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(Pocket-lint) - Apple announced the Watch Series 8, Watch Ultra and a second generation of Watch SE in September 2022. These three models replaced the Apple Watch Series 7, first generation of Apple Watch SE and the older Apple Watch Series 3 in the company's portfolio, though the models still exist to buy from other retailers, along with the Series 6.

We have features comparing the newer models, including how the Watch SE compares to the Series 3, but here we are looking at how the Apple Watch Series 7 stacks up against the first generation Watch SE and Watch Series 3 so you can see what the differences and similarities are between the older models.

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It's worth noting that the Series 7 is very similar to the Series 6 with a slight redesign, so we've kept the Series 6 details in this feature for reference.

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Design

  • Series 3: 11.4mm thick, 5ATM waterproof
  • Watch SE: 10.7mm thick, 5ATM waterproof, Compass
  • Series 6: 10.7mm thick, 5ATM waterproof, Compass, Electrical heart rate sensor, Blood oxygen sensor
  • Series 7: 10.7mm, 5ATM waterproof, IPX6 dust resistant, Compass, Electrical heart rate sensor, Blood oxygen sensor 
  • Straps compatible across all models

All the Apple Watch models being compared here feature a solid rectangular body with the Digital Crown and separate button on the right, along with a speaker and microphone on the left.

They are all swim-proof up to 50-metres and they all have a heart rate monitor positioned on the underside of the watch body, along with the release buttons for switching out the straps.

There are some differences between the Series 3, SE, Series 6 and Series 7 though. Firstly, the Series 3 is slightly thicker than the Series 7, Series 6 and first gen SE model.

Secondly, in the case of the Series 7 (and Series 4, 5 and 6), the Digital Crown has an electrical heart rate sensor built into it, which is in addition to the optical heart rate sensor on the underside of the watch. The Watch Series 7 also has a blood oxygen sensor, like the Series 6, and it has reduced bezels surrounding the display, as well as an IPX6 dust resistance.

Display

  • Series 3: OLED Retina display with Force Touch
  • Watch SE: LTPO OLED Retina display with Force Touch
  • Series 6/7: LTPO OLED Always-On Retina display with Force Touch

All the Apple Watch models being compared here have OLED Retina displays with Force Touch built into them, allowing for different functions depending on the force with which you press.

The Series 6 and the first gen Watch SE have a 30 per cent larger display than the Series 3 with rounded edges however, making full use of the space available and resulting in a bolder design. The Series 7 expands on this further, reducing the bezels around the display by 40 per cent, making for a 20 per cent larger display than the Series 6 and first gen Watch SE, and 50 per cent larger than the Series 3, as well as a more seamless design.

In addition to the display increase, the Apple Watch Series 7 and Series 6 offer an Always-On Retina display, which the first gen Watch SE and Series 3 don't.

The Always-On display means you don't have to raise your wrist to wake the display up, with the screen always visible. A raise of the wrist or a tap on the display will brighten the Series 7 (and Series 5/6) display instead.

Models

  • Series 3: Aluminium only options, two colours
  • Watch SE: Aluminium only options, three colours, Nike model in two colours
  • Series 7: Aluminium (five colours), Stainless steel options (three colours), Titanium options (two colours), Nike+ models and Hermès models
  • GPS and GPS and Cellular options for Series 7 and Watch SE
  • Size options: 38mm/42mm (Series 3), 40mm/44mm (Series 6 and Watch SE), 41mm/45mm (Series 7)

Until the launch of the latest Apple Watch models, the Apple Watch Series 3 was available to buy with an aluminium case, either silver or space grey. It came in 38mm and 42mm size options, but it was only available in a GPS only model, with no GPS and Cellular option available. There was also no Nike model.

The Watch SE also only came in aluminium but there were three colour options, comprised of silver, gold and space grey. Size options were 40mm and 44mm and there were GPS only and GPS and Cellular models available. The first generation Watch SE also came in Nike models, available in silver and space grey.

The Series 6 had a lot more finish options available than the Watch SE and the Series 3 but the Series 7 replaced the Series 6 options, and the Series 8 has now done the same for the Series 7. You may still find the Series 7 and 6 elsewhere though. Like the first generation Watch SE, the Series 6 had 40mm and 44mm sizes, as well as GPS only and GPS and Cellular models. There were five aluminium colours - silver, space grey, gold, blue and Product(Red). There were then three stainless steel models - silver, graphite (DLC) and gold (PVD). Lastly, there were two titanium models - natural titanium and space black.

Additionally, the Series 6 also came in Nike models - all of which were aluminium and came with Nike straps - and Hermès models - all of which were stainless steel and came with special Hermès straps. The Hermès models were all GPS and Cellular as standard.

While all the standard Series 6 models and the Nike models came in both case sizes though, some of the Hermès models only came in either 40mm or 44mm, not both.

