Sport Passion   -  Comparatives, tests, advice and training tips

Apple Watch Series 3 vs 4 Comparison: Differences, which one to choose?

By Philippe Baudoin © Copyright (published 26/09/2018)
Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 compared

Comparison and opinion: should you pay more for the well-being and health functions?

Every year, Apple introduces a new and ever more sophisticated model of its famous Apple Watch, a versatile connected watch that appeals to everyone, whether they are sporty or not. It can do almost anything. Should you buy the latest model, the Apple Watch 4? What are the differences between Apple Watch Series 3 and 4? Which one to choose? Should you buy the Apple Watch 4 if you already have a Watch Series 3? Discover our comparison, our advice and opinions to make the right choice.

Since April 2015, the date of the release of its first Apple Watch, Apple has never ceased to surprise us every year by offering an ever more sophisticated new version of its connected and sporty watch. Already very complete, we are still wondering what new features could be proposed on the next model!

The Apple Watch 3 had brought 4G telephony (GPS & Cellular model), a small revolution that allows its users to make or receive calls, send or read emails or access various information without having to use their iPhone. Series 3 had also brought other notable improvements such as streaming music, Siri speaking through a small speaker, a faster processor, enhanced features, a brighter display and the new Force Touch feature. Read our detailed review and opinion of the Apple Watch Series 3.

The Apple Watch 4 provides amazing health monitoring features, including the famous electrocardiogram (ECG) and fall detection with call to an emergency number in case of a prolonged fall. Technical improvements are also very important: a larger screen with thin, rounded edges, new generation sensors, a processor twice as fast, etc. Read our detailed review and opinion of Apple Watch Series 4.

Is it necessary to take the step and buy the Series 4 if you already have a Series 3 connected watch? Should we choose the Series 3 to pay less? This comparison between Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 and our tips should help you make the right choice. Discover our opinion and tips for the Apple Watch in the second part of this article.

Buy Apple Watch Series 3

Price (from)
219 €
249.99 €
279 179 €

Commercial links. Prices are not contractual. Please visit the merchant site.

Apple Watch Series 3 versus 4 comparison: the differences

We describe here the main differences between the Apple Watch 3 and 4. For a comparison between older models, see our article Apple Watch Series 3 vs 2 and 1.

luxury watch Hermès
Apple declined its Apple Watch 4 in several finishes including a very elegant Hermès model

In short, compared to Series 3, the Apple Watch 4 brings major improvements, both functional and technical, as well as an even nicer look. As we indicate in our In-depth review of the Apple Watch 4, between the 2 models, apart from the budget issue, there is no photo, it is the latest version that we prefer!

Design and structure: an improved and larger screen, a superb look, a more precise digital crown

Apple still offers two sizes for its connected watch and, unlike most other connected watches, a format that remains rectangular.

The new feature is the screen, whose surface area gains 30% for better definition (see our comparative table) but in a slightly thinner case, slightly larger in size (2 mm more) and an almost unchanged weight (only 2 to 3 g!). To achieve this feat, Apple has refined the edges of the watch and rounded the angles of the screen to follow the curve of the case. The result: a great look and a much more comfortable screen! The photos are larger, the maps are more readable, the calendar more detailed and the number of "complications" (information on the screen) increases to 8.

The back of the watch is now made entirely of ceramic and sapphire crystal, materials that allow radio waves to pass better for improved cellular communication.

shows fine silvery apple

The digital crown, which allows easy and intuitive navigation, has also been improved. It is now with haptic feedback, i.e. it provides a more mechanical sensation (like the old winding watches) which gives it greater precision. The red dot, signature of the Cellular version, is replaced by a red circle, more discreet.

Apple also offers a new stainless steel finish in gold with a matching Milanese bracelet (the other finishes are in aluminium). A new collection of bracelets will also be released this fall. It should also be noted that all bracelets remain compatible with the older generations of Apple Watches.

FeaturesSeries 3Series 4
Weight27 to 35 g(1)30.1 to 36.7 g(1)
Size38,6 x 33.3 (38 mm model)
42.5 x 36.4 mm (42 mm model)
40 x 34 (40 mm model)
44 x 38 mm (44 mm model)
Thickness11.4 mm10.7 mm
Display272 x 340 (38 mm model)
312 x 390 px (42 mm model)
324 x 394 px (40 mm model)
368 x 448 px (44 mm model)
Round corners
ScreenRetina touch color OLED LTPS Touch Force TouchRetina touch color OLED LTPO Touch Force
GlassIon-X or sapphireIon-X reinforced glass or sapphire
CaseAluminiumAluminium (GPS)
Aluminium or stainless steel (Cellular)
Case colourSide grey, silver, goldSide black, silver, gold
BackComposite (GPS)
Ceramic and sapphire crystal (Cellular)
All in ceramic and sapphire crystal
Interchangeable bracelet
Apple Watch Series 3 vs 4: compared design and structure

