Apple Watch SE could ditch aluminum for plastic casing, lowering costs

Apple has always been synonymous with innovation and premium quality. However, recent reports suggest that Apple is exploring a new direction with its low-cost Apple Watch SE.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has revealed that Apple is developing a version of the Apple Watch SE with a plastic casing. This move represents a significant shift from the current anodized aluminum shell, potentially bringing substantial cost savings and positioning the Apple Watch SE to compete more aggressively with rivals like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch FE.

Apple Watch SE with plastic casing

The Apple Watch SE was launched as a budget-friendly option within Apple’s smartwatch lineup. Traditionally, it has featured an aluminum case, offering a balance between affordability and the premium feel associated with Apple products. The current model, updated in 2022, includes a 100% recycled aluminum shell and a redesigned back case made from a nylon composite material instead of ceramic. This construction has helped maintain the SE’s appeal without compromising too much on quality.

Apple’s proposed transition to a rigid plastic casing aims to reduce manufacturing costs significantly. This shift could allow Apple to match or even undercut Samsung’s $199 starting price for the Galaxy Watch FE. By doing so, Apple hopes to make the Apple Watch SE more accessible to a broader audience, particularly those who may have found the aluminum model slightly out of reach financially.

However, plastic may not offer the same premium feel as aluminum, which could be a drawback for some consumers who associate Apple’s products with luxury materials. The specific type of plastic and its durability have not been disclosed, raising concerns about its robustness compared to aluminum, especially for a device intended for daily wear.

This isn’t the first time Apple has experimented with plastic casings. The iPhone 5C, launched in 2013, featured a polycarbonate exterior and was available in a variety of vibrant colors. Although the iPhone 5C faced criticism for its perceived downgrade in material quality, it demonstrated Apple’s willingness to explore cost-effective alternatives to reach a wider market. The lessons learned from the iPhone 5C could inform the development and marketing of a plastic Apple Watch SE.

iPhone 5c

The rumored plastic Apple Watch SE aligns with Apple’s strategy of offering products at various price points to capture a diverse customer base. This approach raises questions about consumer preferences and the potential trade-offs between cost and quality. To address these concerns, Apple might consider offering the Apple Watch SE in two material variants—plastic and aluminum. This strategy could cater to different market segments, allowing consumers to choose based on their preferences for material and price.

The environmental impact of switching to plastic is another consideration. Apple has made significant strides in sustainability, with the current Apple Watch SE featuring 100% recycled aluminum. The choice of plastic materials will need to align with Apple’s environmental goals, possibly incorporating recycled or eco-friendly plastics to mitigate environmental concerns.

Industry analysts have mixed opinions on the potential success of a plastic Apple Watch SE. Some believe it could significantly boost Apple’s market share in the affordable smartwatch segment, while others worry about the brand’s perceived quality. Nonetheless, the move is seen as a strategic effort to broaden Apple’s customer base and compete more effectively with budget-friendly alternatives.

While the specific release timeline for the plastic Apple Watch SE has not been disclosed, it is expected that Apple will announce the new model in the coming months. Early reactions from consumers have been mixed, with some excited about the possibility of a more affordable Apple Watch and others concerned about the switch to plastic.

(via Bloomberg)

About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.