The Apple Series 8 is the middle child of the 2022 Apple Watch lineup, and unfortunately, it might be the easiest to overlook. With its main updates being shock detection and a new skin temperature sensor that allows ovulation tracking, the Series 8 feels like a small update to last year’s Series 7. At $399, it also faces stiffer competition from the Watch SE, which not only saw a price cut this year at $250 but also shares the same processor as the Series 8, among many other features. And with the high-end Watch Ultra arriving soon, it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling excited about the Series 8.
Apple series 8: Comparison
Still, since most people don’t upgrade their smartwatches every year, generational comparisons aren’t the most helpful. In its own right, the Series 8 is a great watch that’s a great all-around wearable with excellent health and fitness tools. I spent about a week testing the Series 8 alongside the Watch SE, as well as the Series 7. (Yes, that’s a lot of watches on my wrist.) And while I don’t feel ready to give a full verdict, I can safely say that most people will be happy with Series 8.
It’s hard for me to really compare the Series 8 to the Series 7 because I got a larger size than usual to test. The older model I own is the 41mm version, while the Series 8 I have is the 45mm variant. It doesn’t translate into a major functional difference, but the size difference made testing some features difficult.
For example, I’m already more sensitive than most to sleeping with a watch on my wrist. That the 45mm Series 8 is larger than my Series 7 meant I hate testing its sleep tracking. Even more than usual—so much so that I put off that part of the review process. Instead, I wore the new 40mm Watch SE to bed, which made for a tolerable experience.
So far, I’ve worn the Series 8 on a red-eye flight to see if I’d get any temperature data then, but even though I adjusted the sleep focus as needed, the watch didn’t track sleep. I’ll have to do some more testing, but between that and testing the Watch SE overnight, I can’t yet evaluate features like the new skin temperature sensor.
New AI uses
Apple uses the data it collects while you sleep to calculate a baseline for your body temperature and tracks variations over time to assess if and when you ovulated. The 8 Series requires at least five nights of data to determine a baseline, after which more time is needed to measure your cycles.
With all that goes into testing this feature, I’ll have to wait a little longer to get a better idea of how useful it is. I also can’t safely test crash detection, so that’s not something I can vouch for either.
At the moment, though, living with the Series 8 is a lot like using the Series 7. The new Starlight beige colourway isn’t something I’m excited about, but it does make the watch feel less like a black stone on my wrist.
Although the Series 8 uses the newer S8 system-in-package processor, it didn’t feel dramatically faster than its predecessor. It lasted a bit longer in general, though I need more testing time to be sure. I also suspect the larger size may have something to do with it. I used the new low power mode in watchOS 9 one morning when the Series 8 battery was down to 20 per cent and I still had to run to the gym for an 8 a.m. workout. So, I managed to keep it up for at least another two hours while tracking my performance in the HIIT class. I was amazed at how little I had to sacrifice in exchange for the extra juice.
I also enjoyed seeing some of the other watchOS 9 updates, like the cardio zone pages during workouts and the new watch faces. The lunar screen in particular helped me remember that last weekend was the Mid-Autumn Festival because I could clearly read the date in Mandarin on the page. (Festival date in Mandarin is also a colloquialism that refers to the month.) When I switched focus modes on my phone, a matching symbol appeared at the top of the Series 8’s screen to indicate that it had also accepted that profile. The reminders to take meds that I saved to Apple Health were also helpful, and I liked being able to use the watch to log the pills I took.
Apple series 8: Features
Most of these features will be available to older Apple Watch users after installing a software update.
While it’s nice that you can get EKG and blood oxygen readings on the Series 8, I didn’t do much of that during my time with the device. These aren’t tools I’d use regularly enough to warrant spending the extra $150 for a higher-end model. For most people, the Watch SE offers a lot at a nice price — especially if you can live without the always-on display and IP6X dust resistance.
The Series 7 and 8 charge faster than the SE, but the cheaper watch never took more than 45 minutes to get enough juice for a day. I also haven’t lost my Apple Watch yet, so the U1 chip missing from the SE didn’t seem that important to me. For Apple Series 8, this ultra-wideband feature will enable more accurate location through Apple’s Find My app.
I’ll most likely continue to use the Series 8 as my primary smartwatch (after I swap it out for a smaller model). But not because I really need skin temperature sensing or fall detection. My job requires me to keep up with the latest devices and features. But if I were making the decision for myself (and not for my career). I would most likely buy the Watch SE. Still, the Series 8 is well-rounded and fully featured, and arguably the best smartwatch around. That is until we get our hands on the upcoming Watch Ultra.