At the end of September, Apple announced the Apple Watch SE, a cheap alternative to the recently launched Apple Watch Series 6.
The Apple Watch SE is a cheaper version of Apple’s smartwatch that offers most of what makes it suitable and removes some key features.
The Watch SE is available in two sizes, 40mm or 44mm, and is made of aluminium. Prices start at £269 – £100 less than the premium Apple Watch Series 6 – and here they’ve been tested in a 44mm space grey version with 4G and cost £349. An iPhone is required and cannot be used with Android.
Similar to Apple’s iPhone SE, the idea of the Watch SE is to combine the best parts of the company’s recent devices into a more affordable model. As such, the watch is essentially a Series 6 with last year’s Series 5 S5 processor, without the screen always on, and without an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor or blood oxygen (SpO2) sensor.
The back of the Watch SE is different from other recent Apple Watch models and features a redesigned optical heart rate sensor setup.
The screen of Apple Watch SE is of the same quality as the Apple Watch Series 6, making it bright, colourful and crisp when turned on. But Apple has eliminated the ability to display watch faces constantly.
When you are not actively using it, the Watch SE screen is turned off. It is only when you touch it, rotate the digital crown or turn the clock towards you that it lights up to indicate the time or the app.
It takes about half a second to turn your wrist. But it does require some pretty thoughtful action, which means you can’t check the time out of sight from an angle while wearing something or just typing on your desktop keyboard.
Otherwise, the Watch SE is the same as other Apple Watches with the same range of straps and is available in silver, space grey, or gold.
What is the Apple Watch SE
The Apple Watch SE is the new, cheaper Apple Watch full of features without users needing to break money to get it. The design is Apple Watch Series 4 with Apple Watch Series 5 S5 processor. Ideally, watchOS 7 is pre-installed on the device.
The watch case is available only in aluminium which helps keep the price low. Like the previous models, it is available in silver, space grey and gold.
The smallest case measures 40mm, while the largest is 44mm. The Retina display is 30% larger than that of the Apple Watch Series 3, but it also lacks the always-on display. The 40mm case has a resolution of 324 x 394 pixels, while the 44mm case has a resolution of 368 x 448 pixels, which is a significant improvement over the Apple Watch Series 3.
The Apple Watch SE has several of the same internal parts as its more expensive sibling, the Apple Watch Series 6. It has the same accelerometer, gyroscope, and altimeter that is always on. Like the more expensive model, the budget also monitors noise, detects accidents, and even offers international emergency calls in the LTE version.
The cheapest Wi-Fi version lets you pair your Apple Watch SE with your iPhone. Once you pair it, you can continue it for making calls on iPhone, playing and controlling music and podcasts, heart rate tracking, sleep tracking, workout tracking, etc.
Of course, there is a mobile version that allows the watch to perform many of its essential tasks over LTE, instead of connecting to the iPhone. Given that Apple’s implementation of the Home Setup requires LTE, this seems vital to Apple’s plan.
Family Settings allows non-iPhone family members, such as children or elderly family members, to use Apple Watch. When paired with the family group organizer’s iPhone, Apple Watch-only members get their phone numbers and the ability to do FaceTime audio calls, track activities, create Memoji, and more.
Also, Family Setup allows parents and guardians to see the whereabouts of their family members quickly.
There are even special face shields for non-disabled children that are designed to avoid distractions while working at school.
The Apple Watch SE also has a dual-core S5 system in the package, making it roughly twice as fast as the S3 SiP in the Apple Watch Series 3.
What the Apple Watch SE is not
There are some critical differences to be made between the Apple Watch SE and, for example, the Apple Watch Series 6. Unlike the latter, the Apple Watch SE does not have a screen that is always on.
For some users, that feature may be annoying, but for someone who has never had a screen constantly displayed, they may not notice what is missing.
From a personal use case perspective, I use my Apple Watch primarily to track my fitness goals, walking instructions, and alerting me to text messages; the actual timing function is mostly secondary, as I’m never far from an easily accessible watch.
It is also missing two key health traits: the ability to have an ECG or to measure oxygen levels in the blood. Those features were left out to keep the price down, and for many, that might be reason enough to mess around with the Apple Watch Series 6.
How to use Apple Watch SE
The Apple Watch SE is the same experience as wearing any other Apple Watch running watchOS 7. You get the same experiences: Memoji, hearing health monitoring, fitness monitoring, hand washing timers and more. If you’re already into Apple’s line of smartwatches, you’ll like the Apple Watch SE.
You will probably notice some differences when upgrading from an older model. For someone who has upgraded from the Apple Watch Series 3, the Apple Watch SE responds much faster to stocks because the SiP is two generations newer. The Apple Watch Series 3 is not slow, but the Apple Watch SE feels very, very fast.
Battery life is still around 18 hours with moderate use, and while we’d like it to stretch a bit longer, it’s still respectable. It manages to run all day, even with obsessive checks and the constant pinging of text messages and app alerts.
If you want to use it to monitor sleep, this is usually sufficient several times during the day, for example during showering, eating meals and preparing for the day.
If you do not want to track your sleep, putting it on a charger overnight means you do not need to worry about running out of battery during the day.
Who is the Apple Watch SE for
As Apple said, the Apple Watch SE is for first-time buyers or those looking for a low-cost upgrade.
It’s also a great model of “the first Apple Watch for kids”. Since it can be paired with a caregiver’s iPhone, the Apple Watch is a great cell phone alternative for young children or those who don’t want to worry about owning a smartphone.
If you are upgrading to the Apple Watch Series 3 or earlier, the Apple Watch SE will likely be a worthwhile investment for you. If this is your first time buying and looking for a reliable Apple Watch that you don’t need to spend $400 on, but will stay compatible for years to come, this may be right for you.
Suppose you have children or parents that you want to add to your family preferences. In this case, the Apple Watch SE with LTE beats the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE, if you can find an older model.
The Apple Watch SE with LTE has better battery life, a newer processor, and will likely be more compatible with Apple.
- Affordable without saving on basic features
- Twice as fast as Apple Watch SE
- Comes with watchOS 7
- International emergency calls (LTE versions)
- Altimeter always active
- No screen is always on
- No ECG function
- No SpO2 monitoring
- No upgraded battery life
If you’re an iPhone user and have been pondering whether to buy an Apple Watch or not, this is the one you will get.
The Apple Watch SE offers enough smart, health, and fitness features to be profitable, but its lower price makes it much more affordable than the flagship Apple Watch.
While power users and the fitness gurus are likely to be drawn to the more expensive Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE brings a whole lot to the table for a lot less money.