Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch Series 4 come in your choice of aluminum or stainless steel with distinct properties and price points all their own. You can get them both in anodized aluminum — the same material Apple uses for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. On the higher-end, Series 4 offers stainless steel, which is heavier but stronger and a favorite of many watch-wearers. So, which should you choose?

Price points

The different Apple Watch materials all come with different price points, depending on which model you want.

Apple Watch Series Cellular vs GPS-only: What's the difference?

  • Aluminum Series 3 starts at $279 for 38mm ($379 for GPS + Cellular)
  • Aluminum Series 4 starts at $399 for 40mm ($499 for GPS + Cellular)
  • Stainless steel Series 4 starts at $699 for 40mm ($799 for GPS + Cellular)

If price is your most important consideration, aluminum is your best option.

Heavy materials

Aluminum weight:

  • 38mm Series 3: 26.7g (GPS-only), 28.7g (GPS + Cellular)
  • 42mm Series 3: 32.3g (GPS-only), 34.9g (GPS + Cellular)

  • 40mm Series 4: (GPS-only): 30.1g, (GPS + Cellular): 30.1g

  • 44mm Series 4: (GPS-only): 36.7g, (GPS + Cellular): 36.7g

Stainless steel weights:

  • 40mm Series 4: 39.8g
  • 44mm Series 4: 47.9g

If you want the lightest Apple Watch possible, you want the aluminum Apple Watch.

Scratch and damage resistance

Unfortunately, with great lightness does not come great hardness. Here's how the different materials hold up to damage.

  • The aluminum Apple Watch is the "softest" and the anodization could scratch or chip
  • The stainless steel Apple Watch is much, much harder, especially the black model with diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating

If resistance to damage is the absolute most important thing to you, the stainless steel watch in general — and the space black version in particular — offer the best combination of scratch-and-shatter resistance.

Color matches

Apple Watch comes in a variety of colors, depending on the material:

  • Silver aluminum
  • Space gray aluminum
  • Gold aluminum
  • Polished stainless steel
  • Space black stainless steel
  • Gold stainless steel

When you buy additional bands, though, the lugs won't always match the case.

  • Sport, Woven Nylon, and Sport Loop bands have colored lugs
  • Leather buckles and loops have polished stainless steel lugs
  • The polished steel link bracelet and Milanese loop have polished stainless steel lugs
  • The space gray steel link bracelet and Milanese loop have space black lugs
  • The gold steel Milanese loop has gold lugs

If matching the lugs to the case is important to you, stainless steel offers the widest possible compatibility; alternatively, you can learn how to switch up the lugs yourself.

Who should get the aluminum Apple Watch?

If you're...

  • into physical fitness and you want the lightest Apple Watch you can get
  • going to be rough enough with it — or likely to lose it — and want the most affordable replacement option possible
  • not sure about Apple Watch and want to try it out at the lowest cost-of-entry
  • simply loving the way the bead-blasted aluminum gold option looks

You should get the aluminum Apple Watch.

See at Apple

Who should get the stainless steel Apple Watch?

If you...

  • love watches and want something heavy but not too heavy
  • want something classic on the outside but ultra-modern within
  • need a watch made out of strong materials like stainless steel and sapphire crystal
  • want the widest range of matching bands possible
  • need a watch but aren't precious about your metals

The stainless steel is for you.

See at Apple

Your Apple Watch pick?

If you're still not sure which Apple Watch you should get, check out our Apple Watch help and discussion forums. Otherwise, let me know which material you're choosing and, once you have it, what you think of it!

Updated September 2018: Updated to reflect options for Apple Watch Series 4.

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