Back in 2020, Apple released the first generation Apple Watch SE. Kind of a Frankenstein monster in the best way to take parts from the all-new Series 6 with previous generations, to create a wearable that’s affordable and still has all the elements of an Apple Watch.
And for 2022, Apple (AAPL) Maintaining this working formula, raising the specs, and cutting the price. For $249, you get an Apple Watch with a Retina display that doesn’t always work, the ability to track activity, heart rate and sleep, longer battery life, and improved performance.
Here’s the scoop – the Apple Watch SE is best if you’re new to the Apple Watch, don’t need all the health features, have an always-on display, or if you have an older model like Series 1, 2 or 3.
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 40mm GPS in Starlight, Midnight, or Silver ($249; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE second generation 44mm GPS in Starlight, Midnight, or Silver ($279; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 40mm GPS + Cellular in Starlight, Midnight, or Silver ($299; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 44mm GPS + Cellular in Starlight, Midnight, or Silver ($329; Amazon.com)
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Almost identical construction with a new back
Much like the iPhone 14, the second generation Apple Watch SE is very similar to the first. You can still choose from two sizes, either 40mm or 44mm, to better fit your wrist. All are now housed in a mostly aluminum case in three colours: Midnight, Silver or Starlight. The big design change is that the back, which is the back of the Apple Watch SE, is now a composite material. Apple says its overall carbon footprint has been reduced by 80%.
You won’t necessarily notice that in everyday use, what you will notice is that the colors look more consistent all over and they are noticeably lighter on your wrist. It’s between 9% and 13% lighter depending on the screen size. And as you noticed from the first strap swap, the pushbuttons are still aluminum to ensure the strap locks tightly.
Most importantly, the Apple Watch SE is still similar to the Apple Watch. The Digital Crown and side button are still on the right, and both are still fully responsive to input as well. The midnight variant I’ve been using for a week looks really nice and is still dark blue. Although sometimes it can look black depending on how the light reaches it.
You can easily customize the look by switching to a different band, and the second generation SE still works with all previous bands. And that’s wonderful.
The only other change I noticed is the glass back, above the second-generation heart rate sensor, with a new rounded line design in the glass. It does not positively or negatively affect any functionality, but it is a neat change in design.
The Apple Watch SE has been very comfortable to wear the past few days, too. It will still come in the box with a strap, as well as a standard magnetic charging disk. Fast charging is still reserved for Series 8 and Ultra series.
Fast performance and longer battery life
The second generation Apple Watch SE runs on the Apple-made SE SiP processor. And in my testing, everything goes fast here. watchOS 9 can navigate without any app hiccups or crashes, apps open quickly and respond quickly to inputs, and most importantly, there isn’t a huge dip in the battery.
In fact, Apple says this is up to 20% faster than the first generation SE and in more intense use cases, like starting a workout or reading your heart rate, this beats the first generation by a second at most. You’ll see an even bigger jump in performance if you’re coming from a Series 3 which at times was quite slow on my comparison test, especially with a turn or start of the workout.
The main advantage here is that performance is not really a question, the Apple Watch SE has enough power to do what one can do on this wearable model. You also get access to a host of new watchOS 9 software features. Including some new watch faces like Modular, PlayTime and Portrait which are all responsive here. You can also track different types of exercises and take advantage of the new Compass app.
I decided to go for a walk in Wave Hill, in New York, to test out the dip function. Basically inside the Compass app, you can start this mode and it will track your path. You can even mark waypoints – like an exceptional-looking tree, a place to camp, or even a premium point – and if you eventually need some help getting back in, it can let you track your steps. It shows you the general direction to move in as well as how many feet away.
I’ve also been using the larger, 44mm version of the Apple Watch SE and as someone who rocks the Series 7 every day, getting back to a non-always-on display is a bit of a challenge. But for most people, you probably won’t jump from an Apple Watch with this type of screen to the SE.
And there’s a lot of stuff you need to get the screen on here – you can either tap on it or just raise your wrist. The Retina LTPO OLED display will light up quickly and in especially bright scenarios it can become bright enough that you can read it. To be specific, it has a brightness of 1,000 nits which is the same specification as the Series 8.
I imagine a lot of people would choose this as their first Apple Watch or from an earlier model, perhaps a Series 3 that no longer gets new software updates. Compared to this model, you get a 30% larger screen. Which means it’s easier to read text, browse photos, and control music playback right from your wrist.
