The Apple Watch Series 8 (beginning at $399) has some noticeable health and safety improvements over the previous generation that were not included in the earlier iteration. The most significant improvement is the dual-sensor design’s ability to monitor and track variations in body temperature while you sleep. The Series 8 can calculate the last time you had an ovulation if you have a menstrual cycle using data from your body temperature. Additionally, the watch can detect if you’ve been in a car accident and will automatically call for assistance. The Apple Watch Series 8 continues to be our Editors’ Choice because of these improvements, in addition to an already unmatched user experience and app variety that have been further improved by watchOS 9.
Apple Watch Series 8 in-hand testing SE vs. ULTRA vs. SERIES 8 OF APPLE WATCH Between the tough Apple Watch Ultra ($799) and the updated Apple Watch SE ($249) in Apple’s collection of smartwatches, the Series 8 starts at $399.
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Both (Opens in a New Window) and (Opens in a New Window) The attention-grabbing Ultra is equipped with outdoor-focused features including an emergency alarm, more precise GPS for better position tracking off the grid, and a more sturdy build. It is intended for explorers who want to stray from the beaten path. The Watch SE is positioned as the more sensible option for kids, seniors, and cost-conscious shoppers because it forgoes an always-on display and some sophisticated health sensors but still includes all the safety features of its more expensive competitors. For everyone else, the Series 8 remains the greatest Apple Watch.
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The Series 8’s 1.6-inch or 1.8-inch always-on OLED Retina display, which comes in two sizes, is vibrant and simple to see both inside and outside and has a maximum brightness level of 1,000 nits. The Ultra can achieve twice that at 2,000 nits, making it even simpler to see in sunlight, snow, and rough waves. The Series 8’s touch screen is still incredibly responsive; even while using many apps at once, I never noticed any lag when swiping and tapping. Although I think a circular watch face is more attractive, I can’t argue with Apple’s squarish design’s usefulness for reading text and checking notifications.
5 (Ana Moscaritolo is credited.) Apple made a tiny directional adjustment this year, forgoing the blue and green hues of the Series 7 in favor of a more neutral color scheme. The shiny and more durable stainless steel variant is offered in Gold, Graphite, or Silver, while the aluminum Watch 8 is offered in Midnight, (Product) Red, Silver, or Starlight. The stainless model weighs roughly 1.5 or 1.8 ounces compared to 1.1 or 1.4 ounces for the aluminum type, giving your wrist a little extra weight.
If I had to choose, I’d choose the stainless steel model (beginning at $699), which has a far more eye-catching, upscale appearance than the drabber aluminum variant. Apple lent me a 45mm aluminum Series 8 in Starlight with cellular connectivity for this review. For use with the watch, the firm also sent me an iPhone 14 and a set of AirPods Pro 2, but this evaluation is solely devoted to the Series 8.
While I’m still awaiting the delivery of the Ultra review unit, I spent some time at Apple’s corporate offices using the new tough variant. The Ultra is a significant design departure from any other Apple Watch, with a large 49mm titanium case and an entirely flat sapphire crystal display. I’ll reserve final judgment until I write my comprehensive review (versus the domed one on the Series 8).
6 Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch Ultra, from left to right (Credit: Angela Moscaritolo) The instantly recognizable design of the Ultra is likely to draw both outdoor enthusiasts and non-adventurers. For what it’s worth, the Ultra’s new GPS radio, which has L1 and L5 bands, ought to provide better accuracy in places with plenty of skyscrapers. Only the L1 band is supported by the majority of wearables, including all other Apple Watches.
The Series 8 is completely dustproof and water resistant to 164 feet, much like the Series 7, and it also has a WR50 rating, making it suitable for shallow water sports like swimming in a pool or the ocean. You can wear it without concern in the hot tub or shower. The Ultra is safe for recreational scuba diving as well as water activities like kitesurfing and wakeboarding because it has a WR100 rating, which means it can endure depths up to 328 feet.
7 (Ana Moscaritolo is credited.) The most recent version of Apple’s wearable operating system, watchOS 9, is included with the Series 8. A number of new capabilities are added to Apple smartwatches with WatchOS 9, which is a significant update from the previous generation. I’ll go into more detail about the new Compass app and International Roaming later in this review. New watch faces, a medication app, improved fitness metrics, and sleep stage tracking are also included in the updated wearable OS.
A new AFib History function in watchOS 9’s health section enables you to monitor the frequency of this ailment over an extended period of time. It will calculate the frequency of AFib symptoms in your heart rhythm as well as lifestyle elements like sleep, alcohol use, and exercise that may have an impact.
8 (Ana Moscaritolo is credited.) Your chosen strap and a USB-C to Apple Watch Magnetic Fast Charger cable included in the Series 8’s packaging. Keep in mind that since Apple doesn’t supply a USB-C power adapter, you must purchase one on your own.
MUCH LONGER BATTERY LIFE Like its predecessors, the Series 8’s battery life is 18 hours under normal use, according to Apple, or 36 hours if you activate the new Low Power Mode included with watchOS 9. Automatic fitness tracking, heart health notifications, and always-on displays are just a few of the battery-hungry functions that are disabled or throttled in Low Power Mode. Important aspects continue to function, including Fall Detection, activity and sleep tracking, and temperature sensing at night.
