Ranking Every Apple Watch

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

On the verge of the 8th generation Apple Watch announcement, I thought it would be fun to rank all the previous models from best to worst. My criteria for this ordering is based on how good it would have been for an average person to buy a new Apple Watch when each of these was new, not how exciting they were for enthusiasts like us.

And please don't take this list too seriously. I wrote this because it was fun to look back on the last 8 years of the product I've covered so closely.

Series 3

From my 2017 review:

The best thing I can say about the Apple Watch Series 3 in terms of speed and performance is that I never even think about it. I don’t consider whether the watch will be able to do something I ask of it, I just do it. It’s an inflection point for the product line, and I’m happy to say that speed is no longer something that you have to worry about.

While it's the Series 3 is a bit of a punch line now that it's still being sold 5 years later, it's an absolute beast of a watch. It was the first with cellular built in, Siri could talk back to you from the watch, and most importantly, it was way faster than before. One of the greats!

Series 6

Hear me out, but this is low-key one of the best Apple Watches ever. It didn't add a ton, but it's the sort of watch you could buy and be happy with for years. it's only notable new feature was the blood oxygen sensor, but the real wins here were:

  1. Epic battery life
  2. Way better always-on screen

Yes, the Series 5 was more flashy with it's brand new always-on mode, but in terms of being a product you can use for the long haul, the Series 6 is the new Series 3 in my eyes.

Series 5

From my 2019 review:

Depending on your measurement, it’s either the most or least significant update to the hardware Apple has ever put out

Basically all the Series 5 added was an always-on screen, but that one addition alone made every other watch in the lineup immediately feel ancient. Battery life was not great because of this, but it's hard to overstate how fundamentally this changed the Apple Watch for the better.

Series 7

I did not review.

Kind of a boring release, but I think the bigger screen is under-appreciated by people who haven't used it. The narrower bezels make the screen feel huge, and the on-screen keyboard is 100% the best way to type out quick messages from the watch. See you in hell, scribble mode!

Series 4

From my 2018 review:

I think the Series 4 is a very good upgrade to the Apple Watch lineup, and for a lot of people it seems to be the Apple Watch update they’ve been waiting for. But that said, the Series 3 this is replacing was not exactly in desperate need of a revamp, at least in my opinion.

This followed up the top Apple Watch on this list, which is no easy feat, but its notable update was the first visual change to the watch since the original. The bigger screen allowed for some big changes we still see today in the watchOS interface, it added ECG support, and it doubled performance from the already excellent Series 3.

Series 2

I did not review

The one numbered Apple Watch model I never owned! This came out the same year as the Series 1, and added a brighter screen, more performance, and GPS. It was a fine update, but it's certainly one of the more forgettable models.

Series 1

From my 2016 review:

If you didn't buy an Apple Watch before because you heard the Apple Watch was slow, then I think this is a very good place to jump in on the platform.

The same processor upgrade as the Series 2, but without GPS or the better screen, the Series 1 was on my wrist for a year, but let's be real, it wasn't the most notable Apple Watch of its year, let alone of all time.


I did not review

I didn't know where to put this one, but it gets dropped pretty low because I don't think it's ever been a very good value in the lineup. It's significantly worse than the Series 7 it's sold alongside today, but it's not enough cheaper in my opinion to justify itself.

The Original

This one gets credit for creating the design language the Apple Watch still has today, and it's truly iconic, but it's also impossible to forget how bad the hardware was overall. Much like the original iPad, this thing came in hot and it is one of the rare cases of an Apple product feeling slow from day one.

Apple quickly dropped support for the original in watchOS updates, and while this model is a nice collector's item today, it wasn't that good for normal people.