Which To Choose? Apple Watch Series 6 Or Apple Watch SE?

Apple came out with two new Apple Watches last week. The brand new Apple Watch Series 6, and the lower cost Apple Watch SE. And after my review of the Apple Watch 6, I got a number of questions about which one of these two watches that one should choose. And why did I pick the Apple Watch Series 6 over the Apple Watch SE. Hopefully, this story will answer both questions.

In terms of the differences between the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE, here’s the key differences:

Apple Watch Series 6Apple Watch SE
ProcessorS6 S5
Blood Oxygen SensorYesNo
Always-on altimeterYesYes
CompassYesYes
International SOSYesYes
ECGYesNo
Supports Family SetupYesYes
Always On DisplayYesNo
Fall Detection YesYes
Cellular ConnectivityLTE + UMTS LTE + UMTS
WiFi802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.0
Case Materials Aluminum, Stainless Steel, TitaniumAluminum
Display MaterialsAluminum models have Ion-X
glass displays. Stainless steel
and titanium models have
sapphire crystal displays.
Ion-X glass display.

So you can see that if you buy the Apple Watch SE, you give up the always on display, the ECG and blood oxygen sensors. You also give up WiFi on the 5GHz band and some of the fancy case and display materials. You also get the processor that was in the Series 5 (and Series 4 for that matter as there was no speed difference between the two) which is about 20% slower than the S6 processor. But in the grand scheme of things, the Apple Watch SE on the surface still seems to be a tremendous value as you get most of the Apple Watch experience at a lower price point. But that depends on your use case. Which is why I’ll get into the weeds now.

In my opinion, the Apple Watch SE is aimed at the following people:

  • Kids who’s parents want to give them an Apple Watch to keep in touch and keep tabs on them as they can be set up via Family Setup as long as you have a cellular model. One thing to keep in mind that the cellular model of the Apple Watch SE is cheaper than the iPhone SE and plans for the Apple Watch are far cheaper than iPhone plans.
  • A senior who’s kids want to keep tabs on them and leverage features like Fall Detection as they can be set up via Family Setup as long as you have a cellular model. One thing to keep in mind that the cellular model of the Apple Watch SE is cheaper than the iPhone SE and plans for the Apple Watch are far cheaper than iPhone plans.
  • Someone who wants the basic Apple Watch experience. Meaning that they aren’t going to be using it for marathons or anything that can be considered to be high levels of fitness tracking. Nor do they care about having the fancy case materials or the always on display.

The last point is a key one. The Apple Watch SE has two issues when it comes to fitness. This was uncovered by DC Rainmaker who is well known YouTuber who reviews fitness technology in high amount of detail. Specifically by directly comparing devices with each other and taking a deep dive into the data they generate.

The first issue is the heart rate monitor. Apple claims that the heart rate monitor is a 2nd generation optical HR sensor. Except that’s not true. Apple has had three generations of heart rate monitors. From DC Rainmaker’s review of the Apple Watch SE:

Apple Watch 1/2/3: This is a 2xLED, and 2xPhotodiode arrangement
Apple Watch 4/5/SE: This is a center LED (which technically has 4xLED’s in it), 8xPhotodiode arrangement
Apple Watch 6: This is a 4x LED (with each LED also having two colors in it, green for HR, red for SpO2), 4xPhotodiode

And this according to him shows up in his tests of the heart rate monitor of the Apple Watch SE:

Starting with the heart rate. This run was mostly evenly paced, but I threw in some solid sprints to check out responsiveness, and unfortunately, the SE failed on one of them – spiking the heart rate considerably higher than my viable max HR (and certainly higher than my effort) – nearly 190BPM:

This was something that he could not replicate with the Apple Watch Series 6. Which means that if you want absolutely accurate heart rate measurements, you want the Apple Watch Series 6.

When it comes to GPS tracking, the Apple Watch historically has had issues with mapping corners. Let me have DC Rainmaker explain:

It’s GPS that’s where the problems are. And in some ways, it’s easiest to just show Apple’s own app here, because it so easily makes things clear. With the Apple Watch Series 6, gone was what I’d dubbed ‘Mario Karting’ (or ‘Whooshing’) around the corners, where basically it ignores the laws of physics for GPS track beauty. It’d cut many corners, even when water/bridges/buildings/trees/rocks/statutes/angry geese, and others were involved. It’s been a stable of Apple Watch GPS tracks since the beginning, but the Series 6 unquestionably got rid of it. The SE though? Oh, it’s still here in force. 

That means if you want accurate tracking of your runs for example, you won’t get it with the Apple Watch SE unless you run in straight lines. Which nobody does. But you will get it with the Apple Watch Series 6. In short, people who are serious about fitness should be looking at the Apple Watch Series 6. And that’s the prime reason why I went with the Apple Watch Series 6.

Now neither of these issues are fatal. But they will impact your fitness experience if you care about having accurate data. Or if you would use your Apple Watch for fitness purposes at all as some users of the Apple Watch don’t do that. And that’s not to say the Apple Watch SE is a bad device. It isn’t. But it’s pretty clear that Apple when they came up with the Apple Watch SE made come compromises to hit a price point. Something that they didn’t do with the Apple Watch Series 6. So when choosing one over the other, you need to keep that in mind so that you choose the right Apple Watch for you.

I hope this story helps you to make the right choice. If you still need help, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: