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Apple Watch Series 3 vs 6: A Detailed Comparison

Hey there! If you‘re trying to decide between the Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 6, you‘ve come to the right place. I‘m going to compare these two smartwatch models across all the key categories so you can determine which is the better fit for your needs and budget. Let‘s dive in!

Size and Design

While the Series 3 and 6 share a similar overall aesthetic, there are some notable physical differences.

According to Apple, the Series 3 comes in two size options:

  • 38mm (1.06 oz)
  • 42mm (1.35 oz)

The Series 6 is slightly larger:

  • 40mm (1.07 oz)
  • 44mm (1.30 oz)

So if you have larger wrists, you may prefer the bigger display and case size of the Series 6. But the Series 3 is great for petite wrists.

In terms of materials, the Series 3 is only available in aluminum with silver or space gray color options. The Series 6 gives you way more customization here with:

  • Aluminum (silver, gold, space gray, blue, red)
  • Stainless steel (silver, graphite, gold)
  • Titanium (space black)

The pricier steel and titanium models have a more premium, luxurious look and feel compared to the aluminum. But they do cost more.

When it comes to buttons and swappable bands, both watches are identical. You get the digital crown and side button to navigate the interface, and the easy-to-swap bands let you customize styles effortlessly.

One minor downside of the Series 6 is it weighs a fraction of an ounce more due to the slightly larger case size:

Weight Comparison:

Model 38mm/40mm 42mm/44mm
Series 3 1.06 oz 1.35 oz
Series 6 1.07 oz 1.30 oz

But we‘re talking a negligible difference of 0.01 oz here! Bottom line, both watches are super light and comfortable on your wrist.

Lastly, the Series 3 and 6 share identical 50 meter water resistance ratings. You can swim and shower worry-free with either model.

Display Technology

The watches are pretty evenly matched in the display department in terms of resolution and brightness. But the Series 6 does have a few advantages.

According to Apple, both watches have Retina OLED touchscreens with the same screen resolution:

  • 38mm/40mm: 324 x 394 pixels
  • 42mm/44mm: 368 x 448 pixels

But the Series 6 uses a new LTPO OLED display that allows it to have an always-on mode. This means you can discreetly check the time without needing to lift your wrist. The Series 3 lacks this capability.

The Series 6 display also shines brighter at max brightness – up to 1000 nits compared to 450 nits on the Series 3. This boost in brightness by over 2x makes the screen much more readable in direct sunlight when you need it.

Lastly, the slightly larger case sizes of the Series 6 equal a display that‘s about 30% larger than the Series 3. More screen real estate is always nice to have!

Health Sensors and Fitness Tracking

When it comes to activity tracking, the Series 3 and 6 are well-matched. According to Apple, both can track popular metrics like:

  • Steps
  • Distance
  • Calories burned
  • Exercise minutes
  • Heart rate

And both support multi-sport workouts like running, cycling, yoga, swimming and more.

However, the Series 6 pulls ahead when it comes to advanced health sensors:

  • Blood oxygen sensor: Measures your SpO2 levels to help detect respiratory conditions.
  • ECG app: Takes an electrocardiogram to monitor for irregular heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation.
  • Always-on altimeter: Continuously tracks elevation changes like flights of stairs.

The Series 3 lacks these new health monitoring features. It only has the basic optical heart rate sensor.

So if cardiac health and oxygen monitoring are important to you, the Series 6 is the clear winner here.

Safety Features

The Apple Watch has always been good at promoting safety with features like Emergency SOS and Medical ID. But the Series 6 takes safety to the next level by introducing a new fall detection function.

Here‘s how it works according to Apple:

The watch can detect if you take a hard fall and immediately send you an alert. If you remain motionless for about a minute after the alert, it will automatically call emergency services and ping your emergency contacts with your location.

This could provide life-saving help if you ever take a bad spill and are unresponsive. By contrast, the Series 3 lacks this potentially game-changing safety feature.

Sleep Tracking

Thanks to its always-on display, the Series 6 can now automatically track your sleep duration and quality. According to Apple, it breaks your sleep data down into:

  • Time asleep
  • Time awake
  • REM sleep
  • Core sleep
  • Deep sleep

This gives you a detailed look at your nightly sleep cycles and patterns. Unfortunately, the Series 3 lacks the capability to natively track sleep since it doesn‘t have an always-on display. You‘d need to download a third party sleep tracking app to get info about your sleep with the Series 3.

Cellular Connectivity

Both the Series 3 and 6 allow you to make calls, stream music, and use apps without needing your iPhone nearby. But there is an important difference when it comes to cellular.

According to Apple, the Series 3 was originally offered in both GPS-only and cellular models. However, Apple has since discontinued the Series 3‘s cellular version.

So cellular connectivity is only available on the Series 6 now. It‘s the sole option if you want an LTE-enabled Apple Watch.

Performance and Battery Life

Let‘s move onto the performance and battery life differences between these two models.

The Series 6 clearly has more advanced internal hardware according to Apple:

  • Processor: S6 chip (up to 20% faster than Series 5 and 2x faster than Series 3)
  • RAM: 1GB (Series 3 has 768MB)
  • Storage: 32GB (Series 3 has 8GB)

You‘ll really notice these performance upgrades in snappier app launch times and smoother overall system responsiveness. Everything is fast and fluid with the Series 6.

As for battery life, both watches are rated for 18 hours of mixed use by Apple. However, the Series 6‘s always-on display may impact real-world battery life somewhat. Expect to charge either watch daily with typical use.

Pricing Breakdown

With the Series 3 now being three generations old, it provides a more affordable entry point into Apple‘s smartwatch lineup.

Here‘s how pricing breaks down according to Apple:

Apple Watch Series 3:

  • 38mm GPS: $199
  • 42mm GPS: $229

Apple Watch Series 6:

  • 40mm GPS: $399
  • 44mm GPS: $429
  • 40mm Cellular: $499
  • 44mm Cellular: $529

So you‘re looking at around a $200 price jump if you opt for the Series 6. That‘s not insignificant, but you are getting substantially more features and performance for your money. Only you can decide if it‘s worth the upgrade cost based on your wants and budget.

The choice ultimately comes down to your needs…

The Verdict: Which Should You Pick?

Here are my quick recommendations on which model may be a better fit for you:

Get the Series 3 if:

  • You want basic activity tracking and notifications on a budget
  • Advanced health sensors don‘t matter to you
  • You only need basic smartwatch functionality

Get the Series 6 if:

  • You want the most advanced Apple Watch available
  • The new health sensors and safety features appeal to you
  • You want top-notch performance and speed
  • You want LTE connectivity

Bottom line:

The Apple Watch Series 6 is the clear leader in terms of features, performance, and innovation. But the Series 3 still offers good bang for your buck as an entry-level smartwatch option. So consider your budget and needs carefully. I hope this detailed comparison gives you clarity on which model is right for you. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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