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Apple Watch 8 vs. Apple Watch SE (2022): Which one is right for you?

Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch SE (2022) shown on wrist
(Image credit: Future)

There are several differences between the Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch SE (2022) to be aware of while shopping Apple’s smartwatches. Yes, price is an important factor to consider, it’s not the only thing that could make one of these two smartwatches better for you than the other.

The Apple Watch Series 8, Apple’s latest smartwatch flagship, is a full-featured device that starts at $399 (AU$629). The Apple Watch SE (2022), meanwhile, sacrifices certain features to offer a more affordable $249 (AU$399) starting price. Despite the price gap, the two devices are sure to be rated some of the best smartwatches of the year in terms of performance, with both powered by the latest S8 chipset.

So you’ll also want to know how they differ in design, features and battery life. Depending on what you’re looking for out of a smartwatch, the Apple Watch SE (2022) might have everything you need. Or, you could find the Apple Watch Series 8 has major upgrades that actually matter to you. 

Without further ado, here’s how the Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE (2022) compare.

Apple Watch 8 vs. Apple Watch SE (2022): Specs compared

Apple Watch Series 8Apple Watch SE
Starting price$399 / AU$629$249 / AU$399
Cellular Optional ($100 premium)Optional ($50 premium)
MaterialsAluminum, stainless steelAluminum
Sizes41mm, 45mm40mm, 44mm
Always On DisplayYesNo
Water resistance 50 meters50 meters
Health sensorsTemperature sensing, ECG, heart rate, blood oxygenHeart rate
Safety featuresEmergency SOS, fall detection, crash detectionEmergency SOS, fall detection, crash detection
ConnectivityNFC, WiFi, LTE, Bluetooth, GPS (L1)NFC, WiFi, LTE, Bluetooth, GPS
Battery life18 hours (36 with low power mode)18 hours (36 with low power mode)

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE (2022): Price

Price is the difference that’ll matter to most people between the Apple Watch Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE (2022). The Apple Watch Series 8 starts at $399 (AU$629) for the 41mm size, going up to $429 (AU$679) for the 45mm size. It costs $100 (AU$160) more for Cellular support on both sizes, with additional premiums for the Stainless Steel case material. 

The Apple Watch SE (2022) starts at $249 (AU$399), which is actually $30 less than the original Apple Watch SE price. It comes in 40mm and 44mm options, with only a $50 (AU$80)premium for Cellular support. The lower price for Cellular is one of the reasons the Apple Watch SE is a great option for Family Setup, which lets you set up a functional Apple Watch for a family member without an iPhone.

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE (2022): Design

While the Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch 7 are identical in terms of outward design, the Apple Watch SE (2022) has a bit of an older look. With larger bezels and lacking an Always-On Display, the new Apple Watch SE most closely resembles the Apple Watch Series 4. However, it features a new bottom casing made of a color-matched nylon composite material. 

Apple Watch SE 2022

(Image credit: Future)

Speaking of colors, the Apple Watch Series 8 comes in Midnight, Starlight, Silver and Product Red. The Apple Watch SE (2022) comes in Midnight, Starlight and Silver. Both devices are compatible with the best Apple Watch bands, if you’d like to further customize your look.

Apple Watch Series 8 shown on wrist

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Still, the display is an obvious design difference. The Apple Watch Series 8 offers nearly 20% more screen area than Apple Watch SE. Since the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple has tried to maximize the amount of usable screen on the user’s wrist — the Apple Watch SE (2022) would be hard to use if you’re coming from a watch with the updated design like us. That said, if you haven’t yet worn a newer Apple Watch, you might not know what you’re missing. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE (2022): Features

Both the Apple Watch 8 and Apple Watch SE are powered by watchOS 9, the latest software update that packs all the new watchOS 9 faces, support for the best Apple Watch apps and other great feature updates. 

Apple Watch SE (2022) shown on wrist

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

But there are some programs on the Apple Watch Series 8 you won’t find on the Apple Watch SE (2022). Only the Apple Watch Series 8 has ECG for detecting signs of or monitoring atrial fibrillation, an SpO2 reader with a Blood Oxygen app and the new Apple Watch skin temperature sensor. Also available for the Apple Watch Ultra, the skin temperature sensor is used to inform cycle and sleep tracking.

Apple Watch Series 8 shown on wrist

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Otherwise, both watches can be used for fitness tracking and are compatible with Apple Fitness Plus. Apple Fitness Plus recently became available to those without Apple Watch devices, but if you want to close your Apple Watch rings, you can do so by following along with classes on your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. There are audio workouts available via Apple Watch, too.

Apple Watch Series 8 shown on wrist

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As for safety features, the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE (2022) are evenly matched. In addition to existing tools like Emergency SOS and Fall Detection, both watches come with a newer Crash Detection capability thanks to upgraded motion sensors in the watch.

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE (2022): Battery life

Apple Watch SE (2022) shown on wrist

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE (2022) battery life estimates are rather similar thanks to the new Apple Watch low power mode. Both watches are rated for 18 hours or “all day” battery life, with the Apple Watch Series 8 expected to last up to 36 hours with low power mode. Apple didn’t rate the Apple Watch SE (2022)’s battery with low power mode since it already lacks the Always On Display, but it should also last longer with the new battery saving mode. Both watches are compatible with fast charging, too.

If you’re looking for the best Apple Watch for battery life, the difference between the Apple Watch 8 vs. Apple Watch Ultra battery life estimates are more impressive. The Apple Watch Ultra can last 36 hours with normal use and up to 60 hours with low power mode.

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE (2022): Which is best for you?

Our general advice for anyone deciding between the Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE (2022) is to get the new SE if you're a first-time Apple Watch user who doesn't have a true need for the full suite of health sensors. The Apple Watch SE (2022) is great for basic fitness tracking, communication and Family Setup. At $249 (AU$399), it's perhaps the best value Apple Watch ever.

But if you're upgrading from an older Apple Watch, you might want the Apple Watch Series 8. The refreshed design and Always On Display make the Series 8 as useable a smartwatch as you'll find. Plus, if you have a need or desire for ECG, skin temperature monitoring or SpO2 readings, the Apple Watch Series 8 can be your all-in-one health device.

Be sure to check out our guides to the best Apple Watch deals and how to trade in your Apple Watch if you're looking to upgrade.

Kate Kozuch is an editor at Tom’s Guide covering smartwatches, TVs and everything smart-home related. Kate also appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account (opens in new tab), which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her on an exercise bike, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.