Apple Watch Series 8 vs. SE: Which is the smartwatch for you?

Apple Watch S8 and SE on gradient backgroundApple

The Apple Watch Series 8 and SE look very similar, but there are some key differences depending on your need. Which should you buy, and is it worth spending more?

If you’ve been considering buying a new smartwatch to pair up with your iPhone, it’s pretty much essential you buy an Apple Watch of some description. While some Android watches work with your iPhone, the Apple Watch is explicitly designed with it in mind. It pairs up perfectly and enhances your all-around experience. If you own AirPods or a MacBook, it’s a similar story thanks to Apple’s walled garden ensuring everything plays well together.

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The Apple Watch Series 8 and SE look very similar on the surface, but they both offer different features, sensors, and other advantages and disadvantages to justify the additional expense of the Apple Watch Series 8. 

If you need help figuring out where to start or why it may or may not be worth paying more, we’re here to help. Confusingly, there’s an older Apple Watch SE, but we’re talking about the latest model released in 2022. There’s the Apple Watch Ultra, too, but that’s a far more premium product aimed at the most adventurous outdoors person possible.

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We know how the Apple Watch Series 8 and SE feel to use each day, so read on while we take you through what we’ve learned, so you know exactly what to buy. 


The Apple Watch SE in various colorsDexerto

The Apple Watch Series 8 and SE are very similar in design. However, the Apple Watch Series 8 offers an ever so slightly bigger display with either a 41mm or 45mm display, with the SE having either 40mm or 44mm. That also means the Apple Watch Series 8 weighs slightly more.

The 41mm Apple Watch Series 8 41mm weighs 31.9g or 32.2g depending on if you have the cellular model, while the 45mm weighs 38.8g or 39.1g. In comparison, the Apple Watch SE weighs either 26.4g and 27.8g for the 40mm and 42.9g or 33g for the 44mm model. Not that you’re really going to notice a difference with these slight weight changes. 

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Where things are more significantly different is with the watch displays. The Apple Watch SE has a Retina display that lights up when you raise your wrist. The Apple Watch Series 8 has an always-on Retina edge-to-edge display, so you can see the watch face even if you haven’t lifted your wrist. The slight change in display sizes also means a higher resolution for the Apple Watch Series 8. Its 41mm model has a resolution of 352 x 430, with the 44mm being 396 x 484. That’s compared to the Apple Watch SE’s 324 x 394 and 368 x 448. 

The Apple Watch Series 8’s superior size means nearly 20% more screen area than the cheaper alternative. Brightness is the same though with both watches providing up to 1,000 nits of brightness, so you can see either watch clearly in bright sunlight. 

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The Apple Watch Series 8 also offers a stainless steel model, while the Apple Watch SE solely has an aluminum case, although you’ll need to pay extra for a stainless steel casing. 

Features & sensors

Apple Watch S8 features presentation with several examplesDexerto

Both smartwatches focus on all your health and fitness needs. WatchOS means you have ready access to many workouts and stats on how far you walk each day, how many flights of stairs you climb, how many calories you burn, and how often you stand up. Apple’s Activity Rings system is a beguiling way of encouraging you to do more with monthly challenges and many forms of holding you accountable for your goals. 

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Both devices also provide you with any high or low heart rate notifications if needed and any sign of an irregular heartbeat. While neither is as effective as a dedicated medical device, they have been known to help people spot signs of heart issues before it becomes a significant problem. 

The Apple Watch Series 8 builds on this by including an ECG app so you can check your heart rate anytime. It also has a blood oxygen monitoring app. Cycle tracking with retrospective ovulation estimates thanks to a temperature sensor is also possible. However, it’s a fairly limited feature that won’t be relevant to everyone. 

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Both watches provide an emergency SOS feature, fall detection, and crash detection. There’s sleep tracking too, although the battery life may be an issue to use either as a reliable 24/7 device. 

WatchOS is pretty fast whichever you choose as both the Apple Watch Series 8 and SE have the latest dual-core S8 processor running the show. 

Battery life

While the Apple Watch Series 8 may have slightly more sensors and features, the two smartwatches share the same battery life of up to 18 hours. Generally, you’ll need to recharge the watch overnight or when you’re in the shower to keep it running for longer than a full day. Battery life can drop faster if you’re using it a lot, such as going for a long run, hiking, or listening to a lot of music through the watch. 

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The Apple Watch Series 8 has a fast charge function which means it can go from 0 percent to 80 percent in about 45 minutes. You’ll need a fast charging cable or wireless charger to get those sorts of times, but if you plan on using it while you sleep and throughout the day, it’s an essential addition. 


Apple Watch Series 8Apple Watch SE
ProcessorApple S8 SiPApple S8 SiP
Weight31.9g – 39.1g26.4g – 33g
PriceAvailable from $399Available from $249
Where to buyBest Buy, AmazonBest Buy, Amazon

The specifications of both smartwatches include the same processor — the Apple S8 SiP with the same RAM, so performance is nearly identical between the two models.  

The more significant difference is in the type of screen used with the Apple Watch Series 8 having an always-on Retina display, plus it has a slightly bigger battery. For $150 less, the Apple Watch SE may look more appealing if you are okay with missing out on some sensors such as the ECG app and blood oxygen monitoring. 

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Which one is better?

Apple Watch S8 features on black backgroundDexerto

The Apple Watch Series 8 and SE are both great smartwatches for iPhone owners. They’ll both track all your workouts and exercise throughout the day. 

However, if you want a watch that tracks your heart rate and blood oxygen levels at any time, the Apple Watch Series 8 is the better option. It will only be essential for some, but it’s undoubtedly worthwhile if you’re keen to have as big a picture of your health as possible. The Always-On Retina display is perfect for glancing at while you run too without the irritation of lifting your wrist in a certain way. 

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The Apple Watch SE is still a good alternative if you’re on a tight budget. It covers all the basics well and is an excellent introduction to the smartwatch world. Its lack of fast charging and extra sensors isn’t vital, so it all depends if you’re willing and able to spend an additional $150 on convenience. 

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