The Apple Watch SE Gen 2 is just as good as before, so much so in fact that you might not be able to tell it apart from its predecessor.
|326 PPI, 1,000 nits peak brightness
|Accelerometer, Gyro, Heart Rate, Barometer, Altimeter, Compass
|Bluetooth, LTE (eSIM)
|Estimated Battery Life
|50m Water Resistant, Plastic/Sapphire Crystal Back
The Apple Watch SE was my favorite smartwatch of 2020, and for one simple reason: you cannot get a better introduction to the smartwatch world. Apple’s wearable lineup was revamped this year with the $799 Apple Watch Ultra being their new premium smartwatch.
This took away a lot of attention from the Series 8, which would have been the premier smartwatch of the year if not for the Ultra. That puts the 2022 Watch SE in a weird position, but this review might help you figure it out.
The second-gen SE replaces the Series 3 as the cheapest smartwatch in Apple’s current lineup at $249. Despite being $30 cheaper than its predecessor, the SE comes with humble upgrades across the board. It does not carry any flair to grab the spotlight but simply does enough to satisfy if not impress the first-time smartwatch user.
The new Apple Watch SE comes with the same processes as the $400 Series 8, a sleeker design than before, along with new features like car-crash detection and a redesigned Compass app. If you’re looking for a companion for your iPhone, the new SE is the best option for most people.
The Apple Watch SE is a great smartwatch for first-time smartwatch users or for your family members. You should buy this if you:
Unlike the previous generation, the second-generation SE comes with the same S8 chip as the Series 8 and Ultra, both of which cost significantly higher. It also carries the new high-g accelerometer and more sensitive gyroscope for the new crash-detection feature. Apple claims that the new chip makes the SE “20 percent faster than the previous generation”, but I never thought the previous generation to be slow.
Just like the rest of the lineup, watchOS 9 brings a bunch of new features to the, including improved running metrics, the new low-power mode, and the revamped Compass app. However, not all is the same between the SE and Series 8.
To get access to Apple’s new menstrual tracking functionality and other advanced health metrics utilizing the new temperature sensor, you’d have to flush out some extra for the Series 8. The new SE also lacks blood oxygen and ECG sensors. This may not be a big difference for many people, but it seems like these decisions were made to have people pay extra to get a couple of extra health metrics. Heart rate alerts still exist, which I think is satisfactory for most people.
The 2022 SE also lacks the Always-On functionality, along with a larger display. Just like before, the watch is available in an aluminum finish and comes in 40- and 44-millimeter versions. The larger version makes a big difference, especially when responding to texts. The OLED still gets sufficiently bright in direct sunlight, with sharp and vibrant colors providing a pleasing experience. The new SE comes in midnight, starlight, and silver, and features a redesigned back case that is made of a nylon composite material. This makes the watch noticeably lighter even than the Series 8, along with keeping the prices down.
The Apple Watch SE has the same 18-hour battery rating as the Series 8. While this may seem disappointing considering the former doesn’t even get Always-On functionality, there’s some good news.
Apple added the low-power mode to the SE as well, which limits the watch’s sensors and turns off certain features like heart rate alerts, automatic workout reminders, oh and an always-on display if your watch supports it. Just like the Series 8. Apple claims that low-power mode can extend the SE’s battery life up to 36 hours.
Despite the feature, the SE might be the one that benefits the least from low-power mode in the entire lineup. The health-tracking features on the watch are pretty minimal, and Always-On displays are notorious for being battery leeches.
The SE can survive a day of usage on most, but it is still something you might want to plug in at the end of the day. For something I want on my wrist at all times, this still bugs me.
The watchOS 9 update brought us a more robust Compass app, with the key features being Waypoints and Backtracks. The former is a great feature for cyclists and hikers, allowing you to mark important locations right on your watch.
The new compass app is certainly one of the more interesting improvements.
You can simply tap on the lower left corner of your compass app to mark a Waypoint, followed by naming it. You can access your list of Waypoints in a conveniently sorted list and simply follow the navigation.
Backtrack works along a similar idea to Waypoints. It works by collecting your GPS data to record your trail. Using Backtrack allows you to retrace your path to get back to your starting point.
First things first, the Apple Watch SE has a more barebones sensor array compared to the Series 8. If you don’t care about taking ECGs or measuring your blood oxygen saturation, this is the part you can conveniently skip. If you find it necessary to keep an eye on your respiratory and cardiac health, however, the SE might not be for you.
The biggest omission in my opinion is the new temperature sensor. The Series 8 actually has 2 sensors, one underneath the display and another on the back, which establishes a basal body temperature over 5 nights to give you temperature deviations. This is not meant to work as a thermometer. Instead, this feature gets you access to menstrual health tracking among other things.
The lack of temperature sensing means that the Apple Watch is not a good enough deal for women, especially when the similarly priced Fitbit Sense gets you a better health-tracking experience.
One major benefit of an Apple Watch is the unmatched app support, especially when it comes to something like Strava integration. This combined with the better running metrics that arrived with watchOS 9 and offline Spotify support makes your runs much less of an ordeal.
While you are missing out on the more advanced health metrics on other pricier watches, you more or less get key health metrics with the SE. Every metric tracked is of respectable accuracy, especially with the improved sleep stages feature. It is undoubtedly the best amalgamation of smartwatch features and health tracking in an affordable package.
If you’re looking to buy a smartwatch for your child or someone elderly, the Apple Watch SE is by far the smartest choice. Apple’s Family Setup service was released with watchOS 7 back in 2020 and is meant to set up the watch for your kids to use.
The service allows you to selectively allow access to certain apps on the watch, choose whom they can communicate with via calls or messages, and track their location through GPS. To get the most out of Family Setup, you should go with the cellular version of the SE. This allows the watch to effectively bypass the need for a smartphone.
When setting it up for the elderly, the Family Setup option supports features like fall detection and heart rate alerts. Splurging for the Series 7 seems like the smarter choice, especially with the ECG sensor, but they can hardly be considered capable of detecting health conditions.
You can think of this feature as strapping on a GPS-enabled tracker to your loved ones with some additional functionality should they choose to use it.
I find the Apple Watch SE the perfect device for the right audience. My father, for instance, truly enjoys using the smartwatch. He finds that it far surpasses what Android smartwatches are capable of, and that’s coming from someone not used to the Wear OS team.
The new SE is not the best you can get. If you want a better screen with thinner bezels, the Series 8 is more your game. The temperature sensor is hardly something you’d feel the lack of, and performance is never an issue.
A smaller device comes with its shortcomings, and the 49mm Apple Watch Ultra just makes these even more evident. The biggest benefit of the SE: all the money you save.
The new Apple Watch SE appeals to an audience similar to the previous one. If you have never used an Apple Watch or any smartwatch for that matter, the new SE will surely please you. It’s great as a first-time experience, or as a gift to someone in your family who does not need advanced health features. It is, by all sense, a primer for your kids to use the more premium Apple Watch in the future.