With the release last month of the new Apple Watch Series 4 (review coming soon – just about done with a solid month on the watch), many people have been asking and searching for which Apple Watch is the best deal for runners. Of course, the latest Apple Watch Series 4 presents the best Apple Watch for runners in terms of features, but what about value?
Which Apple Watch Should Runners Buy?
Thanks to Apple’s somewhat strange naming habits, it may be confusing to know a little about the different Apple Watches! Here is what we have:
- Apple Watch – Released April, 2015 (No GPS)
- Apple Watch Series 1 – Released September, 2016 (No GPS)
- Apple Watch Series 2 – Released September, 2016 (Has GPS)
- Apple Watch Series 3 – Released September, 2017 (Has GPS)
- Apple Watch Series 4 – Released September, 2018 (Has GPS)
Even though it is possible to run with the Apple Watch or Apple Watch Series 1 without GPS (they will use your iPhone’s GPS or as a pedometer if you don’t have your phone with you), I feel it is safe to say at this point that runners should not buy the original Apple Watch or Apple Watch Series 1 if they want to run with it. It will work, but neither one is a good value.
Which Apple Watch for Runners?
TL:DR: The Apple Watch Series 3 presents the best balance of cost, features, and value and is a great choice for runners – even though it does not have the extra hour+ of battery life that the Series 4 has.
That leaves us with the Apple Watch Series 2 (first one to incorporate GPS), the Apple Watch Series 3, and the latest and greatest Apple Watch Series 4.
Apple Watch Series 2
The Apple Watch Series 2 is no longer sold by Apple or other retailers as new. You can find it on eBay from eBay preferred sellers around $220 for the 38mm model. They would be a little more for the 42mm model. This price gets you one that is “seller refurbished” which I don’t consider to be a big help (I have used such Apple products before and they can be hit and miss).
The biggest downside to buying the Apple Watch Series 2 for running today would be battery life. While it was ok, it is not as good as Series 3 or 4 and definitely not anywhere near any of the Garmin watches it could compete with in the GPS arena.
This would be especially true with a seller refurbished or used model as the battery would be old.
Even with prices in the low $200s, I think runners should pass on the Apple Watch Series 2 in 2018.
Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch Series 3 was definitely an upgrade in battery life from the Series 2. Not significantly so but enough that it would not die during a marathon for most people.
The Apple Watch Series 3 has had some spectacular deals even before the Series 4 was announced. It is still being sold by Apple ($279 for the 38mm and $309 for the 42mm) and often sees sale prices from vendors like Best Buy, especially for the LTE models (around the $300 mark or a little below).
With sales and discounts and the holidays coming up, the Apple Watch Series 3 can often be had from just $229 for the 38mm and $259 for the 42mm. It doesn’t have the larger screen or better battery life of the Apple Watch Series 4, but it is definitely a good deal on a quality Apple Watch.
With sale prices often in the low $200s for refurbished models, the Apple Watch Series 3 presents a very good buy for runners in 2018.
Apple Watch Series 4
The Apple Watch Series 4 is the biggest design change since the original Apple Watch. While not revolutionary, it helped the watch tremendously by making the screen have more display space and also lessening the bulge on the back so it is a little slimmer. I will say this – when I use the watch with apps that have not been updated for the 44mm display, it is really something to see how much better the screen of the 44mm is!
The Apple Watch Series 4 also managed to give another hour for outdoor workouts so it is now supposed to last about as long as every marathon cutoff around (6 hours).
So, the Apple Watch Series 4 is definitely the best Apple Watch (and it should be!). But, does it present the best value for runners in 2018? The problem is that Apple increased the cost for the Apple Watch so you will pay $70 more for this model as opposed to what the Series 3 cost when it was released.
While the Apple Watch Series 4 is the best one yet, it is on the pricey side for runners that want a deal in 2018.
So, Which Apple Watch for Runners in 2018?
Apple’s Watch OS5 brought some nice changes to the watch models and those work with more than just Series 4. That means that you can take advantage of all those features on the older watches as well (except for the original). These features brought nice updates like a rolling mile pace for the Apple Workout app as well cadence and pace alerts.
Even though the new Apple Watch Series 4 does seem to have improved on accuracy in the GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring (compared to previous models), the price may still be a bit much for many runners right now.
My vote for the best value Apple Watch for runners in 2018 would be the APPLE WATCH SERIES 3. With prices as low as 40% off what the new version costs, it presents an excellent value. To get the cheapest prices, you will need to go with refurbished ones which can present great values.
My full review on the Apple Watch Series 4 for runners and compared to Garmin watches will be coming soon, likely next week.