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Apple Watch SE (2022) vs Apple Watch SE: Biggest upgrades

Apple Watch SE 2022 vs. Apple Watch SE 2022 vs. Apple Watch SE
(Image credit: Future)

An Apple Watch SE (2022) vs. Apple Watch SE comparison is a must if you're thinking of buying a smartwatch. Apple's latest entry-level Apple Watch was just unveiled during the company's September 7 event.

As a reminder, the Apple Watch SE (released in 2020) offered a "stripped down" Apple Watch experience starting at $279, rather than $399. The biggest Apple Watch 6 vs. Apple Watch SE differences were the former's always-on display, ECG reader and SpO2.

So what does the Apple Watch SE (2022) offer compared to the Apple Watch SE? Well, our early hands-on review shows some compelling upgrades. The Apple Watch SE (2022) has the same chipset as the Apple Watch Series 8 and costs $100 less. In fact, at $249 it costs less than the original Apple Watch SE did at launch. With the Apple Watch 3 not making the cut of watchOS 9 supported devices, the Apple Watch SE (2022) may now be the best Apple Watch for those on a budget.

Here are the biggest differences between the Apple Watch SE (2022) vs. Apple Watch SE.

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

The Apple Watch SE launched at $279 for the 40mm and $309 for the 44mm GPS-only versions. For LTE, the 40mm model started at $329 and the 44mm version is $359. These days, you can often find the Apple Watch SE on sale with the best Apple Watch deals.

The good news for Apple fans is that the Apple Watch SE (2022) starts at $249 for the 40mm, GPS-only size. In fact, each configuration of the Apple Watch SE (2022) is $30 less expensive compared to the Apple Watch SE released in 2020. That means the 44mm GPS-only model starts at $279. For LTE models, the Apple Watch SE (2022) costs $299 or $329 for the two sizes, respectively. 

At $249 the Apple Watch SE (2022) is actually cheaper than the full-featured Samsung Galaxy Watch 5. It's also a substantial saving compared to the flagship's $399 starting price and a still relatively affordable alternative to the $199 Apple Watch Series 3 that we presume will be discontinued.

Apple Watch SE (2022) vs. Apple Watch SE: New features

The Apple Watch SE (2022) design is still essentially the same as the Apple Watch SE Apple Watch Series 6 (and Series 5, and Series 4.) But there are a couple of updates, including a bottom casing made of a nylon composite that matches the color of the bezel. Not a major change, but an improvement nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the Always-On Display we hoped for did not come on the Apple Watch SE (2022). This would have been a much-needed upgrade, as it could have helped make it the best smartwatch under $300 to rival the new Fitbit Sense 2. Time will tell if the lack of this feature will be a major miss for Apple.

The Always-On Display isn't the only feature that the Apple Watch (2022) is missing. The entry-level Apple Watch also missed out on major health sensors, including an ECG, a blood oxygen reader or the new skin temperature sensor found in Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra. That means no sleep tracking and no cycle tracking. 

The one new feature it does get is crash detection, which uses the Apple Watch SE (2022) sensors to detect if the wearer has been in a car accident. But despite a lack of major upgrades the Apple Watch SE (2022) will run watchOS 9 and have a number of familiar features like fitness tracking, Apple Pay and support for the best Apple Watch apps. It will also have Family Setup, which lets you manage Apple Watch devices for family members who don't have their own iPhone, such as an older parent or child.

Apple Watch SE 2 vs. Apple Watch SE: Battery life

The Apple Watch SE (2022) battery life is rated for 18 hours, which unfortunately is not an upgrade over the Apple Watch SE. However, it does get some battery life improvements in the form of low power mode. This new energy consumption mode disables power-draining features and should improve the battery life of your watch if you start running low on battery. We still need to test how well it works, but hopefully, it will meet our expectations. 

If you want an upgraded battery you'll need to upgrade to the Apple Watch 8 or Apple Watch 8 Ultra. The low power mode on the Apple Watch Series 8 can nearly double its battery life and the Apple Watch Ultra can make it a whopping 60 hours on its low power mode. However, the Ultra also costs $799, so it is more than three times the cost of the Apple Watch SE (2022). That's no small jump.

Apple Watch SE 2 vs. Apple Watch SE: Outlook

The Apple Watch SE (2022) remains a great value in the Apple Watch lineup. We usually recommend it for first-time users, or for people who plan to leverage Family Setup to manage an Apple Watch worn by an older parent or child. At $249, the Apple Watch SE has lots of perks and has never been more affordable. Make sure to follow our review as it is updated and to check out our Apple Watch buying guide as we update it with the latest Apple Watches.

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.