Apple Watch SE (2022) is a modest upgrade to the budget smartwatch

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I really liked the Apple Watch SE (2020).

It offered a fantastic $329 starting price tag, a great-looking display with relatively small bezels and access to Apple’s industry-leading Watch App store. When I reviewed the smartwatch, I described it as the best wearable available for price-conscious Apple users not interested in the health features higher-end Apple Watches offer.

In short, the smartwatch was near perfect, except for the absence of the stellar always-on display featured in the Apple Watch Series 5 and above.

This is where the new Apple Watch SE (2022) comes in. It’s a minor upgrade to the original Apple Watch SE that, unfortunately, still doesn’t feature an always-on display or the ability to text directly from the device like its higher-end counterparts. It also lacks several of Series 8’s health-focused features like blood oxygen levels, ECG or the new body temperature sensor. It remains a bare-bones smartwatch targetting those less interested in the health side of the wearable.

Like its predecessor, the Apple Watch SE (2022) is available in 40mm and 44mm variant aluminum finishes, including ‘Starlight,’ ‘Midnight,’ and ‘Silver.’ The display and overall design of the SE look identical to the first-gen version, except for the redesigned brushed back that matches the colour of the front of the smartwatch. It’s a subtle touch, but it makes the SE look higher-end and more complete, despite its decidedly entry-level price tag.

Apple Watch SE (2022)

Beyond this change, the only notable upgrade to the Apple Watch SE is the smartwatch’s new S8 chip, which Apple says gives the wearable a 20 percent power boost compared to its predecessor. While my experience with the original Apple Watch SE was generally solid, I sometimes encountered slowdowns when running third-party apps like Strava or Wind Speed. This is no longer an issue with the jump from the S5 to the S8 during my brief time with the Apple Watch SE (2022).

Of course, the Apple Watch SE (2022) features all of watchOS 9’s best features like ‘Low Power Mode,’ ‘Car Crash Detection,’ ‘Sleep Stages,’ medication tracking, more detailed workout metrics and more, alongside additional Watch Faces like ‘Playtime,’ ‘Lunar,’ ‘Metropolitan’ and ‘Modular.’

Like the Series 8, watchOS 9 (which also supports the 1st-gen Apple Watch SE) is a more significant update to the Apple Watch SE (2022) than the wearable’s actual hardware in some respects, with the new chip being the notable exception.

Similar to the original Apple Watch SE, Apple’s refreshed entry-level smartwatch offers a solid but bare-bones smartwatch experience at a reasonable $329 price tag. I still miss the always-on display and wish Apple brought it to its lower-end wearable, but those who don’t know what they’re missing likely won’t have the same issue with the new SE.

The Apple Watch SE (2022) starts at $329 and is available now.

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