the series 8 it’s the middle child of Apple’s 2022 watch lineup, and unfortunately, it might be the easiest to miss. With its major upgrades being shock detection and a new skin temperature sensor that enables ovulation tracking, the Series 8 feels like a minor upgrade from last year’s Series 7. At $399, it also faces stiffer competition from the Watch SE, which not only saw a price drop this year to $250, but also shares the same processor as the Series 8, among many other features. And with the high-end Watch Ultra soon to arrive, it’s hard to imagine anyone getting excited about the Series 8.
Still, since most people don’t update their smartwatches annually, a generational comparison isn’t the most useful. On its own, the Series 8 is a great watch that makes for a great multi-purpose wearable with great tools for health and fitness. 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 wrists.) And while I don’t feel ready to utter a full word of verdict, I can comfortably say that most people will be satisfied with the Series 8.
It’s hard for me to really compare the Series 8 to the Series 7 because I received a larger than usual size to try on. The older model I have is the 41mm version, while the Series 8 I have is the 45mm option. It doesn’t translate to a huge functional difference, but the size discrepancy made some features more difficult to test.
For example, I am already more sensitive than most to sleeping with a watch on my wrist. The 45mm Series 8 being larger than my Series 7 meant that hated testing its sleep tracking even more than usual, so much so that I’ve postponed this part of the review process. Instead, I put the new 40mm Watch SE to bed, which resulted in a tolerable experience.
So far, I’ve used the Series 8 on a red-eye flight to see if I’d get any temperature readings at the time, but despite setting a Sleep Focus as required, the watch didn’t record sleep. I’ll have to do more testing, but between that and testing the Watch SE overnight, I can’t rate features like the new skin temperature sensor just yet.
Apple uses the data it collects while you sleep to calculate a baseline for your body temperature and, over time, analyzes deviations to assess if and when you ovulated. The Series 8 requires at least five nights of data to determine the baseline, after which more time is required to measure your cycles.
With all that goes into testing this feature, I’ll have to wait a bit longer before I can get a better idea of how useful it is. I can’t safely test fault detection either, so I can’t vouch for that either.
For now, though, living with the Series 8 is a lot like wearing the Series 7. The new Starlight beige color option 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 a newer S8 packaged system processor, it didn’t feel much faster than its predecessor. It lasted a bit longer overall, although I need more testing time to be sure. I also suspect the larger size might have something to do with it. I used the new low power mode in watchOS 9 one morning when the Series 8 had 20 percent battery and I still had to run to the gym for a workout at 8am. It managed to last at least another two hours while still being able to track my performance during the HIIT class. I was impressed by how little I felt I had to sacrifice for the extra juice.
I also enjoyed seeing other updates to watchOS 9, like the cardio zone pages during workouts and the new watch faces. The Lunar display in particular helped me remember that the Mid-Autumn Festival was last weekend, as I could clearly read the date in Mandarin on the page. (The date of the festival in Mandarin is also a colloquialism referring to the moon.) When I changed the focus modes on my phone, a corresponding symbol appeared at the top of the Series 8 screen to indicate that it adopted that profile as well. Reminders to take medications that I saved in Apple Health were also helpful, and I liked being able to use the watch to log the pills I took.
Most of these features will be available to those using older Apple Watches once the software update is installed.
While it’s nice that you can get ECG and blood oxygen readings on the Series 8, I didn’t run them much during my time with the device. These aren’t tools you’d use regularly enough to justify spending an extra $150 on the top-end model. For most people, the Watch SE offers a lot for a good price, especially if you can live without an always-on display and IP6X dust resistance.
Both the Series 7 and 8 charge faster than the SE, but the cheapest watch never took more than 45 minutes to get enough charge for a day’s use. Plus, I’ve yet to lose my Apple Watches, so the missing U1 chip in the SE hasn’t felt all that important. On the Series 8, that ultra-wideband feature will enable more precise location via Apple’s Find My app.
You will most likely continue to use the series 8 as my main smartwatch (after swapping it for a smaller model), but not because I really need skin temperature detection or shock detection; my job requires me to stay up to date with the latest devices and features. But if I were making the decision for myself (and not my career), I’d most likely buy the Watch SE. Still, the Series 8 is complete and fully featured, and arguably the best smartwatch out there. That is, until we get our hands on the next Watch Ultra.
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