Apple pulled off a surprise this year by launching a more affordable smartwatch with mass appeal – the Apple Watch SE. While the Apple Watch Series 6 is an amalgam of the most advanced features and cutting-edge hardware that Apple can offer, the Apple Watch SE serves more like an entry-point in Apple’s smartwatch ecosystem without cutting too many corners. Or to put it simply, the Apple Watch SE is to Apple’s smartwatches what the iPhone SE is to the current iPhone line-up. But starting at $279, the Apple Watch SE is not exactly cheap and is neither the cheapest smartwatch that Apple has to offer. That honor goes to the Apple Watch Series 3, which currently starts at $199 and is an attractive option for many buyers. So, which one is the best fit for you? Read our detailed comparison to find out the answer:
The underlying design of all three Apple smartwatches has a lot in common, and the only key difference is the size, color options, build quality, and the choice of bands you have at your disposal. Talking about the size, the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE come in two sizes – 44mm and 40mm. The Apple Watch Series 3, on the other hand, is available in 38mm and 42mm case sizes.
Talking about the case options, the Apple Watch Series 6 can be yours in a trio of case options – Aluminum, Stainless Steel, and Titanium. Of course, the price of each case option differs as you go up from Aluminum to Titanium. As for the Apple Watch SE and the Apple Watch Series 3, they only come in an Aluminum case option.
A noteworthy difference is that despite the bump in size, the Apple Watch Series 6 case is 11 percent thinner than the one on Apple Watch Series 3. Also, the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE rock a ceramic and sapphire crystal back which is more durable, while the Apple Watch Series 3 has a composite back.
Talking about color options, the Apple Watch Series 6 comes in Silver, Space Gray, Gold, Blue, Red, Space Black, Graphite, and Titanium Colors. The Apple Watch SE only comes in Silver, Space, and Gold Shades. Coming to the Apple Watch Series 3, it is up for grabs in Silver and Space Gray colors. The Apple Watch Series 6 and its SE sibling also get an Apple Watch Nike version, while the Apple Watch Series 6 exclusively comes in a luxurious Apple Watch Hermes Edition too.
All three devices are claimed to be swim-proof with a water resistance rating of 50 meters. However, Apple warns that you should not wear your Apple Watch while scuba diving, waterskiing, or other activities that involve high-velocity water or submersion below shallow depth.
As mentioned above, both the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE come in two sizes – 40mm and 44mm. The display on the 40mm version offers a resolution of 324×394 pixels, while the 44mm version’s display has a resolution of 368×448 pixels. A key difference here is that the Apple Watch Series 6 employs an Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display, while the Apple Watch SE opts for a regular Retina LTPO OLED display. If you compare the size, the display on the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE is 30% larger than the one on the Apple Watch Series 3.
Coming to the Apple Watch Series 3, the 38mm version has a display with a resolution of 272×340 pixels, while the panel on its 42mm version has a resolution of 312×390 pixels. Another difference is that the Apple Watch Series 3 opts for a Retina OLED display without the LTPO technology. Notably, the peak brightness output on all three Apple smartwatches is identical at 1000 nits.
The Apple Watch Series 6 uses the new dual-core S6 chip that is claimed to be 20% faster than its predecessor. It is accompanied by the W3 Apple Wireless chip that supports Bluetooth 5.0 standard. More importantly, the Apple Watch Series 6 comes equipped with the U1 Ultra Wideband chip that is also found inside the iPhone 11 series and is used for spatial awareness and more accurate positioning.
Coming to the Apple Watch SE, it uses the last-gen S5 chip that is touted to be twice as fast as the S3 silicon. Plus, it also gets the W3 Bluetooth chip but doesn’t come equipped with a U1 chip inside. Lastly, the Apple Watch Series 3 draws power from the in-house S3 silicon ticking alongside the older W2 chip.
The new generation Apple smartwatches also bump up the storage. The GPS-only as well as the GPS+Cellular variants of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE pack 32GB of storage. The sole GPS variant of the Apple Watch Series 3 comes equipped with 8GB of onboard storage.
The speaker on the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE is claimed to be at least 50% louder than the one fitted inside the Apple Watch Series 3. Plus, the accelerometer that comes equipped inside the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE can measure 32-g forces and also supports fall detection. In comparison, the accelerometer inside the Apple Watch Series 3 can only measure up to 16-g forces and does not support fall detection.
