Apple Watch Stainless steel vs. Aluminum

Discussion in 'Apple Watch' started by AHDuke99, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. AHDuke99 macrumors 68020

    AHDuke99

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    #1
    For those who've owned both, is there a noticeable difference? I currently own a first generation stainless steel Apple Watch and am considering upgrading to a series 3 LTE+GPS but I'm unsure I want to drop $699 again. Is there a noticeable difference in screen quality or glass resistance in the two models?
     
  2. Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

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    #2
    Aluminum model Ion-X Glass:

    It’s very durable, it’s almost identical to what Apple would use for their iPhone displays. If it’s dropped, its less likely to shatter compared to the Sapphire display on the stainless model. Albeit, the Ion-Glass does not have the resilience that the Sapphire display does in terms of protecting against scuffs and scratches.

    With the Ion-X Glass, there is also less reflectivity, which the images may seem brighter on the display, because it lacks the Sapphire coating that the sapphire display includes.

    Sapphire Display:

    Its Almost impervious to damage against scratches and scuffs, and coming from a stainless owner, it literally has no scratches after all the usage I have worn on a daily basis. I personally prefer the Sapphire display is one of the main reasons why I would choose the stainless model to begin with. The downside to the Sapphire display is that it is prone to shattering if it’s dropped. The other downside to the Sapphire display is due to the Sapphire coating, the images may seem not as vibrant compared to the aluminum model due the reflectivity.
     
  3. AHDuke99 thread starter macrumors 68020

    AHDuke99

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    #3
    Thanks for your response. Perhaps it is worth the extra money to stick with what I am already used to. I have no scratches on my watch either that I've had since 2015, but I'm not sure if that's a product of me or a product of the sapphire display.
     
  4. Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

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    #4
    The stainless casing can easily accrue scratches with the 316 L, but it’s a very dense metal that does not take much to scratch it. Its the Sapphire display that really makes a significant difference in terms of protection.
     
  5. Arran macrumors 601

    Arran

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    #5
    Just FYI: Best Buy has a sale on refurbs today.

    Not sure if these are actual refurbs, or if they're just clearing excess stock for Apple? They have a really diverse mix of the latest models - even ceramic editions) which is why I'm wondering what's going on. E.g.,

    Apple - Refurbished Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular), 42mm Stainless Steel Case with Soft White Sport Band - Stainless Steel $519.20 ON SALE (SAVE $129.80 - Was $649.00 )
     
  6. AHDuke99 thread starter macrumors 68020

    AHDuke99

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    #6
    Nice, thank you. Are these unlocked to tethered to a specific network? I can't find that info
     
  7. Arran macrumors 601

    Arran

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    #7
    I really don't know, but I wouldn't have thought they'd be tethered to one network. That would be kind-of limiting.

    I did find this at Apple.com on what carriers are supported for brand new series 3 watches: https://www.apple.com/watch/cellular/

    Probably best to ask BBY is you decide to get one. I got my series 3 on release - but I never activated cellular - so I really don't know much about that.

    To answer your original question - on screen/glass. I don't think there's that much of difference really. I had an aluminum original watch, but I always buy SS now simply because I like the look.

    BTW - going from an original to a series 3 will give you a really nice performance/speed improvement. It's even noticeable going from a ser 2 to a 3.
     
  8. Lennyvalentin, Apr 27, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2018

    Lennyvalentin macrumors 65816

    Lennyvalentin

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    #8
    The most major overall difference is probably weight. Alu watch is just way way lighter, especially the non-LTE version, as the case materials are plastic, aluminium and glass, rather than ceramics, steel and sapphire, which are all denser (much denser in some cases) materials than their corresponding counterparts. LTE alu watch does inherit the ceramic back of the stainless model tho - not 100% sure why - probably because "classy premium material feel", I suspect.

    Alu non-LTE watch with one of the lighter armbands is so light that you don't really notice it's there at all; you feel it clasping your wrist, but not its weight. So if weight is a concern for you or you're otherwise an active sportsman for example it might be worth considering the alu watch for this reason. Also, it's considerably cheaper too of course...

    The glass display of alu watch is as mentioned more transparent, less reflective and tougher compared to the sapphire display glass of stainless watch, while the sapphire display of stainless watch is (way) harder. Just for example, my watch is an almost 2 years 9 months old first-generation OG sport model ("series 0" as called by some people); I thought I had just a few tiny scratches on it, but studying it recently under a single lightsource in an otherwise darkened room showed off a bunch more scratches that I never noticed previously and even a slight fuzzy hazing of a part of the surface (possibly caused by the hem of the sweaters I like to use rubbing right across the display hour after hour), which while not visible under normal circumstances is still there. The sapphire screen really wouldn't look like that; while sapphire is not impossible to mar (some people mistakenly believe you need something of equal or higher hardness), you'd have to work way more to scratch it so if you do scratch it at all it might just be one or a few small marks. Not the multitudes which is there on my display.

