Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch SE: which should you buy?

Which of the 2020 Apple Watches is worth your dough?

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch SE
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has recently updated its Apple Watch line, refreshing its smartwatches for 2020 in a great, if incremental, way, thanks in large part to the cool new features that watchOS 7 brings to the table. That’s on top of some – albeit minor – design changes, and the new flagship, the Series 6, receiving a brand-new Apple Silicon that delivers up to a 20% performance boost.

So, the question now is, which smartwatch should you buy? 

Both the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE each come with their own set of advantages, expanding Apple’s smartwatch market by targeting different crowds. So, we put together a rundown of both devices, pitting them against each other in a friendly competition to help you find your ideal match.

 APPLE WATCH SERIES 6 VS APPLE WATCH SE: DESIGN  

Like in the past, design updates on the new models of the Apple Watch are only incremental. That’s a good thing if you already own an Apple Watch Series 4 or 5 and are used to their ways where design is concerned.

Both the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE come in 40mm and 44mm cases with rounded corners, Digital Crown with haptic feedback, 50 meters of water resistance, second-generation speaker and mic, LTPO OLED display with 1000 nits of brightness, and compatibility with Apple’s line of bands.

Apple Watch Series 6 Blue & Red

(Image credit: Apple)

Still, there’s more to love about the Series 6 if you’re aesthetically-inclined. It boasts that Always-On Retina display feature while the SE doesn’t. It also comes in aluminum, stainless steel and titanium finishes, with the first having the traditional Ion-X glass display and the latter two having a sapphire crystal display.

In addition, it comes in more color variety as well – the aluminum finish is available in two additional colors (blue and (PRODUCT)RED), the stainless steel in silver, graphite, and gold, and the titanium in natural titanium and space black. Meanwhile, the SE only comes in aluminum silver, gold and space gray.

Finally, while both are available in the aluminum Nike edition, only the Series 6 comes in the stainless steel Hermès edition.

 APPLE WATCH SERIES 6 VS APPLE WATCH SE: HARDWARE  

One major advantage that the Series 6 has over the SE is its processing power. While the SE still carries the older Apple S5, which the Series 5 introduced, the Series 6 touts the much-improved Apple S6 processor. It’s a 64-bit dual-core like the S5, only with up to 20% more firepower than its predecessor, drawing cues from the A13 Bionic processor in the iPhone 11 and SE.

With this processor comes the new U1 ultra-wideband technology for spatial awareness functions and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, as well as better power efficiency that may reflect in the Series 6’s battery life when it’s performing specific functions.

It is, however, important to note, that the battery life on the Series 6 is rated by Apple at up to 18 hours, like the Series 5. Where it might make a notable difference is in charging. Apple alleges that the Series 6 has a 20% faster charging capability than the Series 5, getting a full charge at only 1.5 hours (next to Series 5’s 80%).

Meanwhile, the SE should have the same battery life and charging times as Series 5, with the same battery and chip.

Apple Watch Series 6 Red

(Image credit: Apple)

 APPLE WATCH SERIES 6 VS APPLE WATCH SE: FEATURES  

 While these new Apple Watches utilize the same LTE and UMTS technologies, GPS/GNSS, compass and gyroscope as Series 5, both now boast an always-on altimeter so they can deliver elevation changes in real-time.

The always-on altimeter isn’t the only new feature in the Series 6 and SE smartwatches. Of course, with Series 6 being more expensive, it naturally comes with more – namely, the new blood oxygen sensor that will let you monitor your oxygen saturation, which is extremely timely considering the pandemic. That’s on top of the ECG app that it’s inherited from Series 5.

As for more features the two new Apple Watches have in common, both offer international emergency calling, fall detection, noise monitoring, high and low heart rate notifications, irregular heart rhythm alerts, and an optical heart sensor. 

Naturally, they’ll also come with those new nifty watchOS 7 features, including sleep tracking, more refined complications, an improved map with cycling directions, Family Set Up, dance workout, and, also quite timely, the automatic handwashing detection.

Apple Watch SE

(Image credit: Apple)

 APPLE WATCH SERIES 6 VS APPLE WATCH SE: PRICE  

With the Apple Watch SE, Apple is definitely targeting the budget and mid-range consumers, making its smartwatch more accessible at $279. That’s $120 cheaper than the Series 6, which will set you back as much as the Series 5 when it first hit the streets – a whopping $399. Those are just the GPS models.

If you want the LTE capability, so you can go on your jogs and hikes without needing to carry your phone, the price goes up considerably, with the SE setting you back $329 and the Series 6 $499. That’s a $50 and $100 increase respectively, which may take the SE out of the budget range for the more economical consumers.

If you’re working with a limited budget, the Apple Watch SE GPS is the best option. That is, as long as you don’t mind having to still lug your phone around when you’re hitting the trails.

 APPLE WATCH SERIES 6 VS APPLE WATCH SE: CONCLUSION 

 The Apple Watch SE is $120 to $170 cheaper than the flagship Apple Watch Series 6, giving budget and mid-range consumers a more accessible way into the Apple Watch line. However, is it worth the money saved?

Well, that depends on what you’re looking to get out of your smartwatch. The Series 6 doesn’t only deliver better performance and power efficiency, thanks to its hot-off-the-oven chip, but it also comes with key features that will prove useful to those with health concerns or who are very health-conscious in general. Plus, it comes in a variety of case finishes and colors to please the cool crowd.

On the other hand, if such things as the blood oxygen and ECG apps, different build options and a 20% faster chip aren’t as vital to your needs – meaning you just need something incredibly reliable to track your overall fitness, activity level and health, then go for the SE. And, that’s even if you have enough money for the pricier model. 

After all, that $100+ you’ll save can be spent towards a couple of new bands so you can switch things up or even a charging dock.

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