Another huge difference between Apple’s 2020 smartwatches and the Apple Watch Series 3 is connectivity. The Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE both come in GPS-only and the GPS+ Cellular variants, while the Apple Watch Series 3 doesn’t offer cellular connectivity support.
The Apple Watch Series 6 also offers dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz + 5GHz) support, which means faster connectivity and speed. The Apple Watch SE and the Apple Watch Series 3 can only latch on to the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band.
Another key difference is that the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE support the Bluetooth 5.0 standard which offers a faster and more stable pairing experience compared to the older Bluetooth 4.2 standard supported by the Apple Watch Series 3.
Apple has not revealed the mAh count of the batteries fitted inside the three smartwatches, but all three of them are claimed to last 18 hours on a single charge. A key change Apple is making this year is that the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE will no longer ship with a power adapter in the retail package, a move that goes towards Apple’s commitment to reducing e-waste. You only get a magnetic charging cable that you can connect to any other adapter lying around or a USB power source to charge the smartwatches.
The presence of sensors is what dictates the capabilities of every new Apple Watch generation. The Apple Watch Series 6 stands tall above the rest two by packing a dedicated blood oxygen sensor for measuring blood oxygen saturation levels, and an electric heart rate sensor as well, for measuring ECG. Neither the Apple Watch SE nor the Apple Watch Series 3 has these two sensors. All three feature an optical heart rate sensor for measuring the regular heart rate activity and have a digital crown as well.
Notably, the digital crown on the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE also offers haptic feedback, while the one on Apple Watch Series 3 doesn’t. Plus, the altimeter inside the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE is of the always-on type, while the Apple Watch Series 3 had a regular altimeter. Also, the Apple Watch Series 3 misses out on a compass.
The biggest advantage of buying the Apple Watch Series 6 is its ability to measure blood oxygen saturation level and ECG, both of which are absent from the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Apple Watch SE. You get the Emergency SOS feature on all three smartwatches, but the Apple Watch SE and the Apple Watch Series also offer support for international emergency calling and noise monitoring as well.
Talking about heart-related wellness features, all three Apple smartwatches are capable of sending low and high heart rate notifications, as well as for irregular heart rate rhythms. Another major difference is that the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE also support the new Family Setup feature that allows you to configure an Apple Watch for family members without them needing to carry an iPhone. This feature only works on the GPS + Cellular variant of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE. And since the Apple Watch Series 3 misses out on cellular connectivity, it doesn’t support Family Setup.
|Apple Watch Series 6||Apple Watch SE||Apple Watch Series 3|
|40mm and 44mm||40mm and 44mm||38mm and 42mm|
|Always-On Retina LTPO OLED |
|Retina LTPO OLED display||Retina OLED display|
|Blood Oxygen measurement||—||—|
|GPS and GPS+Cellular variants||GPS and GPS+Cellular variants||Only GPS variant|
|Internation emergency calling||Internation emergency calling||—|
|Fall detection||Fall detection||—|
|Supports Family Setup||Supports Family Setup||—|
|Always-on altimeter||Always-on altimeter||Altimeter|
|32GB internal storage||32GB internal storage||8GB internal storage|
|U1 Ultra Wideband chip||U1 Ultra Wideband chip||—|
|Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 4.2|
|Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz)||Wi-Fi (2.4GHz only)||Wi-Fi (2.4GHz only)|
The Apple Watch Series 6 comes with an all-new blood oxygen sensor that can measure the oxygen saturation level of blood. It shines multi-color LEDs and infrared light through the blood vessels, assessing their color and then using algorithms to measure how much oxygen they carry. Plus, it can also take ECG measurements which can alert users via notification when irregular heart rhythm is detected. This can prove to be invaluable for people with heart conditions and can help identify atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition that can lead to strokes.
If you are a fitness enthusiast who wants the best of health-tracking abilities, then the Apple Watch Series 6 with its blood oxygen level measuring capability is the better choice. Plus, if you or any of your family members suffer from heart issues, the ECG feature on the Apple Watch Series 6 can be a life-saving measure courtesy of a device that starts at $399.
The Apple Watch Series 3 and the Apple Watch SE miss out on both blood oxygen measurement and ECG. And if these features are not important for you, you can save a few hundred dollars by not buying the Apple Watch Series 6 because the rest of the package is more or less the same when it comes to the Apple Watch SE. However, if you’re not heavily invested in a fitness-centric lifestyle and just want a companion device on which you can check out notifications and do some basic tasks, the Apple Watch Series 3 is a great choice at just $199.