By | December 16, 2023
Apple Watch Series 9 vs.  Apple Watch SE 2: all the big differences |  Digital trends

Digital trends

Apple introduced two new wearables in its latest lineup, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, joining the second-generation Apple Watch SE that launched in fall 2022.

If you’re wondering what sets the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE apart, you’ve come to the right place. Although they look similar and share many features, they differ in very important ways.

Let’s break it down.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: specifications

Apple Watch SE (second generation) Apple Watch Series 9
Material Aluminum Aluminum

Stainless steel

Sizes 40 mm

44 mm

41 mm

45 mm

Colors Midnight, Starlight, Silver Aluminum:

Midnight, Starlight, Silver,
Product Red, Pink

Stainless steel:

Gold, silver, graphite

Show

1,000 nits peak brightness

Always-on Retina LTPO OLED

2,000 nits peak brightness,

1 nit low beam

Processor S8 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor S9 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor
Double tap gesture No Yes
Siri Wi-Fi or mobile only On the device
Sensors Second generation optical heart sensor Temperature sensor, blood oxygen sensor, electrical heart sensor and third generation optical heart sensor
Battery life 18 hours 18 hours

36 hours in low power mode

Fast charging No Yes
Ultra broadband No Second generation Ultra Wideband chip with Precision Finding for iPhone 15

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: design

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Starting with the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple changed the case sizes of its flagship Apple Watches. As a result, the Apple Watch Series 9 is available in two sizes: 41 mm and 45 mm.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

On the other hand, the second generation Apple Watch SE keeps the previous sizes of 40 mm and 44 mm. These differences in size are subtle and can only be noticed when the watches are placed side by side. However, a larger shell size means a slightly better display, which is noticeable

Apple Watch Series 9 is available in aluminum and stainless steel. The aluminum version is available in five colors (Midnight, Starlight, Silver, Product Red and Pink) while the stainless steel version is offered in three colors (Graphite, Silver and Gold). The current Apple Watch SE is only available in aluminum and comes in three colors (Midnight, Starlight and Silver).

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: display

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When it comes to the display, there are some noticeable differences between the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch SE beyond just size. The latest Apple Watch model has an always-on Retina LTPO OLED display. The 41mm version has a resolution of 352 x 430 pixels, while the 45mm version has a resolution of 396 x 484 pixels. This means that the time and other information can be displayed on the watch even when it is not being actively used, which is convenient.

The Apple Watch Series 9 display offers a brightness of up to 2,000 nits, second only to the 3,000 nits found on the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The watch can reduce its brightness to at least 1 nit in low light, which is quite impressive for a smartwatch .

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

On the other hand, the Apple Watch SE also has a Retina LTPO OLED display. However, it lacks the always-on feature and its maximum brightness is 1,000 nits. While Apple doesn’t disclose the minimum brightness on this model, it doesn’t get as dim as the minimum 1 nit on the Series 9.

The Apple Watch SE has a resolution of 324 x 394 on the 40 mm model and 368 x 448 on the 44 mm model.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: internal hardware

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Unsurprisingly, the 2023 Apple Watch Series 9 has better hardware than the 2022 Apple Watch SE. The newer S9 chip brings several system improvements over the S8 chip on the Apple Watch SE. With the updated processor, you can expect smoother and faster app transitions. The S9 also enables new features on the device itself, such as using Siri. This feature allows you to securely and privately access and store your health data from your Apple Watch. Even more impressive, requests that don’t require an internet connection will be processed without Wi-Fi or mobile data.

The S9 found on the Apple Watch Series 9 also enables the new Double Tap feature that allows you to perform various everyday actions using your index finger and thumb with just one hand. The more unique chip includes a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip that enables Precision Finding. The feature makes it much faster to find your lost technology, and the location information you get is more accurate.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is also known to have 64GB of storage, while the Apple Watch SE includes 32GB. This extra storage allows more photos, podcasts, music and other media to be added directly to the watch.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: battery life

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch hasn’t made significant strides in terms of battery life. Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE both offer up to 18 hours of use between charges, with the former having a Low Power mode that can extend battery life up to 36 hours.

The Apple Watch Series 9 also has fast charging capabilities, which the Apple Watch SE lacks.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: health and fitness

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There are some differences in health and fitness features between these two models of Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 9 has additional features not found in the SE, including blood oxygen and EKG sensors that measure the amount of oxygen in your blood and record the electrical activity of your heart. These sensors can give you a better understanding of your overall health over time. The Apple Watch Series 9 also includes a temperature sensor that measures your wrist temperature while you sleep. This sensor can detect changes in your body temperature that may be caused by ovulation, illness or other factors.

Both wearables have an optical heart sensor that uses light to measure heart rate and calculate metrics like calorie burn. The newer optical heart sensor version in the Apple Watch Series 9 provides slightly more accurate readings.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Both Apple Watches share health features such as high/low heart rate notifications, irregular rhythm detection, sleep stages, mental wellness tools and cycle tracking.

On the fitness side, both support the same activity tracking, including new metrics for cycling, that arrived on watchOS 10. The S9 chip is more powerful than the S8 and provides more accurate information, though the difference is likely to be minimal depending on the metric.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: environmental impact

Apple

During the launch of the new Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, Apple announced a significant development. For the first time, certain combinations of Apple Watch cases and bands are now carbon neutral.

These portable devices are now made from 100% recycled materials, including rare earth metals. This is an important step towards reducing the carbon footprint and promoting a more sustainable future. These improvements have also been made to the one-year-old Apple Watch SE.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: price and availability

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Series 9 is available in GPS and GPS + Cellular versions, with prices starting at $399 and $499, respectively. The stainless steel options are more expensive.

On the other hand, the aluminum-only Apple Watch SE has fewer features and is therefore a little cheaper, starting at $249 for the GPS option and $299 for the GPS + Cellular models.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch SE 2: which is right for you?

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If your budget is your top priority, the Apple Watch SE is the better option, as it can save you at least $150. But by opting for this model, you’ll be missing out on some key features like bigger and better screens, more health metrics, the option of stainless steel, and more.

Still, the cheaper model doesn’t compromise on many of the Apple Watch Series 9 features. It’s compatible with watchOS 10, has many of the same health tracking features, nearly identical workout options, 50m water resistance, up to 18 hours of battery life, and more.

If you’ve got the money and want the best Apple Watch experience you can get, go with the Apple Watch Series 9. But if you want something easier on your wallet, the Apple Watch SE is a great cheaper option.

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