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Apple Watch Series 9 vs Watch SE: Which one is right for you?

Apple Watch Series 9 Plenty of features
The Apple Watch Series 9 is one of Apple’s latest smartwatches, offering an always-on display, a laundry list of health features make it the ideal watch for most. 
ProsStunning display Excellent overall performance Useful features like Double Tap ConsNo improvements to battery life Minor changes compared to Series 8 Apple Watch SE (2022) An entry-level star
Apple’s entry-level watch might surprise you with its amazing features and reliable fitness-tracking abilities. It’s a great option available at a very reasonable price.
ProsGood price Colour-matched body Lightweight ConsNo Always-On Display No body temperature or Sp02 sensors The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE look very similar, and while the designs are more or less identical, there’s a lot that separates the two watches. For example, the Watch SE is the more affordable option designed for first-time smartwatch users or kids using Apple’s Family Setup feature.

The Series 9, however, has all of the latest and greatest features you can find in an Apple Watch right now. There’s even a new double-tap feature that lets you control the Apple Watch without ever touching the screen.

Whether you’re thinking about upgrading an older Apple Watch or getting your first Apple Watch, deciding between the more affordable Apple Watch SE and the feature-rich Apple Watch Series 9 can be confusing. Below, I’ll break down the similarities and differences in an effort to help you decide which watch is right for you.

Price, availability, and specs
The Apple Watch Series 9 was announced in Sept. 2023 and was immediately available to preorder. It’s currently available to purchase directly from Apple as well as from major retailers, such as Best Buy and Amazon. Its starting price is $399 for the 41mm model with an aluminum housing, with the 45mm version starting at $429. Cellular connectivity increases the price of either size watch by $100, making it $499 or $529 for the respective models.

The Apple Watch Series 9 stainless steel version starts at $749 for the 41mm model and $799 for the 45mm model. Those prices include cellular connectivity.

The aluminum model is available in pink, midnight, starlight, silver and Product(RED) color finishes. The stainless steel model comes in graphite, silver and gold.

The second-generation Apple Watch SE was announced in Sept. 2022. It serves as the entry-level Apple Watch model. It’s available directly from Apple and through various retailers, similar to the Series 9. You can often find it on sale, discounted from its full retail price of $249 for the 40mm model or $279 for the 44mm model. Adding cellular connectivity to either model will increase the price by $50, making the 40mm $299 or the 44mm $329.

The Apple Watch SE doesn’t have different material options, but you can pick between silver, starlight and midnight color options.

Apple Watch Series 9Apple Watch SE (2022)BrandAppleAppleCase MaterialAluminium or Stainless SteelAluminiumCase size41mm, 45mm40mm, 44mmDisplay904sq mm, 430 x 352 pixel resolution, 2000 nits (41mm), 1143sq mm, 484 x 396 pixel resolution, 2000 nits (45mm)Retina LTPO, up to 1000nitsCPUS9 chip, W3 chip, U1 chip (2nd gen)S8 chip, W3 wireless chip, U1 chipBatteryUp to 18 hoursUp to 18 hoursConnectivityGPS only, GPS & CellularGPS and GPS & CellularHealth sensorsBody temperature, Blood oxygen, Optical heart rate, Electrical heart rateAlways-on altimeter, compass, accelerometer (up to 256 g-forces), gyroscopeDimensions41 x 35 x 10.7mm (41mm model), 45 x 38 x 10.7mm (45mm model)40 x 34 x 10.7mm (40mm), 44 x 38 x 10.7mm (44mm)Weight41mm – 31.9g (aluminium), 42.3g (stainless steel), 45mm – 38.7g (aluminium), 51.5g (stainless steel)26.4g (40mm), 32.9g (44mm)Mobile paymentsApple PayApple Pay

Design and build
The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE, more or less, have the same design, albeit with a few differences when it comes to the sizes and materials.

