Apple Watch SE vs. Series 9 Buyer's Guide: 25+ Differences Compared

The Apple Watch SE starts at $249, providing an accessible, low-cost option for those interested in an Apple smartwatch. The company also offers the Apple Watch Series 9, which starts at $399, so what exactly do you get by spending an additional $150 and is it worth it? Our comparison helps to answer the question of which of these two Apple Watch models is best for you.

apple watch se 2022
Apple announced the second-generation ‌Apple Watch SE‌ in 2022 alongside the now-discontinued Apple Watch Series 8. The ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ launched one year later in 2023. The ‌Apple Watch SE‌ is designed to be a low-cost option that still offers many of the Apple Watch features that have made the device so popular over the years, while the ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ offers a more feature-rich experience with additional health monitoring capabilities.

Both the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ and the ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ feature Crash Detection, water resistance, an optical heart sensor, up to 18 hours of battery life, and more, but there are significant differences between the two devices. Our comparison helps to answer the question of which of these two Apple Watch models is best for you.

Key Differences

‌Apple Watch SE‌ (second-generation) ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌
Aluminum casing Aluminum or stainless steel casing
Ion-X glass front Ion-X glass (aluminum) or sapphire crystal (stainless steel) front
Color-matched nylon composite back case Ceramic back case
44mm or 40mm case size 45mm or 41mm case size with edge-to-edge display (nearly 20% more display area than ‌Apple Watch SE‌)
Retina display Always-On Retina display
324 by 394 pixels with 759 sq mm display area (40mm) and 368 by 448 pixels with 977 sq mm display area (44mm) 352 by 430 pixels with 904 sq mm display area (41mm) or 396 by 484 pixels with 1143 sq mm display area (45mm)
Up to 1,000 nits of brightness Up to 2,000 nits of brightness
Display can get dimmer in dark rooms and at night (down to 1 nit of brightness)
S8 chip (based on A13 Bionic chip) S9 chip (based on A15 Bionic chip: 60% more transistors, 30% faster)
Neural Engine 4-core Neural Engine (up to twice as fast)
Siri processed in the cloud via internet connection ‌Siri‌ processed on-device for requests that do not need information from the internet, resulting in quicker and more reliable responses
Dictation 25% more accurate dictation
‌Siri‌ can access health and fitness data
Second-generation optical heart sensor Third-generation optical heart sensor
Blood oxygen sensor and Blood Oxygen app
Electrical heart sensor and ECG app
Temperature sensing
Cycle tracking Cycle tracking with retrospective ovulation estimates
Second-generation Ultra Wideband chip
Precision Finding for iPhone 15 models, providing distance and direction, as well as visual, haptic, and audio guidance to a misplaced iPhone
HomePod integration: When a user gets within four meters of a playing ‌HomePod‌, the Apple Watch launches Now Playing to control playback. If nothing is playing, media suggestions appear at the top of the Smart Stack.
Fast charging
Double Tap gesture to stop a timer, play and pause music, snooze an alarm, answer and end a phone call, take a photo with the Camera Remote, open the Smart Stack, and scroll through widgets in the stack, all without touching the display
32GB storage 64GB storage
Available in Midnight, Starlight, and Silver Available in Midnight, Starlight, Silver, PRODUCT(RED), and Pink (aluminum) or Silver, Graphite, or Gold (stainless steel)
Starts at $249 Starts at $399 (aluminum) or $699 (stainless steel)

The ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ is a minor improvement over the previous Series 8 model, offering the S9 chip, the second-generation ultra-wideband chip, and the Double Tap gesture. Yet compared to the ‌Apple Watch SE‌, the ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ is a considerably more feature-rich device with advanced capabilities.

With its larger display, additional health monitoring features, and range of colors and finishes, the ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ will be the model of choice for those who want more out of their smartwatch. If you feel that the always-on display, more health monitoring features, or fast charging would be particularly useful to you, or simply like a specific casing and color combination not available with the ‌Apple Watch SE‌, the ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ will be the best model for you.

If you are on a budget and are not particularly attracted to the additional features of the Series 9, the ‌Apple Watch SE‌ is still a very compelling option. As it shares so many features with the ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌, in most cases you should probably choose the more inexpensive model, unless you particularly value features such as the larger, always-on display or advanced health monitoring and can justify the added cost.

The ‌Apple Watch SE‌ is an ideal device for kids and senior citizens who do not have an ‌iPhone‌ thanks to Family Setup, but it is also the go-to model for most customers who are new to the Apple Watch and those who are upgrading from a Series 3 or older due to its competitive pricing and generous feature set, allowing users to get a balanced Apple Watch experience at a low price.

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