(1) Depending on the size of the watch, 40 or 44 mm

Technical characteristics and performance: reactive and fluid apps

On the technical side, the Apple Watch 4 has been significantly improved and promises better performance for the same power consumption (same endurance):

  • A processor up to 100% faster than the previous one: Apple is the only one in the world to run its watch at 100% on a SiP (Silicon in Package), a chip that integrates all the watch's electronics, including the processor. In this new version of Watch, Apple integrates a new 64-bit S4 processor that would be up to twice as fast! Apps open faster and the fluidity is much better. The improvement was already very visible between Series 2 and Series 3.
  •  screen 8 complications
    The 30% larger screen allows more details to be displayed. The user can program up to 8 complications.
  • A new OLED LTPO display: In addition to being larger, the display technology is changing. We go from a retina OLED screen with LTPS (Low Temperature Polycrystalline Silicon) technology to LTPO (Low Temperature Polycrystalline Oxid). This technology consumes 5 to 15% less energy and is more suitable for high resolutions and flexible screen design (rounded edges). This choice allowed Apple to optimize the energy consumption of its watch.
  • 16 GB of memory on the GPS model: on the Apple Watch 3, the memory had increased to 16 GB, instead of 8 GB, but only on the Cellular model. With Series 4, both models (with or without 4G chip) have 16GB of memory, so more storage space (music and data).
  • A cardio optic of 2ndegeneration : Apple produces its own optical sensors for heart rate measurement and their reliability is rather good. The latest Apple Watch model features a new sensor and detects certain cardiac abnormalities (potential bradycardia for example) with user alerts.
  • Larger speaker and 50% more powerful: to improve the quality of communications (Siri speaking, telephony, walkie-talkie function), the watch's loudspeaker has been redesigned and corrected to be more powerful. The microphone was also moved to reduce echo during telephone calls. The back of the watch is now all ceramic and sapphire crystal to better let radio waves through.
  • Other improved or added components: the watch is equipped with brand new components. The gyroscope and accelerometer have been improved and record more measurements. The accelerometer can record accelerations up to 32 g instead of 16 g. Both handsets are used for fall detection. An electric heart rate sensor has been added to the watch to provide an electrocardiogram (ECG). The watch is also compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 (instead of 4.2).
  • A new operating system: Apple takes advantage of this new model to improve its OS version and upgrade to WatchOS 5 (Apple Watch 3 benefits from this update) which includes new features and the latest fixes.
FeaturesSeries 3 GPSSeries 3 CellularSeries 4 GPSSeries 4 Cellular
ProcessorDual core S3Dual core S3Dual core S4 64-bit (up to 2x faster)Dual core S4 64-bit (up to 2x faster)
Storage memory8 Gb8 Gb8 Gb16 Gb
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2,4 GHz
Autonomy118 h18 h18 h18 h
Luminosity1000 cd/m21000 cd/m21000 cd/m21000 cd/m2
Apple Watch 3 against 4: comparison between technical characteristics and performance

1 Depending on the use (18h in watch mode with a little sports use. 1 hour in 4G communication)

Features: fall detection, electrocardiogram, walkie-talkie function!

In terms of functions, the Apple Watch Series 4 differs from previous models in some important improvements, particularly in terms of health and well-being monitoring functions (see the comparative table below). Find these functions described in more detail in our detailed review and opinion on the Apple Watch 4.

ECG electrocardiogram screen
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): this is the great novelty of this model that will be of particular interest to people in need of cardiac follow-up. The Apple Watch 4, thanks to a new electric heart rate sensor, is able to provide an "electrocardiogram" and issue an alert in case of a detected problem. The ECG can also be saved in PDF format so that it can be shown to a doctor (the problem can occur in a specific situation and not necessarily during a test performed in a hospital setting). The application has been certified De Novo by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA). The function should be available in the United States by the end of 2018. For other countries, it will be necessary to wait for the approval of the competent authorities. Note that the ECG produced is limited. More details : Review of Apple Watch 4 new features.
  • Fall detection: the watch is able to detect a fall and dial an emergency number by transmitting GPS coordinates. The user has 60 seconds to get up or cancel the call.
  • The walkie-talkie function: to communicate with other Apple Watch users. Communication is via Wi-Fi or cellular network.
  • Enhanced and more motivating activity monitoring: in addition to the system of rings to be completed each day (moving functions, training and getting up), it is possible to challenge a friend and win trophies, a motivating way to move.
  • Improved sports functions: New types of training have been added, for example yoga and hiking. Runners will benefit from a 6-hour range, cadence display, speed over the previous kilometre and rhythm alerts. The watch also detects the start of a training session and issues an alert if the user has forgotten to start recording the activity. The "lost" data is then retroactively recorded. Finally, the watch is compatible with certain fitness equipment (treadmill, stepper, elliptic, speed sensor, etc.).
  • New features to help you lead a healthy life: The Apple Watch 4 teaches you to develop good habits such as drinking regularly, thinking about taking breaks and moving, encouraging you to relax through breathing exercises, etc.