    Alu watch case is also matte, due to the sandblasting and anodization process used to protect against surface oxidation, which will trigger some peoples' mismatched-case-and-armband-lugs OCD... :) If you are sensitive to materials or finish mismatch (first-world problem for sure), you may find yourself limited to just a few armband styles like the rubber bands, woven nylon, sport loop or leather loop bands. *shrug*

    Anodization actually turns the surface layer into a sort of ceramic-like material, it becomes much harder than the aluminium case itself, so thus gives some protection against scratches. Still, if you whack your alu watch too hard against something it might still scratch or even dent, and if you've picked one of the colored flavors like space grey or gold, the base metal might show through the anodized surface permanently which would probably be an irritating eyesore. Stainless steel does acquire micro-abrasions fairly easily, but is naturally way harder than alu, and especially when cold-forged like apple does, it is in a wholly different league. You probably won't be able to dent the steel watch! (Actually even sawing into it would be tough. :D)

    Finally, the sensation of "premium materials" might make some want to pick the heavier, more solid steel model. I've heard reports of the plastic back of most alu watches becoming fuzzy with abrasions over time, which I don't really understand how it might happen (not unless these wearers are lizard people and their scaly hides mess up the back of their watches...); still apparently is something that might occur. The zirconia/sapphire windows back of steel watch (and alu LTE) is unlikely to scratch in any way short of if perhaps you live and work inside a sandpit... Also, a few people apparently have allergic reactions to the plastic back, but this seems such an unlikely scenario I wouldn't worry at all.

    Sorry for the wall of text here... TL: DR eh!

    Minor nitpick... The sapphire display is a solid sheet, not a coat. If it was a sheet it would look funky at the edges of the display due to each layer having a different refractive index. Also, risk delamination/chipping if banged and so on.
     
  9. Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

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    #9
    Read your above quote in the Bolded, it doesn’t make sense. You’re saying the sapphire display is not a ‘coat’, it’s a sheet. But then you proceed by saying “If it was a sheet”, which I believe you’re intending to say “If it was a coat”....., which you might want to edit your mistake.
     
  10. AHDuke99 thread starter macrumors 68020

    AHDuke99

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    #10
    I only ask because it seems like some are tethered to networks that I see online. I am not sure I'll ever activate the LTE feature, but I want it as an option in case I do want to someday.

    The reason I am upgrading is because of the performance increase. I love my original watch, but it's slow and the battery only lasts during the day and no longer. And of course, I can't swim with it (haven't tried to but I know it isn't waterproof).

    If I can order the refurbished watch from Best Buy, that may be my best bet. Only about a $100 premium to the stainless steel version I'd get. I wish I knew how long that sale is going on so I will know how long I have to decide.
     
  11. batting1000 macrumors 604

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    Florida
    #11
    I don't think the Best Buy refurbs are the same as Apple refurbs. Apple does a whole new case and battery (so basically you're getting a Watch that's, for all intents and purposes, brand new) while Best Buy has Geek Squad check it to make sure it's OK, which is, well, yeah....
     
  12. Arran macrumors 601

    Arran

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    #12
    Isn't this is a one-day sale? It showed up as a "bonus deal of the day" for me (I check them most days to see if there's anything good)

    However, Best Buy does seem to have so many different types today I'm wondering if they'll repeat the deal soon? They often do. The other thing to consider carefully is that BBY might be clearing out stock before a new model is released? (not trying to start any rumors here ;))
    --- Post Merged, Apr 27, 2018 ---
    Very true. I'd be prepared to return it if it wasn't great. Shame this is online only.
     
  13. Relentless Power, Apr 27, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2018

    Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

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    #13
    You’re correct and incorrect in a way:

    You Are correct that Best Buy refurbished Watches are not the same as Apple refurbished Apple Watches, Best Buy usually does not follow the same process as Apple.

    You are incorrect in the sense that the casing and battery is _always_ replaced for the Apple Watch when they sell them as replacements, because Apple does not always replace the casing and the Battery, its variable. I can attest to this because other members have mentioned in various Apple Watch threads they have received replacement Apple Watches showing signs of scuffs, perhaps minor scratches with both the aluminum and stainless model casing. Apple will also also test the battery, but if it tests above 80%, they may use the battery without officially replacing it with a new one in a replacement device. Usually the display is replaced regardless. But if there was ever an issue with the battery/watch or the customer was not happy with replacement device, Apple will happily exchange it for another replacement Apple Watch. And of course, the Apple Watch also includes a one year warranty from Apple.
     
  14. MJ22 macrumors regular

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    Oct 3, 2017
    #14
    I have a space gray aluminum series 3 with LTE and I’m extremely active. I’ve had it since they launched and it’s in perfect condition. Now, I do have a thin Zagg screen protector on it which I barely notice, so if you insist on a “naked” watch I may not be of much help. But I’ve played softball with my watch on (many games), lifted, used cardio machines, and run 6 days a week wearing it. At work, I have a “desk job” but it often entails hauling boxes of files around, digging through boxes and filing cabinets, etc. I wear my watch every hour of the day except for sleep. I feel like I can honestly say in certain terms (and not just “it’s supposed to” do this or that, or “sapphire it meant to” do this or that) that it’s really stood the test for me as an extremely active person. I don’t think I would want a heavier watch, being so active anyway. Now, if you’re in construction, or a logger, or some stuff like that I can’t help you. But this is my experience with stainless steel.
     
