Forget the Apple Watch Series 8. I’m more excited about a new Apple Watch SE

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

Vanessa Hand Orellana / CNET

That 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 make the Apple Watch an even more sophisticated wellness device, further signaling Apple’s ambitions to increase its presence in consumer health.

In addition to existing features such as the ability to measure oxygen levels in the blood, a temperature sensor has the potential to promote a healthier lifestyle. There are also plenty of stories to indicate Apple Watch has helped save lives. But Apple Watch Series 6 and Series 7 already provides more information than I personally know what to do with. A Series 8 with even more health measurements may be too complex for some customers.

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

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

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

These features 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 to respond to text messages, and the faster charge makes it easier to charge your watch after a night’s sleep tracking.

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

These perks may not be necessary for everyone, hence SE’s more focused appeal. Those who just want to close their activity rings and make sure they do not miss text messages while away from their phone can certainly do without oxygen measurements in the blood, a larger screen and faster charging. The Apple Watch Series 7 and its predecessor feel targeted at those who want to keep a closer eye on their well-being, especially when it comes to heart health.

The Apple Watch SE has many of Apple’s most important health and safety features, though not as sophisticated as its more expensive siblings. Even if you can not take an ECG from your wrist using SE, Apple’s cheaper watch can still provide high and low heart rate notifications, notice irregular heartbeats, detect hard falls, and provide access to emergency services. If you buy a watch for an elderly family member who may be prone to falling, it may be enough.

Recent measurements such as blood oxygen measurements do not always feel useful. Although Apple says measurements from Apple Watch’s bloody app can give you “insight into your general well-being”, I’m not sure what to do with these readings. Since the Apple Watch is not intended for medical purposes, it is unclear if I should be concerned if my readings are too low.

That is not to say that there is no potential. When Series 6 was unveiled in 2020, Apple announced plans to work with researchers on three separate health studies to investigate how oxygen measurements in the blood and other measurements can help manage asthma and heart rate failure in addition to detecting respiratory conditions like COVID-19. But so far, the series 6 and 7 blood oxygen reader does not feel necessary. Similarly, other wearables such as those from Garmin, Fitbit and Samsung offer blood oxygen measurements that rely on the wearer to interpret them.

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

It may not seem like a big deal, but I appreciate being able to quickly look down on time and my activity progress on a Series 7 without having to move my wrist or touch the clock like on SE. It’s not as exciting or meaningful as health-related updates like the introduction of ECG monitoring in terms of how portable devices are heading in the long run. But the always-on screen is handy during daily use, and I hope 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 are not always a big step forward, either iPhone. The Apple Watch Series 7, for example, felt like a more refined version of Series 6. Aside from oxygen measurements in the blood, the Series 6 also felt not so different from the Series 5. That makes the case for cheaper models like the Apple Watch SE even more compelling, especially as WatchOS updates bring new features to older models. That 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 do not need the most expensive or latest 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 as it does not have much internal stock, and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts as Apple could interrupt Series 3 this year. This raises the question of how much longer Apple plans to support Series 3. It also makes the Apple Watch SE much more important, as it is likely to replace the Series 3 as the most affordable Apple Watch option.

Overall, the current SE provides the right middle ground between Series 3 and Series 7. As Apple’s advanced watches have become more sophisticated health tracking devices, 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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