When Apple launched its first wearable in 2015, there was only one device. For five years after that, Apple would announce the newest Apple Watch to consumers with a subsequently higher number after the word "Series". When it came time to launch the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple surprised everyone by offering a second new model of Apple Watch, the Apple Watch SE.
Much like the iPhone SE that came before it, the Apple Watch SE was a cheaper model of the Apple Watch with fewer features but still enough power and a more appealing price tag to be worthy wearable. I love my Apple Watch SE, and I'm hopeful that this fall, we will see the Apple Watch SE 2 (likely not the name, but I'm sticking with it to differentiate for now), which will build on the success of the Apple Watch SE.
The way I see it, the Apple Watch SE only needs a few updates to make it a worthy successor; here's how Apple can make the Apple Watch SE 2 a huge success.
The most important feature; always-on display
I've been using the Apple Watch SE since it launched, and although it is missing a few of the advanced health features — like Blood Oxygen monitoring — there's nothing I miss more on my Apple Watch SE than an always-on display.
I used to think that missing the always-on display was just a necessary trade-off of the Apple Watch SE, but after finally using an Apple Watch Series 7, going back to a display that shuts off was a hard pill to swallow. The always-on display just makes using an Apple Watch that much better. You can see the time at a glance without having to raise your hand, and it lets you show off that sweet Apple Watch face you're rocking to everyone. It might seem like such a small detail, but it makes the experience of wearing the Apple Watch so much more enjoyable that I think it's essential to include it on the Apple Watch SE 2.
We know that even the current Apple Watch SE could have handled an always-on display; it's not like the S5 processor inside was too weak. After all, the Apple Watch Series 5 was the first Apple Watch to have an always-on display, and it has the same processor. More likely, the exclusion of the always-on display was a way for Apple to make the Apple Watch Series 6 look more premium on top of the extra health features to give it that extra edge. I hope the upcoming Apple Watch Series 8 (presumably) will come with some decent upgrades itself. That way, passing down the always-on display to the Appel Watch SE won't make the two devices too similar.
The obvious upgrade; new internals
An upgrade to the chip that powers the Apple Watch SE 2 is a pretty obvious upgrade that Apple would likely include. It's not that the S5 processor in the current model is too slow, my Apple Watch SE feels nice and snappy still, but upgrading the internals to the S6 chip found in the Series 6 will just be an excellent quality of life improvement.
Not only would the Apple Watch SE 2 perform slightly better with the upgrade, but it would also be able to handle future updates to watchOS with ease and for a longer period of time. Which, anyone opting to spend a little less on an Apple Watch SE, would likely be more prone to keeping it around for as long as they can.
The hardest upgrade; a lower price
Typically, adding more features to a product and getting a lower price isn't something that happens often, but I think it's important for the Apple Watch SE 2 to knock about $50 off the price tag.
When the Apple Watch SE first launched, the $279 its cost put it nicely between the $199 price point of the Apple Watch Series 3 and the $399 price tag of the Series 6. While, at the time, I thought this price point was adequate, the landscape of the Apple Watch lineup has changed.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is on its last legs, and I can't imagine that Apple will continue to sell it come fall of 2022. Its hardware is having difficulty keeping up with the new software updates, and I'd be surprised if the upcoming watchOS 9 still supports the old wearable. Without the Series 3 in the lineup, the available Apple Watch models come fall would likely be the Apple Watch SE 2 and the Apple Watch Series 8. If that's the case, I think the $279 price tag would be a little high. I understand it couldn't take over the $199 price point of the Series 3, but I think a decrease of $50 for a new price of $229 would put the Apple Watch SE 2 in the best spot to succeed. It should be cheap enough to feel like a great value compared to the Series 8 but have plenty of trade-offs to justify the price gap.
There is a slight possibility that Apple could keep the first Apple Watch SE around and drop that model to $199 while keeping the Apple Watch SE 2 at $279. However, I'm not sure there will be a big enough difference between the original Apple Watch SE version and the second-generation for that to make a lot of sense. Therefore, I think a slash to the price tag is a better way to go.
Apple Watch SE 2 can be a big success
In my review for the original Apple Watch SE, I wrote:
"The Apple Watch SE delivers unprecedented value to the user by offering so many of the features you'd expect from an Apple Watch for a lower starting price."
So, even though the expectations of features in an Apple Watch have changed slightly in the past couple of years, Apple needs to meet those expectations and continue to offer a great product at a lower price. I have no doubt that the Apple Watch SE 2 could be fantastic.
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Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.