Apple unveils affordable Watch SE alongside flagship Watch 6

Apple today unveiled its latest flagship smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 6. The new wearable adds blood-oxygen monitoring and sleep tracking for the first time and it also benefits from a new faster S6 chip. You can read all about it here.

Depending on your standpoint, perhaps the more interesting news from the company’s “Time Flies” September event is that Apple is launching a brand-new low-cost wearable named the Apple Watch SE. This represents the first time that Apple has launched a cheaper smartwatch rather than selling an older model alongside the latest model at a reduced price. It’s available to order from this Friday 18 September for just £279.

The new budget-friendly Watch SE has essentially the same design as the flagship and uses Apple’s S5 chip, which it claims is twice as fast as the Watch 3 (still available from £200). It also has “all of the same motion sensors” you’ll find in the pricier Watch 6 including its accelerometer, gyroscope and always-on altimeter. Thanks to watchOS 7 it’ll also come with new features including sleep tracking and Family Setup.

The latter is a standout new feature that lets both younger and older members of your family take advantage of features such as emergency international calling and Emergency SOS (which alerts emergency contacts automatically in the event the wearable detects a hard fall). Interestingly, these family members will also be able to set up their Apple Watch without having their own iPhone, the first time this has ever been possible.

As you might expect, Family Setup is only supported on the cellular Watch SE and Apple says watches set up in this way will have fewer features than those set up as normal.

It might appear that Apple is pitching the SE at children and older members of your family, but what’s the catch if you don’t fall into one of these groups? Besides having a slower chip, it wasn’t initially clear from the presentation which features are omitted from the Watch SE. Thankfully, however, Apple’s website has since assisted in clarifying things further.

The Watch SE has no always-on display – the main new feature introduced on the Watch 5 – but it does detect irregular heartbeats, meaning it does have the electrocardiogram capabilities of the Apple Watch 4 and later. As I’ve already mentioned, it’ll also run Apple’s watchOS 7, which brings with it a host of new features including VO2 max and sleep tracking, automatic handwashing detection, and new workout types.

When you buy the Watch SE, it also comes with three months of Apple’s new “fitness experience” Apple Fitness+. Taking on the likes of Peloton and Fitbit Premium, this new service connects you with the “world’s most welcoming and knowledgeable trainers”, and is updated every week with new content. Available from the “end of 2020” Fitness+ costs £10/mth after the initial trial period.

At £270, I expect the Watch SE will sell in droves, particularly since it adds the ECG functionality that’s not offered by the £200 Apple Watch 3. In essence it’s an Apple Watch 4, repackaged with a bunch of appealing new features. For more info about the Apple Watch SE, click here.

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