Apple Watch Series 8 review: Another year, another Apple Watch
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The Apple Watch Series 8 is great for your average user, although the lack of new features is a little more obvious than in years past.
The iteration rate of the standard Apple Watch seems to be slowing down. The biggest changes in 2022 come from watchOS 9, which brought long-awaited features like low power mode, improved workouts and better tracking with the Compass app.
Although there are less flashy features in the Apple Watch Series 8, it is still the best smartwatch around.
Select your Apple Watch
Even with the addition of the Apple Watch Ultra to the lineup, consumers have fewer choices this year than usual. Which is probably for the best.
The Apple Watch Series 8 can be had in Midnight, Starlight, silver and (Product)RED if you choose aluminium, and if stainless steel is more your style, there’s gold, silver and graphite to choose from.
Titanium is now reserved exclusively for Apple Watch Ultra owners, and the green and blue versions of the aluminum Apple Watch are a thing of the past. Not to mention the discontinuation of the Nike Edition.
When choosing your Apple Watch, you can pair it with any of Nike’s bands, including the stainless steel versions.
With the Nike edition dropping, the titanium no longer available, and two colorways being discontinued, there are far fewer options for retail consumers.
But silver is making a comeback. This highly sought-after color was missing last year when Apple switched to Starlight. The slight gold hue was off-putting to people who wanted a more neutral silver — and it looks like their requests were heard.
We’re looking at the 45mm Silver Aluminum Apple Watch Series 8.
A solid recipe for success
The Apple Watch has followed a reliable recipe for success over the past few years, with incremental improvements backed by ever-improving software.
This year, watchOS 9 was a great update for new and existing owners. Low Power Mode can nearly double your Apple Watch’s promised battery life, enough for a weekend getaway depending on your usage.
There are tons of new workout features like triathlon and duathlon support, the ability to race while running, and new workout views with heart rate zones, activity rings, and more.
Even if the Apple Watch Series 8 doesn’t have that rumored redesign, it runs the same bands it’s supported for years, works reliably, and is more capable than the Apple Watch before it.
What’s really new?
Let’s talk about what’s new instead of pretending to be Apple’s proven technology.
Crash detection is one of those new features, and Apple openly says it hopes you never have to use it. It cannot be denied that in some cases this new crash detection will certainly save a life.
It works by connecting to multiple sensors integrated into the Apple Watch. First, it relies on the all-new accelerometer, which can detect sudden changes in speeds up to 256g.
Then there’s an updated gyroscope that will detect when there’s been a sudden change in motion — such as a front, rear, or side impact.
The barometer will detect a change in air pressure caused by the deployment of the airbag. Finally, the microphone listens for loud sounds that accompany a crash. All of this adds up to (hopefully) reliably detect when you’ve been in a car accident.
If a crash is detected, your Apple Watch will trigger and ask you if you’re okay. If it can’t get you to answer, it will automatically call emergency services with your location and send an alert to your emergency contacts. Of course, you need a cellular Apple Watch or your iPhone nearby for this to work.
Crash detection is a fantastic feature for the Apple Watch and is an amazing example of Apple making full use of existing sensors by implementing creative software. It will only be a matter of time before we start hearing stories of people being saved by this supplement.
The Apple Watch Series 8 runs on a new S8 SiP, but you won’t get a real speed boost here. The S8 relies on the same processor as the S7 in the Series 7 Apple Watch.
While opening apps, navigating with the watch, and typing, we didn’t notice any lag, which is true of our experience with the Series 7. The S8 only includes the new Apple sensors we’ve outlined above, as well as the improved Bluetooth 5.3 radio.
The last new feature that Apple is touting is its temperature sensor, or rather its pair of sensors. Apple put two temperature sensors in the Apple Watch Series 8 – one against your wrist and the other towards the screen, used to measure the environment.
However, these sensors do not act like a traditional thermometer. You won’t see an alert pop up from the top of your Apple Watch telling you that you have a fever and need to see your doctor.
Instead, Apple provides two main use cases for temperature sensors.
There are typical deviations in body temperature during certain times of the menstrual cycle that can indicate ovulation. Apple’s cycle tracker app uses data from this sensor to retroactively determine ovulation.
Otherwise, the temperature sensor will track the user’s body temperature at night, assuming you wear your Apple Watch to bed. We’ve been using our Apple Watch for sleep tracking for years, so this wasn’t a problem.
After several days of data collection, the Apple Watch was able to note when our body temperature deviated by approximately two degrees or more from our baseline measurements. This can be indicative of illness, stress, diet, exercise, alcohol, etc.
This seems like Apple’s approach. Instead of promising too much to its users, Apple hedges its bets and only delivers what it can be confident of.
Too many fitness trackers make dubious claims backed by dubious science, and Apple has made a concerted effort to break free of that trap.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple add additional benefits to the temperature sensor via software in the future, and developers will eventually help tell the whole story. As of September 2022, this is another metric that’s nice to have
Apple’s biggest problems with the Apple Watch
With its wearables, Apple has a few issues to deal with. Sensors are becoming increasingly difficult to integrate into the Apple Watch’s tiny body — or too expensive — and Apple isn’t competing with more specialized fitness trackers.
One of the most commonly rumored sensors that Apple is exploring is a glucose monitor. We strongly believe that anyone expecting this in the near future should temper their expectations.
A non-invasive glucose monitor is still years away from appearing on the Apple Watch, and even then it’s more likely to be general values rather than something as accurate as a prescription monitor like the Dexcom G6 or Medtronic Enlite.
This year, Apple settled on something more feasible: a temperature sensor. Still, Apple is being cautious here, only using it for nighttime background readings and retrospective ovulation predictions.
Then we have the problem of Apple’s lack of competition with more specialized fitness trackers. Garmin’s Fenix line is a favorite for weekend warriors and triathletes who want something more powerful than what the Apple Watch offers.
In this case, however, Apple had an answer. It just wasn’t the Apple Watch Series 8. It’s the Apple Watch Ultra, and we’ll leave that conversation for another review
Should you buy the Apple Watch Series 8?
Annual upgraders will upgrade anyway. It doesn’t necessarily have a killer feature to make this a must-have upgrade from the Series 7 or even the Series 6. It’s meant to be the best, most capable Apple Watch for your average user, and to be easily accessible — which the Apple Watch Ultra probably won’t be for a while.
The new Apple Watch Series 8 is now in the middle of the range. It’s (barely) more capable than the new Apple Watch SE, which we’ll talk about shortly, but it won’t cost you as much as the Apple Watch Ultra.
For most people, this is the sweet spot.
Apple Watch Series 8 – Pros
- Still the best smartwatch for the everyday user
- A unique use for a temperature sensor
- Crash detection isn’t brilliant, but it’s life-saving
- All-day battery life
- A lot to like with watchOS 9
Apple Watch Series 8 – Cons
- A few reasons to upgrade to a Series 7, Series 6 or maybe even a Series 5
- Most watchOS 9 features come with older watches, such as low power mode
Rating: 4 out of 5
Where to buy Apple Watch Series 8
The Apple Watch Series 8 is on sale now, with exclusive Apple Watch deals available when you sign up for AppleCare.