Forget the Apple Watch Series 8. I’m More Excited for a New Apple Watch SE

Forget the Apple Watch Series 8. I'm More Excited for a New Apple Watch SE
Apple Watch SE worn on a wrist

The Apple Watch SE’s lower price and wide selection of features make it a solid choice for most people.

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

the Apple Watch Series 8 could be the company’s first watch to include a temperature sensor, according to Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. That would turn the Apple Watch into an even more sophisticated wellness device, further signaling Apple’s ambitions to grow its presence in the consumer health space.

A temperature sensor, in addition to existing features like the ability to measure blood oxygen levels, has the potential to promote healthier lifestyles. There are also plenty of stories indicating the Apple Watch has helped save lives. But the Apple Watch Series 6 and Series 7 already provide more information than I personally know what to do with. A Series 8 with even more health metrics might be too complex for some customers.

That’s why I’m more excited to see what’s next for Apple’s simpler and cheaper watch: the Apple Watch SE. Bloomberg reported last June that a new Apple Watch SE could debut in 2022, meaning we might see a successor to the 2020 model this fall. If you’re anything like me, your smartwatch is most useful for logging exercise, checking your heart rate during workouts, receiving iPhone alerts on your wrist and occasionally making purchases with ApplePay. The current Apple Watch SE can do all this and more, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes next.

The Apple Watch SE has most of the Series 7’s best features

$399 Apple Watch Series 7compared with the $279 SE, is packed with extra health features and other refinements, such as blood oxygen readings, the ability to take an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) from your wrist, a larger screen and faster charging.

Those qualities make the Series 7 a more comprehensive health tracker, a better communication tool and a more useful sleep tracker. The Series 7’s more spacious screen means it can fit a full QWERTY keyboard for responding to text messages, and the speedier charging makes it easier to top off your watch after a night of sleep tracking.

The Series 8 is expected to take a similar trajectory, and could include a skin temperature sensor for fertility planning and potentially other applications, according to Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal.

These perks may not be necessary for everyone, hence the SE’s more focused appeal. Those who just want to close their Activity Rings and make sure they don’t miss text messages while away from their phone can probably do without blood oxygen readings, a larger screen and faster charging. The Apple Watch Series 7 and its predecessor feel targeted toward those looking to keep a closer eye on their wellbeing, especially when it comes to cardiac health.

The Apple Watch SE has many of Apple’s most important health and safety features even though it’s not as advanced as its pricier siblings. Although you can’t take an ECG from your wrist using the SE, Apple’s cheaper watch can still deliver high and low heart rate notifications, notice irregular heart rhythms, detect hard falls and provide access to emergency services. If you’re buying a watch for an elderly family member who may be prone to falling, that might be enough.

Newer metrics like blood oxygen readings don’t always feel helpful. Although Apple says measurements from the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen app can provide you with “insights into your overall wellness,” I’m not sure what to do with these readings. Since the Apple Watch isn’t intended for medical purposes, it’s unclear whether I should be alarmed if my readings are too low.

That’s not to say there isn’t potential. when the Series 6 was unveiled in 2020Apple announced plans to work with researchers on three separate health studies to examine how blood oxygen readings and other metrics can help with managing asthma and heart rate failure in addition to detecting respiratory conditions like COVID-19. But for now, the blood oxygen reader on the Series 6 and 7 doesn’t feel necessary. Similarly, other wearables such as those from Garmin, Fitbit and Samsung offer blood oxygen readings that rely on the wearer having to interpret them.

While I appreciate the SE’s simpler approach to health tools, I’d like to see Apple add at least one feature that is currently exclusive to more expensive models: an always-on display. New Apple Watches starting with the Series 5 and later (except for the SE) can keep their screens on even when the watch is idle. This makes the Apple Watch better at its most basic job: telling the time.

It might not seem like a huge deal, but I appreciate being able to quickly glance down at the time and my activity progress on a Series 7 without needing to move my wrist or touch the watch like on the SE. It’s not as exciting or meaningful as health-related updates like the introduction of ECG monitoring in terms of where wearable devices are heading over the long term. But the always-on display is handy during everyday use, and I’m hoping to see it on the next Apple Watch SE.

The Apple Watch has matured just like the iPhone

The Apple Watch has evolved to the point where annual upgrades aren’t always a major step forward, much like iPhone. The Apple Watch Series 7, for example, felt like a more refined version of the Series 6. Aside from blood oxygen measurements, the Series 6 also didn’t feel that different from the Series 5. That makes the case for cheaper models like the Apple Watch SE all the more compelling, especially as WatchOS updates bring new features to older models. the Apple Watch SE holds its own in terms of performance and feels just as responsive as the latest model when running the same software. You don’t need the most expensive or newest version to get a full experience, which is why Apple has kept the Series 3 in its lineup for so long.

But the Apple Watch Series 3 has become difficult to update since it doesn’t have much internal storage, and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that Apple could discontinue the Series 3 this year. That raises the question of how much longer Apple plans to support the Series 3. It also makes the Apple Watch SE much more important since it will likely replace the Series 3 as the most affordable Apple Watch option.

Overall, the current SE provides the right middle ground between the Series 3 and Series 7. As Apple’s high-end watches have become more sophisticated health tracking devices, the SE has increasingly felt like the better option for everyday users with tighter budgets. Now that the Apple Watch SE is almost 2 years old, it’s time for an update.

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