If you’re interested in getting an Apple Watch, you’ll find there are a number of models you can choose from. Amongst those models though, only a few can be bought new, as Apple has discontinued the Apple Watch Series 1, 2, 4, and 5.
That leaves the older Apple Watch Series 3 with the newer Series 6, along with the Apple Watch SE. What sets these Series 3 and Series 6 Apple Watch models apart from one another? We know exactly what, and we’ve outlined their differences in detail below!
The casing of the Apple Watch Series 6 looks a lot like the casing on the Apple Watch Series 3, but there are some differences between them.
First, the size of each screen (and therefore each watch) is different. The Series 3 is available in 38mm and 42mm sizes, and it’s about 11.4mm thick. The Series 6 can be 40mm or 44mm, and it’s a bit thinner at 10.7mm thick.
So the Series 6 Apple Watch can have a bigger screen than the Series 3. But despite being thinner, the Series 6 can be a bit heavier.
Most of this is because the case can be 2–4mm larger than the Series 3 Apple Watches. But some of the weight difference comes down to the material of the cases too.
Both the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch Series 3 can be bought with aluminum or stainless steel cases. The Series 3 can also come in white ceramic, while the Series 6 can come in titanium.
The titanium cases on the Series 6 weigh less than the white ceramic ones on the Series 3, coming in at 34.6g or 41.3g for the 40mm or 44mm Series 6 models versus 40.1g or 46.4g for the 38mm or 42mm Series 3 models.
Meanwhile, the aluminum and stainless steel cases are lightest in the 38mm Series 3 case, which is the smallest case you can get for the Apple Watch.
The back part of the watch is made of different materials, depending on which model Apple Watch you get. The Series 6 is always a ceramic and sapphire crystal back. The Series 3, with cellular options, has the ceramic and sapphire crystal back, while the GPS-only Series 3 has a composite back made of plastic.
The last big difference with the casings is that the Series 6 can be finished in several colors, while the Series 3 only comes in silver or space gray.
These colors are available in every case material on the Series 3. The colors of the Series 6 are dependent on the material, but they include gold, space black, blue, graphite, natural titanium, and red on top of the silver and space gray options.
We’ve already said the Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 6 come in different screen sizes. This is the result of the Series 6 having a screen that reaches right to the edges of the Apple Watch, compared to the squared and central screen of the Series 3. But there are also differences in screen resolution.
The 38mm Series 3 Apple Watch has a screen that’s 272×340 pixels. The 42mm Series 3 Apple Watch is 312×390 pixels. The Series 6 40mm Apple Watch’s screen is 324×394 pixels, while the 44mm is 368×448 pixels.
So the Series 6 has a higher resolution screen no matter what size you get.
The Series 6 also has an Always-On display and altimeter. This means that rather than your Apple Watch screen turning off after a while, as happens with the Series 3, the screen dims when it’s inactive, but never fully turns off.
This means you can still check the time and the weather on your Apple Watch display without having to move your wrist or tap the screen to turn it on first, as with the Series 3. Doing these actions on the Series 6 Apple Watch will brighten the screen from its dimmed state instead.
We’d recommend turning off the Always-On display to save battery life on the Apple Watch Series 6. But whether or not you use it, it’s a feature on the Series 6, and not on the Series 3.
Processing Power Particulars
The chips and processors inside of the Series 6 and Series 3 Apple Watches are all great, but they do add more differences between the devices.
The Series 6 comes with the S5 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor and the W3 Apple wireless chip. This makes it a more powerful watch than the Series 3, which comes with the S3 SiP dual-core processor and the W2 Apple wireless chip.
This gives the Series 6 a more recent generation of chips and processor, so it runs faster and can handle more powerful processing. As a result, you can have some elaborate Apple Watch complications, if those interest you.
The Series 3 is plenty powerful (and can handle many complications too), but the Series 6 has a bit of extra oomph that might make it more appealing to some users.
Each Series also has different storage options available. The Series 3 can come with 8GB or 16GB of storage, depending on if you get the GPS-only model, or the model with cellular connectivity. The Series 6 comes with 32GB of storage, considerably more than the base Series 3.
The Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 6 both have an optical heart rate sensor on their backs. This allows them to keep track of your heart rate during workouts and regular activity.
The Series 6 has the third generation of these sensors installed in them. The Series 3 is still sporting the first generation, which work great but are a little less advanced than the current ones.
The third-generation heart rate sensors can take blood oxygen measurements so long as you install the Blood Oxygen app and turn your Apple Watch onto your wrist. The Series 3 sensor sadly can’t do the same.
On top of this, though, the Series 6 has been outfitted with an additional sensor. In the Digital Crown, the Series 6 has an electrical heart rate sensor that you can use to take an ECG on your Apple Watch.
The Series 6 watches also have an internal compass, which the Series 3 Apple Watches don’t have. So you can use your Series 6 as a compass when out on a hike, but with the Series 3 (or any Apple Watch before the Series 5) you’ll have to rely on your iPhone for that.
The final difference between the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Apple Watch Series 6 is the price.
You’ve probably noticed, reading the sections above, that the Apple Watch Series 6 has a few more features than the Series 3. If you think this will make the Series 6 a bit more expensive, you are absolutely right.
At the time of writing, the Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $ 399 for the GPS-only model, and $ 499 for the GPS and Cellular model. The GPS-only Series 3 Apple Watch (which is the only type available on the Apple website) starts at $ 199.
These prices, of course, go up depending on the features and strap types you add on to your order. But at the baseline, the Series 3 is about half the price of the Series 6, which is a pretty significant difference.
What About the Apple Watch SE?
Knowing the differences between the Series 3 and Series 6 Apple Watches is helpful if you’re deciding on an Apple Watch to buy. But what about the Apple Watch SE?
We would classify the Apple Watch SE as solidly in between the Series 3 and the Series 6. Its chips function in between the Series 3 and Series 6 in processing power, and its price exists in the middle too. The GPS-only model starts at $ 279, and the GPS and cellular model starts at $ 329.
The SE doesn’t have the new electrical heart rate sensor in the Series 6, but it has a second-generation optical heart rate sensor. It also has a compass and Always On display, and comes in the same sizes as the Series 6 with 32GB of storage.
The SE comes closer to matching the Series 3 in color options (though it can come in gold), and it only comes in an aluminum case.
The SE is a step up from the Series 3 in some ways, but it’s also a step down from the many options and features of the Series 6. So it’s a solid middle option, but perhaps lacking the cheapness of one and the power of the other.
There Are More Apple Watch Similarities Than Differences
If you really look at the Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 6 side by side, you’ll find many more similarities than differences.
Hopefully listing some of the differences above will help you decide between the models if you’re choosing between them. But whichever Apple Watch you get, we’re sure you’ll get a device you’ll love for a really long time!