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Apple Watch SE

Buy from Amazon $279 

Buy from Apple $279 

PROS

  • Affordably priced
  • Health notifications alerting you to irregular heart activity and falls
  • Fitness features are excellent
  • Quality touch screen that responds well and is brightly lit 
  • Effortless iPhone integration

CONS

  • Lacks the ‘always-on’ mode
  • A little slower at processing
  • Needs daily charging
  • A lot to fork-out for children

There is no doubt that The SE model from Apple presents a valuable buy. You might assume that a lower-priced budget model couldn’t hold a candle to its pricier counterpart. But we think you’ll be surprised. Retailing for around $120 less than the newly released Series 6, you’ll find the SE still has all the essentials. 

Apple Watch SE. Image credit: gsmarena.com

Comparing the two models side by side gives us good insight into what the SE can and can’t do. If you have a specific interest in SmartWatch health and fitness features, such as ECG and blood-oxygen monitoring capabilities then Vanessa Hand Orellana’s review over at cnet is pretty interesting. 

The SE health features are a little more streamlined than the top-of-the-range model. If you are a self-confessed health and fitness nut, you’ll be pleased to find that both SmartWatches were designed to give heart-rate notifications. They can also detect if a rise or fall occurs with your pulse. They even have fall-detection as a safety feature. With that in mind, the missing always-on display and few extra health sensors is a small sacrifice.

Wake your Screen at the Flip of your wrist

Apple’s raise to wake function is a pretty good compromise in place of the series 6 always-on mode. It is a big step-up if you have previously only had a Series 3 model but not if you have had a Series 4/5.

For anyone who doesn’t know, raise to wake lights up the screen when you move your wrist and saves power when you are inactive.

The screen doesn’t look any different physically to earlier models. It borrows the slimmer bezels from the series 4 model and two sizes are available (40/44mm). However, it is easier to see in the daylight than its predecessors. It features a user-friendly digital crown for easy navigation.

The biggest difference, as previously mentioned, is not having the always-on display. 

Vanessa shared that she found it difficult to return to the raise to wake method after having a Series 5 for so long and trying the Series 6. Checking stats while you workout was far more convenient with an always-on display. The good news is, if you haven’t owned an Apple watch or upgrading an old-model then you won’t know what you are missing. 

Processing Performance

The SE performance is more than adequate at opening apps and making calls wasn’t slow. Without a direct comparison to the new S6, there is no noticeable delay. The SE has the same chip as the S5 Apple Watch. The S6 upgrade is a little quicker but this only applies to data-rich applications. 

Same Aesthetics, New Straps

The Apple Watch SE has fewer design options than the S6. You can pick from the familiar silver, gold, or space gray. Each comes with an aluminum finish as standard. Unlike the S6 models, that provide a few different finishes to choose from. If you want to personalize the style you have a good choice of bands to consider. 

Same Aesthetics, New Straps. Image credit: gsmarena.com

You could opt for one of Apple’s newly released Solo Loop bands. It is made from silicone and forgoes clasps and buckles. It has no overlapping parts and simply stretches over your wrist. Because of the nature of its design, you have to ensure you get an accurate wrist-measurement, as it can’t be adjusted. Vanessa found out the hard way, and in hindsight probably could have done with a size up as she found it tight. That said, the loop is said to stretch over time. So when you measure yourself against the chart, If you’re in-between sizes it’s recommended to go for the size below. The Solo Loop is priced at the same level as Apple’s silicone sports bands and costs $50.

There are no watch face options with the SE model. If you are looking for something fun you might want to try the Apple WatchOS 7 instead. It has more room for customization and benefits from Animoji and Memoji features. They are popular with younger wearers and allow users to create avatars. 

Use it without a Secondary iPhone for kids

A second Apple Watch can be configured using the Family Setup feature. This is ideal for children and older users. Older models didn’t provide this feature and the S4 and S5 have been discontinued. This means that the SE is the cheapest way to run 2 SmartWatches without investing in another phone.

It is tough to weigh-in on the watch vs phone argument. Especially given that Smartwatches are by no means cheap. The iPhone SE itself will only cost around $70 more. But to paraphrase Scott Stein at cnet, a watch allows communication with your kids without access to social media and web browsing. This is often a parental concern, so the Family Setup features are a big plus if your child is not ready to own a phone.

Parents have control via their iPhone over the watch. They can choose contacts and set up location alerts with ease. It even features a School time mode that sets up restrictions on time frames it can be used within.

So, while it isn’t cheap it does have a few advantages to think about. You also get a built mobile health tracker that a phone can’t yet provide. This may not be necessary for a child. Unless they have underlying medical concerns. It could, however, be invaluable for helping keep a tab on elderly family members that may be more vulnerable.

Health and Safety Features such as Fall Detection 

The Apple Watch SE offers a range of beneficial health features. Despite not having the FDA-cleared ECG or blood oxygen apps like the Series 6, it can still be pretty valuable.

The fall detection feature, for example, can determine if the user has fallen. It will even contact emergency services automatically. It will send their coordinates using the built-in GPS if the person remains motionless. If you are worried about aging family members who still want their independence, this is a game-changer that helps to bring peace of mind.

