Apple Watch Buyer‘s Guide: SE vs Series 6 Full Comparison

Hey there! So you‘re interested in getting an Apple Watch and want to understand the ins and outs of the latest Apple Watch SE and Series 6 models. You‘ve come to the right place!

As a tech product analyst who has tested countless smartwatches and fitness trackers, I‘ll cut through the jargon and marketing hype to give you the scoop on what each Apple Watch option offers. I‘ll compare all the key features from health sensors to battery life so you can determine which model best fits your wants and budget.

My goal is to save you time and headaches so you can pick the Apple Watch that‘s just right FOR YOU. Let‘s dive in!

Which Apple Watch Should You Buy?

First, what do you primarily want to use your new Apple Watch for? Here‘s a quick checklist of potential uses cases to prioritize:

✅ Notifications from your iPhone
✅ Fitness tracking and workouts
✅ Contactless payments
✅ Music playback
✅ Health metrics like heart data
✅ Extra features like compass, elevation tracking, etc

Chances are the Apple Watch SE and Series 6 BOTH handle those main tasks equally well at their core. The biggest differences come down to newer health sensors ONLY in the Series 6, the always-on display, and some premium materials/design options.

So if you don’t care as much about monitoring blood oxygen or taking ECGs from your watch, the budget-friendly SE likely fits the bill with plenty of features.

But serious fitness buffs who want every health insight, or people managing medical conditions, may want to splurge on the top-tier Series 6.

Now let’s examine those key differences in-depth…

Head-to-Head Comparison

Here I’ll unpack how the Apple Watch SE and Series 6 stack up across all the major factors – from displays and battery life to special sensors and fitness capabilities. Use this info to geek out on the specs or just get the big picture!

The Core Basics

Let’s start with the foundational features common to BOTH the Apple Watch SE and Series 6 since they share quite a bit overlap by running the same watchOS platform.

Water resistance – Both models are swimproof with 50 meters water resistance according to Apple, meaning you can swim laps or take them in the shower without issue.

Notifications – You’ll receive vibration alerts and can interact with messages, emails, calendar events and social app notifications from your paired iPhone.

Call/Text – Place phone calls, send texts via dictation or quick replies. A cellular connection lets you do all this completely phone-free!

Apple Pay – Make contactless payments from your wrist using Apple Pay. No need to carry cash or cards for coffee shops, groceries, transit tickets, etc.

Music – Load playlists and audio apps to listen untethered via Bluetooth headphones.

App Platform – Access tens of thousands of watchOS apps like Outlook, Uber, Nike Run Club, Slack, common airline apps and more designed for the small screen.

Fitness Tracking – Built-in sensors record workout sessions and activities like runs, swims, cycling routes, while providing real-time stats and historical records. You can track all the basics this way without any other accessories or subscriptions. Pretty amazing right?

And that‘s just the tip of the iceberg for shared capabilities before considering everything else these watches can do. Now onto the differences…

Display Technology

Let‘s talk screens since you‘ll be interacting with it constantly. Both the SE and Series 6 watches have vibrant, color Retina displays ranging from 40mm up to 44mm case sizes. So images and text will look crisp regardless.

Brightness – They hit up to 1000 nits peak brightness, which is extremely legible even under intense direct sunlight.

Resolution – The 40mm screen resolution is 324×394 pixels while the 44mm sits at 368×448 pixels. That’s pretty sharp given the tiny surface area.

Now here is the ONE meaningful display variation:

  • The Series 6 has Apple‘s always-on display technology so your screen stays visible – although dimmed – even when you‘re not actively looking at it or lifting your wrist. This allows quick glanceable info like time or metrics without extra gestures.

  • Comparatively, the SE display remains OFF unless woken up by a tap or wrist raise. For some users that minor inconvenience is worth saving $120+…you decide!

Outside the always-on mode though, both rock excellent, nearly identical Retina OLED panels otherwise.

Design and Customization

Apple knocks industrial design out of the park and the fit, polish and attention to detail on both the SE and Series 6 makes them insanely comfortable all-day watches regardless of your wrist size. They share the same curved edges and button layout too.

Again, mostly similar – but some neat options only come on the Series 6:

  • Materials – The SE only uses 100% recycled aluminum, while spending up on the Series 6 gets you lightweight/premium titanium or classic stainless steel along with aluminum.

  • Colors – The aluminum SE comes in silver, space gray, and gold. But Series 6 opens up blue, graphite, Project Red, natural stainless and black titanium colors too. So if having that perfect color combo is important, the Series 6 models offer more personal flair.

Otherwise when it comes to the case shapes, button layouts, and band compatibility both models are practically indistinguishable. Personally I find both extremely comfortable to wear 24/7.

Speed and Performance

As you’d expect with any new Apple product release, the latest internal chipgets a boost – this time on the Series 6. Here’s how the processors compare that bring all the watchOS magic alive:

  • Apple S5 chip (SE model): Dual-core, 64-bit processor previously used in Series 4 and Series 5 so it has a proven fast/efficient track record.

  • Apple S6 chip (Series 6): Next-gen dual-core chip built on the A13 Bionic platform that adds a 20% speed increase – especially helpful when opening apps or using the latest advanced features.

To be clear though, both chipsets run amazingly smooth with great RAM management thanks to Apple‘s vertical hardware/software integration. Most people honestly wouldn’t notice much speed difference in practice. It‘s not like the SE seems outdated or underpowered at all out of the gate. Plus the maturity of watchOS also plays a role optimizing performance.

But if you envision using more graphics-intensive apps now or during your typical 3-4 year device ownership lifespan, the Series 6 has objectively more headroom. Yet both will handle all the core features of notifications, calls, Apple Pay, music etc equally swiftly.

