Apple Watch SE 2nd Gen Review: Still Worth It After 2 Years?

  • The good: Great introduction to smart wearables, access to Apple Fitness is great.
  • The bad: Lack of always-on display is annoying, battery is lacking.
  • The Watch: Good for beginners, but alternatives offer more.

Today, I’m taking a look at the second-generation Apple Watch SE. I’ve owned this device for around two years now, and overall I’m really happy with it. However, is this a device that’s worth buying in 2024? Considering the rumors about the third-generation SE arriving this year, I think there are certain users who can still get a lot out of this device. Let’s take a look.

Note icon NOTE
The second-generation Apple Watch SE saw release Sept. 16, 2022. It was announced alongside the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra during Apple’s “Far Out” event.

What to Like About the Device

Great Introduction to the Apple Watch

Originally, the only reason I wanted to get an Apple Watch was to test the Crash Detection feature that was arriving on Apple devices at the time. While I did succeed in testing Crash Detection, journalist Joanna Stern was slightly more successful in releasing this information to the public (but only slightly). Prior to this, however, I never considered an Apple Watch, and I didn’t really think it would be for me. 


Two years later, I can’t imagine going without it. If the only features this device had were text-to-speech for messaging and a digital clock, I would still consider it an essential device in my tech arsenal. Any time I receive a message and I respond with my voice, I feel like an old spy in some comic from the 1950s, and I love that far too much.

Of course, this doesn’t even cover the multitude of features the device provides, including Cycle Tracking, heart rate monitor, Apple Pay, Emergency SOS, 32GB storage, a camera remote, and more. For the price, the Apple Watch SE is a great introduction to the world of wearable smart devices, and I’m ultimately glad I made the purchase. However, there are still some drawbacks that I’ll get to later.

Apple Fitness Keeps Me Swole

I like to work out. While this isn’t a gym blog, one of the best features of the Apple Watch is the inclusion of GymKit and Fitness. Being able to record my workouts while also monitoring my heart rate is incredible for me. Thanks to my Apple Watch, I’m able to pay more attention to how long I’m working out and the various different workouts I complete. While there are devices that track fitness better, all of this arriving on top of the other features within the Apple Watch is a major win.

While I do love Apple Fitness, I’m not entirely a fan of how it solely works for my Apple Watch. If you don’t have a subscription to Apple Fitness+, you’re not going to be able to start workouts from your iPhone.

Note icon NOTE
At a basic level, iPhone-only users can merely set a Move Goal based on steps, distance, and calories burned.

This can also get annoying with Siri, as asking the assistant to start a workout on your Watch if your iPhone is nearby may start the prompt from the iPhone, causing Siri to get confused. It’s frustrating, but not a deal breaker.

Another thing I really enjoy about my Apple Watch is the Exercise ring. Rings help provide a user with activity goals for the day, including moving, workouts, and standing. In terms of my health, this is easily one of my favorite features. Knowing how much I’m moving and working out keeps me motivated to continue doing it, and getting little reminders is fantastic for me. I will warn that some may find the reminders to be annoying, but they can be disabled via the Watch app under the Activity section.

The Customization and Durability

I think one fantastic thing about the Apple Watch is that it may be one of the most customizable Apple devices currently on the market. However, this is a product from Apple, so naturally, there are limits. I’m talking about the various options for Watch Faces, of which watchOS provides plenty. 

Watch faces (clockwise): Activity, Mickey Mouse, Vapor, Simple

Even better, a lot of the Watch faces are further customizable as well. You can even make your Watch look like a Pip Boy from the popular Fallout series. For me, I’m a fan of the Modular watch face, which gives me direct access to the weather, the time, the time in California, access to my rings, heart rate monitor, and even the current alignment of the solar system. The Watch Face provides access to all these features with a display that is still super easy to navigate and nice to look at. 

Lastly, I don’t think this deserves its own section, but overall I’ve been impressed with the durability of the device. While I do have a couple of gashes on the corners of the screen, the second-generation Apple Watch SE has done fantastic work holding up to my incredibly clumsy lifestyle. For something I wear on my wrist every day, this thing can take a good amount of abuse.

What’s Not So Great

While there is plenty within the Apple Watch SE that I adore, there are some drawbacks as well.

No Always-On Display

One major difference between the second-generation Apple Watch SE and the higher-end models at the time is the lack of an always-on display. I knew this while making my purchase, and at the moment, I figured I would be able to live without it. 

While yes, I am still able to physically live without it, I certainly wish I had it. I never had an always-on display until I received my iPhone 15 Pro, and having this feature makes things so convenient for me. To make things slightly worse, there can be instances where making the display appear on the Watch can be tricky. This is especially true while working out.

Too often, I find myself performing a workout and I’m not able to get my screen to activate. When the problem is at its worst, it can take me a number of tries to activate even when I’m not doing anything. Again, this one was my fault. However, for many, the lack of an always-on display may be a deal breaker, so keep that in mind.  

Battery Was Good. . . for Awhile

When I first got the Apple Watch SE, I had zero qualms with the battery life. Promising up to 18 hours on a single charge, things were pretty good at first. Most of the time, I was able to let the device charge while I showered, and I never really had to worry about the life of my device during the day. Then, about a year into really owning it, I started working out more. 

While it can be a combination of the device being older and consistently running daily fitness tracking, my battery just isn’t what it used to be. Tracking a workout can suck up a good amount of juice, especially if you’re doing it multiple times a day. While charging the device in the morning was typically all it needed, I now find that I have to charge the device far more often. However, it has yet to die randomly on me during the day, which I really appreciate.

There Are Better Devices Now (and Even Better Devices Then)

The Apple Watch SE was always meant to be an introduction to the world of smart wearables. Even on the day of release, the Series 8 packed far more features than the 2nd generation SE. The Apple Watch Ultra also came out around this time, which is an absolute behemoth of a wearable. However, the major selling point of the Apple Watch SE is the price, and at $249, it can be pretty hard to beat.


For me, this actually was one of the determining factors in purchasing the device. As I really only wanted Crash Detection (or so I thought), it seemed like a no-brainer to go with the cheaper SE. Over time, however, missing out on important features (like the display) makes me wonder if I made the right purchase to begin with. I’ll likely be replacing my Apple Watch this year, though I’m not certain if I would go with the much-rumored third-generation SE or the latest in the main series.

Should You Buy the Second-Gen Apple Watch SE?

With all of that being said, is the Apple Watch SE worth it? Well, it’s old now, so it really depends. While I don’t want to sound like I’m harping on this too much, I would really consider how much you want that always-on display. However, if you work out a lot, or really plan on using the device all the time, I would consider going with the Apple Watch Series 9 or the Apple Watch Ultra. 

Personally, I would say the first-generation Apple Watch SE is worth around $100/$150. It’s not hard to find them for this price, and I think that price point is ultimately fair. However, if you can try out the battery before buying it, I would highly recommend taking that opportunity. At this point in the model’s lifecycle, it’s perfect for anyone just getting into wearable devices, or for those who want to give the device to a child or grandparent.

However, considering you can find the Apple Watch Series 9 at a nice price right now and the Series 10 may very well be on its way, I’m not entirely certain this is a device to consider right now. While you might not have complete buyer’s remorse, there are certain features you’re going to wish you had. However, it’s always fun pretending to be a spy.

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