The Big Differences Between Apple Watch Series 8 And Apple Watch SE 2 Explained

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The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE 2 have a lot in common, but there are a few key differences that may entice you to pick one over the other. Both models were announced at the company's Far Out event on September 7, 2022, with an availability date of September 16. As had been rumored, there's a new rugged Ultra model that packs features for outdoorsy consumers that arrived alongside the typical updates to the regular Apple Watch model and the more affordable SE variant.

The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE 2 are compatible with the same charging stands as the previous generation and existing watch bands as long as they are the right sizes. With that said, there are some big differences between the two models, including the absence of some key health-related features. Compared to their predecessors, both the Series 8 and SE 2 are relatively minor upgrades. You'll likely find little reason to upgrade if you have last year's Apple Watch Series 7 or first-generation SE, though some of the new features are difficult to resist.

The biggest differences detailed

Similar to the first-generation model, the Apple Watch SE 2 is still missing the always-on display found on the Apple Watch Series 5 and later. The always-on display lets you view the Apple Watch's screen without having to raise your wrist or tap on the display, meaning you can discreetly view the time and any complications you have enabled. The feature also means that when you're playing music or are in the middle of a workout, you don't need to bend your wrist over to check the current song or your workout statistics.

You'll unfortunately also miss out on a handful of health features if you choose the cheaper wearable. The Apple Watch SE 2 is missing the ECG sensor, blood oxygen monitor, and the new temperature sensor found on the Series 8. The more affordable model also packs the second-generation optical heart sensor, whereas the Series 8 has been upgraded to the third-generation sensor. It's hard for us to say whether any of these features would be worth it for you because everyone's health situation is different, but if you're interested in Apple's wearable due to its health and fitness capabilities, you should probably choose the Series 8 model instead of the SE 2.

The Series 8 has a slightly larger screen coming in at 41mm and 45mm, while the SE 2 keeps the same 40mm and 44mm screen sizes found on the original SE and Apple Watch Series 4, 5, and 6. Both the Apple Watch Series 8 and SE 2 share the S8 system in package (SiP), but there are some hardware differences to note: the SE 2 model lacks the IP6X dust-resistant rating, lacks fast charging support, and uses a nylon composite material for the back case. As well, the SE 2 is available in fewer color options than the Series 8 model.

Both models share many features

There are a few new features that both the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE 2 pack compared to the previous generations. They both now feature the S8 SiP, which enables Crash Detection. This means that if (heaven forbid) you ever get into a car accident, the Apple Watch will be able to detect it. And similar to Fall Detection, which is available on Apple Watch Series 4 or later, the Series 8 will automatically call emergency services after a period of time if it notices you aren't responsive.

Likewise, both models support watchOS 9, which features improved sleep tracking, a new Medications app, more flexible workout modes, a new low-power mode that nets you up to 36 hours of battery, and for cellular users, international roaming. Apple says that the Series 8 and SE 2 both support cycle tracking, irregular heart rhythm alerts, feature a Retina display, support Family Setup on the GPS+cellular variants, pack an always-on altimeter, have water resistance to depths as low as around 164 feet, up to 1,000 nits brightness, and both have the Digital Crown with haptic feedback. 

The Apple Watch SE 2 starts at $249 and the Apple Watch Series 8 starts at $399 for the smaller 40mm and 41mm size options, respectively, in the GPS-only variant. The Series 8 GPS + Cellular model is more expensive at $499, while the SE 2 GPS + Cellular model is priced at $299. WatchOS 9 is available for Apple Watch Series 4 or later, so if neither the Series 8 nor the SE 2 sound all that interesting, you could stick with an older Apple Watch model and still enjoy some of the new software features.