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Apple Watch Aluminum vs Stainless Steel (2021): Which Is Better?

The new Apple Watch Series 4 comes in different combinations of sizes, colors, and finishes. While you’re likely to select size and color based mainly on looks, your lifestyle should influence your choice of finish — aluminum or stainless steel — more. The types of metal used for the Apple Watch’s case have their own pros and cons, and we’ll discuss each of them to help you decide which one is better for you.

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Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm)

This Apple Watch Series 4 comes in a Gold Stainless Steel Case with Gold Milanese Loop. Featuring electrical and optical heart sensors, ECG app, and a 30% larger Retina display.

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Apple Watch Aluminum vs Stainless Steel Comparison Chart

ModelApple Watch Series 4 AluminumApple Watch Series 4 Stainless Steel
 Apple Watch Series 4 - AluminumApple Watch Series 4 - Stainless Steel
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Weight (40mm)30.1g39.8g
Weight (44mm)36.7g47.9g
DisplayIon-X Strengthened GlassSapphire Crystal
Damage ResistanceScratch-resistantShatter-resistant
AppearanceMatteGlossy
Lifestyle (see below)ActivePremium
ConnectivityGPS, GPS + CellularGPS + Cellular only

Case Weight

The aluminum case is lighter; stainless steel is heavier.

Apple Watch Aluminum vs Stainless Steel Case Weight
Pictured are the stainless steel (left) and aluminum (right) finishes.

Stainless steel cases for both the 40mm and 44mm models are about 10 grams, or 33%, heavier than their aluminum counterparts. Those who like wearing traditional watches will appreciate how solid the stainless steel version feels on their wrist, but those who aren’t used to the additional weight on their person will like the lighter aluminum more. Whether you prefer a lighter or heavier Apple Watch is up to you, but you can select the corresponding case if this is an important factor.

Damage Resistance

The aluminum case is more resistant to scratches, but the stainless steel case is more durable against bigger damage.

Apple Watch Aluminum vs Stainless Steel Damage Resistance
Each case type has different resistances to damage.

The matte finish of the aluminum case makes it less prone to tiny scratches or microabrasions. The glossy surface of the stainless steel case, however, is a bit more susceptible to such marks, and it might be noticeable after about a year of regular use. On the flip side, the stronger sapphire crystal used on the front display of the stainless steel case is actually more scratch resistant than the Ion-X strengthened glass used on the aluminum version.

Deal Finder
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm)

Stay active, healthy and connected. This Apple Watch Series 4 comes in a Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band. Featuring a 30% larger display, ECG app and more.

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Stainless steel is a tougher egg to crack compared to aluminum, and even though you shouldn’t put that to the test, knowing it’s a bit more durable is a nice feeling to have.

Lifestyle

The aluminum case is better suited for an active lifestyle.

Apple Watch Aluminum vs Stainless Steel Lifestyle
The lightweight aluminum case feels better for sports.

Although Apple aims to help people be more active and healthy with each new generation of their smartwatch, it’s safe to say that the lighter aluminum is better suited for those who like to run a lot or work out in the gym. You won’t notice its weight as much so you can focus on your exercise, although you should still take care not to scuff it against heavy equipment.

If you’re more into casual fitness and value the premium, glossy sheen of the stainless steel model, it’s definitely the better choice for flair and style.

Price

The aluminum case costs less than the stainless steel.

Apple Watch Aluminum vs Stainless Steel Price
The stainless steel case has a more premium finish.

Apple Watches aren’t cheap wearable by any means, but the price difference between aluminum and stainless steel variations is sizable. An aluminum finish can cost up to 40% less than a stainless steel one, making it the more affordable choice. Note that the stainless steel Apple Watches only come with the GPS + Cellular models, so they’re inherently more expensive.

Verdict

Go for the aluminum case if you have an active lifestyle; pick stainless steel if you want a more premium style.

Deal Finder
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm)

Stay active, healthy and connected. This Apple Watch Series 4 comes in a Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band. Featuring a 30% larger display, ECG app and more.

Check Price at Amazon Learn More
We are reader supported. When you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commission.
Deal Finder
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular, 40mm)

This Apple Watch Series 4 comes in a Gold Stainless Steel Case with Gold Milanese Loop. Featuring electrical and optical heart sensors, ECG app, and a 30% larger Retina display.

Check Price at Amazon Learn More
We are reader supported. When you buy through our links we may earn an affiliate commission.

The choice between the Apple Watch aluminum vs stainless steel cases should boil down to how you’re going to use it. The lightweight, sporty aluminum version is arguably better for everyday use while running and working out, and costs less to boot. On the other hand, no one can deny the premium, glossy look of a stainless steel finish, so if you’re after a solid and durable timepiece that you can still wear while swimming or surfing, this version will be more appealing.

FAQs

📌 Is stainless steel or aluminum better for Apple Watch?

Each has its pros and cons. The main advantages of a stainless steel Apple Watch are durability and premium finish. It can withstand impacts better and its finish looks slightly more flashy, too. In contrast, the aluminum Apple Watch is more scratch-resistant and lightweight, plus it’s cheaper to boot. So, it really depends on your preferences, fitness tracking needs, and budget to determine which one’s better.

📌 Why is stainless steel Apple Watch so expensive?

It’s primarily due to the materials used to build the Apple Watch stainless steel models. In particular, the stainless steel case version uses a stronger sapphire crystal for its display instead of the Ion-X strengthened glass of the aluminum version.

📌 Which Apple Watch is the most durable?

The most durable material used for an Apple Watch case is ceramic. It’s four times as hard as stainless steel, and it can’t be scratched or tarnished. Consequently, it’s also the most expensive Apple Watch edition.

📌 Do Apple Watches break easily?

The Ion-X glass of aluminum Apple Watches are more likely to crack if it falls face down from a great height. Otherwise, it’s much more durable than Apple iPhones in comparison. Furthermore, the sapphire crystal screen of the stainless steel versions are much tougher and are also less prone to scratch marks.

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Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.