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Apple Watch Series 6 vs SE: Which device is the right fit for you?

Find out if the Series 6 is worth the bump in price.
By
February 20, 2022
A user displays the time on his Apple Watch Series 6 highlighting the device's always on display on wrist.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

We’ve said it before: Apple Watches are hard to beat. The Apple Watch Series 6 is one of the best smartwatches for anyone who wants a great all-around experience and can afford to pay for it. The Apple Watch SE offers an overall excellent experience for anyone on a budget. If you are already invested in the Apple ecosystem, either device is an especially good investment. Plus, with the launch of the Apple Watch Series 7, you can likely find both of these devices on sale.

So how do you choose? We’re here to help with this Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch SE comparison. Read what these two devices have in common and what sets them apart.

Our verdict: Apple Watch SEApple Watch Series 6 review

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch SE

The specs

Apple Watch SEApple Watch Series 6
Display
Apple Watch SE
LTPO OLED Retina
368 x 448 pixels


Apple Watch Series 6
LTPO OLED Retina
368 x 448 pixels
Always-on display
Dimensions and weight
Apple Watch SE
44mm:
44 x 38 x 10.7mm
GPS: 36.2g
GPS+Cellular: 36.36g

40mm:
40 x 34 x 10.7mm
GPS: 30.49g
GPS+Cellular: 30.68g


Apple Watch Series 6
44mm:
44 x 38 x 10.7mm
Aluminum: 36.5g
Stainless steel: 47.1g
Titanium: 41.3g

40mm:
40 x 34 x 10.7mm
Aluminum: 30.5g
Stainless steel: 39.7g
Titanium: 34.6g
Durability
Apple Watch SE
WR50

Apple Watch Series 6
WR50

SoC
Apple Watch SE
Apple S5 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Apple W3
Apple Watch Series 6
Apple S6 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Apple W3
Apple U1
RAM
Apple Watch SE
1GB
Apple Watch Series 6
1GB
Storage
Apple Watch SE
32GB
Apple Watch Series 6
32GB
Battery
Apple Watch SE
18 hours

USB-C magnetic fast charging cable
Apple Watch Series 6
18 hours

USB-C magnetic fast charging cable
Software
Apple Watch SE
WatchOS 8.1
Apple Watch Series 6
WatchOS 8.1
Case materials and colors
Apple Watch SE
Aluminum

Space Gray, Silver, Gold
Apple Watch Series 6
Aluminum, stainless steel, titanium

Aluminum: Silver, Space Gray, Gold, Blue, Product Red

Stainless steel: Silver, Graphite, Gold

Titanium: Titanium, Space Black
Connectivity
Apple Watch SE
GPS
GLONASS
Galileo
QZSS
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz
Bluetooth 5.0

Model A2353 (40mm)
Model A2354 (44mm)
LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 39, 40, 41, 66
Apple Watch Series 6
GPS/GNSS
GLONASS
Galileo
QZSS
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Bluetooth 5.0

Model A2293 (40mm)
Model A2294 (44mm)
LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 39, 40, 41, 66
Sensors
Apple Watch SE
Always-on altimeter
Second-generation optical heart sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
Apple Watch Series 6
Always-on altimeter
Third-generation optical heart sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
Blood oxygen sensor
ECG
Compatibility
Apple Watch SE
iOS 14 or later
Apple Watch Series 6
iOS 14 or later

The features

An Apple Watch SE in Space Gray with a a red band rests on a white table.
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The Apple Watch SE and Series 6 are very similar when it comes to design. The only differences are case materials and available colorways. Users can find the SE in aluminum only, while the Series 6 comes in aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium. Additionally, if you opt for a higher-end Series 6, you can also upgrade your device with sapphire glass. The Apple Watch SE is limited to Ion-X Glass, which is more susceptible to scratches.

Color-wise, the Series 6 comes in Silver, Space Gray, Gold, Blue, and Red, but you will only find the SE in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. Luckily, both devices feature interchangeable bands, so there are still plenty of opportunities to add color to either pick.

Keep reading: The best Apple Watch bands you can buy

As far as display, only the Series 6 offers always-on functionality. The SE, meanwhile, will turn on whenever you raise your wrist. Both have 32GB of internal storage and house internal microphones and speakers. The Series 6 uses a newer system on a chip than the SE that Apple claims is up to 20% faster than its predecessor. Meanwhile, the SE sticks with the same specs as the Series 5. We found no complaints about the SE in terms of speedy performance, but it is a differentiating data point.

