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Apple Watch Aluminum vs Stainless Steel: Which is best?

Apple watches are generally regarded as more than just smartwatches. They are a fashion statement on your wrist and, for many buyers, a luxury. But, even in the realm of luxury Apple watches, there are different categories, the three most important ones being the material covering the watch cases. Apple watches come in aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium cases.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at two of these variants to help you decide which one is more suited for your budget and preferences. With that in mind, read this Apple Watch aluminum vs stainless steel comparison post to learn the details of these two case materials and the differences between them.

Apple Watch Aluminum vs Stainless Steel

aluminum vs stainless steel Apple Watch
Nike Aluminum and Hermeś Stainless Steel Apple Watches

Apple Watch Aluminum

Whether it’s your first time buying an Apple Watch and you’re not sure if it’s the right thing for you or you just want an affordable and light smartwatch, Apple variants featuring aluminum cases are your best pick. Let’s take a closer look at the biggest advantages and disadvantages of Apple Watch aluminum models:

Pros:

  • Plenty of bands and colors to pick from
  • Nike versions
  • Lightweight and stylish
  • Available on both GPS-only and GPS + Cellular models

Cons:

  • Less durable than stainless steel
  • Ion-X glass display more prone to scratches

Apple Watch Series 7 GPS-Only Aluminum Case

For users that don’t require a smartwatch with Cellular capabilities, the Series 7 GPS-only aluminum model is an excellent pick. Priced at $399 for the 41mm model and $429 for the 45mm model, this watch boasts 32GB of storage capacity, Bluetooth connectivity, a compass, Wi-Fi connectivity, and many other features that you’d find in all other premium Apple Watch models.

Apple Watch Stainless Steel

If you prefer the classic watch look and want a more traditional-looking watch equipped with all of the modern smartwatch features, Apple’s stainless steel models are a perfect choice. Depending on your budget, you can find exclusive designer stainless steel watches worth well over a thousand dollars. Here are some of the most notable pros and cons of Apple Watch stainless steel models:

Pros:

  • Plenty of bands and colors to pick from
  • Exclusive Apple Watch Hermès lineup
  • Strong Sapphire Crystal display protection
  • Durable stainless steel case

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Too heavy for some

Apple Watch Series 7 Stainless GPS + Cellular Steel Case With Solo Loop

Priced at $699 for the 41mm model and $749 for the 45mm model, this is the most affordable Apple Watch with a stainless steel case. And, like all other stainless steel models, this one comes only in a GPS + Cellular variant. This allows you untethered and convenient use, as you can enjoy many smartphone capabilities without carrying your iPhone everywhere you go. Apart from these features, this model shares all of the performance specifications of other Series 7 models.

Features Face to Face

Durability (And Potential to Scratch)

As a heavier and more expensive material, stainless steel is more durable than aluminum. Apart from these two characteristics, it’s also crucial to know that the aluminum case watches have Ion-X strengthened glass screen protection while stainless steel models have Sapphire glass.

To be more precise, Sapphire glass is very difficult to scratch, as it has an impressive 9 out of 10 degrees in hardness. On the other hand, Ion-X is lighter and more flexible than Sapphire glass, making it less prone to breaking. In addition, it can withstand around two and a half times more weight in a bend than the Sapphire glass, so Ion-X glass is also much less likely to crack when dropped or accidentally hit.

Weight

As stainless steel is heavier and stronger than aluminum, Apple watches with a stainless steel case are generally heavier than those boasting an aluminum case. Looking into the precise numbers, let’s take the Apple Watch Series 7 model as an example. A 41mm Series 7 watch with an aluminum case weighs 32 grams, while a 45mm version of the same watch weighs 38.8 grams. 

By comparison, a stainless steel 41mm Series 7 watch weighs 42.3 grams, while the 45mm model weighs 51.5 grams. So, if you generally prefer carrying lighter watches, the stainless steel model might be too heavy for comfort. This is especially worth considering if you plan on wearing your Apple Watch to sleep.

Display

The display design and capabilities are the same between aluminum and stainless steel models. Taking a closer look at Series 7 45mm models, both aluminum and stainless steel case designs feature a display with a 396 x 484-pixel resolution. They use the same LTPO OLED display with an “always-on” feature.

