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Apple Watch 6 vs Apple Watch SE: which should you buy?

If you're in the market for an Apple wearable, might the Apple Watch 6 or Apple Watch SE be for you?

New Apple Watches

Having first been launched back in 2015, the Apple Watch quickly became one of the best-selling wearable devices in the world. One year ago, Apple wowed us with the sixth generation of its watch. We gave it four-and-a-half stars in our Apple Watch 6 review, and it still stands up fantastically well in the wearables market today, despite the recent announcement of an Apple Watch 7.

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Thanks to their success, the Apple watch family has grown. So for those looking to pick up an Apple wearable, there is plenty of choices. The Apple Watch SE and the Series 6 are both well worth considering.

These watches were unveiled alongside the iPad 8 and iPad Air 4. Now, with a newer watch having been revealed – and Black Friday on the horizon – there is plenty of reason to expect one or two good deals might be headed our way on Apple wearables. Keep an eye on the site for our pick of the best Black Friday smartwatch deals.

But, with or without a price slash, an Apple Watch can end up being a pretty pricey purchase, so we’ve put together a guide to outline the key differences between the two Apple Watches.

We have also included some advice on whether you should buy the Apple Watch Series 6 or the cheaper Apple Watch SE, depending on your budget, needs and which features you’ll actually use day-to-day.

What is the difference between the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE? 

Apple Watch SE

Battery Life

Both the Series 6 and SE promise an “all-day” 18-hour battery life. In our full Apple Watch 6 review, we found the watch could generally deliver this.

The Apple Watch Series 6 also offers fast charging. Apple boasts that the watch will fully charge within an hour and a half.

Price

The Apple Watch SE is the more affordable model, with prices starting at £269 for the GPS-only model. For GPS and Cellular, you can expect to pay £319.

Prices for the Series 6 start at £379 and increase to £479 for combined GPS and Cellular models.

Display

The retina display of the Apple Watch SE is similar to previous Apple Watch models with curved corners, though it is 30 per cent larger than that of the Series 3. The watch is available in either a 40mm or 44mm case size.

Those looking to buy the Apple Watch Series 6 have the same size options. However, the ‘always on’ retina display of the Series 6 is up to 2.5 times brighter than its Series 5 predecessor outdoors when the user’s wrist is down. This makes the watch face much easier to see in bright sunlight.

Specs

Both watches will use Apple’s new watchOS 7 software update, which includes seven watch faces, and health and fitness features such as low-range VO2 Max, sleep tracking and automatic hand-washing detection.

However, they do use different hardware. The Apple Watch SE is powered by the S5 System in Package (SiP) and dual-core processor, which makes it up to two times faster than the Series 3.

The Series 6 uses the newer S6 SiP, which runs up to 20 per cent faster. This should ensure that apps launch 20 per cent faster, too.

Health/Fitness Features

Apple Fitness+

The Apple Watch Series 6 has the more advanced health and fitness features of the two. The watch is now able to measure the wearer’s blood oxygen saturation. The sensor uses four clusters of green, red, and infrared LEDs, along with the four photodiodes on the back of the Apple Watch, to measure light reflected back from blood.

The Series 6 and SE both have an ‘always on’ altimeter to detect elevation change. This works alongside GPS and the built-in compass to give more accurate metrics for your workouts and daily exercise.

Both watches are also water-resistant up to 50m and will be able to be used in conjunction with Apple’s upcoming fitness subscription Fitness+.

Finally, both also have fall detection. This feature will send the user an alert after a hard fall, which can either be dismissed or used to call emergency services.

If the user is immobile for 60 seconds after such a fall, the watch will automatically make that call, play an audio message that provides the user’s location and send a message to any emergency contacts.

Colours

There are 11 versions of the Apple Watch SE available. Consumers have the option of a silver, space grey or gold aluminium case and strap choices such as a braided loop, a sports band and a solo loop. The solo loop is made of stretchable silicone, so there are no clasps or buckles to fiddle with.

The Apple Series 6 is available in 23 different designs. Like the SE, the case of the Series 6 comes in silver, space grey and gold aluminium, but there is also the option of graphite, gold and silver stainless steel.

There is a similar pattern with the straps. Beyond the braided, solo and sports style mentioned above, you can choose a leather or metallic Milanese loop.

Once you have chosen a design, the colours on offer for both watches include red, black, white, pink citrus (coral), Cyprus green, ginger and deep navy.

Should you buy the Apple Watch Series 6 or Apple Watch SE? 

Deciding which of these Apple Watches to buy largely depends on your budget and whether you will use the more advanced features such as the Blood Oxygen sensor.

If the answer is no, you may want to consider saving a little money and purchasing the slightly less powerful Apple Watch SE. And, while the leather and metallic designs of the Series 6 could be considered more stylish, the Apple Watch SE still offers a huge variety of styles in its 11 designs.

The Apple Watch SE also has many of the same features, will also run WatchOS 7 and matches the Series 6 on battery life.

The Apple Watch 6 and Apple Watch SE are available now from Apple, Currys PC World, and various other retailers, many of which are listed below. 

Apple Watch 6: 

Apple Watch SE: 

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For a complete list of our favourite wearables in 2021, read our best smartwatch round-up.