Apple watch

Apple Watch SE 2 vs. Apple Watch SE

After two years of waiting, Apple has refreshed its most affordable smartwatch by launching the Apple Watch SE 2. Although the visual changes are minimal, the device brings significant upgrades and a bunch of new features. Despite these changes, the price hasn’t gone up – instead, it has come down, making the Apple Watch SE 2 an even more exciting upgrade.

The Apple Watch SE 2 rocks the latest generation chipset powering its more expensive sibling, the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra. However, it does not include blood oxygen sensor and temperature sensor. If those seem necessary to you, we’d suggest skipping the Apple Watch SE 2. For everyone else, the entry-level Watch SE seems like a solid option. Here we compare the Apple Watch SE 2 with its predecessor to find out what’s different and if an upgrade is the best choice for you.

Specifications

Apple Watch SE 2
Apple Watch SE
Display size 40mm: 1.53 inches

44mm: 1.78 inches

40mm: 1.53 inches

44mm: 1.78 inches

body size 40mm

44mm

40mm

44mm

Pixel resolution 40mm: 394 x 324

44mm: 448 x 368

40mm: 394 x 324

44mm: 448 x 368

Touchscreen 40mm: LTPO OLED retina

44mm: LTPO OLED retina

40mm: LTPO OLED retina

44mm: LTPO OLED retina

Storage 32 GB 32 GB
Wireless interface Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, NFC, LTE Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, NFC, LTE
Depth 0.41 inch / 10.5mm 0.41 inch / 10.5mm
Blood oxygen sensor
Nope Nope
Accelerometer Yes Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes
Ambient light sensor Yes Yes
heart rate sensor Yes Yes
Barometer Yes Yes
GPS Yes Yes
Compass Yes Yes
Water/dust resistant IP6X IP6X
Battery life Up to 18 hours (36 hours in low power mode) Up to 18 hours (36 hours in low power mode with watchOS 9)
Price From $249 From $279
Availablity Apple Apple
DT Revision 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Design and display

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The new Apple Watch SE looks a lot like the previous generation model. It has a square pebble-like design and is made from 100% recycled aluminum, with a matching nylon composite back. Since the change is subtle, it provides a balanced look. Both have two size options available – 40mm and 44mm – and both have an LTPO retina display with 1,000 nits brightness. The smaller size sports a 1.57-inch display with a resolution of 394 x 324 pixels, while the larger model packs a 1.78-inch display with a resolution of 448 x 368 pixels. That means the larger model is likely to look crisper and clearer, but since it’s such a small screen, you might not notice it.

There is absolutely no change in case size and display resolution from the previous model. However, we think the matching back color of the Apple Watch SE 2 gives it a slight edge when it comes to styling.

Winner: Apple Watch SE (2022)

Performance, range and charging

Apple Watch SE 2 supported.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch SE 2 is powered by the S8 SiP chipset, a dual-core chipset based on a 7nm manufacturing process. Apple claims the new chipset is 20% faster than its predecessor, but in reality, Apple Watches are pretty quick and fast anyway, and you’re unlikely to play anything demanding on the small screen, so ultimately the increase in processing power is somewhat negligible. However, this does mean that the newer model is likely to stay faster when updating to new versions of watchOS, so there’s definitely an advantage here.

According to Apple, the Apple Watch SE 2 battery should last 18 hours, similar to the Apple Watch Series 8. In our test, the watch lasted even longer. It lasted two full days, with a single non-GPS tracked workout, all the usual notifications, an always-on connection to your phone, and sleep tracking. However, there is no fast charging on the Watch SE 2, so it takes two hours to fully charge. The original Apple Watch SE also had two-day battery life and a similar charging speed.

Battery life and charging time are similar on both models, so it’s all about the added processing power of the newer model.

