PROS

  • Upgraded processor from the previous model
  • New motion sensor with support for Crash Detection
  • Improved real-world battery life
  • Lightweight
  • Excellent app selection and safety features
  • Lower price than the first-generation model

CONS

  • No always-on display
  • Lacks sensors for ECG, SpO2, or body temperature
  • No rating for dust resistance
Apple Watch SE

APPLE WATCH SE (2022) SPECS

Phone OS CompatibilityiOS
Watch OSwatchOS
ProcessorApple S8
Display Size1.5 inches/1.7 inches
Display TypeOLED
Fitness FeaturesGPS, Heart Rate Monitor, Accelerometer
Estimated Battery Life18 hours
Separate App StoreYes
Phone Call CapacityYes

The most affordable wristwatch in Apple’s collection is the Watch SE ($249 starting price). A speedier processor, a new motion sensor for Crash Detection, and a much longer battery life are among the tremendous under-the-hood improvements in the second-generation SE, which has the same design as its predecessor but costs $30 less.

It does not, however, include some of the conveniences of the Series 8 (which starts at $399), like an always-on display and sensors for electrocardiogram (ECG), blood oxygen (SpO2), and body temperature readings. The Series 8 is our top option for most Apple Watch purchasers because it has a larger screen that is always on and more sophisticated health-tracking functions, but the second-generation SE is a respectable substitute for those on a tighter budget who still want to keep active, connected, and safe.

Apple Watch SE

The Watch SE is positioned as the sensible option for first time smartwatch users, as well as older adults, children, and budget aware shoppers, while the Series 8 is our top pick for most people, and the Ultra is targeted at outdoor adventurers. Current Apple smartwatch models 1–3 require an iPhone 8 or later running iOS 16.

The new Watch SE has a 100% recycled aluminum case in Midnight (a deep navy blue), Silver, or Starlight and is available in 40mm (small or medium) or 44mm (large) sizes. The Series 8 comes in aluminum or stainless steel and is slightly larger at 41mm or 45mm.

What You Don’t Get With the Apple Watch SE

In exchange for its lower price, the Apple Watch SE makes some concessions and is $150 less expensive than the Series 8.

In particular, this generation’s lack of an always on display option may be a deal breaker for some users. Like the Series 8, its OLED Retina display is vibrant, easy to see both inside and outside, and has a maximum brightness level of 1,000 nits. However, the Watch SE requires you to either turn your wrist toward you or click a button to turn on the display. The SE’s display turns off when the wrist is down, making it impossible to glance down to check the time quickly. Fortunately, the SE’s display quickly turns on when you lift or rotate your wrist, so I haven’t been as bothered by the lack of an always on display as I had anticipated.

Display

Be aware that the Watch SE’s display bezel is quite thicker than the Series 8’s. The Series 8 keeps the thin bezel design that Apple introduced with the Series 7, which increased screen real estate by 20% over the prior generation.

The evident display bezel on the Watch SE, which is around 40% thicker than its counterpart on the Series 8, immediately stuck out to me when I first turned on the device. However, you won’t be bothered by this unless you’re upgrading from a Series 7 or 8 to the new Watch SE. If it happens, using a watch face with a black background is a simple fix. In this manner, the bezel appears to be an addition to the screen. As I pointed out in my review of the Pixel Watch, Google employed this tactic to palliate the size of the smart watch’s display bezel.

Apple Watch SE

A software QWERTY keyboard for the screen is absent from the SE. The QWERTY keyboard is accessible everywhere you need to input text on the Series 7/8 and the Ultra, supporting taps and swipes and word prediction enabled by machine learning. You can use your fingers, dictation, quick replies, emojis, and/or your connected iPhone keyboard to type text on the SE.

Conclusion

The $249 Watch SE is Apple’s cheapest and smallest smartwatch, taking the Series 3 out of the equation. Although Apple hasn’t made many significant changes to the SE, it has reduced the price by $30, improved the CPU, installed a new motion sensor for Crash Detection, and switched to a more environmentally friendly rear cover.

It provides nearly all the connectivity, safety, and fitness capabilities of the Series 8 for $150 less, except an always on display and a few health sensors (ECG, SpO2, and temperature). With a snappy touch screen and 37 hours of battery life, it performed superbly overall in our testing. The SE is a good alternative for its target market of first time smartwatch customers, children or teens, and older folks, but the Series 8 retains our Editors’ Choice due to its more sophisticated health tracking features.

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