The Apple Watch SE was launched in 2020 as a lower-cost alternative to the premium Apple Watch Series 6. However, in 2022 and heading into 2023, there are compelling reasons why buyers should pass on the Apple Watch SE.
While it seems attractively priced on the surface, a deeper look reveals meaningful compromises and limitations compared to both higher-end Apple Watches and rival smartwatches available now.
Below we will explore 6 key disadvantages and downsides of choosing an Apple Watch SE in 2022/2023 to help you make the best, informed buying decision.
1. Very Limited Health and Wellness Sensors
One of the major appeals of the Apple Watch line is the advanced health monitoring and fitness tracking capabilities. Apple has consistently touted these features in their marketing as key differentiators.
Higher end models like the Apple Watch Series 7 and ultra-premium Watch Ultra include cutting edge sensors to monitor key health metrics and provide actionable insights:
Blood Oxygen app – Measures your blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) on demand or while you sleep
ECG app – Takes an electrocardiogram to check for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib)
Temperature sensors – Passively track temperature variations to detect early signs of illness or other changes
This focus on in-depth health analytics is missing from the Apple Watch SE. It only monitors basic metrics like heart rate during workouts. There are no advanced health sensors included beyond very rudimentary fitness tracking capabilities.
For buyers motivated by health tech and wanting a comprehensive picture of their wellness, this is a major shortcoming. Competing smartwatches in the same price bracket often include the advanced sensors the Apple Watch SE lacks.
For example, the Fitbit Sense provides blood oxygen monitoring, ECG readings, skin temperature tracking, stress management features and more – all for around $200. Even the new Google Pixel Watch includes an ECG app and blood oxygen monitoring for $349.
According to industry analysts, demand for advanced health monitoring in wearables is surging. In a 2022 survey by The Insight Partners, 67% of smartwatch owners wanted ECG capabilities and 45% desired blood oxygen monitoring.
As buyers become more educated on health tracking metrics, the absence of these key sensors significantly reduces the appeal of the Apple Watch SE for many.
2. No Always-On Display
One of the most frequent complaints from Apple Watch SE owners is the lack of an always-on display. Unlike the Series 5 and later high-end models, the Apple Watch SE screen does not stay on continuously.
Instead, you have to deliberately move your wrist in an exaggerated motion to temporarily wake up the display just to view basic information. This becomes highly annoying and inconvenient when you simply want to quickly glance at the time, date, or notifications.
Raising your arm to check your watch should feel natural, not like a choreographed movement. But that‘s the awkward user experience imposed by the lack of an always-on display.
Many owners vent online about how irritating this limitation is after the novelty of the Apple Watch SE wears off. Always-on display technology has become standard across most smartwatches today. Users expect to just look at their wrist at any time and immediately see the screen without any required gesture.
For example, the similarly priced Fitbit Versa 4 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 both offer always-on displays that are bright and responsive. The fact that you have to deliberately wake the Apple Watch SE display really makes it feel dated and inferior for everyday use.
According to 2022 research by Parks Associates, over 50% of smartwatch owners utilize always-on display and report high satisfaction with the technology. It has become a must-have capability that the Apple Watch SE lacks.
3. Extremely Small Screen Size
A key consideration for any smartwatch purchase is the actual viewable screen area and quality. Smaller wrist-worn devices often compromise on display size due to limited surface area.
Unfortunately, the Apple Watch SE display is noticeably cramped and tiny in real world use. The larger 44mm model maxes out at just 1.78" diagonally with a mediocre resolution of 368 x 448 pixels.
Compared to smartwatches like the 49mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro with its expansive 1.4” display, the SE screen feels like peering through a peephole. There just isn‘t enough screen real estate to comfortably view content like fitness metrics, maps, photos, and notifications.
The always-on limitation discussed earlier makes the small screen on the SE seem even more inadequate. Glancing at a tiny display that‘s also usually turned off just compounds the frustrations.
The 40mm Apple Watch SE variant is even more compromised with a diminutive 1.57” display. While portable on smaller wrists, the viewing experience is poor.
Those accustomed to larger smartwatch displays will likely be very disappointed by the minimal usable area on the Apple Watch SE once they start interacting with it daily.
For example, competitive models like the Fossil Gen 6 offers compelling 45mm+ options starting around just $220. Compared to the immersive viewing experience on larger screens, the SE display falls short.
4. Very Short Battery Life
Apple marketing claims the Watch SE provides up to 18 hours of battery life, but many owners report it lasting only 10-12 hours with regular usage before needing a recharge.
Most modern smartwatches now offer 24+ hours of runtime on a single charge, with premium models boasting 4-5 days or even a week before charging is required.
Being able to continuously track health metrics 24/7 both awake and asleep and use apps without worrying about battery is now the norm. With the Apple Watch SE, you miss out on overnight health tracking features unless you want the hassle of charging twice per day.
The SE also lacks fast charging capabilities that are commonplace on rivals like the Samsung Galaxy Watch series. It takes 1.5 hours to charge the SE to 80% and a sluggish 2.5 hours to fully replenish the battery from empty.