Battery Life

Battery life anxiety is all too real in our device-dominated world, am I right? Especially if you’ll rely on Apple Watch notifications untethered from your phone throughout the day or tracking long workouts. Here’s how power needs shake out…

Series 6 (45mm)

  • 90 time checks
  • 90 notifications
  • 45 minutes app use
  • 60 minutes workout with music playback
    via Apple testing

SE (44mm)

  • 90 time checks
  • 90 notifications
  • 45 minutes app use
  • 60 minutes workout with music playback
    via Apple testing

As you can see, Apple rates both models nearly the same citing up to 18 hours of mixed usage thanks to power efficiency improvements. My experience aligns with thatthrough daily testing over years of wearing different Apple Watch generations.

Both the SE and Series 6 will comfortably get through a full day of typical use, although I‘d recommend charging nightly anyway. What’s cool is how fast they recharge – the Series 6 more so thanks to:

  • Series 6 charges from 0 to 100% in just 1.5 hours
  • SE charges from 0 to 100% in 2 hours

So if you ever need to quickly top up mid-day before a workout when every minute counts, the Series 6 will bounce back quicker – a nice bonus.

Unique Health Sensors and Features

Health tech enhancements are some of the biggest differences setting the SE and Series 6 models apart. Let‘s examine them…

Blood Oxygen app – This brand new sensor and app on the Series 6 models can take periodic background oxygen saturation readings including while you sleep. Having a comprehensive view into your oxygen levels provides insight on breathing quality, heart health, sleep patterns and more.

The SE lacks this sensor entirely. If blood oxygen data appeals to your fitness or health interests, it‘s only found in the Series 6 right now.

ECG app – The Series 6 has electrodes built into its underside crystal and digital crown which can record a clinical-grade ECG similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram when combined with the ECG app. Advanced health analysis aside, I think it’s amazing tech living on your wrist!

This opens up proactive heart health management, irregular rhythm notifications and more for Series 6 owners only. The SE does NOT include ECG capabilities unfortunately.

High and low heart rate notifications – BOTH models actually share the ability to alert if they detect unusually high or low heart rate ranges. That covers risky scenarios during demanding workouts or times of stress and anxiety.

So in essence the SE maintains strong 24/7 health vigilance thanks to high/low HR alerts, workout tracking and fall detection, but lacks the next-gen upgrades exclusive to the Series 6 for now. Hopefully we see wider rollout of advanced sensors across more Apple Watch tiers over time!

A Few More Things…

Just a couple other miscellaneous capabilities where the Series 6 pulls ahead:

  • 5GHz WiFi – The Series 6 includes compatibility with 5GHz networks (in addition to 2.4Ghz) for faster connectivity speeds with modern routers when untethered from your phone. The SE maxes out at 2.4GHz support however so remote WiFi transfers may lag slightly.

  • U1 Ultra Wideband chip – This new component sets the stage for precise "spatial awareness" applications Apple is developing around augmented environments, next-gen appliances and home tech. Future potential!

If those extras intrigue you, they’re nice bonuses only found in the Series 6 package. However for a budget-friendly smartwatch experience you certainly won’t miss them in the excellent Apple Watch SE.

And that essentially covers the major categories where these two watches differ…or in some cases are surprisingly identical despite being in totally separate pricing tiers! Now let’s make sense of it all when it comes to choosing one.

Which Should You Buy: SE or Series 6?

We’ve covered a bunch of facts and hopefully given you a complete picture into strengths of the Apple Watch SE and Series 6. Now I‘ll make it simple and break down exactly who each model best suits…

Apple Watch SE – Who It‘s For

If phrases like "I just want the basics" or "best affordable Apple Watch option" come to mind – the Apple Watch SE seems tailored exactly for you!

Consider the SE if:

  • You want fantastic core smartwatch functionality like notifications, tracking, Apple Pay etc without paying a premium
  • You don’t care as much about the latest health sensors like ECG or blood oxygen reading
  • You’re upgrading from a much older device so even base-level features feel new!
  • You’re buying your first ever smartwatch just to try things out
  • You want to access the Apple Watch app ecosystem and hardware quality at the lowest cost

For all those folks, the Watch SE brings tremendous value starting under $300. It lacks a handful of niche features that honestly many people simply won’t use day-to-day anyway.

Apple Watch Series 6 – Who It‘s For

If you‘re thinking "I want the absolute best Apple Watch period" – then yes the Apple Watch Series 6 reigns supreme for you!

The Series 6 is the play if you:

  • Demand cutting-edge health sensors like ECG and blood oxygen – key for fitness buffs or medical conditions
  • Insist on an always-on display for added convenience checking the time etc
  • Want maximum futureproofing and some exclusive technologies like the U1 chip
  • Love all the different material and color combinations for personal style
  • Simply desire the latest and greatest tech!

For those folks who CAN budget the $400+ investment, it’s arguably the most advanced do-it-all smartwatch ever conceived to date. You pay a premium but get extras not found on any other wearable in the SE‘s class.

Bottom Line Recommendation

Here’s my professional bottom line suggestion on which Apple Watch to get in your shoes:

The Apple Watch SE and Series 6 both serve as exceptional smartwatches that can profoundly impact your day-to-day connectivity, health and fitness. I‘d personally be thrilled to wear either one in my daily life without reservation.

SE buyers sacrifice some specs in exchange for serious value. Although if you want the absolute cutting-edge innovations in a wearable device with money being no limitation – the Series 6 pulls out all the stops.

Ultimately both models execute on the core Apple Watch premise extremely well. Let your budget and preference for advanced health monitoring functionality drive the decision between these two fantastic options.

I sincerely hope breaking down their pros, cons and key distinctions in this guide helps you feel confident about choosing the right Apple Watch for your needs. Let me know if any other questions come up!

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