Apple Watch SE (2022) review: Pocketable and pocket-friendly | The Financial Express

Apple Watch SE (2022) review: Pocketable and pocket-friendly

But there’s a catch.

Apple Watch SE (2022) review: Pocketable and pocket-friendly
Watch SE price in India starts at Rs 29,900. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The idea behind an Apple Watch SE is pretty much the same as the iPhone SE. It’s – supposed to be— pocketable and pocket-friendly. The 2022 version is coming after a while (the first-gen model was launched in 2020) but the idea remains the same. The Apple Watch SE 2022 is every bit as pocketable and pocket-friendly as the original, giving first-timers a great entry option to get started with the Apple Watch.

Also Read | Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro review: The best Android smartwatches you can buy in India today

The Watch SE price in India starts at Rs 29,900 for the 40mm variant with GPS. You can get the same variant with cellular connectivity, too, for Rs 33,900. The 44mm Watch SE with GPS is priced at Rs 32,900 while its cellular model will set you back by Rs 36,900. The Watch Series 8, for context, starts at Rs 45,900 and can go up to Rs 79,900 depending on size and material of the casing which is to say that there’s a considerable price difference with the SE. That’s the Watch SE’s trump card, the main sales pitch if you will.

The chunky bezels don’t add up. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Despite the lower pricing, the Watch SE packs some of the same hardware as the Series 8. It has the same core silicon, for instance. This is the dual-core S8 system in a package (SiP). (The Apple Watch Ultra is also based on the same hardware.) It gets the same high g-force accelerometer and high dynamic range gyro (and a bunch of other sensors) to enable “crash detection”— this year’s big-ticket Apple feature also found on the Series 8 and Watch Ultra. (Heads-up, we couldn’t test it and we hope you’ll never need it.) There are other similarities, too, such as the redesigned compass app with Waypoints and Backtrack. Apple’s new low power mode is also available on its most affordable smartwatch.

The only hardware it’s missing is the new temperature, EKG, and blood oxygen (SpO2) sensors. There is no always-on display, either.

Watch SE packs some of the same hardware as the Series 8. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The underlying design is same as before, though there are a few changes. The SE has a nylon composite back. This matches the colour of the case— this is made of aluminium. You won’t always see it, obviously, but the material has a few other benefits. Apple says it helps keep the SE lightweight and you can take its word for it. The Watch SE is very, very light. Especially the 40mm model. Not only is it much lighter than the Watch Ultra, it is also about 5-15g lighter than the Series 8 (41mm) depending on the case material you choose. It goes without saying that you can wear the SE for hours at a stretch and not be bothered by its size or heft.   

The display is same as the first SE. It’s as sharp and contrast-rich. It gets plenty bright, too, with excellent outdoor legibility. But the chunky bezels don’t add up. This makes the actual viewing area smaller (Apple itself claims the Series 8’s screen offers up to 20 percent more real-estate) so reading and interacting with text isn’t always the most ideal. Depending on use-case – and your eyesight— this could be okay, or it could be a major deal-breaker also.

There is no always-on display. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Where the SE remains uncontested, hands-down, is in feature-set and ease of use. It’s a typical Apple product to put it bluntly and a no-brainer for budget-conscious iPhone users. First-timers are definitely a big target demographic but Apple also looks to attract both the young and the old with these watches. Power users, not so much. For the intended group, the Watch SE punches above its weight-class.

There is built-in GPS which, except for some minor hiccups here and there in a city setup, is reliable mostly. Step tracking is fairly accurate and you can also do this while climbing because there’s an altimetre inside, something that’s missing on an equivalent Garmin Venu Sq 2. The optical heart sensor is very reliable with monitoring heart rate while also sending you alerts as and when it detects abnormal activity. The SE can track sleep and give you some granular insight into your sleep stages and it can also do cycle tracking for women.

The SE has a nylon composite back. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Watch SE isn’t compromising on core smartwatch essentials either. You will be able to receive notifications on it and send responses in some capacity depending on the app. You can receive phone calls, too, straight from the watch itself with the built-in mic and speaker. There is support for offline music playback also (you get 32GB of storage by default).

Also Read | Garmin Venu Sq 2 review: Watch out, Apple and Samsung

Apple quotes the same “up to 18-hour” battery life on the SE as the Series 8 and it can live up to that claim more convincingly than its pricier sibling given that its display is not as power-hungry or the fact that it doesn’t have as many sensors either. It’s a respectable figure not too far off from a Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 but you do get longer battery life from a Garmin or any of the gazillion smartwatches/smartbands, say for instance from Amazfit.

Apple Watch SE (2022) | Should you buy it?

Truth be told, there’s never been a better time to buy an Apple Watch. Not only has the underlying tech matured enough, there’s a brand-new option for literally everyone in the market today. First-timers have the Apple Watch SE 2022, or they can look at the Series 8 if they want a bit of extra bells and whistles even as the Apple Watch Ultra is geared at someone into extreme sports and endurance training, representing the pinnacle of Apple’s might and magic, at the time of writing.

The underlying design is same as before. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

But there’s a flip side to that as well. Back when Apple launched the first SE, it was an obvious choice for anybody looking to get started with the Apple Watch because there weren’t many options that could offer the same level of simplicity and affordability. Cut to 2022 and the SE finds itself smack in the middle of competition from last years’ models, the Series 6 and 7, that are more premium watches in every sense and often selling at discounted rates. This makes picking up the SE a bit more complicated especially when either of these watches are available round-about the same price. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But as good as the Watch SE is, it no longer feels like the game-changer that Apple set out to make with the first model.

Pros Cons
Premium, light-weight design No always-on display and thick bezels
Sharp display No SpO2 tracking
Accurate heart rate and step tracking
Speaker and mic, excellent haptics
Good battery life overall
Fast performance, long-term software support

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First published on: 07-11-2022 at 20:16 IST