Above all, the major health and fitness features to consider when comparing the Apple Watch SE vs the Apple Watch Series 6 are sensors. Certainly, blood oxygen monitoring and electrocardiogram sensors are absent from the SE model, so if these are deal-breakers, you’ll need to upgrade to the Series 6. That being said, the Apple Watch SE does still offer all-day heart rate monitoring. Like the Series 6, it can tell you if you have a heart rate that is abnormally high or low, and both devices will also notify you if they detect irregular heart rates. The Series 6 uses an upgraded sensor, so it’s the leader if you want the best in terms of accuracy.

An Apple Watch Series 6 user reviews his average time in bed and average time asleep in the Apple Health app on his paired phone.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

After hours, differences in sleep tracking are also worth considering. We tend to find sleep tracking on Apple Watches basic at best, especially compared to companies like Fitbit. However, if you choose the Series 6, you can use the SpO2 sensor to track your blood oxygen while you snooze. Unfortunately, it’s not a clinically validated sensor, so it can’t alert you to any potential signs of sleep apnea. Conversely, the Apple Watch SE doesn’t have this sensor and therefore cannot offer SpO2 monitoring.

As for fitness tracking, both devices automatically track a variety of workouts and can manually track many others. Likewise, either one tracks your steps, resting and active heart rate, active and resting energy burn, standing minutes, distance, floors climbed, and more.

A user with a Space Gray Apple Watch Series 6 on his on wrist displays Siri voice assistant.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Overall, the Apple Watch SE doesn’t make any real sacrifices in smartwatch features compared to the Series 6. they have the same library of watch faces, and both allow users to share faces with friends. Both let you access an unmatched app library, get assistance from Siri, make purchases with Apple Pay, control smart home devices, and much more. Additionally, unlike Wear OS‘ software fragmentation, Apple’s watchOS 8.1 powers both the Series 6 and SE.

Finally, Family Setup is also available on both models, allowing you to set up an Apple Watch for your kids if they don’t have an iPhone.

Don’t miss: The best smartwatches for kids

The price

It’s hard not to get excited about the price tag of the Apple Watch SE. Starting at $279, it falls right between the $199 Series 3 and the Series 6, starting at $399. In other words, for just $80 more than the cost of a Series 3, users cash in on an improved processor and better display. Likewise, by ditching a few sensors, they can save over $100. Our review calls it the “Goldilocks option” because it hits the perfect balance of price and features.

Apple Watch Series 6 press image
Apple Watch Series 6
Last-gen Apple Watch at a fair price
The Apple Watch Series 6 adds a pulse oximeter, a brighter always-on display, and two new colors. This was Apple's highest-end smartwatch in 2020 and may be a solid alternative to the pricier Series 7.

The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399 for the 40mm Bluetooth-only model and $499 for the LTE model. With the release of the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple is no longer selling this model directly, but you can still find one from retailers such as Amazon. Importantly, we think the Series 6 stands up to the Series 7, with many of the same specs and features, if you can find it on sale. In fact, we even suggest choosing the Series 6 over the Series 7 if you can find it on sale.

apple watch se alumium
Apple Watch SE (40mm, GPS)
The Apple Watch most people should buy
The Apple Watch SE is affordable and has a solid feature set, making it the right Apple Watch for most people.

Most importantly, both the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE are priced competitively for what they offer. That is to say, with excellent app support, a stylish design, and plenty of fitness, health, and sleep tracking features, their value is hard to argue.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs SE: Which should you buy?

An Apple Watch Series 6 rests on stone displaying a standard analog watch face
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

We consistently rank the latest Apple Watch as the best smartwatch you can buy. Consequently, when it comes to the Apple Watch Series 6 vs SE, it’s almost a win-win situation.

With its competitive price point, the SE is the device most shoppers should buy. It’s the lower tier of Apple Watch, so you will undoubtedly be making a few trade-offs. However, it’s a very capable smartphone companion offering most of the features people actually want. For example, blood oxygen monitoring is a hot-ticket item in wearables, but it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for the average user.

With its competitive price point, the Apple Watch SE is the smartwatch most shoppers should buy.

The Series 6 is the right pick for anyone with the extra cash to spare. It’s a little pricey, but if you can’t live without its premium features, it’s not a mistake to buy. Plus, you can likely find it on sale now that it’s not the latest in the lineup.

The Series 6 is especially helpful for anyone with a medical history of heart conditions or users specifically interested in advanced health monitoring. It isn’t quite on par with some of the top fitness-focused devices like those of the Garmin lineup, but if you want the overall top smartwatch, there isn’t much better out there.

In short, you can’t go wrong with either of these devices. The Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE are both excellent purchases. Moreover, if you want the biggest display possible, the Series 7 isn’t a bad buy either.

Read next: How to update your Apple Watch

Which Apple Watch are you considering?

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