Apple Watch SE: Great Specs at a Reasonable Price

Who needs every health feature, anyway?

Key Takeaways

  • The Apple Watch SE features an excellent screen and a fast processor for the bargain price of $279.
  • The SE lacks the blood oxygen monitoring and ECG of the Series 6, but has plenty of other health features.
  • Battery life is reported to be 18 hours.
Apple Watch SE with yellow wristband and the largest and most advanced Retina display.
Apple

If you want a smartwatch with a speedy processor and a great screen, but don’t feel the need to obsessively monitor your health, the new Apple Watch SE is the one to get. 

The SE, starting at $279, bests its competitors in almost every respect. The screen is clear, sharp, and bright, and the performance is zippy. All it lacks is the ECG and blood oxygen monitoring of its more expensive Series 6 big brother, but there’s a good argument to be made that Apple’s health features aren’t for everyone.

I’ll come right out and admit that I recently bought the Series 6. Do I regret the decision? No, but I’m not sure that everyone needs an Apple Watch for its health features. Are you the kind of person who Googles strange disease symptoms? The Series 6, with all its health bells and whistles, might keep you up at night. Or maybe you might put off going to the doctor because of the false reassurance the Series 6 could offer. In that case, you might be better off with the SE.

Big and Bold

Like other aluminum Apple Watch models, the SE features Apple’s Ion-X glass instead of the sapphire used on the more expensive stainless and titanium watches.

The SE also features the larger display introduced with the Series 4. It’s a huge upgrade from the Series 3 and gives you the ability to see more information at once. I’d recommend the SE to potential buyers for this reason alone. The case design is similar to the Series 6, though the SE only comes in silver, gold, and space gray in an aluminum finish, without the other color options of the Series 6. 

The SE’s display is just as clear and bright as the Series 6, but it’s lacking the always-on display touted by the latter, which has become such a handy feature that I’d have a hard time giving it up. On the other hand, an always-on screen can be a distraction for some.

Five Apple Watch SE models with different color wristbands and apps on display
Apple

Coming from the Series 3, the SE I tried recently was a revelation in terms of speed. It has the S5 processor introduced with the Series 5; compared to the Series 3, the SE is much faster at opening apps, taking phone calls, and answering text messages. It lagged slightly compared to the Series 6, but not enough to make a difference in daily use. 

Battery life can hit 18 hours, according to Apple. I never had a problem with running out of battery on my Series 3 as long as I made sure to keep it on the charger at night. The Series 6 supposedly charges slightly faster.

Plenty for Health Nuts

While the SE lacks the Series 6’s ECG or blood oxygen monitoring, there are still lots of health features. The SE retains the fall detection and pulse monitoring of previous models, and it will also inform you if you’re listening to sounds at unsafe volumes. I was surprised to find that a lot of the music I listened to was way too loud.

The Apple Watch SE's emergency sos feature notification
Apple

There are also all the activity features baked into iOS to get you moving. The three activity rings for calories, exercise minutes, and standing time will keep you honest. The Workout app tracks most running, cycling disciplines, swimming, and now includes tennis, yoga, functional strength training, and other exercises. One feature from the Series 6, an altimeter, has made its way onto the SE, and it could be great for athletes who want to track how far up and downhill they’re going.

You’re not giving up much by opting for the Apple Watch SE. And these days, with the economy cratering, the extra cash is no small thing. Overall, the SE is a great value and a solid choice for anyone tied into the Apple ecosystem.