Fall detection feature. Image credit: mactrast.com

Another particularly useful health feature is its onboard heart-rate alerts. Using the integrated monitor, it can detect irregular heart activity. If the wearer experiences a heart rate that is abnormally high or low it alerts the wearer and synced iPhone. Irregular heart rate can be a symptom of serious heart conditions.

The SE also harbors a decibel meter. This provides a notification to the wearer if your surrounding environment is too loud. If you are repeatedly exposed to high decibel levels you could potentially damage your hearing permanently. When harmful levels are detected you will be alerted. However, Vannessa warns that as a mother of young children in a busy household she was eventually forced to switch the feature off. Apparently, bed-time squeals were off the charts.

The health features need to be manually selected to run from the Watch app on your iPhone. That is unless you are over the age of 55, in which case it is a part of your regular, default set-up settings.

Top-Notch Fitness Tracking

When it comes to tracking your fitness while you are on the go it doesn’t get any better than an Apple Watch. It is capable of tracking more than 40 different types of exercise. Even if you forget to start tracking the activity it can automatically detect a wide range of common activities. Some of the recognized movements include dance, yoga, swimming, and hiking.

The SE boasts the same always-on altimeter that the costly upgraded Series 6 AppleWatch has on-board. This means it is capable of tracking your elevation in real-time. An absolute bonus if you like to hike. 

The activity ring system acts as a great visual indicator and helps remind you to stay active. Vanessa went as far as to say it keeps her honest!

The watches also dole out monthly challenges as motivation and helps you track progress on a long-term basis. This can be done via the Activities app on your iPhone. Within the app, you can see calculations of your cardio fitness levels. It also estimates your oxygen consumption (VO2).  

So you can see the health features are a big selling point for the SE if you can’t push the boat out for a more expensive model. Add to that the fact that Apple is working on a new Fitness Plus subscription App and you are laughing. The App will be able to give you unlimited access to streamable guided workouts. It will cost $80 a year or $10 a month.

Basic Native Sleep-Tracking Functions

The recent WatchOS 7 update gave Apple watches their new sleep-tracking capabilities. As far as the SE goes is a little lacking when compared to other competitive wearables. When compared to the Fitbit Sense or Oura ring it seems a little more bare-bones. The watch doesn’t break down the quality of your sleep into light or deep sleep. The AppleWatch SE is equipped to run heart rate monitoring throughout sleep. It can help to keep a record of it but if you are super health-conscious you might want to look at the Series6. The latest model is afforded with Apple’s new SpO2 level monitoring and can track your blood-oxygen level during the night.

The SE can’t distinguish between how deeply you are sleeping. Instead, it is heavily focused on duration. It will give you a general idea of your sleep habits to make sure you get a decent amount of shut-eye but the data gleaned isn’t very in-depth.

It automatically switches off all device notifications 30 minutes before you plan to sleep. This is intended to help you unwind and establish a good routine. Being a mom, Vannesa said she tends to be busier in the evenings. She is more active once her kids are sleeping. For that reason, she had to turn the feature off. But for younger users, it could be useful.

Reasonable 24hr + Battery Life

Apple gives the watch a minimum of 18 hours on the box. The longer-life isn’t a hugely notable step-up from previous-gen models but it does surpass the company’s claims. 

Of course, this is dependent on just how active you are. Conservatively speaking unless you are out and about all day long you should manage a full day and still be able to track your sleep. Sleep tracking requires around 30% battery. Many users still find they have a left for a bit of morning yoga or a brisk walk. For perspective, a 30-minute outdoor jog typically drained around 8% battery life.

The Best Balance between Cost and Capabilities

If you’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing an Apple Watch to go with your iPhone the SE is a smart buy. The features served up are enough to make it worth having and its accessible price-tag makes more sense for the average buyer. 

Series 6 has a few extra bells and whistles such as the SPO2 sensors and always-on screen but the price increase was evident. Personally speaking, Vanessa wasn’t sold on recommending a $300-plus product for a kid anyway and neither are we.

 

APPLE WATCH SE SPECS

Shape Rectangle
Watch size 40mm, 44mm
Materials/finishes Aluminum
Display size, resolution 1.5 in (977 sq mm), 1.7 in (759 sq mm) Retina OLED 368×448 pixels
Colors Silver, space gray, gold
Always on display No
Interchangeable bands Yes
GPS Built-in
Automatic workout detection Yes
Compass Yes
Altimeter Yes, always on
Water resistance Yes, up to 50m
Calls Yes
Notifications Text replies
Microphone Yes
Speaker Yes
Voice assistant Siri
Music Onboard, playback, and streaming (with Cellular model)
Mobile payments Apple Pay
Sleep tracking Yes
Period tracking Yes
Special features Heart health notifications, hearing health alerts
Emergency features Fall detection, Emergency SOS
Compatibility iOS/iPhone only
Software WatchOS 7
Processor S5 chip with 64-bit dual-core processor
Connectivity Wi-Fi and Cellular options
Storage 32GB
Power Magnetic Apple charging cable (no wall charger)
Battery life All day (18 hours)
US price $279 (40mm, Wi-Fi only), $329 (40mm, LTE)
UK price £269 (40mm, Wi-Fi only), £319 (40mm, LTE)
Australia price AU$429 (40mm, Wi-Fi only), AU$499 (40mm, LTE)
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