Apple Watch SE vs Apple Watch SE 2: is it worth upgrading?

Do you need the latest Apple Watch SE 2, or will the older model suffice?

Apple Watch SE vs Apple Watch SE 2
(Image credit: T3 / Apple)

If you were considering buying one of the best Apple Watches for anyone on a budget - the Apple Watch SE - your decision just got a little trickier. With the Apple Watch SE 2 newly announced, you might wonder what the differences are.

That's where we're here to help. We've pitted the two Apple Watches against each other to see if tracking down the original Apple Watch SE will suffice for many or if you need to get the latest SE version out there. 

Don't forget, if you want more oomph, one of the best smartwatches may be a better match.

Apple Watch SE 2 vs Apple Watch SE: price and availability

The Apple Watch SE launched in 2020 and cost $279/£269/AU$429 for the 40mm and $309/£299/AU$479 for the 44mm GPS-only versions. The cellular model started from $329/£319/AU$499.

None of these models are currently available from Apple direct anymore with the Apple Watch SE 2 where Apple's focus is. If you want to buy the original Apple Watch SE, you'll need to go to a third-party retailer, but discounts will likely be in full force. 

The Apple Watch SE 2 starts at $249/£259/AU$399 for the GPS model and $299/£299/AU$479 for the cellular model. Even at launch, it's cheaper than the Apple Watch SE. 

As with all Apple Watches, prices will vary depending on the watch strap you choose and case options. 

Winner: Despite being newer, the Apple Watch SE 2 is the cheaper option unless you can find the Apple Watch SE at a discounted price.

Apple Watch SE 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch SE 2 vs Apple Watch SE: design

Design-wise, there's almost nothing between the Apple Watch SE 2 and Apple Watch SE. They look identical and have the same screen. There were rumors the Apple Watch SE 2 might offer an always-on display, but these haven't come to fruition.

Both watches have a 40mm or 44mm screen with a 324 x 394 resolution for the 40mm model or 368 x 448 for the 44mm version. The OLED panel on both at least means it looks crisper than a standard display. 

As with all Apple Watches, the rectangular screen has the Digital Crown on one side accompanied by the power/app button. 

The only real improvement for the Apple Watch SE 2 is that it comes in different colors with the choice of Midnight, Silver, or Starlight, while the original is left with Silver, Black, or Gold. 

Winner: The Apple Watch SE 2 has better color options, but otherwise, there's no difference.

Apple Watch Series 8

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch SE 2 vs Apple Watch SE: features and performance

The original Apple Watch SE has the same processor and chipset as the Apple Watch Series 6, so it's looking a little dated. While it won't make a huge difference in daily performance, the Apple Watch SE 2 has the latest S8 SiP processor you also see in the Apple Watch 8, so it has the edge. Apple believes it will be 20% faster than its predecessor.

Both watches will run WatchOS 9, but we wouldn't be surprised if the Apple Watch SE 2 does so noticeably faster. Thanks to WatchOS 9, both watches will benefit from the new low-power battery mode. Apple hasn't released figures on how improved the battery will be when using this mode, but the Apple Watch Series 8 is expected to double from an 'all-day' life of 18 hours to 36. This could be the case for the SE range, too, providing you don't mind cutting back on some features.

And, of course, both watches will continue to offer standard fitness and workout tracking functionality, notification support, and Apple's Activity Rings system is a great motivator. 

One new feature of the Apple Watch SE 2 is its automatic car crash detection. In a continuing trend for Apple's new releases this year, the Apple Watch SE 2 can automatically connect to emergency services and notify your emergency contacts if you're in a serious car accident. 

Winner: The Apple Watch SE 2 should run faster, and it could help you if the worst happens while driving.

Apple Watch SE

(Image credit: Target)

Apple Watch SE 2 vs Apple Watch SE: sensors

Both watches offer high and low heart rate notifications and a heads-up if your heart rhythm is irregular. However, there's still no sign of an ECG app for the Apple Watch SE 2.

Both watches can track your menstrual cycle, but they won't be as accurate as the Apple Watch 8's with its temperature sensor. There's also fall detection for both devices, but only the Apple Watch SE 2 has car crash detection.

Winner: Outside of a hopefully rare car crash, both watches have the same amount of genuinely useful sensors.

Apple Watch SE 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch SE 2 vs Apple Watch SE: interface and user experience

Both Apple Watch SE 2 and Apple Watch SE support WatchOS 9, so you'll enjoy a very similar experience whatever you go for. 

WatchOS is a reasonably intuitive system these days and providing you have an iPhone to pair your watch with; it'll take seconds to get started. 

As previously mentioned, the only real difference will likely be how responsive WatchOS is as the Apple Watch SE 2 has a faster processor.

Winner: The Apple Watch SE 2 will offer a faster user experience, but it will still be the same interface.

Apple Watch SE 2022

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch SE 2 vs Apple Watch SE: verdict

The Apple Watch SE 2 is the more powerful of the two watches, thanks to its newer and faster processor. It also has car crash detection, one of those features you hope you'll never need, but if you do, it could be a lifesaver. 

However, the differences between the two watches are more subtle than you might expect. If you don't mind a slightly slower experience, finding the Apple Watch SE at a low price could work out better for many people. 

It mostly comes down to if it's essential for you to own the latest tech or if you're willing to compromise for a sharp discount.

Jennifer Allen has been writing about tech for nearly a decade. Her specialisms include fitness wearables, Bluetooth speakers, and all things Apple.