March 4, 2024

All the features I want to see

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

At this point, the Apple Watch is almost synonymous with a smartwatch in many people’s minds. Very popular for their unparalleled app compatibility and seamless integration with the iPhone, the brand’s wearable devices flood the ever-growing market. One way the company is reaching more wrists is with its budget line: the SE series. This line makes small sacrifices to offer buyers a lower price without diluting the overall experience. What’s more, an update is expected this year. Here’s everything I hope to see in the next affordable Apple Watch.

An optional always-on display

An Apple Watch SE 2 rests on a gold and blue surface with the screen off.

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

A vibrant, colorful, square-shaped display is the calling card of Apple’s smartwatch line. This design consistency is one aspect of the SE line that makes it so attractive: compared to the Series line, most people can barely tell the difference. However, unlike their more expensive siblings, the Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch SE 2 do not feature an optional always-on mode to keep the watch face active. Instead, they both remain decidedly dark until you raise your wrist.

I, like many, was hoping to see this feature added to the 2022 model. Always-on mode is a foolproof way to enjoy my favorite photo-based watch faces. It’s also very useful during workouts and other activities when I want information at a glance (without imitating 007 talking to his watch). The downside, of course, is that always-on mode consumes a lot of battery, but I expect improvements on that front as well.

More screen space

An Apple Watch SE 2 user checks their app library.

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

While on the topic of displays, I’d also like to see the SE line finally get the size increase that Apple brought to its displays, starting with the Series 7. Despite launching alongside the Series 8, the SE 2 landed with 20% smaller size. screen (27% smaller than the huge Ultra line). This meant less space for applications, menus and graphics. It also meant that the SE line didn’t have access to Apple’s Qwerty keyboard, a useful feature for texting from the wrist.

Admittedly, I don’t notice the difference between the SE 2’s 40mm and 44mm cases and the Series 8’s 41mm and 45mm cases. However, the SE’s bezels could certainly use a trim, and that in itself it would only increase the screen specifications.

Blood oxygen monitoring

An Apple Watch SE 2 watch case rests face down showing the device's sensors.

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

Ordering an SpO2 sensor in Apple’s budget line may seem crazy; After all, the advanced sensor is one of the few things that separates this model from the company’s flagship series. However, much cheaper devices, including Fitbit’s Charge 6 and even Xiaomi’s cheaper fitness trackers, feature blood oxygen monitoring. In light of the prevalence of SpO2 sensors across the market, it seems like the time has come for the feature to become a staple of all Apple Watches.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t expect Apple to add ECG capabilities or a temperature sensor to the SE 3. These features, which are still considered niche health tools, keep Apple’s intentional pricing distance. Not that I wouldn’t accept them. Given the impact of temperature monitoring on tracking women’s health, it would be great if the company made the tool accessible to shoppers of all budgets.

An S9 chipset (or newer)

An Apple Watch SE 2 user asks Siri to start a FaceTime Audio call.

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

The Apple Watch SE 2022 launched with a 20% faster processor than its predecessor, using a dual-core S8 instead of the old S5 chip in the original SE. The impact of the chip is significant and appreciated. However, I would love to see Apple take the SE line up a notch with an S9 chipset. This would make the device capable of Apple’s latest double-tap gesture control and future-proof the watch for other software additions.

If Apple releases an even newer processor (which I hope they do), I’d love to upgrade the SE 3 further with that new chipset.

Better battery life

An Apple Watch SE 2 on its side shows the Low Power Mode screen.

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

You could easily copy and paste this same paragraph of wishes from each season leading up to the launch of Apple Watches. In my heart, I know that one day we will see an Apple Watch with a battery that lasts several days. I just wish that day would come sooner.

While the SE line offers low power mode, it does not yet have fast charging technology like the Series 7 and later. I’d love to see this come to the SE 3, and I’m dying for the entire stable to have better battery life overall.

Will there be an Apple Watch SE 3?

An assortment of Apple watches rest on a desk.

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

Even without official confirmation from Apple, it is very likely that we will see an Apple Watch SE 3 this year. The relatively more affordable option helps round out the smartwatch lineup, offering a cheaper alternative for entry-level users (and even kids). With the SE at one end and the Ultra line at the other, Apple’s stable offers an option for most buyers.

  • Apple Watch SE— September 2020
  • Apple Watch SE (2022) — September 2022

Back in July 2023, trusted leaker Mark Gurman posited that we wouldn’t see a new SE alongside the Series 9, but rather the lineup will continue to follow its bi-annual release cycle. This points to a new SE 3 in fall 2024. Most of the time, Apple’s fall event takes place in September, so that’s when I expect to see the SE 3 unveiled. According to other claims circulating in Apple rumors, the device could arrive alongside Apple’s anniversary model, the Apple Watch X.

As always, I’ll keep this hub updated as we learn more about the potential release.

Should you wait for the Apple Watch SE 3?

An Apple Watch SE 2 user restores their data from a backup.

Kaitlyn Cimino/Android Authority

Whether or not you should wait for the Apple Watch SE 3 depends on what you already have strapped to your wrist. If the answer is nothing, I don’t necessarily recommend waiting almost a year to buy a wearable device. The Apple Watch SE 2 ($269.99 at Amazon) is a fantastic entry point to the Apple watchOS experience and will likely enjoy software support for some time. If you already own the original SE (on the product website), it’s probably worth waiting for the SE 3 rather than looking for an SE 2 right now. Thanks to the watchOS software rollback, the SE is still a fantastic device.

On the other hand, Apple Watches are not compatible with Android phones, so if you don’t have an iPhone in your pocket, waiting for the SE 3 doesn’t make any sense. A better option might be the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 ($299.99 at Samsung) or Pixel Watch 2 ($349.99 at Amazon), both of which run on the Wear OS platform. Finally, the Garmin Venu SQ 2 ($249.99 at Amazon) is an affordable smartwatch compatible with both iPhones and Android phones. It doesn’t offer as strong a set of smartwatch features, but it’s a great option for fitness-focused buyers. Check out our dedicated guide for a full breakdown of the main differences between the Garmin and Apple ecosystems.

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