  15. AHDuke99 thread starter macrumors 68020

    AHDuke99

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    #15
    I’m an attorney so I don’t do any physical labor. I almost bought the aluminum one at Costco today but held off. I am not sure what to do.
     
  16. Nell macrumors 6502a

    Nell

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    #16
    My first watch was aluminium, my second is stainless steel because I thought a change would be nice. I like the look of it and am enjoying having a choice.

    The stainless steel is noticeably heavier (but not in a bad way). The screen is clearer on the aluminium watch though and I think the haptics are better.

    I plan on keeping this one at least 2-3 years (unless there’s a new feature I really want) and I’m honestly not sure which I’ll get next time.
     
  17. Lennyvalentin macrumors 65816

    Lennyvalentin

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    #17
    Yes, that would be logical. The linear motor is the same in both watches, and the alu watch is like 40% lighter, so would thus give a stronger response on your wrist... (Less mass for the motor to accelerate.)
     
  18. Traverse macrumors 604

    Traverse

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    #18
    I had a Sport model S0 and now a Stainless Steel S3.

    The stainless steel is much heavier but looks much classier to me.

    I was always surprised by the case of the Sport - never scratched with any bangs or scratches, but he Ion-X Glass did quite badly.

    I’ve treated my SS watch the same way. The casing gets small scratches, but you can’t see them unless you look for them and the glass is still flawless. The sapphire screen is suppose to let less light through, but the screen brightness was doubled between the S0 and S3 so I have a net gain as it’s *easier* to see outdoors for me.
     
  19. squirrrl macrumors 6502a

    squirrrl

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    #19
    Apple watches are never “tethered” to a network. They are global regional due to differences in LTE. All watches sold in the US should work on all US networks.
     
  20. Medic macrumors member

    Medic

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    #20
    I have upgraded from Aluminium Generations 0 to SS Generations 2 and finally Ceramic white Gen 3 LTE...I can honestly say that Aluminium doesn't stand up in looks, feel and strength compared to the others.

    I am very active and whilst I alway hold my breath when I knock the screen, it has never shattered nor scratched over time for the SS and Ceramic. With the aluminium in its first 24h it was scratch and also cracked at the corner, and I had no idea how as I had taken the AW off whilst doing DIY as was afraid of damaging it!

    Personally, if you can afford it, it's worth going SS.
     
  21. Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

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    #21
    I completely agree with the bolded in your post. Apple has always invested heavily into their metals with their productline, and the 7000 series aluminum on the Apple Watch is extremely resilient. And its the same 7000 Series used on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7, which I also used owned both iPhones and _never_ had a scratch/scuff through rigorous usage without a case.

    I also agree, as I was not impressed with the Ion-X Glass when I did own the sport model when it launched in April 2015. I was fairly cautious with it and I still ended up with minor scratches that ultimately I did not want to see you on a 42 mm display. After selling it, I upgraded the stainless model with the Sapphire display, that alone I would easily pay the price tag for the next generation Apple Watch, assuming it incorporates it.
     
  22. Lennyvalentin macrumors 65816

    Lennyvalentin

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    #22
    Then you were extremely unlucky... I've banged my display into stuff several times, no cracks (some very very faint scratches and surface abrasions tho.) It's also worth noting that the corners are the weakest point of the watch display, due to the shape and profile of the watch display; if you'd owned a sapphire display model instead perhaps you would have cracked that one also...
     
  23. JackieInCo Suspended

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    Colorado
    #23
    Taking the OPs thread title in consideration, my silver aluminum and Nike + series 3 watches are actually much more durable then my stainless steel series 3.

    All three of these watches were purchased in December so all are within about a week of each other in age. The stainless has some swirl marks on the left side of the watch, most likely from where my coat sleeve rubbed up against it. The Nike + and silver aluminum cases are still in 100% perfect condition, not one scratch, nick or any other mark.

    Since discovering the swirl marks on the SS a few weeks back, I've started wearing the two aluminum watches to work and the SS mostly just at home and non work activities.
     
  24. Relentless Power, May 6, 2018
    Last edited: May 6, 2018

    Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

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    #24
    Actually, I would say both the aluminum and stainless watches are durable, just in different _consistencies_. The 7000 series aluminum is more scratch resistant compared to the 316 L stainless Because of the anodization. The 316 L stainless is actually a fairly dense metal that can accrue scratches easily, as most stainless does.

    But in the sense of restoration, once the aluminum is scratched, it’s Mainly permanent. Where as the stainless, the scratches can be easily removed with a polishing cloth. Both metals are variable in consistency, but are both very durable for Watch casings.
     

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