One of the most heavily advertised products during the holiday sales is the Apple Watch, primarily for the entry-level Series 3 model, which is available for as low as $119 at Walmart.
Buyers beware: What’s being offered for a great price is a 3-year-old product from 2017 that doesn’t offer many of the newer features. How does it compare with the latest and greatest, the Series 6 or the more affordable SE?
We’re here to help. What you need to know:
Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.
Caveat: Apple Watch ‘Family Setup’: How it works, what it costs and what it won’t do
Apple guide: So you want a new iPhone? Apple’s got 7. How to choose the right one for you
The Series 6, the latest, has a starting list price of $399 from Apple, compared with $279 for the 2020 entry SE and the Series 3 for $199. Older models are available at various outlets, including the Series 5 for $329 at Best Buy and Amazon. Note the “starting” price. Apple offers a $25 gift card with purchase of the Series 3 for its holiday sale, which ends Monday night.
You need an iPhone*
The Apple Watch is not compatible with Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy series. What about using it as a plain watch? No dice. You still need an iPhone to set up the Watch, so if you’re not in the Apple world, forget about it. Apple is specific about which model you’ll need. The Series 6 Watch works only with iPhones dating back to the 6S, from 2014. If you held onto your old iPhone 6 or 5S, sorry, it’s not compatible.
*There is a new way this year for some to use a Watch without an iPhone, via Apple’s new “Family” plan. It lets parents buy editions of the Apple Watch and tie them to their iPhone. (Note that the Series 3 watch that’s being discounted doesn’t work with it, but the SE and Series 6 do.)
More on the family plan in a minute.
GPS edition or Wi-Fi/cellular?
The GPS editions of the watch are $100 cheaper, but you’ll need that iPhone on you when you use the watch for receiving notifications, calls, streaming music, apps, talking to the Siri personal assistant and the like. Spend the extra money, and you can do all of the above when out and about (as joggers or stand-up paddlers might want to do), but again, you’ll pay for it. You need to spring an extra $10 monthly on your wireless service plan.
More on the family plan
Apple touts the SE as starting at $279 and the Series 6 at $399, but for the family plan, parents need to purchase step-up editions with cellular connectivity. Those SE models start at $329 for the 40mm watchface or $359 for the 44mm version. Then add roughly $10 monthly for your wireless plan (depending on the carrier), and you’re looking at a minimum of $658 for a family with two kids, plus $240 a year in cell charges.
Series 3 vs. SE and Series 6
There are many differences in the top of the line watch, the 6.
Earlier editions of the watch turned dark when not in use to save battery power. The Series 6 has the “always on” feature, so you’ll always be able to see the watch face. Two health apps are available, to check your blood-oxygen level and do an ECG to check your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. The Series 3 watch doesn’t offer these features, nor does the SE. The SE works with the family plan and has a larger watch face, 44mm (same as Series 6) to the Series 3 42mm.
If you do have an Android phone…
If you have an Android phone and want a smartwatch, you’ll want to look at arm pieces featuring Wear OS by Google (which can work with Android phones as well as iPhones) from makers such as Fossil or Samsung with its Galaxy-branded watches. Samsung’s Galaxy watch line is heavily discounted for the holidays as well: A 46mm watch face edition of the Galaxy watch sells for $189 at Best Buy, down from $239.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shopping for an Apple Watch? What you need to know before buying