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Apple Watch Series 8 vs Watch SE 2: Which should you buy?

Apple's new budget smartwatch gives the Series 8 a run for its money, provided you don't need a health monitor.
By
January 9, 2023
An Apple Watch Series 8 rests on a rock, displaying the lunar face.
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Apple Watch Ultra made headlines as the company’s latest, greatest, and priciest smartwatch to date. But not everyone has just shy of $1,000 to spend on a wearable. For buyers with tighter pockets and smaller wrists, the company announced the Series 8 and the new budget-orientated Apple Watch SE 2. But how do these two models stack up, what are their pros and cons, and which should you buy? We answer this and more in our Apple Watch Series 8 vs Watch SE 2 comparison below.

Design

Let’s start with the Apple Watch SE 2. It remains the most affordable Apple Watch in the lineup and borrows the case of the original Watch SE with a few improvements. Apple mentions the watch’s rear case now features a new nylon composite material, which saves some weight. Alternatively, the Series 8 comes in stainless steel or aluminum, with an array of body colors.

If you’re shopping for the smallest Apple Watch available, the Watch SE 2 is your pick. It’s available in 44mm and 40mm case sizes, while the Series 8 opts for 45mm and 41mm versions. However, the Watch SE 2’s smaller case does come with a few compromises. For one, it’s less durable and lacks the sapphire glass protection you’ll find on the Apple Watch Ultra and stainless steel Series 8 models. This shouldn’t be a huge concern, provided you kit your watch in a protective case. The Watch SE 2 also packs a less impressive OLED screen that lacks always-on capabilities and features a lower resolution.

In terms of aesthetics, the Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch SE 2 are tough to tell apart. Both miss out on the Ultra’s Action Button, but they feature the digital crown and power pusher on their right-hand side flanks.

Overall, both Apple Watch models retain that classic shape. And thanks to their minute differences, it’ll be pretty tricky for anyone to spot if you own the cheaper option should you opt for the SE 2.

Features

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

The similarities between the Apple Watch SE 2 and Series 8 extend surprisingly deep.

Apple uses its latest S8 chipset in both models, so there’s no processing speed disparity between the two devices. This is excellent news for SE shoppers who simply want a watch to run their favorite apps on their wrists without any speed compromises. Both models also pack a quoted 18 hours of battery life per charge, with low-power mode extending that by 18 hours. If you want an Apple Watch that lasts a little longer, consider grabbing the Ultra model. Unfortunately, the Series 8 enjoys faster charging speeds than the SE 2, going from dead to 80% in 45 minutes compared to the SE model’s 90 minutes. This little detail could prove important for those who charge their watches while in the shower or the morning prep.

Let’s talk about health features. The Apple Watch’s strong suit is its array of sensors that keep tabs on various facets of your well-being. But there’s one model you’ll want to get if this is particularly important to you. The Apple Watch SE 2 and Series 8 feature basic fitness tracking equipment, including a heart rate sensor, sleep tracking smarts, the new crash detection feature, fall detection, and menstrual cycle tracking. However, the Apple Watch Series 8 is the more comprehensive health watch. It adds an ECG, an SpO2 sensor, and a new body temperature sensor that aids cycle tracking.

The Watch SE 2 also misses out on ultra-wideband support, a feature many may not need but comes in handy if you own an Apple AirTag.

Price and colors

An Apple Watch SE 2 displays the Activity Analog watch face.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
  • Apple Watch SE 2 (GPS): $249 / £259
  • Apple Watch SE 2 (LTE): $299 / £319
  • Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS): $399 / £419
  • Apple Watch Series 8 (LTE): $499 / £529
Apple Watch Series 8 (Wi-Fi)Apple Watch Series 8 (Wi-Fi)
Apple Watch Series 8 (Wi-Fi)
Excellent Retina display • Premium design and build • Advanced health tracking sensors
A very powerful device for anyone inside Apple's walled garden
The Apple Watch Series 8 with Wi-Fi connectivity features advanced fitness and health tracking tools, including a temperature sensor to monitor body variations and better insights into women's cycles. The device also features a thick front crystal over its display for improved durability. Additional highlights include Crash Detection, Low Power Mode, and extensive third-party app support.

The Apple Watch Series 8 will cost buyers at least $399, but this will fluctuate based on what finish, dial size, band, and connectivity options you choose. There’s an array of colors on offer, too, including Starlight, Midnight, Silver, and Product Red for the aluminum chassis, and Silver, Graphite, and Gold for the stainless steel option.