Another new feature that has been packed inside watchOS 9 is a fix for an outdated request about the Apple Watch. It is always said to have an “all-day battery”, which can vary from day to day or from user to user. Someone who tracks a lot of exercise or gets a bunch of calls on their wrists will need to charge more frequently. However, in my testing so far, the Apple Watch SE easily lasts an entire day, from about 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. without the new charges during the day, unless I want to use it for sleep tracking. In this case, I would throw it on the charger for 30 minutes to an hour before bed or right after I woke up. Charging takes a little longer than the Series 7 or Series 8 that support fast charging, but it’s not the end of the world.
But with watchOS 9, there’s now a Low Power mode that can seriously extend battery life. You can still track activity and detect falls, among other essential features. What you’re missing are background health checks, such as a monitor that takes heart rate measurements. And with this letter, I used about a day and a half, and I still periodically raise my wrist to check something. I’m going to report this because I’ve been using it for a bit longer as well.
Activity and sleep tracking, plus a new security feature
The other half of the Apple Watch uses it to track health and activity. And just to be clear, if you want your Apple Watch to take an electrocardiogram (ECG), blood oxygen, or skin temperature readings, this isn’t the model for you. You’ll want to pick up a Series 8, or get a discount on a Series 7 that’s just missing skin temperature measurements.
For everything else, the Apple Watch SE is just a great entry in wearable health and activity tracking, but it’s absolutely fantastic. Via the Workout app, you can track a plethora of workouts such as yoga, indoor or outdoor cycling, strength training, dance, walking, meditation and swimming, among many others. When you start tracking a workout, it tracks key metrics like activity time, heart rate, and calories burned. And in my testing on different exercises like walking, strength, dash, and cycling, the Apple Watch SE is as accurate and consistent as the Series 7 and Series 8.
- Apple Watch Series 7 41mm GPS + Cellular in (PRODUCT) RED ($379, original $499; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch Series 8 41mm GPS at Midnight ($399; amazon.com)
Likewise, the key pieces of health tracking found here are heart rate tracking from a second-generation sensor — in fact, the same thing found on the first-generation Apple Watch. She was accurate and fairly quick to get the reading done. You can view the current average heart rate, rest and walking on the watch itself. Of course, historical health data is available from steps to heart rate to how much exercise you do within the Health app on iPhone.
You can also use the Apple Watch SE to track sleep and it got a major update inside watchOS 9. Essentially allowing you to see your total sleep, as well as your total time in bed, but also more in-depth metrics like how long you’ve slept. Rapid eye movement, intrinsic and deep phases. And after a few nights, it will also be shared if you are consistent or not. Like the sleep tracking feature on any other Apple Watch, you’ll need to work on charging between your schedule before you go to bed or after you wake up.
Finally, the Apple Watch SE can also detect if you’ve been in a car accident. And if that sounds familiar, it’s also available on the iPhone 14 as well as the Pros. Essentially, it measures force through a number of sensors as well as speed and sound to detect whether or not you’re in a collision. I haven’t tested this, but if your Apple Watch detects one, it will give you a few seconds before alerting authorities and emergency contacts. Like I said in our iPhone review, it’s a feature we hope you’ll never have to use.
Is the second generation Apple Watch SE worth it?
At $249.99 for a 40mm GPS or $279.99 for a 44mm GPS, there’s no better value on the smartwatch market and no better value in the Apple Watch lineup of the second generation Apple Watch SE. .
It’s great as an entry-level Apple Watch, but also if you’re sticking with a 0, 1, 2, or 3 series, this is an excellent upgrade. A system that improves just about everything, from performance to display size and activity tracking. If you already have an Apple Watch with an always-on display, I recommend looking at the Series 8 and Ultra as well as the Series 6 or Series 7 if you can still get one.
In the second generation, Apple reduced the price, updated the design and introduced a new processor. Not a bad upgrade at all, but it still makes the Apple Watch SE an unbeatable value.
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 40mm GPS in Starlight ($249; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 40mm Midnight GPS ($249; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 40mm GPS in Silver ($249; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 44mm GPS in Starlight ($279; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE second generation 44mm GPS at midnight ($279; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 44mm GPS in Silver ($279; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 40mm GPS + Cellular in Starlight ($299; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 40mm GPS + Cellular at Midnight ($299; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 40mm GPS + Cellular in Silver ($299; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 44mm GPS + Cellular in Starlight ($329; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 44mm GPS + Cellular Midnight ($329; Amazon.com)
- Apple Watch SE 2nd Generation 44mm GPS + Cellular in Silver ($329; Amazon.com)
Prices are accurate and items are in stock at time of posting.