Budget-friendly Apple Watch option gets update

The SE dispenses with several functions in order to be more suited to the pocket

Apple Watch SE (2022)
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Price: €299
Where To Buy: Apple

Apple may have announced its entry into the premium sports watch end of the market, but it hasn’t forgotten those of us without deep pockets. The Apple Watch SE is the more budget-friendly option in the Apple line-up, and it has just been given an update. The new version has a better chip, with the S8 inside rather than the older S5. According to Apple, that makes it up to 20 per cent faster than its predecessor. And while it doesn’t have the always-on display of the Series 8, it does come with the crash detection feature that Apple added, and the Emergency SOS function that will call for help if a linked iPhone is nearby (we don’t yet have the compatible mobile plans here to justify buying the cellular version of the Apple Watch) .

The new software also supports low battery mode, so you can eke the Watch SE out over a weekend if you’ve left the charger behind.

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Like the Series 8, you can set it up for a family member who doesn’t have an iPhone, meaning the Apple Watch SE could be given to a younger family member. With this in mind, Apple gives you the ability to restrict the contacts accessible by and to the Watch SE. Managed through Screen Time, you can set a list of contacts that can send messages and call the Watch SE. In Ireland, you can’t add a mobile plan to the Watch just yet, or at least not through the major mobile networks. That means the only way that someone can “call” the Watch is through wifi calling, or through Apple’s own messaging and FaceTime audio network.

The Apple Watch SE costs quite a bit less than the Series 8, so what are you sacrificing? There’s the aforementioned always-on display, meaning you’ll have to raise your wrist to check the time or your stats during a workout if the screen goes dark.

There are also fewer sensors on board. While you still get GPS and heart-rate monitoring, you don’t get blood oxygen, for example, and the ECG app isn’t available for the cheaper watch. The heart rate sensor is the second generation rather than the third generation that is in the Series 8, although truthfully, you’ll notice very little difference between the two.

The Apple Watch SE doesn’t have an always-on display either, so you’ll have to raise your wrist to wake the display. That means no glance to see the time or your activity stats. It’s a small sacrifice though; probably more of a loss is the lack of fast charging.

Still, it’s a €200 discount. And if you are after an Apple Watch that does the basics, there is very little reason to spend the extra cash on the Series 8.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist