Apple Watch Series 7 v Watch SE: Choose the best for your needs

How Apple's latest and more affordable Watch match up
Apple Watch Series 7 v Watch SE
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When a new Apple Watch drops, it resurrects the eternal question: which Apple Watch model is right for you?

The Apple Watch Series 7 is the latest and greatest, but the Watch SE is significantly cheaper – and offers welcome relief from the big price tag.

But what is the difference between the Series 7 and Apple Watch SE? And what do you miss out on by choosing the cheaper option?

We've lived with both and reveal the key differences between the two Apple Watches.

Apple Watch Series 7Apple Watch SE
Case size 41mm/45mm 40mm/44mm
Materials Aluminum
Stainless steel
Titanium
Aluminum
Sensors GPS
ECG
Heart rate
SpO2
Always-on altimeter
Gyroscope
Accelerometer
GPS
Heart rate
Always-on altimeter
Accelerometer
Apple Pay Yes Yes
Always-on display Yes No
Battery 18 hour (36 hour in testing)
Fast charging 8 min = 20%
45 min = 85%
18 hour (36 hour in testing)
Processor S7 chip S5 chip
Storage 32GB 32GB
Price From $399 From $279

Apple Watch Series 7 v SE: Price

The Series 7 is Apple's top new smartwatch, so inevitably it's going to cost you the most. Here's how the prices compare:

GPS only

Apple Watch Series 7: From $399 (41mm)
Apple Watch SE: From $279 (40mm)

GPS and LTE/Cellular

Apple Watch Series 7: From $499 (41mm)
Apple Watch SE: From $359 (40mm)

Apple Watch Series 7 v SE: Design, screen and colors

Apple Watch Series 7 v SE

Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 7

We know both are square (or rectangular) watches and the key difference here are the size options.

The SE comes in 40mm and 44mm cases, just like the Series 6.

With the Series 7, Apple has moved to larger 41mm and 45mm case sizes, which bring larger displays with thinner bezels compared to the SE.

But the screen technologies have changed. The Series 7 has reduced the areas of black around the screen for a near edge-to-edge finish – which means you get 20% more screen space than the Apple Watch SE.

And the Series 7 offers an always-on display mode, which you don't get on the SE.

The corners have been softened on the Series 7 too, so it's a little less boxy than the SE and Series 6. It's a subtle change, but it makes a difference.

Crucially, they both use the same strap sizes, giving you the option to pick up the same first party and third party Apple Watch bands.

If you care about case material options, the Series 7 definitely has the upper hand here. You're getting your pick of stainless steel, titanium and aluminium options. With the SE, it's just aluminium on offer. The Series 7 also comes in Nike and Hermès editions, which you won't get for the SE sadly.

On the colours front, here are your options:

  • Apple Watch Series 7 stainless steel: silver, graphite, gold
  • Apple Watch Series 7 aluminium: midnight, starlight, green, blue (new) and Product Red
  • Apple Watch Series 7 titanium: titanium and space black
  • Apple Watch SE aluminium: space grey, silver, gold

If you grab the Series 7 in aluminium, you still will have more color options to choose from than you do for the SE.

The Series 7 has the upper hand on the durability front too with its IP6X certification, which means it's better protected against dust to make it better suited to more rugged use. They do match on the water resistance front, making them suitable for showering and swimming in the pool and open water up to 50 metres depth.

So when you compare those looks, it's very much the same design language applied here, with the Series 7 giving you bigger cases, more screen, better rugged protection and more case and color options.

Apple Watch Series 7 v SE: Smartwatch features

Apple Watch Series 7 v SE: Smartwatch features

Apple Watch SE

Both the Series 7 and the SE are capable of running on watchOS 8, the latest version of Apple's smartwatch operating system. Though going for the newer Watch will see some software features better optimised.

In terms of what these watches can do, they'll dish out notifications from your iPhone (only), let you download apps, make payments, control music and stream music from the likes of Apple Music and Spotify.

If you pay for the LTE versions, you'll be able to make calls, stream music and check messages sans smartphone. There's also a microphone on board both to make good use of Siri here too.

If you like watch faces, they're becoming more customisable here too and you will have access to Apple's new Portrait Photos watch faces on both watches.

Apple Watch Series 7 v Watch SE: What's different?

Apple Watch Series 7

With the bigger screen on the Series 7, Apple had added a full QWERTY keyboard for text input, and more watch faces that are designed to offer more data thanks to that larger display. Apple has also made menu screen buttons bigger, and you get 40% more text on the screen, so it's easier to use.

Both of these watches offer Apple's Emergency SOS features, international emergency calling and fall detection. Plus, they work as part of the Family Setup to create a more child-friendly Watch experience.

As smartwatches, we'd say these watches are going to feel very familiar and that's key here.

The bigger screen makes the Series 7 easier to use, but in terms of features, they're extremely closely matched.

Apple Watch Series 7 v SE: Sports and health tracking

Sports and health tracking

Apple Watch Series 7

For that core sports and health tracking experience, the SE holds up well against the Series 7, though the latter will get you more sensors to and insights.

Both offer built-in GPS to track outdoor exercise like runs and open water swims.

There's plenty of indoor workout activities supported too and both work with Apple's Fitness+ subscription service. You also have access to third party apps to track workouts outside of Apple's native apps. You can close those rings and both offer sleep monitoring from Apple's own or a third party sleep tracking app.

There's an optical heart rate monitor on both Watches to continuously monitor heart rate or measure effort levels during exercise. You can also pair up external chest strap monitors if you're not convinced with the accuracy of that sensor.

Resting heart rate

Apple Watch SE

Where things start to separate is with the health sensors. The Series 7 can measure blood oxygen levels and features an ECG sensor to take medical-style heart rate readings. The SE lacks these features.

So it really depends on how much those additional health and wellness insights matter to you here because outside of them, the Watches are very capable sports watch and health monitoring devices.

The SE, just like the Series 7, can be paired up third party health devices too, so its abilities can still be boosted.

If you want the most complete health features Apple has to offer, then it's the Series 7 you want.

If you can live without ECG and tracking blood oxygen levels, the SE will still serve you well.

Apple Watch Series 7 v SE: Battery life

Apple hasn't budged from offering 'all-day battery life' on its Watch and that includes the new Series 7 and the SE.

Apple says you should 18 hours before you need to charge, so the two Watches match on that front. However, we found around 36 hours in testing from both devices.

The Series 7 supports Apple's new fast charging, which will get you from 0-80% with 45 minutes charging. Just 8 minutes spent will give you enough to record 8 hours of sleep data, too.

This entirely depends on owning Apple's new magnetic fast charger USB-C cable, which is distinguishable from a silver ring placed around the charging cradle.

Apple Watch Series 7 v SE: Verdict

It's verdict time. Do you go Apple Watch Series 7 or Watch SE? Here's how we see things:

Buy the Apple Watch Series 7 if... you care about having the latest and best design on your wrist. The bigger always-on display is a big differentiator. The Series 7 also boasts the best health features Apple has to offer, and fast charging makes the short battery life easier to live with.

Buy the Apple Watch SE if...you want that core Apple Watch experience at a more wallet-friendly price. It still delivers great smartwatch, sports watch and health features. You're not losing out on battery, and while it lacks the bigger case, we still say the screen on the SE is fantastic for the price.

The key takeaway here is that the SE doesn't instantly feel old with the arrival of the Series 7. It still very much holds its own and with the latest version of watchOS on board it's still getting access to those software goodies.