Apple Watch Series 5 vs. Series 3: Should you splurge or save on your next smartwatch?

You have determined you want an Apple Watch in your life, however now the query is which one? There have been six completely different variations of the Watch through the years and a new one may be coming in a couple of months, however Apple at present provides you two fashions to select from: the Series 5, which begins at $399; and the Series 3, which begins at $199. 

The excellent news is you may’t go mistaken with both if in case you have your coronary heart set on an Apple Watch. Each have the identical fitness monitoring options, notifications and seamless integration along with your iPhone. So if value is your essential concern, relaxation straightforward, you may get all the pieces you want from the Sequence Three for $200 much less. However if in case you have some wiggle room within the finances, the Sequence 5 has some standout options which may simply make it definitely worth the splurge. 

Learn extra: Apple Watch: The two features that finally won me over 

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The Sequence 5 is the gold customary with regards to sensible watches. It has all of the fundamentals plus some added options like an always-on show and an FDA-cleared electrocardiogram app that elevate it above the remainder. And when you want your Apple Watch to face the take a look at of time, then the Sequence 5 is a greater wager. With its newest replace to WatchOS 7, Apple has phased out the primary three generations of the Apple Watch, and the Sequence Three may very well be subsequent on the chopping block.

Read our Apple Watch Series 5 review.

Josh Miller/CNET

Should you’re shopping for your first smartwatch and also you’re on a finances, the Sequence Three is the Apple Look ahead to you. It has the very same health monitoring performance because the Sequence 5, heart-rate alerts to maintain you in test, and seamless integration along with your iPhone. Extra importantly, it is half the value of the Sequence 5 so you could possibly additionally put the cash you save towards the mobile mannequin or preserve the additional $200 in your pocket. 

Read our Apple Watch Series 3 review.

All the time on is handy, however not a should


The mobile model of the Sequence Three has a purple dot on the crown, whereas the Sequence 5 solely has a top level view.  

Angela Lang/CNET

The primary main distinction between the Apple Watch Sequence 5 and the Sequence Three is the show. The display on the Sequence 5 is at all times on so you may see the time or your exercise stats with out elevating your wrist, whereas the display on the Sequence Three turns off once you’re not utilizing it. It might not appear to be that large of a deal, however as soon as you have had a style of the always-on display, it is exhausting to return. Good luck discreetly checking the time throughout a gathering, as a result of something on the display of the Sequence Three requires a really intentional flick of the wrist. The Sequence 5 has a dimmer model of your watch face that is seen always. And even with the always-on show, the battery of the Sequence 5 would not drain any sooner than the Sequence 3’s.

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Slightly better battery life on the Series 5

Both the Series 5 and the Series 3 last about 18 hours with normal use, which includes getting notifications from your phone, checking the time and tracking a workout (battery life is slightly less if you’re using GPS during a workout). The advantage of the Series 5 Apple Watch is that it allows you to disable the always-on feature if you need to get more mileage out of the battery. In that case, you may be able to squeeze almost two full days worth, or a full 24 hours once sleep tracking becomes available with the update to WatchOS 7 in the fall. You’ll also get an extra hour of battery life during outdoor workouts, which might be key if you’re training for a race. The Series 5 will track about 6 hours worth of continuous activity (5 with LTE enabled) compared to the 5 hours (4 with LTE enabled) on the Series 3.

Better visibility during workouts 

The Series 5 is only a couple of millimeters larger than the Series 3, but the screen will seem noticeably bigger because it has smaller bezels. It’s still a tiny screen compared to your phone, but it’s definitely easier to read. The Series 5 display is also brighter than that of the Series 3, making it easier to see outdoors and in direct sunlight. This will be especially helpful for checking live stats during a run without having to pause and squint at the screen to see your data.

They’re both great at tracking workouts 

Both these watches are great fitness companions that track just about any workout and give you reminders to get moving on your off days. They both have a built-in GPS, which means you can leave your phone behind on a run and still be able to track route and distance info via the Watch, and they’re water resistant up to 50 meters for both salt- and fresh-water swimming. The key difference is that the Series 5 has a compass, which may come in handy if you do a lot of hiking. 


The Apple Watch Series 5 is always on.

Angela Lang/CNET

Same heart features, minus the ECG app

Both watches keep tabs on your ticker with heart health notifications that alert users when their heart rate is too high, low or give signs of atrial fibrillation (aFib), a serious heart condition. But only the Series 5 has an ECG (electrocardiogram) feature built-in. In addition to the traditional optical sensor that tracks heart rate, the Series 5 has a sensor that allows users to take an electrocardiogram by way of the ECG app, which can then be shared with their physician. 

The Series 5 is better in an emergency

The Series 3 and the Series 5 have an SOS feature that can be triggered by long-pressing the side button in a pinch. Once activated, the Watch automatically calls 911 and then sends a text to your emergency contacts with your coordinates. On the Series 5, this feature also works even if you’re traveling abroad. The Series 5 also has fall detection, which is like an automated version of the SOS feature that’s triggered by a hard fall instead of a long press. If the user doesn’t move for about a minute, the Watch then notifies both emergency services and emergency contacts.

Faster processor and more storage space on the Series 5

Unless you have both watches side by side running the same tasks, you may not even notice the difference in speed. But the Series 5 has a faster processor and Wi-Fi chip so it’s generally more responsive at performing tasks like starting a workout and switching between apps. It’s also more reliable when connected to LTE and has more storage space for listening to your music offline. 

The best deal may be short-lived

If you’re buying your first smartwatch, the Series 3 seems like the better deal. It has most of the same features as the Series 5 and costs $200 less. But there is one more thing to consider when making your decision, and that’s the shelf life of the Watch. Apple has been known to stop updating older models, and the Series 3 is currently the oldest model compatible with WatchOS 7, which means it’s next on the chopping block to stop receiving support on future OS versions. Whether that means it won’t receive an update to WatchOS next year remains to be seen, but it’s something to consider if you’re planning on holding on to your watch for a couple of years and you want to continue getting the updates.

Apple Watch Series 5 vs. Series 3 specs

Apple Watch Series 5 Apple Watch Series 3
Display size, resolution 40mm, 44mm Retina OLED 368×448 pixels 42mm, 38mm Retina OLED 312×390 pixels
Always-on Yes No
Dimensions (millimeters) 40mm: 40mm (height), 34mm (width), 10.74mm (depth) 44mm: 44mm (height) 38mm (width) 10.74mm (depth) 38mm: 38.6mm (height), 33.3mm (width), 11.4mm (depth) 42mm: 42.5mm (height) 36.4mm (width) 11.4mm (depth)
Weight (grams) 40mm Wi-Fi: 30.8g, Wi-Fi + Cellular: 30.8g 44mm Wi-Fi: 36.5g Wi-Fi + Cellular: 36.5g 38mm Wi-Fi: 26.7g, Wi-Fi + Cellular: 28.7g 42mm Wi-Fi: 32.3g Wi-Fi + Cellular: 34.9g
Materials/ finishes Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Ceramic, Titanium Aluminum
Colors Silver, Space Grey, Gold, White (Ceramic) Space Grey and Silver
Interchangeable bands Yes Yes
GPS Built-in Built-in
Automatic workout detection Yes Yes
Compass Yes No
Altimeter Yes Yes
Water resistance Yes, up to 50m Yes, up to 50m
Calls Yes Yes
Notifications Text replies Text replies
Microphone Yes Yes
Speaker Yes Yes
Voice assistant Siri Siri
Music Onboard, playback and streaming (with Cellular model) Onboard, playback and streaming (with Cellular model)
Mobile Payments Apple Pay Apple Pay
Sleep tracking No (starting in WatchOS 7) No (starting in WatchOS 7)
Period tracking Yes Yes
Special features ECG app and HR notifications, fall detection, hearing health alerts HR notifications and hearing health alerts
Emergency features Emergency SOS, International emergency calling, fall detection Emergency SOS calling (911 and emergency contacts)
Compatibility iOS/iPhone only iOS/iPhone only
Software WatchOS 6 WatchOS 6
Processor S5 chip dual-core processor and W3 wireless chip S3 chip dual-core processor and W2 wireless chip
Connectivity Wi-Fi and Cellular option ($100 more) Wi-Fi and Cellular option ($100 more)
Storage 32GB 16GB (Wi-Fi and Cellular model), 8 GB (Wi-Fi-only model)
Bluetooth 5.0 4.2
Power Magnetic Apple charging cable and USB connector (backward compatible) Magnetic Apple charging cable and USB connector (backward compatible)
Battery life All day (18 hrs.) All day (18 hrs.)
Price (USD) Starting at $399 (40mm aluminum) Starting at $199 (40mm aluminum)
Price (GBP) £399 £199
Price (AUD) AU$649 AU$399

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Vanessa Hand Orellana