If you find yourself wanting the look of the Apple Watch, but not necessarily the high-end feature set, the 2022 Watch SE could be right up your alley.
It’s 2022 and the world of smartwatches is hardly new, though not everyone has jumped on board. A device great for telling the time and then some, smartwatches are one of those gadgets more of us are donning because of the health aspects, plus the ability to check and control our phones from our wrists.
But they can get expensive quickly. The Apple Watch is a good reminder of that, with the main model this year starting from $629, a sum that isn’t exactly small.
Fortunately, it’s not the only choice available. Between models made by competitors and the various fitness-focused options, people have choices, and the same is true if you want to stick with the maker of the iPhone, Apple. That is to say if you want to own an Apple Watch, you don’t need to spend over $600 to do so in 2022.
The 2022 Apple Watch SE is a good example of that, as Apple brings together one of its fast new chips in a familiar design for substantially less.
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Design and features
A little bit like last year’s Apple Watch, or pretty much every Apple Watch you’ve seen before, the latest generation of the Apple Watch SE probably won’t blow your socks off from a design point of view.
Several generations in, Apple is continuing with the same look it’s had roughly since it began, though at least it has done away with 38mm and 42mm options, offering a slightly improved screen size at 40mm (the new 38mm) and 44mm (the new 42mm). It’s not as big as the respective 41mm and 45mm sizes in the more premium Series 8 Apple Watch, but it’s a step up.
Design-wise, it’s still the same aluminium framed softened rectangle that defines the very look of an Apple Watch, though Apple has applied some tweaks this time around.
The main one is on the back, because while the case is made from 100 percent recycled aluminium, the back of the watch is made from a nylon composite material, giving you that little bit extra lightness and a different look, as well.
The top of the Watch SE is still made from Apple’s “Ion-X” glass, a variant of reinforced glass you can find on the Series 8 entry point, while the inside actually sees similar processing power to the Series 8, as well. Inside the 2022 Watch SE, there’s the Apple dual-core S8 chip, paired with heart-rate tracking, GPS, and water resistance down to 50 metres, as well.
Under the glass, you’ll find a screen of either 324×394 in the 40mm model, or 368×448 in the 44mm, which happened to be the former in our review model.
Regardless of which size you end up on, small or big, using the 2022 Apple Watch SE is the same: touch and prod and turn and push. As in you’ll touch and prod the touchscreen, and you’ll turn and push the Digital Crown on the side, with a side note of pushing the button on the side, as well.
It’s an easy watch to use, thanks to Apple’s solid approach to interface design, and the sort of thing anyone can work out. As it is, our five year old managed it with no problems, and has been known to change things standing next to us.
Thanks to that new S8 chip inside, using this year’s Apple Watch SE is a cinch, with virtually no lag across what you do.
Granted, it’s an iPhone-only affair, with no support extended for Android, but iPhone owners will be able to load up messages, control music, track health and activities, and yes, even check the time.
The system is snappy and there was hardly a moment of lag, with the whole thing just being smooth and solid all round.
One area that doesn’t exactly kick goals is the battery life, which will likely need to be charged nightly for most people, but can get roughly a day if you don’t use it excessively.
Use the 2022 Apple Watch SE like a watch with a spot of music control, notifications, and a little bit of health tracking, and you should find it lasts roughly 24 hours with a not much room to spare. Apple touts a rough maximum of 18 hours, but you might be able to flex a little bit more.
However if you’re someone who exercises more than we do, you may find the Apple Watch SE depends on a nightly charge. That’ll be most people, so expect to charge this year’s Watch SE nightly.
Overall, that’s not super impressive battery life for a wearable, even if it is exactly in line with the way Apple has built its watch models in previous generations.
But while the battery isn’t fantastic, the price actually is.
As it is, the Apple Watch is expensive, arriving in three variations depending on how much you need and how much you want to spend.
There’s the over-thousand-dollar Apple Watch Ultra and the regular Apple Watch which starts at $629 and shares a lot of features with its Ultra sibling, and then there’s the SE.
Seen more as the lighter grade baby of the range, the Apple Watch SE clearly misses out on some of the newer and snazzy health features of its bigger siblings, while also getting the older style of frame, meaning you miss out on a screen where the display is closer to the edge of your wrist.
It’s basically the older Apple Watch screen design with a newer Apple Watch spec inside, almost as if Apple had made an equivalent to the iPhone SE for an Apple Watch, as the iPhone SE includes modern hardware in an older design.
That approach means you can save a bit if you don’t need the extra fancy screen style or the more fancy health features, with the 2022 Apple Watch SE starting from $399, and actually being worth it.
Smartwatches can be found for under this price, and some can be found for over it, but the combination of features and great design helps make the Watch SE an excellent option for people who want the look and notification an Apple Watch offers, but without the heavy price tag the Apple Watch is also known for.
The 2022 Apple Watch SE is an affordable smartwatch that affords your wrist solid design and decent features. One might even call it comparatively affordable.
What needs work?
While you’ll miss out on Apple’s premium smartwatch features, we can count on one hand the number of times we’ve intentionally used those recently. As neat a function as blood oxygen tracking is, it mightn’t matter to you, and the electrocardiograph (ECG) needs to be triggered yourself, so you mightn’t end up needing that overall.
And you won’t see the temperature tracking introduced in the Series 8 Apple Watch, either, though given it doesn’t do much at the moment beyond cycle tracking, you also mightn’t care. As it is, getting temperature to show up in Apple Health data hasn’t appeared remarkably easy.
So you mightn’t miss the extra health features found in the more expensive models, but you may miss the extra durability.
While the entry-level Series 8 Apple Watch is just as easy to scratch (because Apple’s Ion-X enhanced glass isn’t super durable), the 2022 SE also misses out on dust resistance, being swim-resistant but not dust proof. They both can detect falls and crashes, and make phone calls to an emergency department if you’re lost in the US or Canada, but the durability isn’t quite the same.
Worse, you can’t spend a little more and get an Apple Watch SE with sapphire glass, with Apple reserving that for its high-end buyers.
Basically, the Apple Watch SE is a great model for saving money, but saving money does come at the expense of not getting the premium hardware factored in.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
As much as we love the best and brightest in any gadget, the fact of the matter is that’s not something everything cares about. There’s a reason Apple sells both the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro, because some people might want a better version of the year’s phone that just offers that little bit more.
The Apple Watch SE is a little like that.
While the Series 8 Apple Watch is one of the best smartwatch options around for an iPhone owner, the 2022 Apple Watch SE is enough of a smartwatch for most. You won’t get the high-end ECG checking tech or the new temperature capability for ovulation tracking, and you might not care. What you will get is a good looking smartwatch with enough of what you need for slightly less dollar bucks, and that’s plenty fine.
The Watch SE is basically the Apple Watch for everyone who doesn’t want to spend up, and still wants a decent wearable with great looks, because that’s what’s here. It’s a great looking watch without the excess cost, and that’s just fine. Recommended.