The Series 7 meanwhile, came in five aluminium colours like the Series 6, but they were new colours. It also came in three stainless steel options, two titanium options and Nike models and Hermès models. The Series 7 case options were slightly larger than the Series 6 too, at 41mm and 45mm.

Hardware

  • Series 3: S3 processor, W2 wireless chip, Bluetooth 4.2, altimeter
  • Watch SE: S5 processor, W2 wireless chip, Bluetooth 5.0, fall detection, compass, always-on altimeter
  • Series 6: S6 processor, W3 wireless chip, Bluetooth 5.0, U1 chip, electrical heart sensor, blood oxygen sensor, fall detection, compass, always-on altimeter
  • Series 7: S7 processor, W3 wireless chip, Bluetooth 5.0, U1 chip, electrical heart sensor, blood oxygen sensor, fall detection, compass, always-on altimeter
  • Series 3/SE/6/7: Ambient light sensor, built-in GPS, optical heart sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, 18-hour battery life 

The Apple Watch Series 3 has a dual-core processor called the S3 under its hood, coupled with a wireless chip called the W2. The GPS only model has 8GB of memory.

The Watch SE has a dual-core processor called the S5 - said to be two times faster than the S3 - and it is coupled with the same next generation wireless chip as the Series 6 - the W3.

The Apple Watch Series 6 has an S6 processor under its hood, claimed to be 20 per cent faster than the S5. It also has W3, as mentioned above. The Watch Series 7 has an S7 processor, also said to be 20 per cent faster than the S5, so its a redesigned S6 processor with the same power. The Series 7 charges 30 per cent faster than the Series 6 though thanks to the inclusion of a USB Type-C cable in the box.

Both the GPS only and GPS and Cellular models of both the Watch SE, Series 6 and Series 7 have 32GB of memory, though of course the GPS and Cellular model has LTE connectivity. The LTE connectivity means you can make and receive calls and text messages, as well as perform all the tasks you'd want to on your Watch without your iPhone in range. It also works for Family Setup.

All the Watch models being compared here have built-in GPS, optical heart rate sensor, speaker, microphone, water resistance up to 50 metres, emergency SOS, gyroscope and an ambient light sensor. They also all offer Apple Pay.

The Watch SE, Series 6 and Series 7 add an always-on altimeter - the Series 3 has a standard altimeter - a built in compass, second generation optical heart rate sensor, international emergency calling and fall detection thanks to the improved accelerometer that offers up to 32 g-forces instead of up to 16 g-forces as found in the Series 3. It's worth noting that all of these features - except the always-on altimeter - can be found on the Series 4 and 5 too.

On top of those additions, the Series 6 and Series 7 also add a blood oxygen sensor and an electrical heart rate sensor for ECG. The Series 4 and 5 have the ECG feature but not the blood oxygen sensor.

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Software

  • All run watchOS 8
  • Only Watch SE, Series 6 and Series 7 run watchOS 9 
  • Extra features on Series 6 and Series 7

The Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, Series 6, Series 7 and Watch SE all run watchOS 8. The latest software is watchOS 9 though, bringing a range of new features, like more advanced sleep tracking. All models mentioned are compatible with this software too, except the Watch Series 3.

All generations from the Series 4 and later therefore all offer a similar experience, even if there are a few extra features on the more recent models, like the Always-On Display, built-in compass and blood oxygen monitoring on the Series 6 and Series 7. Thanks to the larger display on the Series 7, it also offers a full keyboard with QuickPath for replying to messages. As the Series 3 isn't compatible with the latest software, we wouldn't recommend buying.

Remember the Series 5 also has the Always-On Display and compass, while the Watch SE has the compass and fall detection.

You can read all about watchOS 9 in our separate feature.

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Conclusion

If you didn't invest in the original and you've decided the Apple Watch is now something you want, we'd recommend the second-generation Watch SE, which is the new entry-model from Apple, or the Watch Series 7 if you can find it for a decent price.

It might be tempting to buy the first generation Watch SE or the Series 3 as they may be available cheaper from retailers, though as we mentioned, we wouldn't recommend the Watch Series 3 as it isn't compatible with the latest software so you miss out on several useful features.

The Watch Series 6 and Watch Series 7 are both great buys - the Series 7 more than the Series 6 as you get a larger display in the same footprint, but both have a built-in compass, always-on altimeter, fall detection, ECG, U1 chip and the second generation optical heart rate sensor. They also both have an Always-On Display.

In terms of upgrades, those with the original Apple Watch, Series 1, Series 2 or Series 3 will see some worthwhile differences by switching to the second gen Watch SE, Series 6 or Series 7, especially with the bigger display on the S7. Those with the Series 3 will also see a decent difference.

If you already have the Series 4 or Series 5 and you're wondering whether to upgrade, you may want to consider the Watch Series 8 as this device offers everything the Series 7 offers, but with a couple of extras like a body temperature sensor.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle.
Sections Smartwatches