More details about the new features of the Apple Watch 4 and our opinion on this model.

FeaturesSeries 3 GPSSeries 3 CellularSeries 4 GPSSeries 4 Cellular
Barometric altimeterYesYesYes (new)Yes (new)
Waterproofing5 ATM5 ATM5 ATM5 ATM
Wrist cardioYesYesYes, improvedYes, improved
Electric sensor FC  
AccelerometerYesYesYes, improvedYes, improved
GyroscopeYesYesYes, improvedYes, improved
Ambient light sensor
Siri (intelligent assistant)
Siri speaks
4G (cellular network) 
Mp3 player and streamingYes1YesYes1Yes
Reply to callsYes1YesYes1Yes
Apple Pay
Detection of falls  
SOS call  Yes1Yes
Walkie-Talkie function  Yes2Yes2
Apple Watch 3 against 4: feature comparison table

1 With an iPhone turned on nearby
2 Via Wi-Fi or cellular connection

Our opinion on the Apple Watch Series 3 vs 4: Should you buy the Apple Watch 4?

Pay more and choose the Apple Watch 4?

If you do not yet have an Apple Watch and would like to purchase one, we strongly recommend that you choose the latest model, the Apple Watch Series 4 (read our detailed review and opinion). It is certainly more expensive but the improvements made by Apple are really interesting (better performance and fluidity of navigation, new components allowing more measurements and accuracy, more complete functions, especially for health monitoring). Its design is also prettier thanks to the rounded edges and the refined edges around the screen but this is a matter of taste. Note that the price of the watch varies according to its size (30 € difference between the 2 models) and of course according to whether you choose the Cellular model or not (still 100 € difference).

If your budget is a little tight, the Apple Watch 3 remains excellent in terms of both features and performance. Apple had installed a new processor that made app opening acceptable (compared to Series 2) and navigation much smoother. The novelty had mainly been the introduction of the Cellular model, with the 4G LTE chip but also faster and less energy consuming components, an improved Siri application (especially one that talks), a barometric altimeter. However, this model does not benefit from the technical improvements made to the Series 4 such as the more comfortable display and the new health and healthy living features.

2 watches with challenge screens

Should you resell your Apple Watch 3 for an Apple Watch 4?

This is mainly a matter of comfort.

If health functions are important to you, if you are prone to falls or if you exercise alone, or if the new ECG function is likely to interest you (with its limitations). This watch will not replace a consultation with a specialist, so the new model may be of interest to you. Apple can even exchange your old model !

The design and size of the screen (more comfortable because of its better definition) can also tip the balance. The new screen, 30% larger, is very appreciable. It is more readable and convenient (the number of shortcuts and data displayed increases to 8). The quality of the communications is better, both the quality of the sound recording (telephony) and the quality of the loudspeaker (more audible).

For a sporty use, the few improvements are interesting but perhaps not enough to change the watch. If you are a demanding sportsman, it is better to choose a sports watch than a multi-purpose connected watch (see our comparison of the best current GPS cardio watches).

Should you choose the GPS + Cellular model rather than the GPS model?

It all depends on the intended use. If you want to use your watch to make calls, communicate by email or go running "light" while listening to music in streaming without having to take your iPhone everywhere with you, then it is better to choose the Cellular model that will offer you this freedom. The GPS model offers the same functions but requires an iPhone nearby or a personal (home) Wi-Fi connection to connect to the network. For music, however, you can listen to the songs stored on your watch.

Should you buy an Apple Watch or another connected watch?

The Apple Watch is a connected watch (it interacts with the outside world) that is versatile, i.e. it can be used for sport as well as for everyday life (activity monitoring, advice, encouragement to move, etc.). Thanks to its beautiful design and interchangeable bracelets that can match your outfit, it can be worn in the city and at work. It is appreciated by non-athletes who want to lead a healthier life or who are looking for motivation to move. It offers interesting sports functions. For more advanced sports use, it is better to invest in a watch dedicated to sports (running watch, hiking watch, etc.).

The Apple Watch, as a connected watch, has the advantage of offering very advanced functions that few other watches of this type offer to date. Today, it is one of the world's best-selling connected watches. As an interesting alternative, we recommend the connected watch Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music, released in 2018 and which is also very successful.

Price and availability

The Apple Watch 4 is available since September 21, 2018 at the price of 429 € (GPS model) and 529 € (GPS + Cellular model). The price of the Apple Watch 3 is lowered and is now available from 299 €.

Philippe Baudoin
Copyright © Sport Passion

Buy Apple Watch Series 4

Buy Apple Watch Series 3

Price (from)
219 €
249.99 €
279 179 €

Commercial links. Prices are not contractual. Please visit the merchant site.

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