Apple Watch SE Review – High-Quality, Fitness-Focused Wearable For a Hard to Ignore Price

It’s been pretty clear for a while that I won’t be heading back to the gym anytime soon, Consequently, I decided to take the plunge and pick up a new Apple Watch SE.

Why Apple Watch SE, No Series 6?

When buying an Apple Watch there are now three choices – Series 3, SE, or Series 6. My focus was primarily on fitness, and the Series 3 does have features that I want. However, it felt a bit silly to get a device originally released in September 2017, particularly as for just £80 more I could get the brand new SE. This has all the fitness features I wanted – activity and workout tracking, a pedometer, sleep tracking, mindfulness, and so on. Of course, it works with watchOS 7, and, being a new device, it is likely to be compatible with updated versions of watchOS for a good few years to come. All that at a very compelling price point.

Obviously, I could have gone for the Series 6. Starting at $399, it’s not such a huge price jump up from the Apple Watch SE. However, many of the features that you get for that price are not ones that are of particular interest to me. The noticeable differences are the always-on display, ECG, and pulse oximeter. (Heart rate monitoring is available on both the SE and Series 6.) I like the idea of an always-on display but those other features did not appeal. In fact, in some ways, they actively put me off the Series 6 – I wanted a fitness device, not a medical one. In the end, I chose a 40mm silver Apple Watch SE with a Purple Pulse Nike Sport Loop strap.

Apple Watch SE Nike
Charlotte’s new Apple Watch SE

The Best Features

The first thing to note is that setting up Apple Watch SE and syncing it to your iPhone is very easy to do. The process is basically automatic. However, I recommend spending some time in the Watch app on your iPhone and turning off most of the Notifications. I have enjoyed customizing the faces and complications too. Buying a Nike branded Apple Watch SE meant I had some extra faces available. I actually use one of the Nike faces as my main one at the moment – it is very clear and focussed on activity tracking.

Another reason I was keen to have an Apple Watch is for recording my road cycling, my main form of exercise. I’ve used Strava for a while, but recording a ride involves a bit of fiddling with your phone. I went for a ride this weekend and could do the same with just a couple of taps of my watch. This syncs seamlessly with the Strava app on my phone. You can also record outdoor cycling directly within Apple’s own Workout app.

I also like how the device tells me to get up and move around every hour. In general, I’ve been very impressed by how things synchronize cross-device and cross-app. For instance, if I use the ‘Breathe’ function on the watch, it adds to the ‘Mindful Minutes’ target I’ve set in Streaks. So far, I haven’t encountered any real battery issues, it seems to last most of the day and charge quickly, but that will obviously be something to monitor.

Handwashing Feature Needs Fine Tuning

One aspect I have been slightly disappointed with is the handwashing feature. It is off by default, but when turned on it is meant to recognize when you are washing your hands and count 20 seconds. There have been a number of times where I have been washing my hands and the device has not picked it up. I wonder if this will improve as watchOS 7 gets fine-tuned? I suspect so.

Overall, the Apple Watch SE does exactly what it is meant to. It is a high-quality fitness-focused device from Apple at a hard to ignore price point. If you’re canceling a gym membership, in many cases it will not be long until you’ve paid off for your new wearable. There will always be excitement towards the top end products, but this lower-cost option feels far from a compromise.

2 thoughts on “Apple Watch SE Review – High-Quality, Fitness-Focused Wearable For a Hard to Ignore Price

  • The noticeable differences are the always-on display, ECG, and pulse oximeter

    I’m getting to the age where the medical stuff is of interest. Plus the always on display appeals to me. I still remember my LED watch back in the 70’s that you had to turn on to read. But the biggest dfference is the cases. The SE comes in gold, too garish, silver, too cheap looking, and Space Grey. I think every other Apple thing I own is Space Grey. I’m rather smitten by the blue. thats why im looking at the 6

  • Charlotte:
    Congratulations on the new Apple Watch SE. 
    I had actually hoped to get my wife an SE. I just handed down my still very capable Series 4 to my son (for the first time, not upgrading from the Series 4 to the 5 mainly due to lack of travel), and he handed down his Series 3 to his sister who, for the first time, expressed an interest in an AW, and now seems to be an enthusiast (pink and white breast cancer awareness band on the way). 
    That said, my wife, whom I think was tempted to try out my old Series 3 once my son doffed it, and instantly deferred to our daughter upon her immediately expressed interest, was resolutely against letting me shell out the US $279 for the device, and argued that she could get a low-end Fitbit for less, if she really wanted to track her workouts. This led yours truly to sigh, ‘The Apple Watch is merely the tip of an unrivalled service package that extends beyond fitness to health to…whole personal protection and beyond’, to which she replied, ‘Not now’. Thus ended the discussion. And the purchase. For now. 
    One thing, the Series 6 is not simply a ‘medical’ device. Its features include an important fitness tracking feature absent in the SE, namely monitoring VO2 Max, a measure of cardio-respiratory fitness, particularly for endurance exercises, like biking. For your next upgrade, perhaps. 

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