(Pocket-lint) – Apple has three new watch models that cover all the bases when it comes to budgets and features. The Apple Watch Ultra is the most expensive model and is located at the top of the wallet, while the Watch Series 8 is in the middle.
At the bottom – and the cheaper end of the scale – is the Watch SE (2022). It’s the successor to the original – and premium – Watch SE launched in 2020, and offers an option for those who might not need all of the Series 8’s features.
Is the watch SE The Apple Watch to buy? Here are our first impressions.
The Apple Watch SE does make some decent improvements over its predecessor, mostly in terms of advances in the processor, plus a color-matching case that’s more environmentally friendly, and a few extra features like Car Crash Detection.
It doesn’t have the latest display design like the Series 8, or the Always-On Display, nor come close to strength and durability as the Watch Ultra or feature-rich. It also doesn’t offer a body temperature sensor, which can help track ovulation in women, but as an entry point to the Apple Watch, the Watch SE does a lot.
It remains to be seen if it’s an Apple Watch buy now – we’ll need to review all the latest models to draw that conclusion – but based on our first impressions, it certainly looks like it could be a great model when it comes to features offered and value for money.
- color matching body
- upgraded processor
- Cool Features
- WatchOS 9
- good price
- There is no permanent offer
- There is no body temperature sensor
- No SpO2 sensor
- Starlight, midnight, silver
- Aluminum only, Nike models
- 40 mm and 44 mm
- IPX6 rating
The second generation Apple Watch SE offers a nearly identical design to its predecessor and the Watch Series 6, but that probably isn’t too surprising given that the Series 8 is still the same as the Watch Series 7.
So the Watch SE has the same rectangular case with rounded corners and curved edges we’ve seen on the Apple Watch since its arrival in 2015, with the only exception being the Watch Ultra. Watch SE is water resistant to 50 meters and features a digital crown with Haptic Touch and a button below on the right edge. Unlike the Watch Series 8, Watch SE does not offer an electrical heart rate sensor inside the Digital Crown.
On the underside of the aluminum casing—the Watch SE is only available in aluminum with no stainless steel options—there is an optical heart rate sensor, as well as the buttons for turning off the watch straps. The underside of the case has been redesigned for this year’s Watch SE, with new production processes to reduce carbon emissions and now the color matches the rest of the case, which looks great on the body.
As with the Series 8, all previous Watch straps remain compatible with the Watch SE and are flat inside the case so there are no lugs, as you’ll see on other smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5. It’s neat and tidy, although this always has it in the The Apple Watch feels less like a traditional watch than some of the other options.
The aluminum casing means the SE is lightweight and comfortable to wear with a slim design. Size options are 40mm and 44mm, which equals the 41mm and 45mm sizes found on the Watch Series 8. Since the screen doesn’t extend to the edges with the SE model as it does with the Series 8, there’s no need for that extra millimeter in the case.
There are new colors too, with Starlight and Midnight replacing Gold and Space Gray and you’ll also find a Silver model.
- 3 mm border
- Protected by Ion-X
- Retina, LTPO OLED
The Apple Watch SE’s display may not be as close to the edge as the Watch Series 8 — and the Series 7 for that matter — but there’s still 30 percent more screen here than the Series 3 so as an entry-level Apple Watch alternative, it’s a decent upgrade.
The cutout is around the SE screen at 3mm compared to 1.7mm on the 8 Series, but you probably won’t notice unless you have the two models side by side. The difference between the Watch Series 3 and the Watch SE is immediately noticeable, but for anyone upgrading, you’ll spot the difference.
In addition to being the same as the original SE’s display in terms of real estate, the next generation Watch SE sticks to the same Retina LTPO OLED display as its predecessor, as well as the same resolution. The 44mm model has a 368 x 448 pixel screen, while the 40mm model has a 324 x 394 pixel display.
Sadly, that means the 2022 Watch SE doesn’t bring the switch to the always-on Retina display though – something the old model missed, too. The Always-On screen allows you to see certain pieces of information all the time, such as the time or activity loops, instead of having a black screen when the screen is off. It’s not a necessary feature and you can live without it, but it was nice to see this entry-level device.
