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Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: all the big differences


An Apple Watch SE 2 next to an Apple Watch Series 9.
Digital Trends

Apple introduced two new wearables in its latest lineup, the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which join the second-generation Apple Watch SE launched in the fall of 2022.

If you’re wondering what sets the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE apart from each other, you’ve come to the right place. Although they look similar and share many features, they differ in very important ways.

Let’s break it down.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: specs

Apple Watch SE (2nd generation) Apple Watch Series 9
Materials Aluminum Aluminum

Stainless Steel

Sizes 40mm

44mm

41mm

45mm

Colors Midnight, Starlight, Silver Aluminum:

Midnight, Starlight, Silver,
Product Red, Pink

Stainless Steel:

Gold, Silver, Graphite

Display

1,000 nits peak brightness

Always-on Retina LTPO OLED

2,000 nits peak brightness,

1 nit lowlight

Processor S8 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor S9 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor
Double Tap gesture No Yes
Siri Wi-Fi or cellular only On-device
Sensors Second-generation optical heart sensor Temperature sensor, blood oxygen sensor, electrical heart sensor, and third-generation optical heart sensor
Battery life 18 hours 18 hours

36 hours in Low Power mode

Fast charging No Yes
Ultra Wideband No Second-generation Ultra Wideband chip with Precision Finding for iPhone 15

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: design

The Double Tap symbol on the Apple Watch Series 9
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Starting with the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple changed the case sizes for its flagship Apple Watches. As a result, the Apple Watch Series 9 is available in two sizes: 41mm and 45mm.

The Apple Watch SE 2 on a mans wrist.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

On the other hand, the second-generation Apple Watch SE sticks to the previous sizes of 40mm and 44mm. These differences in size are subtle and can only be noticed when the watches are placed side by side. However, a larger case size means a slightly better display, which is noticeable

The Apple Watch Series 9 is available in aluminum and stainless steel. The aluminum version comes in five colors (Midnight, Starlight, Silver, Product Red, and Pink) while the stainless steel version is offered in three colors (Graphite, Silver, and Gold). The current Apple Watch SE is only available in aluminum and comes in three colors (Midnight, Starlight, and Silver).

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: display

Snoopy watch face on the Apple Watch Series 9.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Regarding the display, there are some noticeable differences between the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE beyond just size. The latest Apple Watch model features an always-on Retina LTPO OLED display. The 41mm version has a resolution of 352 x 430 pixels, while the 45mm version has a resolution of 396 x 484 pixels. This means that the time and other information can be displayed on the watch even when it’s not actively being used, which is convenient.

The Apple Watch Series 9 display offers a brightness of up to 2,000 nits, second only to the 3,000 nits found on the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The watch can reduce its brightness to a minimum of 1 nit in lowlight conditions, which is quite impressive for a smartwatch.

The front of the Apple Watch SE 2.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

On the other hand, the Apple Watch SE also features a Retina LTPO OLED display. However, it lacks the always-on functionality, and its maximum brightness is 1,000 nits. Although Apple does not disclose the minimum brightness on this model, it doesn’t get as dim as the 1 nit minimum on the Series 9.

The Apple Watch SE has a resolution of 324 x 394 on the 40mm model and 368 x 448 on the 44mm model.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: internal hardware

A person wearing the Apple Watch Series 9.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Unsurprisingly, the 2023 Apple Watch Series 9 has better hardware than the 2022 Apple Watch SE. The newer S9 chip provides several system enhancements compared to the S8 chip on the Apple Watch SE. With the updated processor, you can expect smoother and faster app transitions. The S9 also enables new features on the device itself, such as using Siri. This feature lets you securely and privately access and store your health data from your Apple Watch. Even more impressive, requests that don’t require an internet connection will be processed without Wi-Fi or cellular data.

The S9 found on the Apple Watch Series 9 also activates the new Double Tap feature that allows you to execute various everyday actions using your index finger and thumb with just one hand. The more unique chip includes a second-gen Ultra Wideband chip that enables Precision Finding. The feature makes it much quicker to find your lost tech, and the location information you receive is more accurate.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is also noted for having 64GB of storage, while the Apple Watch SE includes 32GB. This extra storage allows for more photos, podcasts, music, and other media to be added directly on the watch.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: battery life

The Apple Watch SE 2 on charge.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch has not made significant advancements in terms of battery life. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE both offer up to 18 hours of use between charges, with the former having a Low Power mode that can stretch battery life up to 36 hours.

The Apple Watch Series 9 also has fast-charging capabilities, which the Apple Watch SE lacks.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: health and fitness

The Apple Watch Series 9 showing the sleep tracking data.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There are some differences in health and fitness features between these two models of the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 9 has additional features not present in the SE, including blood oxygen and ECG sensors that measure the amount of oxygen in your blood and record the electrical activity of your heart. These sensors can give you a better understanding of your overall health over time. The Apple Watch Series 9 also includes a temperature sensor that measures your wrist temperature while you sleep. This sensor can detect changes in your body temperature that may be caused by ovulation, illness, or other factors.

Both wearables have an optical heart sensor that uses light to measure heart rate and calculate metrics such as calorie burn. The newer optical heart sensor version in the Apple Watch Series 9 provides slightly more accurate readings.

The nylon composite case back on the Apple Watch SE 2.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Both Apple Watches share health features such as high/low heart rate notifications, irregular rhythm detection, sleep stages, mental well-being tools, and cycle tracking.

On the fitness side, both support the same activity tracking, including new metrics for cycling, which arrived on watchOS 10. The S9 chip is more powerful than the S8 and provides more accurate information, although the difference will likely be minimal depending on the metric.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: environmental impact

Apple's goal to being carbon neutral by 2030 for all its products
Apple

During the launch event of the new Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, Apple announced a significant development. For the first time, certain combinations of Apple Watch cases and bands are now carbon neutral.

These wearable devices are now produced using 100% recycled materials, including rare earth elements. This is a significant step toward reducing the carbon footprint and promoting a more sustainable future. These improvements have also been made to the one-year-old Apple Watch SE.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: price and availability

The curved screen on the Apple Watch Series 9.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Series 9 is available in GPS and GPS + Cellular versions, with prices starting at $399 and $499, respectively. The stainless steel options are more expensive.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch SE, which is only available in aluminum, has fewer features and is, therefore, a little cheaper, starting at $249 for the GPS option and $299 for the GPS + Cellular models.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: which is right for you?

Man wearing the Apple Watch SE 2 and typing on a MacBook.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If your budget is your top priority, the Apple Watch SE is the better option, as it can save you at least $150. However, by choosing this model, you will miss out on some key features such as bigger and better displays, more health metrics, the option to choose stainless steel, and more.

Still, the less expensive model doesn’t compromise on many of the Apple Watch Series 9 features. It is compatible with watchOS 10, has many of the same health-tracking features, nearly identical fitness options, 50m water resistance, up to 18 hours of battery life, and more.

If you have the cash and want the best Apple Watch experience you can get, go with the Apple Watch Series 9. But if you want something that’s easier on your wallet, the Apple Watch SE is a fantastic lower-cost alternative.


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