“Time flies … Time flies”. It was with these words that Apple invited the press to the event which launched the Apple Watch SE. And in fact, in five years, the Apple smartwatch has come a long way. Shifting from grand luxury to positioning more in line with its high tech nature, at the crossroads between the roles of iPhone extension, sports companion and your health assistant.
This year, the best-selling connected watch in the world takes a new turn and gets a mid-range. Not enough to arouse interest? It all depends on what the product in question offers and it all depends on what you expect. In this case, Apple retained thedesignation SE, which represents the entry level for iPhones, and joined to a Watch to compose a range of three products: an aging Watch Series 3 entry level, a Watch Series 6 at the top of the range, and therefore an SE, which must be at the point of perfect balance between quality and price. Is that the case ? And above all, does it have enough to make us crack?
The high-end finish
The Watch SE may well occupy the mid-range de facto, it does not have the shortcomings of some competing connected watches which pay for this positioning with a questionable finish. Although confined to the aluminum case, the Watch SE displays an impeccable finish, with a rectangular case – sorry for fans of round watches – that feels solid and durable. Apple’s removable bracelet system is obviously there and can be changed according to mood or clothing for those who pay attention to sartorial details.
Let’s slip in two little words about the two new bracelets introduced by Apple. The Solo Loop / Unique Silicone Buckle requires you to choose between the nine sizes offered, as it is important that it fits well on the arm, especially if you want to use the Watch for sports. The Leather Link Bracelet is very beautiful and attractive, but its design does not necessarily make it very suitable for sports activities, because it is difficult to tighten it well. Not to mention that we are always a little afraid that someone will sneak the Watch off our wrist when we wear it in a subway, for example.
From a material quality point of view, the Watch SE follows in the footsteps of Series 5 or even the Series 6. It should be noted, however, that the screen is not protected by crystal sapphire but by ionized glass, as is very often the case on the less expensive models of Watch.
Ergonomics without sacrifice… except for one big detail
Beyond the finish, the Watch SE is on par with the Series 6. It offers the same choices of interaction, with a digital crown that serves as both a menu and a push button. The side button is there to invoke your credit cards if you want to use Apple Pay, for example, or to view your favorite or most recently used apps.
The touchscreen is the same size as the Series 6. The SE is indeed available in the same case sizes of 40 and 44 mm. No really, ergonomically, the Watch SE is flawless. With one detail. Since Series 5, Watch users have been able to get used to more fluidity in use thanks to an “always on” OLED screen. The Series 6 has even perfected the offering by increasing the screen brightness in “passive” mode. However, the Watch SE does not benefit from this function. Yet she would have all the prerequisites to do so. In this case, one might be tempted to believe that this choice of Apple is justified solely by the desire to leave something to the Series 6 …
Obviously, the new top-of-the-range Watch has two strong arguments in its pocket: the ECG and the oximeter, which the Watch SE lacks. It retains a classic sensor, which however allows you to very precisely follow the beating of your heart, which is more than enough for running or playing sports regularly. It also does not include the U1 chip, which will notably allow you to unlock your car with it, but for the time being, the other uses of this chip are still unknown …
Getting back to those functional absences, let’s be frank, if features like ECG or oximeter are welcome, if they improve your health monitoring, and while they have saved a few lives already, most users don’t. do not have a real need for it on a daily basis. It is therefore easy to do without it in everyday life, even in sports. Especially since the new permanently active altimeter, which the Series 6 benefits from, and which allows you to follow the vertical drop during a race for example, is present in the Watch SE.
watchOS 7: a great vintage and the same experience as with a Series 6
This new altimeter manifests itself in different ways in the new version of the Watch operating system: it can be a complication for example, or just a more detailed set of information in one of the many workouts offered by the app. dedicated Exercises.
But watchOS 7, and its 20,000 applications, is full of new features and the Watch SE makes the most of it. It thus offers sleep tracking – which offers a good basis but perhaps still lacks a little precision -, the countdown and hand washing reminder, the possibility of creating Memoji and making them a background. animated screens, to create and share personalized watch faces, especially with new and more varied complications, and the list goes on.
Siri is also more diligent, although the local treatment is not yet working French for the moment. It seemed to us that Siri’s misfires on the Watch were rarer and that her understanding as well as her responsiveness had been improved. However, on the Watch SE, Apple’s assistant can only rely on the S5 SiP (System in Package), which was used in the Series 5.
We are therefore not entitled to the 20% more performance provided by the S6 (from the Series 6). However, already last year with the Series 5, the interface was smooth and applications launched fast enough that there was no reason to be annoyed by slowness or failure.
Ultimately, the S5 chip provides enough power to take advantage of watchOS 7 and its novelties.
Two or three details
The other good surprise is that the conjunction of the S5 chip and the screen off, except when you lift your wrist or touch it to activate it, allows the Watch SE to provide good battery life. We understand, this is not about holding out for several days. No. By using the watch sparingly, not too much GPS, exercise and phone calls (if you have the 4G model, which we tested) you can last a good 30 hours. On the other hand, if you accumulate a bit of a long bike ride, a lot of notifications and a few calls, you may find yourself running out of battery a little too soon for your liking. We always managed to get home before we saw the SE die off, but sometimes it came close.
Especially since, like on the Series 6, the sleep tracking function makes the task of recharging a bit more complex, traditionally done at night with previous Watches. You will have to find the right time to recharge it, which still takes 1h56, if you want to go from 0 to 100% charge.
The Family Configuration Watch
Even more than the aging and less efficient Series 3, the Watch SE seems to us to be Apple’s connected watch that can be given to a child. Thanks to the Family configuration function, it is indeed possible to use a Watch without iPhone since it only takes one Apple smartphone to set up and manage a watch. The goal is to allow children (or grandparents) to use a Watch every day without necessarily having to own a smartphone … Apple. Obviously, it is recommended to use a version with the option (and subscription) 4G, a little more expensive, this will allow you to make calls outside of Wi-Fi and to be geolocated too – if you have no problem with it. idea of ”tracking” your loved ones in real time.
Watch SE will allow parents to set up a semblance of parental controls, through approval from contacts, or downloaded apps. But also to define the time slots for School mode. It limits certain functions so that the Watch does not become an object of distraction.