Apple Watch SE (2022)Apple Watch SE (2022)
Apple Watch SE (2022)
Great value • Handy Low Power Mode • Excellent processor and software
Apple's budget-friendly lineup packs all the tools the average user really needs
With unrivaled app support, detailed fitness tracking, and improved sleep monitoring, the SE 2022 is a great entry point into the Apple ecosystem. It trades a few advanced health sensor for a more affordable price tag, but still offers all the essential features most shoppers want.

Apple Watch SE 2 buyers get a lower price this time around. While the original Watch SE retailed for $279, the second edition starts at $249. Interestingly, this equals and undercuts its main rivals — the Garmin Venu Sq 2 ($249) and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 ($279). Colors on offer include Midnight, Starlight, and Silver.

Both watches went on sale on September 16, 2023.

See also: The best Apple Watch bands

Specs

Apple Watch SE 2Apple Watch Series 8
Display
Apple Watch SE 2
LTPO OLED Retina
368 x 448 pixels (44mm)

324 x 394 pixels (40mm)
Apple Watch Series 8
LTPO OLED Retina
396 x 484 pixels (45mm)

352 x 430 pixels (41 mm)
Always-on display
Dimensions and weight
Apple Watch SE 2
44mm:
44 x 38 x 10.7mm
33g

40mm:
40 x 34 x 10.7mm
26.4g

Apple Watch Series 8
45mm:
45 x 38 x 10.7mm
Aluminum: 38.8g
Stainless steel: 51.5g

41mm:
41 x 35 x 10.7mm
Aluminum: 32g
Stainless steel: 42.3g
Durability
Apple Watch SE 2
WR50
Apple Watch Series 8
WR50
IP6X-certified
SoC
Apple Watch SE 2
Apple S8 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Apple W3
Apple Watch Series 8
Apple S8 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Apple W3
Apple U1 chip (Ultra-wideband)
RAM
Apple Watch SE 2
1GB
Apple Watch Series 8
1GB
Storage
Apple Watch SE 2
32GB
Apple Watch Series 8
32GB
Battery
Apple Watch SE 2
18 hours
45 min to 80% charge

USB-C magnetic fast charging cable
Apple Watch Series 8
18 hours
45 min to 80% charge

USB-C magnetic fast charging cable
Software
Apple Watch SE 2
WatchOS 9
Apple Watch Series 8
WatchOS 9
Case materials and colors
Apple Watch SE 2
Aluminum
Midnight, Starlight, Silver

Apple Watch Series 8
GPS-only, GPS + Cellular
Aluminum: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, Product Red

GPS + Cellular
Stainless steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold
Connectivity
Apple Watch SE 2
GPS/GNSS
GLONASS
Galileo
QZSS
BeiDou
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Bluetooth 5.0

LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 39, 40, 41, 66
Apple Watch Series 8
GPS/GNSS
GLONASS
Galileo
QZSS
BeiDou
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Bluetooth 5.0

Model A2475 (41mm)
Model A2477 (45mm)
LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 39, 40, 41, 66
Sensors
Apple Watch SE 2
Always-on altimeter
Third-generation optical heart sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
Apple Watch Series 8
Always-on altimeter
Blood oxygen sensor
ECG
Third-generation optical heart sensor
Temperature sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
Compatibility
Apple Watch SE 2
iOS 15 or later
Apple Watch Series 8
iOS 15 or later

Apple Watch Series 8 vs Watch SE 2: Which should you buy?

apple watch series 8 compass
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Apple Watch SE 2 is a compelling device for first-timers to the Apple ecosystem. It matches its pricier sibling’s processing speed and battery longevity without demanding a higher investment. But for $249, you should expect some compromises. Apple keeps the SE’s price down by dropping the ECG, body temperature sensor, and SpO2 monitor from its toolkit. This makes it a better option for those on a budget but a less useful tool for tracking health.

The Series 8 is the better health watch, but the Watch SE 2 does just fine as an entry-level wearable

The Apple Watch Series 8 is the obvious choice if you want to keep abreast of your heart health, track your menstrual cycle a little more closely, or want a larger, more durable wearable. That said, these features come at a $150 premium.

See also: The best Apple Watch alternatives


Are you picking up the Apple Watch SE 2 or Series 8? Let us know in the poll below.

Which affordable Apple Watch model is the better deal?

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