We bought the Apple Watch SE so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and evaluate it. Read our full product review.
Like the iPhone, the Apple Watch has become a reliable annual device, with a new and updated version every year replacing the previous edition. The new model always comes at a higher price, so Apple usually keeps the older version cheaper. But Apple did something different in 2020.
Alongside the new Apple Watch Series 6 comes the new Apple Watch SE, a more affordable model that acts as a hybrid of the features of the previous versions. It has a Series 5 processor, but no always-on display or Series 6 wellness sensors, but it costs $120 less than the current flagship model. Overall, the Apple Watch SE is still a competent smartwatch for those who can live with its shortcomings, but if you’re considering an Apple Watch, which version is really worth your money?
Design and display: a big change
The Apple Watch SE is exactly the same size and similar to the previous Series 6 and Series 5, and has a setup process: use your iPhone
You’ll need your iPhone to set up your Apple Watch, but it’s a fairly simple process. To turn it on, press and hold the button to the right of the watch, then hold it close to your iPhone running iOS 14. Your iPhone should recognize a nearby watch and use the phone’s camera to capture the unique pixel cartoon. Scan. Clock display to connect devices. From there, you can choose to restore a previous Watch backup or start over and sign in with your Apple ID to create a Watch passcode. You can also choose from a few easy installation options on the go, but the rest only takes a few minutes. The familiar rounded rectangular mini iPhone style. Whether you choose the 40mm or 44mm (tested) version, the sharp, compact touchscreen is truly the star of the Apple Watch experience, providing a colorful and responsive canvas for watch faces, apps, health and fitness tracking, and more.
The only notable downside is that the Apple Watch SE doesn’t have the always-on screen of the Series 5 and 6, meaning the screen remains blank if the wrist isn’t raised. The always-on display is not only useful for checking the time without waiting a moment for the screen to come to life, but it also helps to better sell the idea that it is a real watch rather than a modern digital one. Approach. However, the early Apple Watch models didn’t have an always-on screen and were still powerful and attractive devices.
Apple offers far fewer design options for the Apple Watch SE — just silver, space gray, and gold color options for the aluminum base. The Series 6 has bold new blue and aluminum (product) RED colors, as well as more expensive options in stainless steel and titanium, but it’s just a high-end watch.
Achievements: on task
In everyday use, I’ve found the Apple Watch SE to be smooth and responsive thanks to the dual-core Apple S5 chip, which is the same as the 2019 Apple Watch Series 5. Apple claims the new S6 chip in the Series 6 will give it 20 percent faster, and side by side I found that apps loaded a beat or two faster on the Series 6. Thankfully, the Apple Watch SE itself doesn’t feel sluggish, even though it does. The latest and greatest model.
Without the always-on screen, the Apple Watch SE has a stronger battery that lasts two full days, barring heavy use of GPS. Despite wearing the watch all day for notifications, light fitness tracking and wellness testing, and wearing it at night for sleep tracking, I was able to go from one morning to the next the first day. Bedtime on the second day without having to charge the magnetic charging pad.
Key software and features: an almost complete package
The Apple Watch SE does almost everything the Series 6 can do, but with some noteworthy features. Both are connected to specialized wellness sensors that perform ECGs and blood oxygen tests. Both of them help make the Series 6 more consumer-friendly for some users, but their omission is certainly one of the main reasons why the Apple Watch SE costs 30% less than the Series 6.
Even without them, the Apple Watch SE is still a powerful health and fitness device that can track activities like running, cycling and swimming (its waterproof) and encourage movement with durable smart activity rings. These rings give you an overview of your movements, exercises and how many times you got up from your chair during the day at a glance. They are also social in that you can connect with friends and family and possibly encourage each other to join your rings.
And while the Apple Watch SE loses the aforementioned feel-good sensors, it continues to automatically read your heart rate via a sensor pressed against your wrist and claims to alert you if your heart rate is particularly high, low, or erratic.
Apple Watch SE
Are you trying to decide whether to use the Apple Watch SE over the Apple Watch Series 6? If so, you will have to compromise. You lose the aforementioned ECG and blood oxygen sensors as well as the always-on display and there are fewer style options available for the Apple Watch SE. It really is, so if wellness testing isn’t a big selling point for you, you may be able to save money by sacrificing the always-on display. Due to the price difference, it might be an easy decision for some iPhone users.
Reasonable value without breaking the bank.
While it’s true that the Apple Watch Series 6 is the faster and more powerful version with a wider range of style options, the Apple Watch SE is a smart option for those who can’t stand to spend more than $ 399 for a wearable device. It still does almost everything for $ 120 less, with an always-on display and a few wellness-related sensors being the most notable omissions. Some may want to pay for the extra benefits of Series 6, but for everyone else, the Apple Watch SE is a much more sensible option.