Picking out a smart watch can be tough. The market has seen lots of innovation in recent years, and there are often lots of technical terms which only makes things more difficult. Today, we aim to clarify things for you! We’ll be taking a look at two watches side-by-side, checking out their differences and similarities, and figuring out which is the better buy.
With the Apple Watch in particular, knowing the differences between the available models (as well as figuring out which version is best for you) can be tricky. In this review, we will compare all the details of the Apple Watch Series 3 and the newest version, the Apple Watch Series 4. We will be taking a look at everything you need to know before making a decision on which Apple Watch you should buy.
The differences between the Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4 are indeed noticeable at a glance with regard to the overall appearance of the watch. This is especially true when Series 3 and Series 4 are viewed side-by-side, as the size, display, bezels, and case design all differ between the two models. Let’s take a closer look at each of these differences in more detail.
Size & Display
Apple has bumped up the size of the display of the Series 4 watch compared to its predecessor, with only a minimal increase to the overall size of the watch case.
|38mm / 42mm
|40mm / 44mm
|563mm² / 740mm²
|759mm² / 977mm²
The 40mm Series 4 watch has a display that is 35% larger than the 38mm Series 3, and the 44mm Series 4 watch has a 32% larger display than the 42mm Series 3 watch. Not only is the Series 4’s screen larger, but also nearly extends edge-to-edge, allowing you to get the most out of the screen’s extra space. Apple has made the most out of the extra screen real-estate with the Series 4 watch, as they have also made other big improvements to the display.
The Series 4 watch has a screen that is much brighter and clearer, which helps with visibility under direct sunlight. This is achieved with a LTPO OLED retina display with ‘Force Touch’ and 1,000 nits brightness, compared to the Series 3 OLED retina display, which also has with ‘Force Touch’ and 1,000 nits brightness.
The Series 4 watch also includes a larger variety of watch faces to choose from, although the Series 3 watch does have a fair selection as well.
It is quite an impressive feat of engineering to be able to increase the display size of the Series 4 watch while barely affecting the overall size of the device, making reading and general usability of the usability of the Series 4 Apple Watch an improvement over its predecessor. This is all the more impressive when you consider that the Series 4 Apple Watch has actually gotten thinner as well. Apple managed to shave 0.7mm, reducing thickness from 11.4mm to 10.7mm.
The case of the Series 3 watch has slightly thicker bezels, and the corners are less rounded compared to the Series 4. The available materials and finishes for the two models differ as well; The Series 3 watch case is made of aluminum and is available in Silver or Space Grey. The Series 4 watch comes in aluminum, and is available in Silver, Space Grey, or Gold, but is also available with a stainless steel finish, which comes in Silver, Space Black, and Gold.
The Series 4 is sleeker and much slimmer than the Series 3, making it more appealing, manageable and comfortable as it isn’t quite so bulky – as long as you don’t mind the slightly larger case size on the newer version.
Let’s talk about styling your watch! The bands for the Series 3 (38mm & 40mm) and Series 4 (42mm & 44mm) Apple Watch are thankfully interchangeable, however the fit won’t necessarily be perfect. Using a Series 3 strap on a Series 4 watch will leave a 1mm gap on each side, which is not ideal and may mean that you will want to buy bands that are designed specifically for your model. If you don’t mind the small gap however, it’s nice to know that any bands you already have will at least be compatible.
There are also alternative wristband options for both models, allowing you to style your watch for any occasion; You can equip a leather or metal band for a formal event, or you can choose the rubber sports bands, which are great for when you are working out!
The Series 4 Apple Watch offers an improvement to many of its core features compared to its predecessor, including the speaker, microphone, processor, and storage space.
The Series 4 watch has an S4 64-bit dual-core processor that is (according to Apple) twice as fast as the Series 3 with it’s S3 dual-core processor. The Series 4 speaker is 50% louder, and the microphone is clearer, as it is located opposite the speaker, between the digital crown and home button. This addresses some of the issues that the Series 3 has regarding communication and audio.
The Series 3 watch’s digital crown will have a red dot in order to differentiate the LTE and WiFi models, with the former having the dot, however some may not find it very aesthetically pleasing. The Series 4 has altered this design, with a small red outline around the digital crown for the LTE version. And speaking of the digital crown, it also has some nice haptic feedback when the digital crown is used to scroll. It is more satisfying to use, however it isn’t a game-changer for most users.
The Series 4 also has a black ceramic and sapphire back panel, which has improved connectivity as it is easier to transmit and receive radio waves.
A few additional improvements include:
- Storage capacity has been increased from the Series 3’s 8GB to the Series 4’s 16GB.
- Series 3 has the W2 Apple wireless chip, while the Series 4 has the W3 Apple wireless chip
- Series 4 is equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, while the Series 3 has Bluetooth 4.2
There are two main feature differences when it comes to the Apple Watch Series 4 vs the Series 3:
The first main feature difference is that the Series 4 has an FDS-cleared electrocardiogram, commonly known as a EKG or ECG. This is incredibly accurate and can provide warnings to users and vital information to medical practitioners.
The second main feature difference is fall detection. The Series 4 has an improved accelerometer, which can register up to 32 g’s while the Series 3 is limited to 16 g’s. Series 4 also has an improved gyroscope that can identify when the user has taken a fall. If the user is unresponsive after 1 minute of the registered fall, the watch will automatically call emergency services, and will provide your GPS location to the dispatch team. You can also program your watch to share your location with emergency contacts.
Taken together, both of these features can provide peace of mind, and can even be life-saving.
Both the Series 3 and Series 4 will last approximately 18hrs from a full charge. The only real difference when it comes to battery life is with the exercise app, which has been improved from 4 hours up to 6 hours on the Series 4. Unless you often go out on long hikes, this change in battery life will not likely be a major factor in your decision.
What’s the same?
Although there are a number of differences between the Series 3 and Series 4 Apple Watch, quite a few things remain unchanged between the two models:
- 50m water resistance
- watchOS 5 operating system
- GPS and LTE connectivity
- Barometric altimeter
- Ambient light sensor
- WiFi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz
As you would expect, the Series 4 watch is newer, and therefore will cost slightly more than the older and cheaper Series 3 model. We have broken down the cost for each device, for both the standard and LTE versions:
- Apple Watch Series 3 GPS $279
- Apple Watch Series 4 GPS $399
- Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular $379
- Apple Watch Series 4 GPS + Cellular $499
For all the added benefits the Series 4 Apple Watch provides, (especially the health, microphone, speaker, and display improvements) we believe that it’s worth it the extra cost over the Series 3, as this will likely be a longer-term investment. If you already own the Series 3 or can’t really justify spending the extra money on the Series 4, the Series 3 is still a really great option for your next smartwatch.