Of course we haven’t been able to properly test the Watch SE display over a short period of time with it, but since we’re looking at the same screen as the original Watch SE, we expect it to work just fine. Colors looked intense and there was ample brightness, but we’ll get to test it right when we review it all.
Hardware and battery
- S8 chip, like Series 8
- The second generation optical heart rate sensor
- Built-in GPS, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope
- 18 hour battery
In terms of performance, the Apple Watch SE (2022) has the same chip as the Watch Series 8. This is the dual-core S8 chip and it’s the same processor that was in the Series 6 and Series 7. The older Watch has a dual-core S5 chipset under the hood, so The new generation should offer a good boost – 20 percent according to Apple. It’s also the only new Apple Watch that has seen a processor upgrade.
Like the Watch Series 8, there’s 32GB of storage on board and the Watch SE comes with GPS-only, GPS, and Cellular models—the latter allowing you to use your watch independently of your watch. International roaming is available on cellular models as well, as is the Series 8, but the Watch SE is missing a body temperature sensor and a SpO2 sensor.
There is a second-generation optical heart rate sensor on board the Watch SE, while others have built-in GPS, compass, always-on altimeter, upgraded accelerometer, gyroscope, and ambient light sensor.
An upgraded accelerometer, which can recognize up to 256g of forces compared to 32g of forces, enables the SE to offer the fault detection feature found on the Series 8 and Watch Ultra. This feature uses the accelerometer, barometer, GPS, and microphone to help detect if you have been involved in a car accident. You can read about everything it does in our separate feature, but hopefully it’s not something you’ll ever need.
The battery stays on for up to 18 hours, so there’s no improvement here in terms of hours compared to the original Watch SE and no fast charging like the Watch Series 8.
Of course, we weren’t able to test the battery or general performance of the Watch SE while we were working, but we’ll put it through its paces during our review.
- watchOS 9
- Advanced sleep tracking with sleep stages
- Apple Pay
- GymKit, Emergency SOS, Fall Detection, Multi-sports Tracking, Fault Detection
Apple Watch SE runs on watchOS 9 — the latest version of software that Apple Watch Series 3 isn’t compatible with. It brings with it a host of features, including more advanced sleep tracking, improvements to the Workout and Health apps, and much more.
You can read all about watchOS 9 in our separate feature. Note that the software is not exclusive to Watch SE, Watch Series 8, or Watch Ultra, so most features will be available on Watch Series 4 and later.
Since the Watch SE doesn’t have a skin temperature sensor, SpO2 sensor, or electrical heart rate sensor, you won’t get these features as on the Watch Series 8 and Watch Ultra, but overall, the user experience will be very similar across the different models. The Watch Ultra has a few extras but it’s still the same interface overall.
As with the Watch Series 8 and Watch Ultra, Watch SE offers smartphone notifications, GymKit support, and Apple Pay — one of the best things about the Apple Watch, Emergency SOS, international emergency calling, fall detection, and noise monitoring. It also has high and low heart rate notifications and arrhythmia notifications.
Apple watchOS 7: All the major new Apple Watch features explored
All the details about the next version of the Apple Watch operating system, watchOS 7.
There’s also multi-sport tracking, including running, swimming, and cycling, among the many, and the Apple Watch App Store has a number of great apps too, plus Car crash feature and international roaming features We are in minutes. So it’s fair to say that while the Watch SE doesn’t have everything, it has most of the features you’ll need.
The Apple Watch SE does make some decent improvements over its predecessor, mostly in terms of advances in the processor, plus a color-matching case that’s more environmentally friendly, and a few extra features like Car Crash Detection. It doesn’t have the latest display design like the Series 8, or the Always-On Display, nor come close to strength and durability as the Watch Ultra or feature-rich. It also doesn’t offer a body temperature sensor, which can help track ovulation in women, but as an entry point to the Apple Watch, the Watch SE does a lot.
Written by Britta O’Boyle.