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Apple Watch SE 2022 vs. Apple Watch SE 2020: What's the Difference?

We compare the first and second generations of Apple's budget smartwatch.

This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2022, CNET's collection of news, tips and advice around Apple's most popular product.

As enticing as the new Apple Watch Ultra looks, a more budget-friendly version of the brand's smartwatch lineup lies in the Apple Watch SE. Apple unveiled the new second-generation model during its "Far Out" event on Wednesday with a starting price of $249 (£259, AU$399). The device will be available on Sept. 16 and is available for preorder

A fresh iteration of the original Watch SE that arrived in 2020, it comes with a handful of new features, including crash detection. With Apple removing the first-generation SE from its main rotation, you may be considering 2022 SE as an entry-level smartwatch or an upgrade. Both lack the always-on retina display of the Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Series 8, but there are a few differences between the 2020 and the 2022 SE versions. Here's a look at their specs and features to help you narrow your buying decision.

Apple Watch SE 2022 has a new safety tracker

The main addition to the second-generation SE is the crash detection feature which Apple now provides on all new smartwatches, including the Series 8 and Watch Ultra. This sensor captures whether you've been in a severe accident, and if you are unresponsive for 10 seconds, it alerts first responders and your emergency contacts. While both SE models have fall detection, emergency SOS and heart health monitoring, only the 2022 SE offers this function.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple Watch Series 8 Can Detect Car Crashes

New SE upgrades to S8 chip

The original Apple Watch SE launched with the S5 chip, a processor that came out in 2019 on the Apple Watch Series 5. If you'd prefer a more up-to-date chip, the 2022 SE will carry the S8, which Apple says will make the watch run 20% faster than its predecessor. 

The new watch will also be shipped with WatchOS 9 software, enabling it to run with low-power mode as well as upgrades to sleep tracking, Family Setup, and the Medications app.

Case redesign in SE 2022

This is minor, but the color options and case design for the new SE have been slightly changed. While the size of the display on both watches remain the same, the 2022 model comes in silver, starlight or midnight. The matching back case is also made of a new nylon material, which the OG SE lacks. Its predecessor is available in silver, gold or space gray.

Apple Watch SE 2022 vs. Apple Watch SE 2020

Apple Watch SE (2022) Apple Watch SE (2020)
Size 40mm/44mm 40mm/44mm
Display (diagonal size) Always-on retina OLED Always-on retina OLED
Display resolution 324x394 (40mm); 368x448 (44mm) 324x394 (40mm); 368x448 (44mm)
Durability Water resistance (50m) Water resistance (50m)
Sensors Optical heart, compass, always-on altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS/GNSS, ambient light Optical heart, compass, always-on altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS/GNSS, ambient light
Safety features Crash detection, fall detection, noise monitoring, emergency SOS, international emergency calling Fall detection, noise monitoring, emergency SOS, international emergency calling
Processor Apple S8 system-on-a-chip Apple S5 system-on-a-chip
Colors Aluminum: midnight, starlight, silver Aluminum: space gray, silver, gold
Battery Life Up to 18 hours Up to 18 hours
Storage 32GB 32GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, W3 wireless chip, optional LTE Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, W3 wireless chip, optional LTE

Apple's second-generation Watch SE arrives with WatchOS 9 software, a faster chip, fresh color options and the crash detection feature that's also available in the Watch Ultra and Series 8 models. At launch, its price tag will also start at $249, significantly less than the starting price for the 2020 SE which launched at $279. 

Look out for midnight, starlight and silver finishes with uniform coloring that extends to the back of the watch's case. The S8 chip allows the device to run smoothly and quicker, and with WatchOS 9, you can enjoy upgrades to the compass, sleep, health and workout apps or stretch your battery life.

Apple Watch SE Hands-On: A Faster Watch for a Lower Price.



The first-generation Apple Watch SE dropped in 2020 with a larger screen than the Series 3 and features such as fall detection, Emergency SOS and international emergency calls. Like its successor, it's swim-proof and is compatible with your AirPods. Available in silver, space gray or gold, the watch has multiple band colors you can choose. Though it lacks the always-on screen option in more expensive Apple watches, it still comes with ambient lighting.

You can track your heart health, fitness activities and sleep with this smartwatch, but it lacks the new car crash detection feature on the 2022 SE. It runs on the S5 chip, an older Apple processor that performs well but may age out since its 2019 release. This model will also receive the WatchOS 9 software upgrade later this year.

Apple Watch SE Review: The Best Compromise Between Price and Features.


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