It’s nearly that time of year again. Everyone’s coming together to share the collective buzz of excitement, talking about the things they hope to give and receive, and already feeling dizzy at the thought of their sky-rocketing bank balance. No, we’re not talking about Christmas. We’re talking about Black Friday.
With discounts, offers and great add-ons, it’s the perfect opportunity to get your hands on the shiny tech you’ve been coveting over the past 12 months, like an otherwise super expensive Apple Watch deal. Because the Apple brand is still very much synonymous with high quality tech, shops are likely to be serving up decent discounts for the wearable, making it a great time to buy your first or even upgrade.
Having said that, many of the best Apple Watch Black Friday deals are likely to be found amongst a sea of fairly rubbish ones. Some retailers may claim to be discounting the watch, but haven’t knocked much off the price, while others may try to entice you with the Series 1 version, when really you should splash the extra cash on the latest model. Or maybe the problem is you’re getting swept up by the allure of the Apple brand rather than taking a look at the other smartwatches on offer.
Here at TechRadar, we’ll be publishing the best deals on Black Friday. But in the meantime, we’ve put together this guide to equip you with all the necessary information you need to get the best Apple Watch deal for you, so you don’t buy on a whim or end up with a smartwatch that has a great price tag but doesn’t suit you or your lifestyle.
Series 1, Series 2 or Series 3?
There are three releases of the Apple Watch, officially called Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3, but don’t be surprised if they’re labelled something slightly different on third party sites, like Apple Watch 1 or first edition Apple Watch.
Pro tip: You won’t find the Series 2 on the Apple website anymore but you’re likely to come across it on third party websites. It'll be cheaper, but note that the range has progressed dramatically since this first iteration, so it may be worth your while to splash a little more cash on newer editions.
Series 3 special editions
There are three special editions of the Apple Watch Series 3; the Apple Watch Edition, the Apple Watch Hermes, and the Apple Watch Nike+. They all have the same internal specs, so this is purely about looks.
The Apple Watch Edition has a ceramic finish in both white and grey, which gives it a more premium aesthetic. The casing is lighter and four times more durable than the standard stainless steel version.
The Apple Watch Hermes is made from stainless steel with more unusual strap options, the Hermes stamp of approval on the back and different watch faces.
The Nike+ style boasts different strap options, this time geared up for sport, as well as Nike watch faces. It’s made from aluminum so it’s as light as possible and has the Nike swoosh on the strap too.
All are pricier than the Series 3, but that’s also because you can only get cellular versions of them.
When it comes to the Series 3 Watch, it can be bought with just GPS built-in or there’s a more expensive cellular model with a SIM card built-in, which means you’d be able to use it to make calls and do other things independently from your iPhone. In most UK retailers at least, the price difference is £70 and will come with additional charges from EE. If you can’t tell the difference between the two by looking at them, the SIM version has a red accent on the crown (the little dial at the side).
Although the SIM version sounds appealing, you only really need it if you want to take your smartwatch out-and-about without your phone, like during a run. But we imagine that for most people it’s an added expense you may not need - especially if the thought of being nowhere near your phone for hours at a time brings you out in a cold sweat.
There lots of differences between the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 3, like the cellular connectivity, the fact the Series 3 screen is much brighter and has a Siri assistant that talks back rather than replies to you via text. But one area worth paying special attention to is fitness.
The Series 1 has a built-in heart rate sensor and accelerometer, so it’s a decent activity tracker. But it doesn’t have built-in GPS like the Series 2 and Series 3 incorporate. That means if you want a device that’s a fitness companion for workouts the Series 1 might be good enough. If you enjoy running, the Series 3 or older Series 2 is much more capable of providing you with the right data.
Similarly, if you swim you’ll need the Series 2 or the Series 3. The Series 1 is splashproof, which means it can probably deal with a sweaty workout, but little else. Whereas the Series 3 can handle being submerged up to 50 metres.
Although the Series 2 and Series 3 are similar when it comes to fitness, the 3 has a barometric altimeter, which means it can track elevation data making it a good option if you enjoy outdoor activities, like cycling or running along trails.
If you’re really keen to use your Apple Watch for fitness, bear this in mind when you’re shopping for different styles and bands too. For example, the Series 3 watch can come with a sport band, a sport loop or a Milanese loop.
Series 2 vs Series 3
Apple doesn’t sell the Series 2 device anymore, but that doesn’t mean there might not be some serious discounts on Series 2 watches from other retailers keen to get rid of old stock. So the big question is, which should you go for?
Well unlike the Series 1, they each are waterproofed for swimming, have built-in GPS and have a 1000 nits display, which means they’re really bright, even in daylight.
So far so similar. But it’s inside where there’s a difference. The newest Series has an improved processor, which boasts a 70 percent performance increase over the Series 2, as well as a new W2 chipset for improvements to power efficiency and performance improvements for Wi-fi. And if you were sold on the idea of taking calls with your watch and ditching your phone at home, the Series 3 is your best bet as the Series 2 doesn’t come with a built-in SIM.
Do you need an Apple Watch?
While you’re sat agonising over the Series 1 or Series 3 or sporty band or Nike+ edition, consider that you might not actually need an Apple Watch.
We know, it’s appealing to get a wearable to match your iPhone or your MacBook, but if you’re after a device built for fitness, the Fitbit Ionic might be more suited to you. It plays nicely with Android devices, has automatic exercise and a marginally better battery life of 4 days compared to the Apple Watch’s 2. Another obvious alternative is the Samsung Gear S3, as well as the Huawei Watch 2, which both could be discounted for Black Friday too.
Our deal predictions
It’s hard to make any solid predictions before Black Friday hits, but there are a few things we can certainly expect to see on the 24th of November. Apple gear never comes cheap, but here are some possibilities to keep an eye out for ahead of the big day.
Expect serious Series 1 deals
As you’d expect, the oldest version of the Apple Watch is likely to be the most heavily discounted. It’ll serve up notifications, act as a simple all-day tracker and play nicely with lots of apps. Of course this is the most basic watch from Apple now, but it could have at least £100 off making it worth it for those who have been wary.
But it could be the Series 2 that gets the biggest meaningful price cuts given that Apple no longer sells it and other retailers might want rid of old stock. If it gets a discount into your budget and you’re after an Apple Watch, the Series 2 could be your best bet - and it works with most accessories built for the new Series 3.
Check out the gift cards from Apple
Apple notoriously doesn’t play into Black Friday, so your best bet is to look elsewhere for deals. Having said that, the brand sometimes throws in gift cards and accessories with purchases. So if the discounts aren’t as hot as you thought they’d be elsewhere, take a quick look at the Apple website because it might be worth buying a watch from there if there are gift cards aplenty.
Keep your eye on accessory deals
Whether you already have an Apple Watch or you plan on buying your first on Black Friday, it’s worth shopping around for different accessory deals. Straps are likely to be discounted, as are other Apple branded and non-Apple-branded accessories, like charging cables and charging docks. If you’ve got an Apple Watch but it’s not living up to expectations, maybe investing in a cheap new discounted strap or charging device is just what you need.