Apple Watch SE (2022) vs Watch Series 3: Should you upgrade? - MrLiambi's blog


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Thursday 29 September 2022

Apple Watch SE (2022) vs Watch Series 3: Should you upgrade?

Apple announced the next generation of Watch SE during its September event, alongside the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra. It's the new entry point into Apple's smartwatches, replacing the Apple Watch Series 3. 

With the Series 3 not compatible with the watchOS 9 software, you might be considering an upgrade. Is the Watch SE (2022) the model for you, or should you consider the Watch Series 8 instead?

Here's how the Watch SE (2022) compares to the Watch Series 3. We've added references to the Watch Series 8 too though so you can see what you would gain by opting for the more expensive model.


  • Watch Series 3: 38.6 x 33.3 x 11.4mm, 26.7g (38mm) / 42.5 x 36.4 x 11.4mm, 32.3g (42mm)
  • Watch SE: 40 x 34 x 10.7mm, 26.4g (40mm) and 44 x 38 x 10.7mm, 32.9g (44mm)

The Apple Watch SE (2022) and Series 3 share a very similar design, with both offering a rectangular casing with rounded corners. There's a Digital Crown on the right edge of both, with a separate button below, and the heart rate sensor sits on the underside. The Watch SE has haptic feedback on the Digital Crown though, while the Watch Series 3 doesn't and the Watch SE (2022) also has a colour-matched under-casing too.

The Watch Series 3 was available in 38mm and 42mm case sizes when it first launched, while the Watch SE (2022) comes in 40mm and 44mm options - the extra millimetres translate to a larger display on the Watch SE (2022) within the same footprint. 

The Series 8 comes in 41mm and 45mm options for reference - and with that comes a larger display again. All straps are compatible across the models though so if you have a 38mm Apple Watch Series 3, your straps will fit on a 40mm Watch SE (2022) or a 41mm Watch Series 8, while the 42mm straps will fit on the 44mm and 45mm models.

The Watch Series 3 came in stainless steel, aluminium and a ceramic option when it first arrived, while the Watch SE is only available in aluminium. If you want stainless steel, you'll need to look at the Watch Series 8 and if you want titanium, it's the Watch Ultra you'll need to consider. The Watch Series 3, Watch SE (2022) and Watch Series 8 all offer water resistance up to 50-metres though.


  • Watch Series 3: Retina OLED Display, up to 1000nits 
    • 42mm: 740sqmm, 312 x 390 pixels 
    • 38mm: 563sqmm, 272 x 340 pixels
  • Watch SE: Retina LTPO Display, up to 1000nits

While Apple doesn't give display size information for its Apple Watch models, the Watch SE (2022) has a 20 per cent larger display than the Watch Series 3 and it's noticeable in the flesh. The Watch Series 8 meanwhile, is larger still, stretching to the edges of the casing, hence the need for the extra millimetre compared to the Watch SE (2022). 

The Watch Series 3 has a Retina OLED display with up to 1000nits, while the Watch SE (2022) has a Retina LTPO display. It too has up to 1000nits brightness. The biggest difference between the two displays is the size though. 

Neither offer the Always-On technology you will find on the Watch Series 8 so when your hand isn't raised, the screen will be black. The stainless steel models and ceramic model of the Watch Series 3 are protected by sapphire glass, while the aluminium model is protected by Ion-X glass. For the Watch SE (2022), Ion-X protects the display.


  • Watch Series 3: 38/42mm, Stainless steel, Aluminium, Ceramic, Nike, Hermes, GPS/GPS & Cellular
  • Watch SE: 40/44mm, Aluminium, GPS/GPS & Cellular

The Watch Series 3 has been discontinued by Apple so it's no longer available to buy direct. When it first launched, it was available in stainless steel, aluminium option and ceramic casings. There was also a Nike model and a Hermes model and it came in GPS only and GPS & Cellular models.

The Watch SE (2022) is available in aluminium only. There is no stainless steel option and no special material option either. There is also no specific Nike model or Hermes model. The Watch SE (2022) does come in GPS only and GPS & Cellular models though. 

Meanwhile, the Watch Series 8 comes in aluminium and stainless steel options, as well as a Hermes model. There is also GPS only and GPS & Cellular models.


  • Watch Series 3: S3 chip, W2 wireless chip, 8GB capacity, up to 18 hours
  • Watch SE: S8 chip, W3 wireless chip, 32GB capacity, up to 18 hours

The Apple Watch SE (2022) runs on the S8 chip, which is the same as the Series 8. It misses out on a couple of sensors, like the skin temperature sensor for helping to detect ovulation in women and the SpO2 sensor for blood oxygen monitoring, but on the whole, it's the same basic hardware.

There's a W3 chip, along with a always-on altimeter, compass, accelerometer that can detect up to 256 g-forces and a gyroscope. There's also 32GB storage capacity and a U1 chip on board.

The Series 3 meanwhile, runs on the S3 chip, along with W2 wireless chip so there's quite a big performance upgrade with the Watch SE (2022) or Watch Series 8. The Watch Series 3 also has just 8GB capacity, and a barometric altimeter. There's no compass and the accelerometer only detects up to 16 g-forces.


  • Watch Series 3: watchOS 8
  • Watch SE: watchOS 9, Car Crash Detection, Fall Detection, International Emergency Calling

The Watch SE (2022) runs on watchOS 9, which means it delivers a plethora of features, the most useless of which is the advanced sleep tracking. The Watch Series 3 offers sleep tracking but not sleep stages so it's not as useful.

The upgrade in hardware in the Watch SE (2022) over the Watch Series 3 also means there are a few other features on board the newer model. There's Car Crash detection for example, as well as Fall Detection and International emergency calling. 

Both the Watch SE (2022) and Watch Series 3 offer the Apple Watch App Store though, excellent performance when it comes to delivering smartphone notifications and they both also have features like Emergency SOS, and high and low heart rate notifications.

Neither offer blood oxygen tracking or body temperature tracking. For those features, you need the hardware within the Series 8.


The Apple Watch SE (2022) offers a big jump up in performance over the Watch Series 3, whilst also offering a larger display within a very similar footprint, delivering a better viewing experience. 

There are also a number of extra features on board the Watch SE (2022) that make it worth the upgrade from the Series 3, such as more advanced sleep tracking, Car Crash Detection (though hopefully you won't need it) and general improvements in storage, processing power and software compatibility. 

It's worth considering the Series 8 if you want the body temperature statistics, or if you want the Always-On display and the larger screen with slimmer bezels, but overall, the Watch SE (2022) is an excellent replacement for the Watch Series 3 and you'll see a big difference in experience.

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