A number of smartwatches have been developed since the Apple Watch’s release in 2012. Somewhat. Battery life and software options are still a problem, and they’re still virtually the same in appearance. However, they’ve been able to keep their place on many people’s wrists by constantly adding new fitness and health tracking features. Apple, of course, immediately became the most popular brand in the market. Even though smartwatches have grown in popularity, they aren’t yet widely used by the general public.
That might all change with the Apple Watch SE. It’s the first new wristwatch from the firm that costs less than $300, and it delivers nearly all of the functionality of its more costly models, save for ECG and blood oxygen monitoring. Compared to the Series 6’s CPU, this one is a year older and doesn’t have an always-on display. It costs $80 more than Apple’s Series 3, which is now available for $279. However, the Watch SE’s pricing and features may appeal to iOS users who are interested in smartwatches but aren’t ready to spend $400 on one.
Hardware and design
I’ve never been a fan of rectangular smartwatches, but the Apple Watch is the best-built of the bunch. If you’re familiar with the Series 5 and 6, you’ll know what to expect from the SE. However, it has a larger display than the Series 3, which is still available for $199. In a 40mm or 44mm case, the SE looks, feels, and acts like a high-end machine. If I must wear a square watch, at least this one is stylish. Fitbit’s $329 Sense sports a thicker, heavier, and less premium-feeling square case than the Surge.
The OLED Retina display on the Watch SE is sharp, bright, and vibrant. The app icons, Memojis, and photos that my pals gave me all had a professional appearance to them. I like Samsung’s rotating bezel for app navigation, but Apple’s digital crown is smaller and lighter, making the watch more compact and easier to wear.
To be clear, the Watch SE’s display is made of the same Ion-X glass as on previous aluminum models, rather than the sapphire crystal used in the stainless steel and titanium editions. During an amber alarm, my Watch SE fell off a table and cracked its screen because of the persistent vibration. With the Watch SE, you may want to be a little more cautious than with other Apple Watch models.
The “Solo Loop” was introduced by Apple this year, and it’s a new type of band. There are no buckles, clasps, or other fasteners on this one-piece strap. Stretch it over your knuckles, then push it onto your wrist like a rubber band. The solo loop’s sizing is critical because to the lack of other choices for customizing the fit. There are nine different sizes available when you purchase the watch from Apple, and the company provides instructions on how to use common household items to determine which size is best for you.
Love this band! Taking it off and putting it back on is a cinch with just one hand. The strap Apple selected for me was also a good fit. As a result, you’ll want to be cautious when collecting your measurements because some users have complained about the tightness of the silicone bands relative to the woven ones. It’s possible that after purchasing a watch strap, you may have to return it before finding the correct fit.
WatchOS 7 and its new functionality
Most of the SE’s capabilities will be recognizable to anybody who have already used an Apple Watch. Using the knob to navigate notifications, apps, and volume controls is a convenient shortcut, and it works well with the button. While long tapping the digital crown activates Siri, pushing the button underneath displays the power options. Double-tapping on Apple Pay brings up your default card.
Even if you’ve already installed your favorite apps in the dock, they’ll migrate over to your new device when you complete a factory reset. If you’ve used other smartwatches, you’ll notice that a swipe right doesn’t return you back to the previous page. My favorite widgets and apps are only a spin away in Samsung’s Tizen OS, which I still prefer over Google’s Android. First, I have to bring up all the apps or the dock, and then I can search for what I’m looking for on Apple Watches.
Most of the new features on the Watch SE are derived from watchOS 7, including as the new Fitness app and sleep tracking. New customizable watch faces enable several complications from the same app, making them perfect for gifting. Knowing when it was safe to skip sunscreen was made easier by having both a daily UV index and the current weather on my home screen.
To see how close I was to closing my activity rings, I just tapped one of the complications and was taken to the corresponding app. Instead of a single overall goal, watchOS 7 allows you to define separate aims for each of the three rings. Because getting up every hour for ten hours is practically impossible for me, I reduced my Stand objective and increased my workout goal instead.
Dance, core training, functional strength training, and cooldown are all new workouts that can be tracked with watchOS 7. Although the addition of dance and cooldown is intriguing, I was unable to distinguish between them and a generic “other exercise” session when charting them. An Apple spokesperson explained that its sensors can detect how your arms and legs move when you dance and then use that information and your heart rate to calculate how many calories you’ve burnt. A potentially more accurate calorie expenditure report would be wonderful, but in the end, you’ll get a comparable report to what you get for other types of physical activity.
I’m not a fan of wearing a watch to bed, but the Apple Watch SE was the one I wore the least of all the smartwatches I’ve tested recently. Unfortunately, it also provides the least useful information. While Fitbit and Samsung employ heart rate monitors to determine if you’re in REM, light, deep, or restorative sleep, Apple simply uses accelerometer data to determine this. Does measure heart rate while you sleep, but it doesn’t use that to inform you which sleep zone you’re now in. Also, the Watch SE wasn’t as precise in recognizing when I went to sleep. My Wind Down sleep schedule believed I had gone to bed at the time I had set it but I arrived an hour later.
The Watch SE claimed that I was restless after I had fallen asleep, when in fact I was merely up and fidgeting. In the end, Apple opted to use the time I eventually walked out of bed as the time I woke up, despite the fact that I snoozed my alarm several times. This is a problem that plagued Fitbits in the early days, but they’ve since improved greatly. When it comes to accurate and insightful sleep monitoring, the Apple Watch isn’t the ideal choice.