The Series 9 has two different size options and two different material options. There’s an aluminum housing and another stainless steel option. Both are available in 41mm and 45mm sizes. The display on the Series 9 covers nearly the entire front of the housing, with minimal bezels.

The Watch SE, however, comes in one material – aluminum – and slightly smaller size options at 40mm and 44mm. The display is smaller on the SE, not only because the housing is smaller but also due to the thicker bezels surrounding the screen.

On the right side of both watches is a Digital Crown and a side button, both of which are used for navigating and interacting with the watch. Both watches also use the same mechanism to lock watchbands in place, and in fact, you can use the same bands across both similarly sized models. For instance, the 41mm and 40mm watch bands will work on either model, while the same applies to the 44mm and 45mm bands.

The bottom of both watches is where you’ll find all of the important health sensors for measuring things like heart rate and, in the case of the Series 9, more advanced tasks like measuring blood oxygen, skin temperature and recording an ECG. Both watches charge via a magnetic charger that attaches to the bottom of the watch.

Both watch housings are water-resistant at a depth of up to 50 meters and are listed as swimproof by Apple.

The Apple Watch Series 9 and the Watch SE have similar but different display sizes due to the different housing sizes and, as we just discussed, the bezels surrounding each screen.

More specifically, the 40mm Watch SE display is 324 x 394 pixels, while the 41mm Series 9 is 352 x 430 pixels. The 45mm Series 9 has a screen that measures 396 by 484 pixels, while the 44mm SE’s screen is 368 by 448 pixels.

Beyond the different display sizes and overall resolution, the Series 9’s display has an important feature in the form of an always-on display. That means whenever you’re not actively using your watch, the display enters a low power state and continues to show your current watch face, updating periodically to reflect the current time and update any complications.

Furthermore, the Series 9’s screen has a max brightness of 2,000 nits, which is double the brightness of the SE. The increased brightness makes it easier to see outside in direct sunlight.

The Apple Watch SE’s display turns off whenever you’re not using your watch or lower your arm. You have to wake it every time you want to check the time or look at information on your watch face.

Inside the Series 9 is Apple’s latest S-series processor for its Apple Watch lineup, the S9. The new chip is better at managing battery life, enables a new double-tap gesture for interacting with the watch’s interface, adds health requests, and allows Siri interactions to be handled on-device.

There’s also a new ultra-wideband chip in the Series 9 for precision finding of your nearby iPhone.

The Apple Watch SE uses Apple’s S8 processor and lacks double-tap, on-device Siri and health requests and the new precision finding for iPhone feature that debuted with the Series 9 and Ultra 2.

Both watches have an advertised battery life of up to 18 hours, with the Series 9 also equipped with a low-power mode that can double the expected battery life to 36 hours. The Series 9 also boasts a faster charging time than the SE, thanks to fast charging support.

The Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch SE are both capable of running Apple’s latest version of WatchOS, which is currently WatchOS 10. This software includes the ability to run third-party apps, customize Apple’s selection of watch faces, track your various health metrics, or send and receive messages and emails. You can also use Siri on either watch to give voice commands to carry out tasks or ask questions.

One difference between the two watches when it comes to software is the new double-tap gesture that will come to the Series 9 via WatchOS 10.1 later this year. When enabled, you can interact and control the watch by double-tapping your thumb and index finger to answer calls, end a timer or start a voice reply to a text message.

Which is right for you?
Apple Watch Series 9 A fine choice for most

The Apple Watch Series 9 is the best Apple Watch for most due to its advanced health features like skin temperature tracking, ECG and blood oxygen measurements, along with the larger screen and always-on display feature. Its battery will get you through a full day of use and supports fast charging for when you need to top it off quickly.

Apple Watch SE (2022) A good starting point

The Apple Watch SE is ideal for someone who isn’t really sold on the idea of a smartwatch yet. It does almost everything the Series 9 does, in a smaller housing and at a lower price. This is a good starting point if you’re not sure you’d get a lot out of an Apple Watch.


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