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Apple Watch SE 3 wishlist: All the features I want to see

Apple's budget lineup keeps getting better.
By
January 13, 2024
An Apple Watch SE 2 displays the Modular watch face.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

At this point, the Apple Watch is nearly synonymous with the smartwatch in many people’s minds. Wildly popular for their unmatched app support and seamless iPhone integration, the brand’s wearables flood the ever-growing market. One way the company finds its way onto more wrists is with its economical lineup: the SE series. This line makes small sacrifices to offer shoppers a lower price point without watering down the overall experience. What’s more, it’s due for an upgrade this year. Here’s everything I hope to see arrive on the next affordable Apple Watch.

An optional always-on display

An Apple Watch SE 2 rests on a gold and blue surface with the screen off.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

A vibrant, colorful, square-shaped display is the calling card of Apple’s smartwatch lineup. This design consistency is one aspect of the SE line that makes it so attractive: compared to the Series lineup, most people can barely tell the difference. However, unlike their pricier siblings, the Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch SE 2 don’t boast an optional always-on mode to keep your watch face active. Instead, both remain decidedly dark until you raise your wrist.

I, like many, hoped to see this feature added to the 2022 model. Always-on mode is a foolproof way to enjoy my favorite photo-based watch faces. It’s also very useful during workouts and other activities when I want info at a glance (without mimicking 007 talking to his watch). The trade-off, of course, is that always-on mode is a major battery drain, but I’m hoping for improvements on that front as well.

More space on screen

An Apple Watch SE 2 user reviews their app library.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

While on the subject of screens, I’d also like to see the SE line finally get the size bump Apple brought to its displays, starting with the Series 7. Despite launching alongside the Series 8, the SE 2 landed with a 20% smaller display (27% smaller than the massive Ultra line). This meant less real estate for apps, menus, and graphics. It also meant the SE line didn’t gain access to Apple’s Qwerty keyboard, a useful feature for texting from the wrist.

Admittedly, I don’t notice the difference between the SE 2’s 40mm and 44mm cases and the Series 8‘s 41mm and 45mm cases. However, the SE’s bezels could certainly use a trimming, and that alone would add to the screen’s specs.

Blood oxygen monitoring

An Apple Watch SE 2 watch case rests face down displaying the device's sensors.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Asking for an SpO2 sensor on Apple’s budget lineup may sound like a doozy; after all, the advanced sensor is one of the few things separating this model from the company’s flagship series. However, much cheaper devices, including Fitbit’s Charge 6 and even Xiaomi’s cheapest fitness trackers, feature blood oxygen monitoring. In light of the prevalence of SpO2 sensors throughout the market, it feels like the time is ripe for the feature to become a staple of all Apple Watches.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t expect Apple to add ECG capabilities or a temperature sensor to the SE 3. Still considered niche health tools, these features keep the distance between Apple’s intentional price points. Not that I wouldn’t take them. Given the impact of temperature monitoring on women’s health tracking, it would be great to see the company make the tool accessible to shoppers of all budgets.

An S9 chipset (or newer)

An Apple Watch SE 2 user asks Siri to initiate a FaceTime Audio call.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The Apple Watch SE 2022 launched with a 20% faster processor than its predecessor, utilizing an S8 dual-core rather than the original SE’s older S5 chip. The chip’s impact is significant and appreciated. Yet, I’d love to see Apple take the SE line up a notch with an S9 chipset. This would make the device capable of Apple’s latest double-tap gesture control and future-proof the watch for other software additions.

If Apple launches an even newer processor (which I expect it will), I would love to have the SE 3 upgraded even further with that new chipset.

Better battery life

An Apple Watch SE 2 on its side, displays the Low Power Mode screen.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

I could easily copy and paste this same wishful paragraph from each pre-launch season of Apple Watches. In my heart of hearts, I know that someday, we will see an Apple Watch with multi-day battery life. I just wish that day would come sooner.

While the SE line does offer Low Power Mode, it doesn’t yet boast fast charging tech like that of the Series 7 and newer. I’d love to see this make its way to the SE 3, and I am dying for the entire stable to get better battery life overall.


Will there be an Apple Watch SE 3?

A variety of Apple Watches rest on a desk.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Even without official confirmation from Apple, it is very likely that we will see an Apple Watch SE 3 this year. The relatively more affordable option helps round out the smartwatch line, offering a cheaper alternative for basic users (and even kids). With the SE on one end and the Ultra line on the other, Apple’s stable provides an option for most shoppers.

  • Apple Watch SE — September 2020
  • Apple Watch SE (2022) — September 2022

As far back as July 2023, trusted leaker Mark Gurman posited that we wouldn’t be seeing a new SE alongside the Series 9, but rather, that the line will continue to follow its biannual launch cycle. This points to a new SE 3 in the fall of 2024. Most often, Apple’s fall event takes place in September, so that’s when I expect to see the SE 3 unveiled. Based on other claims circulating the Apple rumor mill, the device could arrive alongside Apple’s anniversary model, the Apple Watch X.

As always, I’ll keep this hub updated as we learn more about the potential launch.

Should you wait for the Apple Watch SE 3?

An Apple Watch SE 2 user restores their data from backup.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Whether or not you should wait for the Apple Watch SE 3 depends on what you already have strapped to your wrist. If the answer is nothing, I don’t necessarily recommend waiting almost a year to buy a wearable. The Apple Watch SE 2 ($189 at Amazon) is a fantastic entry point to Apple watchOS experience and its likely to enjoy software support for some time. If you already own the original SE (on the product’s website), it’s probably worth waiting for the SE 3 rather than flipping for an SE 2 at this point. Thanks to the rollback of watchOS software, the SE is still a fantastic device.

On the other hand, Apple Watches aren’t compatible with Android phones, so if you don’t have an iPhone in your pocket, waiting for the SE 3 doesn’t make any sense. A better option might be the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 ($299.99 at Samsung) or Pixel Watch 2 ($349.99 at Amazon), both of which run on the Wear OS platform. Finally, the Garmin Venu  SQ 2 ($249.99 at Amazon) is a budget-friendly smartwatch compatible with both iPhones and Android phones. It doesn’t offer as robust a smartwatch feature set, but its a great pick for fitness-focused shoppers. See our dedicated guide for a full breakdown of the major differences between the Garmin vs Apple ecosystems.