be Apple’s latest model. In this context, that’d be either the Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 8, or the Apple Watch Ultra.
But how has Apple Watch developed over the years? Here’s a quick and easy-to-digest table that details all the big updates and changes between Apple’s first ever Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Series 8.
|Watch||Released with||Release date||End of Life|
|1st generation||watchOS 1.0 (iOS 8.2)||April 24, 2015; 7 years ago||September 7, 2016; 6 years ago|
|Series 1||watchOS 3.0 (iOS 10.0)||September 12, 2016; 6 years ago||September 12, 2018; 4 years ago|
|Series 2||watchOS 3.0 (iOS 10.0)||September 16, 2016; 6 years ago||September 12, 2017; 5 years ago|
|Series 3||watchOS 4.0 (iOS 11.0)||September 22, 2017; 5 years ago||September 7, 2022; 43 days ago|
|Series 4||watchOS 5.0 (iOS 12.0)||September 21, 2018; 4 years ago||September 10, 2019; 3 years ago|
|Series 5||watchOS 6.0 (iOS 13.0)||September 20, 2019; 3 years ago||September 15, 2020; 2 years ago|
|SE (1st generation)||watchOS 7.0 (iOS 14.0)||September 18, 2020; 2 years ago||September 7, 2022; 43 days ago|
|Series 6||watchOS 7.0 (iOS 14.0)||September 18, 2020; 2 years ago||September 14, 2021; 13 months ago|
|Series 7||watchOS 8.0 (iOS 15.0)||October 15, 2021; 12 months ago||September 7, 2022; 43 days ago|
|SE (2nd generation)||watchOS 9.0 (iOS 16.0)||September 16, 2022; 34 days ago||Available|
|Series 8||watchOS 9.0 (iOS 16.0)||September 16, 2022; 34 days ago||Available|
|Ultra||watchOS 9.0 (iOS 16.0)||September 23, 2022; 27 days ago||Available|
- Apple Watch Series 8 Features – What’s New This Time?
- Apple Watch Ultra Review: Is it 100% Worth $799?
- Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8 – Face Off!
- Is Apple Watch Series 8 Worth It? It Depends…
- Apple Watch Series 7 Reviews: Is It Worth Buying?
- Apple Watch Series 2 Review: Still Worth A Buy?
- Is It Worth Buying Apple Watch Series 3
- Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch Series 5 – Should You Upgrade?
- Apple Watch SE vs Apple Watch Series 3: Which Belongs On Your Wrist?
- Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch SE: What’s The Difference?
The Best Apple Watch You Can Currently Buy…
Richard GoodwinRichard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He has written for Den of Geek, Fortean Times, IT PRO, PC Pro, ALPHR, and many other technology sites. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.
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