1. Price and deals
  2. Case sizes and finishes
  3. Display size
  4. Always-on screen
  5. Health tracking sensors
  6. Charging times and battery life
  7. Ultra Wideband powers
  8. Price, value, and which is best for you

Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch SE 2: Which should you buy?

Find out the differences between the core Apple Watch models
Wareable apple watch series 8 v se 2
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The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE (2022) may have most things in common, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of differences, too.

Unfortunately for those trying to pick between the two stellar Apple smartwatches, however, these distinctions aren't always immediately obvious - and that's where this list of all the key ones can help.

As we say, with the same processor, software, and general design language used for both watches, the broad Apple Watch experience is available on whichever you choose. 

Naturally, though, the Series 8 is the better, more advanced model - and has plenty of advantages that help justify that loftier price tag. Whether it's the right fit for you is another question, with a bunch of users - if not a majority - better served with the SE 2. 

Dive into the differences below and consider how much they matter to you. 

Price and deals

The Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen) is clearly the cheaper option, and you will save over $100 over the price of the Series 8. There are LTE and standard Bluetooth/GPS versions of both watches. 

You can see a breakdown of prices and the latest deals below.

Case sizes and finishes

Wareableapple watch 8 v se 2 design

While the second-gen Apple Watch SE sticks with largely the same design profile as we saw present in the Apple Watch Series 4 - 6, the Series 8 is the next progression of the classic square case. 

Both watches are available in two different case sizes, but these are different depending on which you pick. If it's the Series 8, you'll have the choice between a 41mm and 45mm case, whereas the SE (2022) is offered in either a 41mm or 44mm option. 

You'll also have to decide whether you want the 'GPS' or 'GPS + Cellular' version of the watch, but this is true across the board.

As you would probably guess, small-to-medium wrists are better off with the smaller of these two case size options, and those with larger wrists will be much better served with the bigger model. There is a price difference between case sizes to be aware of in both of these devices, though, so watch out for that. 

Aside from the actual size, the materials used in the cases of the Series 8 and SE (2022) are also different. 

While the SE is only offered in an aluminum case, the Series 8 has the option to upgrade to a stainless steel exterior. It's definitely nicer on the wrist, but it's also around 10g heavier per case size and also costs a lot more than the standard entry-level model, so it's probably not for most people.

Display size

One of the more noticeable features of the updated Series 8 case is the display size. Despite only being 1mm bigger in both case size choices, the screen appears much fuller. 

Apple doesn't actually list the specific display measurements, aside from noting it's 20% more screen area to play with, but this edge-to-edge nature of the Series 8 does feel much more modern than the SE (2022). 

In our experience of wearing both watches extensively - given they were both also used in older Apple Watch models - the newer display used in the Series 8 is actually one of the big reasons to consider upgrading. 

If you're likely to interact with your smartwatch regularly, it really ups the immersion. And that's despite the actual displays being largely identical - both have a max brightness of 1,000 nits and use the same Retina LTPO OLED.  

Always-on screen

The different case and display sizes aren't the only design difference, either. Again, a really noticeable omission of the SE (2022) is the lack of the always-on display. 

We'd rank this as a slightly less important difference than the actual smaller screen size on the SE (2022), but not having to wrist-raise to wake the screen is a difficult feature to forego if you're used to it from other devices or your smartphone. 

Like others, it's not the reason to upgrade to the Series 8 (and you can also receive this through the Series 5, Series 6 or Series 7 if you are desperate for it), but it does still richen day-to-day use in a noticeable way.

Health tracking sensors

Wareableapple watch 8 v se 2 features

Away from the external differences between these two smartwatches, there are also plenty of internal disparities - and the biggest is the health-tracking experience. 

While you get the same fitness and exercise tracking features on the SE (2022), giving you access to different workout types and the all-consuming Activity Rings, the serious health features largely exist on the Series 8.

Whether you're interested in getting an on-the-spot ECG, gaining advanced insights into your menstrual cycle via the temperature sensor, or tapping into blood oxygen saturation, you can only do that from the more expensive Series 8. 

We wouldn't necessarily rate these health features as essential, which is one reason why we believe the SE (2022) is one of the best overall smartwatches for the average user, but something like the temperature sensor could very easily become more functional over time and begin to provide further insights into Apple Watch sleep tracking, for example. 

You don't miss out on every health feature with the SE, either, as we say. Things like Fall Detection, Crash Detection, irregular heart rhythm notifications, high/low heart rate notifications, and Emergency SOS are all available.

Charging times and battery life

No matter if you have the Series 8 or the SE (2022), you're probably going to be charging your Apple Watch a bit more often than you'd like to. That's where the difference in charging times actually becomes pretty noticeable, in our experience. 

As you would expect, it's the Series 8 that offers fast charging compatibility here, just like the Series 7 and Series 6 did before it. While the SE (2022) will take roughly an hour to go from flat to 80%, the Series 8 can manage this around 15 minutes quicker. 

Things obviously become less noticeable if you're just sticking the watch on the charging puck for 10 minutes before heading out on a run, but you'll still manage a few extra percentage points on the Series 8 - and, at least in our experience, it's another slight quality of life feature that helps boost the experience.

In terms of overall battery life, though, you're not at any great disadvantage by just picking the SE (2022).

Both watches last around two days running the same settings, and feature the option to kick in Apple's Low Power Mode to extend things further, but the Series 8 obviously will run out of charge faster if features like the always-on display are turned on.

If you do want noticeably better battery life, the Apple Watch Ultra is one you should consider.

Ultra Wideband powers

Wareableapple watch 8 v se 2 size

A sneaky feature the SE (2022) misses out on is the Apple U1 chip, which enables the ultrawideband wireless protocol.

This isn't perhaps one you'd ever really notice, but, with Ultra Wideband helping out with Apple's Find My app and also potentially even unlocking your compatible car as you approach it, this could be a reason for some to choose the Series 8 over the base Apple Watch. 

This is one perk, like the temperature sensor, that could also become more useful to have in the future, but it does rank near the bottom of important differences at present. 

Price, value, and which is best for you

Price is probably a factor you're already aware of if you're weighing up these two models, but it's worth knowing exactly the kind of premium you can expect to pay for choosing the Series 8 over the SE (2022).

We won't get into every single comparison here, obviously, given that there are countless different case finishes, cellular options, case sizes, and band options that can have a huge effect on the price in your basket, but, at the very least, you can expect to pay $150 / £150 more for the Series 8. 

Whether that represents good value is entirely personal, as with most things. If you can envisage using the Series 8-specific features such as menstrual cycle tracking, or you just want to treat yourself to the prettier design, it very quickly can become a no-brainer.

If you're just looking for an Apple Watch to encourage a more active lifestyle, though, and you don't really care about the design extras of the Series model, the SE (2022) is made for you. 

How we test

Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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