Apple’s updated budget smartwatch is an improvement over the original, but it still doesn’t fulfill all of my wishlist requirements.
The Apple watch SE has a wide range of fitness and health tracking features for a starter smartwatch, and its emergency features, such as crash detection and compass trackback, give users peace of mind.
While the absence of an always-on display is disappointing, it’s the one feature I started to miss after switching from a Series 7 or Series 8 to the SE.
The Apple Watch SE offers some respectable improvements over its predecessor, mainly in the form of an improved processor. It also has a color-matched casing that is more environmentally friendly and some extra features, like Car Crash Detection.
It lacks the most recent display technology, such as that found in the Series 8 or the Always-On Display, and it is not even close to being as robust, long-lasting, or feature-rich as the Watch Ultra. The body temperature sensor, which can help women track their ovulation, is also absent, but as a starting point for Apple Watch, the Watch SE has a lot to offer.
Whether you should purchase an Apple Watch depends on the features and depth you need in a smartwatch. However, at its price point, the Watch SE (2022) provides an excellent balance of value and available features, making it a smartwatch we would highly recommend.
Pros And Cons
- Comprehensive features for a new lower price
- Well-rounded fitness and health-tracking
- Good performance
- Premium design
- Lacks always-on display
- Battery life lacking
- watchOS 9
- Advanced sleep tracking with sleep stages
- Apple Pay
- GymKit, Emergency SOS, Fall detection, multi-sport tracking, Crash Detection
The Apple Watch Series 3 is incompatible with watchOS 9, the most recent version of the operating system that the Apple Watch SE uses. It includes a wide range of features, such as improved workout and health apps, more sophisticated sleep tracking, and many others.
Though it isn’t as sophisticated as devices like Fitbit, sleep tracking is generally very good and accurate in our experience. However, there is room for improvement with regard to analysis. Additionally comfortable and barely perceptible while worn in bed is the Watch SE.
Apple Watch SE Design
The new Apple Watch SE could initially be mistaken for the 2020 model. The new SE is offered in 40- and 44-millimeter options and has an aluminum finish, just like its predecessor. The SE’s color scheme, however, has changed. While the 2020 model was available in silver, space gray, and gold, you can pick from midnight, starlight, or silver.
Additionally, Apple updated the watch’s back with a new finish that more closely matches the Apple Watch’s casing. Although it’s a nice addition that gives the new SE a more upscale feel, you only notice it when the watch isn’t on your wrist.
The larger screen found on the Series 8 and Series 7 is absent from the Apple Watch SE, but in most cases, this didn’t make much of a difference. Throughout the course of this review, I alternated between wearing the Series 8 and the new SE, and I also wore the Series 7 for the previous 12 months.
The ability to use an on-screen QWERTY keyboard for speedy text replying when I’m not near my phone is the feature I miss the most about having that larger display. With a digital keyboard and a price tag of $280, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 also has a 40mm option and is comparable in price to the Apple Watch SE. You can still send messages by dictating or handwriting letters, though I wish Apple could have figured out a way to make this work too.
Performance And In Use
It’s impressive considering the price that the Watch SE has the same S8 SiP as the Series 8 and Watch Ultra. This generally meant that the $250 watch was just as quick to set new watch faces, measure my heart rate, start workouts, and other tasks as its more expensive counterparts. During my testing, I wore both an SE and a Series 8, and sometimes the lower-end model would be the first to recognize that I had been walking for at least 10 minutes. However, regardless of which device notified me first, they both recorded my outdoor walks as lasting roughly the same amount of time.
The SE had the same feel as the Series 8 when I used it to track my daily HIIT and resistance training sessions. The latter’s AOD kept the workout screen on so I could more easily keep an eye on stats like elapsed time and calories burned. That was the only difference.
The SE is lacking Apple’s new skin temperature sensor, which was introduced with the Series 8. This is the most important feature that the SE lacks. This monitors the wearer’s body temperature overnight and determines whether they have ovulated based on any variations from a baseline reading. The SE doesn’t provide this ovulation-tracking feature because it lacks the necessary hardware. However, it performs all other cycle and sleep tracking functions. You can use this to track your periods or to check how much time you’ve spent in different sleep stages like REM, Deep, and Core sleep.
The SE didn’t take much longer to provide a reading than the Series 8 or Watch Ultra, despite having an older heart rate monitor. Since I had been wearing the Series 7 for a year, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between it and the SE in most situations. The blood oxygen and ECG apps, which were absent, were not features I frequently used.
Apple Watch SE Speed
The same S8 processor that powers the Series 8 is housed inside the Apple Watch SE. Overall, the SE feels snappy and smooth as a result; apps launched quickly, and Siri immediately recognized my speech. The new SE is noticeably faster than the previous model, according to Apple, by 20%. On the new SE, apps opened without delay, but occasionally paused on the 2020 Apple Watch SE.
The fact that the SE now has the Series 8 processor, however, is what makes it so important because it partially future-proofs the SE. The 2022 SE uses Apple’s most recent processor, so any new features that are added to WatchOS in the future are likely to work on it.
Older watches haven’t always had access to some features because of their deteriorating hardware, even if the model did support the overall software update. Even though the Series 3 supported Apple’s WatchOS 7 software, handwashing detection, for instance, is only available on the Series 4 and higher.
You probably won’t have to worry about missing out on features like this in the future thanks to the SE’s new processor. The 2020 SE, in contrast, utilizes Apple’s S5 chip from the Series 5, which is currently about three generations old.
The SE Apple Watches fell short of more expensive models in one area: battery life. The SE tended to run dangerously low at night if I’d been particularly active earlier, whereas the Series 8 typically lasted throughout the day with extra battery for the next morning. I typically track one workout every morning while also counting on the watches to automatically count my two to five daily outdoor walks as I work toward my stand and move targets. The Watch SE will struggle to last until midnight if I walk for longer than 10 minutes more than twice.
While the SE does not support fast charging, it never took longer than an hour to reach 100%, which is another notable distinction between it and Series 7 and later devices.
Should You Buy Apple Watch SE?
Buy It If:
You want to spend less money on an Apple Watch.
It largely depends on how much you want an always-on display, but the Watch SE is less expensive and still offers many of the high-end features of the Watch 6.
Blood oxygen is unimportant to you.
One of the key features of the Watch 6 is the ability to check how well your respiratory system is functioning. However, this feature is more of a comfort feature than a necessity, and many people will be able to live without it.
You want good battery life
Despite not dominating the market in this regard, the Apple Watch offers the best battery life of any model we’ve tested, the Watch SE, thanks to a more contemporary chipset and the absence of the always-on display.
Don’t Buy It If…
You want the latest and best
Because the Watch SE is essentially a hybrid of the Watch 4 and Watch 5, it is 1.5 generations old. This is not for you if you insist on having every modern convenience.
You want the cheapest Apple Watch
It is still possible to purchase the Apple Watch 3 in that form. Even though it lacks the always-on display and has a smaller display, it still has a lot of the most helpful Watch Features.
You love a cheeky glance
The always-on display consumes a lot of battery life, but it does make it simpler to quickly see the time, which is a good thing for a watch in our opinion.
The Bottom Line
The Apple Watch SE is the best option for people who only need a smartwatch to use Apple Pay, track their workouts, and receive iPhone notifications on their wrists.
You won’t overlook features like the tougher screen, dust resistance, or always-on display unless you’re incredibly clumsy or impatient. The most value-for-money smartwatch is the new Watch SE, which costs $250.
You May Also Like: Is a Kindle Worth It?