Apple has also added a function called Wind Down and Wake Up that helps you wind down and get ready for the day ahead. The Watch SE went into Do Not Disturb mode around midnight, which was a pleasant surprise. Despite the fact that Do Not Disturb was activated on my phone, I continued to use it.
It was wonderful to wake up to a peaceful music instead of a jarring cacophony, but it was not much different from merely changing the sound of my phone’s alarm clock. In any case, the iOS version already has these sounds. Using the watch’s haptic engine, you may set a vibration-based alarm on your wrist to wake you up without waking anybody else up. Also, the Watch will ask you if you want to turn off the alarm if you get up and walk around for 30 minutes before your scheduled wake-up time.
Hand-wash detection, a new watchOS 7 feature, is especially important during the epidemic. If you’ve started to wash your hands, the Watch will be able to tell based on the way your hands are moving. To ensure you’re scrubbing for the proper amount of time, the app will turn on the microphone to listen for water and soap suds and start a 20-second countdown.
For the first time since coming to the US, this is a big assistance because I don’t always need to wash my hands for 20 whole seconds. Ten seconds is all it takes for me to get some grease off my palms. Fortunately, the only thing you’ll get for skipping the timer is a light nudge, so it’s not a huge deal. The Watch SE was almost always able to tell when I started washing my hands, with the exception of one extremely brief wash. When I was actually washing some grapes, it assumed I was cleaning my hands. Again, I was able to disregard the timer and carry on with my day without a problem.
Battery life and performance
While the new watchOS 7 capabilities aren’t all that exciting, I’m satisfied with the Watch SE’s other features. Siri’s voice dictation is fast and accurate, even if you’re listening to a TV show at the same time. Voice-based tasks are processed much more quickly on the watch because of this. As with the Series 5, the SE’s S5 chipset (or “System-in-package,” as Apple prefers to call it) is the same as that found in the Series 6. However, the S6 SiP in the Series 6 claims to be up to 20% faster than the S5 SiP.
Samsung and Fitbit aren’t far behind, but Apple does a few things better. The more alternatives you have when you receive a message on your watch, the more likely it is that you will be able to respond quickly and effectively. The watch’s camera app may be used as a remote viewfinder for your phone, and notifications appear and take up the entire screen. Apple’s system is faster and more thoughtful than Tizen’s, even if some of these features are available in restricted form or via third-party applications.
When it comes to guided breathing sessions, the Watch SE is likewise more intuitive. The Watch SE vibrates in a pattern that mimics a balloon extending as it fills with air—quicker at first, then slower as it nears capacity—to encourage you to take a breath. With my eyes closed, I can more easily follow along, which provides for a more peaceful overall experience.
Apple Maps helped me find a nearby bakery on my outdoor walks, and the Watch SE promptly linked to GPS. Moreover, the new cycling directions attentively contain advise on bike pathways and the steepness of slopes on the trip, as well In general, Maps on the watch worked well, but I would like it to be a little more precise when I get to a street corner and need to know which way to go. When I’m done with a walk, bike ride, or trek, the Watch SE’s always-on altimeter shows the elevation changes I’ve made.
Although I didn’t use these additional features throughout my evaluation period (fall detection, emergency SOS, and high or low heart rate warnings), they’re still there if you ever need them! You’ll also receive hearing health alerts later this year, warning you if you’ve been listening to music for too long on your headphones. If you purchased a Watch SE in late 2020, you’ll get three months of free access to the interactive on-demand platform, Fitness+. It’s no longer necessary to have a separate iPhone for each member of your family to use the SE. In addition to being able to remotely control and monitor your children’s devices, the new Family Setup function allows you to do both.
Unless you’re willing to shell out for the more expensive Series 3, you won’t be able to use the Family Setup option. It’s not only that the Series 3 doesn’t have LTE, but it also lacks sensors like the heart rate monitor and accelerometer, which means it won’t be able to offer functions like fall detection. It also has a smaller screen and a slower processor, so it won’t be as responsive or roomy as the Series 3.
The Watch SE’s battery life is supposed to last up to 18 hours, according to Apple, and that appears to be accurate. It’s understandable that I only got about a day and a half of use out of the device due to the lack of an always-on display. Like the Galaxy Watch 3, it has a battery life that is comparable to that of the Fitbit Sense, but somewhat less than that of the Watch Active 2. Even with an always-on screen, Apple expects the Series 6 to have a similar battery life.
The Apple Watch SE, which costs $279, has more modern wristwatch functions than its competitors. In spite of its $329 price, the Fitbit Sense lacks the smartwatch capabilities of the Watch SE. Despite the fact that Apple’s sleep tracking lags behind the likes of Fitbit and Samsung, it outperforms rivals by virtue of its superior integration with the iPhone. If you’re an iOS user, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better smartwatch than Apple’s Series 5 or Series 6 (apart from the Series 5 or Series 6). If you’re thinking about getting a smartwatch for the first time, the Watch SE is an excellent choice.
Apple Watch SE review
Performance - 9.7
Display - 9.4
Cost - 9
9.4/10 Total Points
This smartwatch comes with Apple's powerful OS making it high performing and comfortable to wear. The display isn't always on so for users who enjoy this functionality, you're out of luck.