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Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: Which smartwatch is best for you?

The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE 2 might’ve both made an appearance at the same time, but there are key differences between the two.

This includes factors like design, the metrics the watch is able to track and even charging speeds. The question is, which is the best for your needs? We break down the key differences between the Apple Watch SE 2 and Apple Watch Series 8 right here. 

Design and screen

  • Bigger display on Series 8
  • Similar overall design
  • Strap compatibility

Apple is fairly consistent when it comes to the Apple Watch in that the Apple Watch Series 8 doesn’t look that dissimilar to the very first Apple Watch that was released back in 2015. Sure, it’s slimmer, has a slightly more updated look and more sensors than the original, but the core design language has stayed the same.

However, the Apple Watch SE 2 and Apple Watch Series 8 look a little different. That’s because Apple introduced a refreshed design of the Apple Watch with the Series 7, extending the display by 20% to provide something close to an edge-to-edge display with curved edges that make the display look like it’s pouring over the edges. 

Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

It also means that Apple can squeeze in slightly larger displays, with 41mm and 45mm variants both available.

While many had hoped the new design would also make its way to the latest Apple Watch SE 2, that’s sadly not the case, sporting the same (slightly aged) design as the Series 6, 5 and 4. It’s nothing to be sniffed at, but it means that your Watch SE 2 display will look a little smaller in comparison with 40mm and 44mm variants to choose from, and the colour options aren’t quite as eye-catching or vibrant as that of the Series 8. 

Both models of Apple Watch boast a 100% recycled aluminium case as standard, but you can upgrade to a higher quality stainless steel case if you opt for the Series 8 – though that upgraded exterior comes at quite a premium. 

The Apple Watch Series 8 also has the upper hand when it comes to durability, with IPX6 dust resistance, though both can survive underwater dives of up to 50m.

Both the Apple Watch Series 8 and SE 2 are on par when it comes to connectivity, with support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as well as dedicated cellular versions of each that allow you to make and receive calls, download apps and more without a connected iPhone nearby. Think of it like a little iPhone, right there on your wrist. 

Features and performance

  • Both offer the same core Apple Watch experience
  • Both offer excellent exercise tracking
  • Apple Watch Series 8 has more sensors

Let’s start with the basics; the Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch SE 2 both sport the same basic Apple Watch experience running the same watchOS 9 out of the box.

That means that no matter which you opt for, you’ll get key Apple Watch features like smart replies to incoming notifications, highly customisable watch faces and complications, and a wide range of third-party apps via the App Store. 

There are also features like sleep tracking, the ability to take calls from the watch and, if you opt for a cellular version, you can even use your Watch without your connected iPhone nearby. 

Apple Watch SE (2)

Fall Detection is standard across both models, as is the new Car Crash Detection feature introduced with the Series 8, allowing the Watch to automatically alert emergency services if it detects a car crash. 

The Apple Watch, regardless of which model you opt for, is superb for health and fitness tracking. As well as monitoring your day-to-day health in the form of rings measuring calories burnt, exercise minutes and standing hours, you can get exercise-specific tracking with automatic detection for many.

In fact, we feel that the Apple Watch could easily match the tracking of much more expensive fitness trackers with excellent GPS tracking and stat monitoring. It’s not quite as in-depth as what you’ll find from pro-level trackers from Garmin, but it’s more than enough for the average user wanting to improve their health and fitness. 

Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

However, as you might expect, there are differences in hardware between the two, with the Apple Watch Series 8 offering a slightly more advanced wearable experience with more trackers to capture your health data.

That means that while the Apple Watch SE 2 can do great things like track your heart rate in real-time, it doesn’t quite compete with the sensors on the Series 8 that can take an ECG, monitor your blood oxygen levels, the temperature of your skin and more. 

The latter can actually be used for women’s health, allowing women to track their cycle with very little manual input, though it’s retroactive tracking rather than predicting when you’ll next ovulate. 

But while Apple is providing access to these advanced sensors, we feel that Apple isn’t doing quite enough to turn them into medical tools, and neither the Watch nor the Apple Health app gives you much insight into what the data means. It’s all up to you to decipher. 

Battery life

  • Both offer the same 18-hour battery life
  • Low Power Mode extends battery life
  • Apple Watch Series 8 has faster charging

Battery life is one area of the Apple Watch that is consistent; both the Apple Watch SE 2 and Apple Watch Series 8 offers 18 hours of battery life per charge officially, though in real-world testing it can get closer to a full day, if not two days if you disable features like the always-on display on the Apple Watch Series 8.

That’s the same as the Series 7, 6, 5 and every other Apple Watch in Apple’s collection bar the new high-end Apple Watch Ultra, which offers 36 offers as standard. 

Both the SE 2 and Series 8 offer a new Low Power mode with claims that it can extend battery life to around 36 hours. However, it’ll disable features like instant notification alerts and always-on heart rate tracking to make it possible. 

There is a slight difference when it comes to charge time, however. The Apple Watch Series 8 boasts fast charging technology introduced on the flagship Series 7, offering a slightly speedier charging process that provides around 20% in 10 minutes, with a full charge in less than an hour, compared to the SE 2’s 100% in around two hours. 

It’s certainly not a dealbreaker, but you’ll be able to top up a little more battery life in a short period with the more expensive model.  

Verdict

The Apple Watch Series 8 offers the latest and greatest that Apple has to offer, including an updated design, plenty of sensors for health tracking and fast charging capabilities, but it comes at a premium, and you might not make full use of the sensors on offer if you’re not overly focused on your health.

If you’d rather just get an Apple Watch for the core experience – customisable watch faces, intelligent notification responses, apps on the wrist and basic health tracking – then the Apple Watch SE 2 may suit your needs at a much cheaper price point.

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