Winner: Apple Watch SE 2

Fitness and health tracking features

Workout mode on Apple Watch SE 2.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The updated heart rate sensor didn’t make its way to the Apple Watch SE 2, so it still relies on an optical sensor for heart tracking. An ECG tracker (available on Apple Watch Series 4 and later) provides detailed information about your heart rhythm, which can be presented to a doctor in the event of abnormal readings. Since the Apple Watch SE 2 has an optical heart rate sensor, expect notifications only for abnormally high or low heart rates and irregular heartbeats.

The Apple Watch SE was one of the first Apple Watches to get the sleep tracking function. Along with that, you get features like noise detection, drop detection, and cycle tracking (period tracking). The workout app on the watch has a host of activities you can track. This includes water sports such as swimming, rowing and occasional diving. For the same, it has a water resistance of up to 50 meters.

There’s also a new Medications app that manages and tracks medications, vitamins, and supplements. It also sends reminders to take medicine. Since the data is synced with the Apple Health app on iPhone, you can also get a detailed overview of your upcoming medications. Finally, the digital crown is now mapped to switch between training views. So you can transition it to your favorite training activity.

Apple Watch SE 2 and Watch SE pack the same sensors, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, heart rate (2nd generation), barometer, always-on altimeter, and compass. However, the accelerometer and gyroscope have been updated on the new model. This should theoretically offer better fall detection and wins this round.

Winner: Apple Watch SE 2

Software and updates

Quick Settings on Apple Watch SE 2.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch SE 2 comes with the latest watchOS 9. It’s available for a bunch of older Apple Watches, including the Apple Watch SE. Since watchOS 9 is a heavy upgrade, it might not run as smoothly as it did on older hardware, so keep that in mind.

The watchOS 9 update brings a host of improvements. New watch faces have been added, existing watch faces have been updated, and focus mode can be triggered from specific watch faces. The Compass app has also been redesigned as part of watch OS 9, adding the ability to set waypoints and backtrack if needed. It’s ideal for backpackers, outdoor enthusiasts, or anyone who finds themselves on trails without a network.

The original Watch SE is eligible for the watchOS 9 update, so there’s hardly any software difference between the two devices.

Winner: Draw

Special features

Collision detection mode on the Apple Watch SE 2.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch SE 2 gets a new high-g accelerometer chip, which is essential for the collision detection function. That’s a bit surprising, since Apple usually reserves such features for its high-end offerings. Collision detection uses motion sensors and an advanced sensor fusion algorithm to detect a serious car crash. As soon as the watch detects a crash, it connects to the user and calls emergency services if they don’t respond within a 10-second countdown.

Along with crash detection, you get Apple Pay for NFC payments and Family Setup that lets you manage your family members’ devices. So your child or an older parent will be able to make a phone call, send messages, and share their location even if they don’t have an iPhone. Of course, all of this can be monitored by you.

Collision detection is a big feature, and that alone makes the Apple Watch SE 2 a winner over its predecessor.

Winner: Apple Watch SE 2

Price and availability

Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE side by side.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch SE 2 starts at $249 for the 40mm GPS, while the 44mm model costs $279. Add cellular connectivity and the price jumps to $299 and $329, respectively. By comparison, the Apple Watch SE GPS models launched at $279 and $309, while the LTE models came in at $329 and $359, respectively.

Big winner: Apple Watch SE 2

New Apple Watch SE 2 is a worthy successor to the two-year-old Watch SE. It gets the latest chipset as well as the software, so you have almost all the features that high-end Apple Watches have. Add crash detection and Watch SE 2 becomes irresistible, especially if you have an iPhone. This device absolutely makes sense for someone who is new to the Apple ecosystem and would settle without ECG, SpO2 and temperature monitoring. It’s also great for someone planning to upgrade from something like the Apple Watch Series 3, which is missing the watchOS 9 update.

Should you switch from the old Apple Watch SE to the new? That’s a trickier question to answer, and we err toward “no.” While the SE2 is clearly the most advanced Apple Watch, the upgrades are pretty minimal. If you’re buying a new Apple Watch, you should definitely choose the new SE 2 over the old one. If you’re still using an Apple Watch SE and it’s working fine, wait for the next generation.

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