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Apple Watch: Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel Compared

While the options for titanium and ceramic have made guest appearances from Series 2 to 7 of the Apple Watch, aluminum and stainless steel have been consistent and are the most frequently bought and debated on watch materials.

The technical features for both of these materials have minor variations, but other characteristics—like price points, durability, weight, and style—differ drastically. If you’re in a dilemma over which of the two is a better option, here’s a detailed guide to help you out in your search.

Durability and Strength

Compared to stainless steel, the aluminum case might be more susceptible to significant, noticeable scratches as it is softer than stainless steel. However, this is not a massive issue since it’s still quite difficult to shatter an aluminum case on impact.

While considering the appearance of minor scratches and micro-abrasions, aluminum tends to have an advantage. The aluminum case is not resistant to scratches, but it has a sleek, matte finish, ensuring that minute scrapes on the watch are not visible.

Stainless steel is much harder than aluminum, thus preventing it from cracking or shattering on impact. This makes it more durable, especially for use in sports or for use in other forms of physical activity. Nevertheless, its glossy appearance makes it more prone to minute scratches and micro-abrasions. Fortunately, the scratches are not too visible when wearing the Graphite Apple Watch, though they are quite prominent if you have the Silver color.

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Fingerprints are also more prominent on the shiny stainless steel surface. You can solve this problem by getting an Apple Watch case or cover from the large variety available only.

Proper care is also necessary, so make sure to clean your Apple Watch regularly.

Weight

On average, stainless steel is two-and-a-half times more dense than aluminum, making it the heavier of the two cases. When you compare the two options for the Apple Watch Series 7, the stainless steel is around 10 grams heavier than the aluminum version, weighing 42.3 grams, compared to 32 grams for 41mm aluminum watch.

If you don’t like feeling the weight of your watch on your wrist, or if you have a smaller wrist in general, aluminum is the best fit for you. The lighter finish is also beneficial if you’re an athlete or you exercise regularly.

Display

The stainless steel Apple Watch comes with a sapphire crystal display. This is a tough and rigid material, giving the display good protection and high resistance to scratches. Sapphire crystal can only be penetrated with material as hard as diamond.

The aluminum Apple Watch uses Ion-X strengthened glass, which is not as strong as sapphire crystal, making it more prone to large scratches.

Style

The stainless steel Apple Watch is the fancier option when compared to the aluminum. It has a shiny, glistening surface with an aesthetic finish. If you’re a conventional watch fanatic or want something visually gratifying, then the stainless steel edition is the perfect fit for you.


On the other hand, the aluminum Apple Watch is by no means less eye-catching. If you prefer matte finishes over shiny ones, you should opt for the aluminum Apple Watch instead.

Connectivity

For the aluminum Apple Watch, you can opt for GPS-only or GPS and cellular, while the stainless steel Apple Watch only allows you to opt for GPS and cellular.

A GPS-only watch only allows you to receive calls and texts when connected to your iPhone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. GPS and cellular watches allow you to access these features with or without your iPhone. The Series 7 allows streaming of Apple Music and podcasts on GPS and cellular.

To access the cellular benefits on your Apple Watch, you’ll have to pay for a monthly plan. Along with that, the availability of the GPS and cellular option automatically increases the price of the stainless steel Apple Watch, even if you choose not to use cellular.


You can choose the GPS-only option for the aluminum Apple Watch and opt not to pay for a monthly plan. The price will also be lower compared to stainless steel due to the non-cellular option.

Price Points

Price points vary with each watch series, but a general trend is seen when comparing the aluminum versus stainless steel Apple Watch models. The aluminum versions are relatively cheaper than the stainless steel versions.

For the Apple Watch Series 3, the lowest price for the aluminum Apple Watch is $199. The cheapest stainless steel version is only available refurbished at $469.

For Series 7, the aluminum Apple Watch’s lowest price is $399 and stainless steel’s is $699. However, only one stainless steel watch is available at that price point and the others average at $749, with some being as much as $1399.

Colors

Along with a good collection of Apple Watch bands, the casing has some top-notch color options as well.

For Series 7, the aluminum Apple Watch has a more extensive variety of colors. It is available in Red, Green, Blue, Midnight, and Starlight, while the stainless steel Apple Watch is limited to Gold, Silver, Black, and Graphite.

Availability

Apple is currently selling only three watch series: the Apple Watch Series 3, 7, and SE. All three of these collections have options for aluminum and stainless steel models. However, this is not the case for the Apple Watch Nike and Apple Watch Hermès collection within each series.

The Apple Watch Nike Series 7 and the Apple Watch Nike SE are only available in the aluminum models, while the Apple Watch Hermès is only available in stainless steel.

Charging Puck

The charging puck for the aluminum Apple Watch is made of plastic. This is thicker than the stainless steel charging puck for the stainless steel model, which has a sleek finish.

Aluminum or Stainless Steel: Which Apple Watch Should You Buy?

There are many factors to consider when deciding between the two, and both materials have pros and cons to suit each person’s personal preferences.

If you want a cheaper alternative, a greater variety of colors, a matte finish with minimal scratching, and a lightweight Apple Watch, then the aluminum model is perfect for you. This is also the more economical option if you’d like to upgrade to a newer model every year or so.

If you’re willing to invest more money for a fancier, more lustrous Apple Watch with a classic design, highly resistant material, and more weight to it, make sure to opt for the stainless steel Apple Watch instead.




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