Every year, Apple sells us on its most expensive and badass products. I’m currently testing the iPhone 12 Pro Max and absolutely love it. The larger screen is amazing for reading and work tasks, and the new camera technology is a big step forward.
However, there are times when you should look away from Apple’s latest top-tier releases. That’s absolutely true with the new Apple Watch SE ($279) which launched last fall. It’s not quite as powerful or feature rich as the Watch Series 6, which was released at the same time, but it comes with everything you really need and costs $100 less.
Here’s what the SE doesn’t have: It will not read your blood-oxygen level, and it won’t take an ECG like the Series 6. It doesn’t have an always-on screen, so you have to raise or turn your wrist to wake up the display. Those first two features are important health metrics for some people but not the majority of us. And while a constant screen is nice to have, I’d argue it’s not worth the difference you’d pay to upgrade.
Otherwise the SE has every other feature we’ve come to love about watches from Apple. The company makes great fitness trackers, with tons of workouts, and you can now use a sleep-tracker app as well. It comes in the same two sizes as the Series 6—40 and 44 millimeters—and pairs with all of the brand’s well-crafted watchbands. If you want to upgrade to the GPS + Cellular version, you can use the SE to make calls or get turn-by-turn directions without your phone. It stores music, pairs with any of Apple’s headphones, can be used in the water, and is available in several different colors.
There are other watches and trackers out there that offer similar features, but if you’re an iPhone user, the Apple Watch does all of these things more seamlessly because you can sync all of that data across your Apple devices, which is ultimately the biggest selling point. And like all Apple products, the SE is wickedly easy to use and designed to become part of your daily routine.
As an example, initially I thought the fitness rings—which encourage you to stand, move, and exercise a certain amount each day—were gimmicky. But then I started using them and became slightly obsessed. Closing the rings (your objective) is a subtle but fun way to keep yourself motivated, and much better than just watching numbers. Thanks to the cellular feature on the SE, I now leave my phone at home when I go for a run each afternoon, knowing that I can still call my wife to tell her I’m gonna tack on a few more miles.
I’m also excited to use the compass app on the SE for backcountry skiing. (This feature is also available on the Series 6.) It sounds simple, but the compass, which includes an altimeter, will live on my wrist at all times and help me stay off those aspects and elevations that post a higher avalanche risk, according to the local avy forecast.
All this said, the SE is still an expensive piece of gear to have on your wrist. But its usefulness makes it worth it. Apple will roll out new features on whatever watches launch in the future, but my guess is that those features won’t be something so new that you’ll want to upgrade. Instead, the SE will continue to keep you healthy, connected, and organized for years to come.