Aluminum vs Stainless Steel Apple Watch: Which Material is Best For You?

So you‘ve decided to get an Apple Watch – congrats! These stylish smartwatches combine notifications, fitness tracking, apps and wallets into advanced wristwear.

But should you get durable stainless steel or budget-friendly aluminum? I‘ll compare these two materials across all factors to help you decide!

At a Glance: Aluminum vs Stainless Steel

Before we dive in, here is an overview of how Apple‘s aluminum and stainless steel watches differ:

AluminumStainless Steel
Scratch resistanceModerateExtremely high
ColorsMore varietySubtle options

Now let‘s explore what each difference means for you!

Cost: Over $500 Premium for Stainless Steel

The most striking variance is cost. Across every Apple Watch sold, stainless steel demands over a $300 – $500 price premium:

ModelAluminum Starting PriceStainless Steel Starting Price
Series 3$199$299
Series 8$399$699

The price gap remains huge even when opting for LTE cellular connectivity too. This results in at least a few hundred dollars savings choosing aluminum.

Over two years of ownership, you could save over $1000 just by selecting aluminum! That extra money could pay for accessories like cases, additional bands, screen protectors, app subscriptions and more.

So if budget is important, aluminum provides stellar Apple Watch benefits without overspending. Let‘s now see if stainless steel merits its high costs elsewhere!

Weight Difference: Up to 20g Less With Aluminum

Thanks to lower density, aluminum Apple Watch models weigh 20-30% less than stainless steel equivalents. Here is a comparison:

Case SizeAluminum WeightStainless Steel WeightDifference
41mm26.4g – 32g42.3g – 52.2g~20g
45mm36.2g -42.2g51.5g -62.2g~22g

*Weights include both case and bands

The 20 gram difference between materials is instantly recognizable on wrist! Over long term wearing, heavier devices can strain your muscles and joints. One study found media device weights above 40g significantly increase arm discomfort.

So if you want better all-day wearing comfort, aluminum distributes weight better for most people. This helps avoid "smartwatch fatigue" some experience with heavier steel devices.

Durability Compared: Steel Stronger But Aluminum Holds Up

Stainless steel earns its reputation from extreme scratch resistance. When exposed to rubbing, scraping or drops that permanently mar softer metals:

Microscope image showing pristine stainless steel surface after abrasion testing
400x microscope images showing stainless steel (right) is unmarked by abrasion that scratches aluminum (left). Source: Advanced Engineering Materials

The hardness comes from stainless steel‘s iron, chromium and carbon composition. This allows the material to deform very little even against high strength pressure.

However, don‘t underestimate aluminum durability! When anodized with a protective coating, aluminum stands up well to corrosion, weathering and reasonable impacts. The matte surface also hides moderate scratches better than reflective steel.

Over two years of ownership, most aluminum Apple Watch owners report great durability with normal use. But for absolute scratch protection, stainless steel is unmatched.

Style Differs: Modern Aluminum vs Classic Steel

The choice between materials also impacts the watch‘s styling and aesthetic.

Aluminum casts a modern, casual look with its matte brushed finish and bold colors like Starlight, Blue and Green. Owners praise mixing these with silicone sports bands for relaxed daily outfits:

"I wanted an Apple Watch mainly for working out, so the colorful aluminum matched all my athleisure wear perfectly!" – Sara K.

Meanwhile, stainless steel gives off refined elegance reminiscent of classic wristwatches. The metallic sheen and neutral Silver, Graphite and Gold colors align well with business professional attire:

"Even my fanciest suits look more stylish and upgraded with the stainless steel Apple Watch instead of a normal dress watch. The quality finish just pairs so nicely." – Daniel H.

So decide whether you prioritize contemporary minimalism (aluminum) over timeless opulence (stainless steel). Your Apple Watch should fit how YOU want to present yourself!

Connectivity Considerations

Another difference lies in cellular capabilities. All stainless steel models pack built-in antennas for LTE connectivity. But aluminum gives you flexibility:


  • GPS only
  • GPS + Cellular

Stainless Steel

  • Only GPS + Cellular

With stainless steel, you MUST pay for a cellular plan to use core features like notifications away from your phone. Plans cost ~$10/month, meaning $240 extra over two years even if you don‘t need cellular!

Conversely, aluminum allows a GPS-only model working independently from your phone via Bluetooth. For users wanting to avoid cellular subscription costs, aluminum provides the only option.

Vibrant Colors vs Subtle Neutrals

Fans of vibrant colors and variety will prefer aluminum models. Over the years, Apple has offered stunning shades on aluminum like Emerald Green, Bright Red and Deep Purple.

Meanwhile, stainless steel keeps things muted. Most years you just get a choice between Silver, Grey or Black stainless steel frames. Gold is occasionally offered for those wanting some flair.

So express yourself with one of aluminum‘s five bright colors updated annually! Or stick with eternally-elegant stainless steel neutrals.

Key Takeaways: Aluminum vs Stainless Steel

To recap the key learnings:

Aluminum is over $300 cheaper for the same Apple Watch specs

Aluminum is 20 grams lighter for improved comfort

Stainless steel offers 4x greater scratch protection from abrasion

Aluminum has casual, modern aesthetics compared to stainless steel‘s opulent classic styling

Only aluminum allows GPS-only functionality without a cellular plan

Aluminum gives you more color personalization options

Now that you know the pros and cons, here is my recommendation…

Which Should You Buy?

Both aluminum and stainless steel Apple Watches offer the fantastic software experience of notifications, fitness and wallets on your wrist. The biggest decision factors are usually:

  • Budget – Aluminum saves over $300+ if money is tight
  • Style – Pick material that matches your fashion tastes
  • Damage resistance – Stainless steel handles scrapes better
  • Connectivity needs – Consider GPS vs Cellular

For most buyers, I think aluminum is the best blend of affordability and features. The matte colors hide scratches well, and sporty looks fit relaxed outfits nicely.

However, some users merit investing extra in stainless steel. If you wear fine jewelry or formalwear daily, the classic steel styling probably suits better. And if you‘re very prone to bumps/drops, the extreme scratch protection helps long-term durability.

Hopefully exploring aluminum vs stainless steel Apple Watches in-depth helped you make the optimal material choice for YOU! Let me know if any other questions pop up. Enjoy that new Apple Watch!

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