That‘s a great deal of downtime you must set aside daily just to keep the Apple Watch SE powered on. The short battery life combined with slow recharge times makes it challenging to use the SE as an always-on health companion.
5. Limited Standalone Functionality
While the Apple Watch SE can perform some basic functions untethered from an iPhone, you still require an iPhone to fully set up the watch initially and access all of its features.
The SE is designed primarily as an accessory to Apple‘s smartphones rather than a standalone smartwatch. This tight ecosystem integration provides benefits for those invested in the Apple device universe already.
However, it severely limits the versatility and broader appeal of the SE for both Android users and even multi-device Apple households.
For example, you can‘t use the Apple Watch SE fully without having your own iPhone on hand to pair it with. Android owners can‘t readily access useful capabilities like notifications and fitness tracking without switching to an iPhone.
Many competitor smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Watch series work seamlessly across both Android and iOS environments.
The Apple Watch SE‘s heavy dependency on a paired iPhone for optimal functionality is a critical limitation to understand if you ever expect to use your smartwatch without your phone nearby.
6. High Cost With Limited Value
The Apple Watch SE starts at $249 for the most basic 40mm GPS model. The 44mm size bumps the price up to $279. While not wildly expensive compared to premium-tier Apple Watches, you can find similar or better smartwatches for under $200.
For example, the popular Amazfit GTS 4 mini with advanced health tracking offers comparable quality and battery life to the SE for around $150. Huawei‘s new Band 7 Pro packs a beautiful AMOLED display and GPS for just $100.
Unless you are already deeply entrenched in Apple‘s wearable ecosystem, the value proposition of the SE is questionable for what you actually get. The ~$250-$300 pricing places it in an awkward middle ground tier.
For $100 more, you could upgrade to the latest Apple Watch Series 8 with enhanced durability, crash detection and temperature sensors. Alternately, you can spend $100-$150 less for a competitive smartwatch likely better suited for your specific needs.
The SE made sense in 2020 when it offered stripped down Apple Watch functionality at a significant discount to premium models. But in late 2022 with better alternatives abounding, the SE ends up as an unappealing ‘tweener option.
Key Advantages of Apple Watch Alternatives
Here are some core areas where rival smartwatches tend to excel compared to the Apple Watch SE:
More advanced health sensors – Blood oxygen, ECG, skin temperature and more
Larger, always-on displays – Brighter screens that are viewable at all times
Multi-day battery life – Last up to a week between charges
Cross-platform compatibility – Work with both iOS and Android devices
More affordable pricing – Better specs and features for $100-$150 less
Standalone functionality – Robust capabilities without a paired smartphone nearby
Apple Watch SE versus Select Alternatives
|Screen Size||Always-On Display||Battery Life||Price|
|Apple Watch SE||1.57"-1.78"||No||12-18 hrs||$249-$279|
|Galaxy Watch 5||1.2"-1.4"||Yes||24-50 hrs||$229+|
|Fitbit Sense 2||1.58"||Yes||6 days||$229-$249|
|Amazfit GTS 4 Mini||1.65"||No||15 days||$119|
Top Apple Watch SE Alternatives in 2022/2023
Here are some of the best smartwatches to consider as alternatives to the Apple Watch SE this year based on tech analyst and buyer reviews:
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 & 5 Pro
The Galaxy Watch 5 series are the best selling Android smartwatches currently. They achieve up to 50 hours of battery life and include advanced health sensors like ECG, blood oxygen, sleep tracking and body composition analysis.
Pricing starts at just $229 for the 40mm standard model. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro steps up to premium-tier features for $449.
Fitbit Sense 2
With all-day battery life up to 6 days, the feature-packed Fitbit Sense 2 tracks stress, sleep quality, heart health and more for $229-$249. It also has a brighter always-on OLED display.
Amazfit GTS 4 Mini
Available for just $119, the slim and stylish Amazfit GTS 4 Mini matches or exceeds the Apple Watch SE in core features and performance at less than half the price.
Garmin Venu Sq 2
Garmin‘s fitness-focused Venu Sq 2 costs only $199 but delivers an elegant always-on display, advanced sleep tracking, 11-day battery life, 25+ preloaded sports apps and in-depth health analytics. It‘s a fitness lover‘s dream at the SE‘s price.
Should You Buy an Apple Watch SE in 2022/2023?
In 2020, the Apple Watch SE made sense for budget-minded buyers who wanted basic Apple Watch functionality without paying premium prices. However, in 2022 the value proposition is less clear.
Given the availability of more affordable alternatives that match or surpass the SE‘s capabilities, it‘s hard to recommend for most buyers today. The competing watches highlighted above deliver excellent crossover functionality for both iPhone and Android users.
Unless you have your heart set on an Apple Watch specifically for the brand experience, ecosystem integration and style, look to other 2022/2023 models. You can get more advanced health sensors, larger always-on displays, longer battery life and often save $100 or more.
The SE serves a purpose as an entry-level Apple Watch option for iOS devotees. But its limitations compared to both higher-end Apple Watches and similarly priced competitors are too significant to ignore. For most buyers, the SE makes less sense in 2022 versus more specialized alternatives better suited to their needs.