Style

As both types of cases follow the same design, there’s not much difference at first glance. Of course, for a watch enthusiast with a trained eye, the stainless steel model has a more noticeably premium feel. From that perspective, the aluminum model combines style and practicality, while the stainless steel exudes pure class and beauty.

GPS and Cellular Connectivity

Although aluminum and stainless steel Apple watches are identical across many key features, there are some differences between them in this category. All Apple Watch models with stainless steel cases have GPS + Cellular capabilities. 

You can’t find a stainless steel case model with GPS-only capabilities. This is a bit inconvenient for users who don’t want Cellular capabilities, as they’ll have to pay for a monthly data plan if they want a stainless steel model.

In contrast, aluminum models allow you the freedom of choosing between GPS-only and GPS + Cellular watches. This is understandable, as aluminum models are the more budget-friendly option in this comparison. So, users that don’t care about Cellular and don’t want to pay extra can opt for the less-expensive GPS-only model.

Band and Color Options

You can pair almost any case, regardless of whether it’s aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium, with your choice of band option. This is because the band availability primarily depends on the watch’s size and not the type of case. Furthermore, you can also choose from many other third-party Apple Watch band manufacturers if you don’t find a suitable band in the Apple Store.

However, if you stick only to the bands available in the Apple Store, you might encounter some limitations when choosing your band type. For instance, if you go with an aluminum model, you can’t get nylon, stainless steel, or leather bands. By comparison, if you pick a stainless steel Apple watch, you can’t get it with a sports band.

Depending on whether you go for an aluminum or stainless steel case, you’ll also have different case color options to pick from. Apple Watch aluminum models offer five color choices. These are Midnight, Starlight, Blue, Green, and Red. In comparison, stainless steel models allow you to pick from Graphite, Silver, and Gold color options. 

Availability

Both Apple Watch case models are widely available in all provided variants and at various retailers including Amazon. Moreover, you can conveniently tailor even the tiniest details and directly design your aluminum or stainless steel watch in the Apple Studio.

Charger

Aluminum and stainless steel Apple Watch models come with the same charger and have identical charge times. More specifically, the charge times are another factor that depends on the specific Apple Watch model. 

For instance, Series 7 models need about 45 minutes to get to 80% battery and about 75 minutes to charge fully. SE models take around one and a half hours to get to 80% and about two and half hours to charge fully. These numbers are identical across all case designs.

Standout Features

Performance-wise, the Apple Watch aluminum vs stainless steel models don’t have any significant differences that separate them from each other. They have all of the same performance and connectivity properties, so you don’t have to compromise on any feature if you prefer one variant over the other.

That said, there are some exclusive options for both case materials in terms of specific designer watch collections. More specifically, the aluminum case material features an exclusive Apple Watch Nike lineup. Conversely, the premium stainless steel lineup has an Apple Watch Hermès collection for buyers with a deeper pocket.

Price

There’s no question that the aluminum version is the more affordable one, as it costs at least $300 less than the stainless steel model. For example, if you were to get a basic aluminum Series 7 Apple Watch, you’d have to pay $399. 

In comparison, the same model, just in a stainless steel case, would cost you $699. Moreover, the aluminum case is the most affordable option of all Apple Watch cases, with stainless steel following in the medium to high price range and then titanium case as the most expensive, premium case.

Conclusion

To sum up this Apple Watch aluminum vs stainless steel comparison, which one do we recommend you get? In short, as both materials are outstanding and go well with all Apple watches, the answer to this is purely subjective. Only you can say which material is better suited for your new Apple watch. However, we can highlight some essential differences that will help you pick between these two options.

With that in mind, we can say that the aluminum case model is undoubtedly more popular among consumers. The principal reason for this is that it is a reasonably affordable option. Plus, it also comes with both GPS-only and GPS + Cellular models, unlike the stainless steel case, which is only available on GPS + Cellular models. Conversely, the stainless steel Apple Watch case is clearly a more expensive choice. That said, it’s also a more durable material with a premium feel to it compared to the aluminum case.

About Melissa

Hey! I'm Mel, I write the occasional article for Spacehop, amongst other things. I love meeting new people and chatting, so if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

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