When you know you have a particularly long day ahead and won’t be able to change your watch when you typically do, it’s a wonderful choice. Activate Low Power Mode by going to Settings > Battery and switching it on.
9 (Ana Moscaritolo is credited.) The Series 8 lasted up to 40 hours on a charge with light use in testing, providing for two nights of sleep monitoring, even without turning on Low Power Mode. In this scenario, the always-on display was turned on during the day with the screen brightness set to 100%, with the exception that I had Airplane Mode and Sleep Focus, two other battery-saving functions, enabled for the majority of the time.
The Series 8 lasted 30.5 hours with light to moderate use until I received a message that the battery was just 10% charged. That narrowly wins the Series 7, which under the same conditions ran for 29 hours.
Samsung claims the Galaxy Watch 5 can run for up to 50 hours on a single charge, but I was only able to obtain 36 hours by turning off the always-on display. The battery life of many fitness trackers and specialized sports watches, which can sometimes last weeks on a charge, is still far superior to that of a feature-rich smartwatch with a large, bright screen.
The Apple Watch charges quickly. In tests, placing it on the supplied charger caused it to go from dead to 100% in roughly an hour.
OVULATION AND TEMPERATURE TRACKING The two new sensors that have been added to the Series 8 are its most significant improvement over the Series 7 in terms of measuring a new metric: your nocturnal body temperature. The Fitbit Charge 5, the Oura Ring Generation 3, and the Whoop 4.0 are just a few examples of wearables that already detect skin temperature fluctuations, a metric that shows whether your body temperature is rising or falling relative to your baseline. The same principles apply to Apple’s temperature feature, which instead measures your wrist temperature every five seconds while you sleep and tracks variations from your baseline rather than allowing you to take an on-demand measurement like a standard thermometer.
The watch features two temperature sensors, one under the top glass and one near to your skin. According to Apple, the dual-sensor setup helps to eliminate ambient air temperature for more precise readings.
1 (Ana Moscaritolo is credited.) The Apple Watch can already predict your fertile windows, but the Series 8 can now provide you with the date of your most recent ovulation based on your temperature data. It can only tell you when you did, after the fact, which is a crucial distinction because it cannot forecast when you will ovulate next. If you were sexually active at the time the watch indicated you last ovulated but you weren’t able to become pregnant, there may be a problem that needs to be discussed with a doctor.
Be aware that it is not a good idea to use Apple’s retroactive ovulation tracking and fertile window forecasts as a method of birth control. Your fertile window can change from month to month, so you might not ovulate on the same day this month as you did last month.
3 (Ana Moscaritolo is credited.) After Roe v. Wade was overturned, many women are understandably anxious about the possible repercussions of using an app to track their period and whether or not the government will have access to that information and use it against them in an abortion case. To that point, Apple claims that your Cycle Tracking data is encrypted on your device, in transit when synced with iCloud, and on its servers, in addition to the privacy safeguards outlined above. In other words, Apple is unable to see your Cycle Tracking data since the firm lacks the decryption key.
The only way the authorities could theoretically get this data is if they gained physical access to your unlocked cellphone. The best course of action if you’re concerned about this possibility is to completely give up tech-based period tracking.
OUTDOOR EXPLORATION IS INSPIRED BY NEW COMPASS FEATURES The Series 8 includes the same updated Compass functionality even though the new Apple Watch Ultra is made for adventure.
4 (Ana Moscaritolo is credited.) You can scroll through the list of all your saved places by using the Digital Crown after tapping a Waypoint in the orienteering view. When you locate the desired Waypoint, simply tap on it to have the Compass app display its relative direction and distance from you. During testing, I had no issue dropping Waypoints and navigating back to them using the compass.
Tap the footprint icon in the Compass app’s lower right corner to start Backtracking, then carry on your journey. Before beginning a hike, it’s a good idea to launch Backtrack from the parking lot so you can quickly get back to your vehicle. The Compass app will show you where you are on your hike.
You can use your Apple Watch to track your exercise and use Spotify to manage the music playing on your AirPods while Backtrack is running in the background. Backtrack uses less battery power than GPS to track an outside workout because it only stores your location once every two minutes. Tap the pause button and choose Retrace Steps when you’re ready to go back.
6 (Credit: Apple/Bob Al-Greene) Apple equipped its most recent wearables with a more potent motion sensor with an upgraded accelerometer and gyroscope to enable crash detection. Apple also created a new sensor-fusion algorithm based on actual collision and driving data.
The new accelerometer samples data four times faster than its predecessor and can detect up to 256 g-forces (up from 32). With the ability to sample up to 800Hz and a dynamic range that is two times greater than its predecessor, the new gyroscope provides richer context for the impact data produced by the accelerometer. Together, these elements are able to recognize the tremendous impact and abrupt change in speed of a serious crash. Crash Detection is not available on previous-generation Apple Watches because it depends on this new hardware.
Obviously, I can’t test Crash Detection without seriously endangering myself. Apple evaluated the new motion sensor in certified auto crash test facilities, and it used the results of those tests to create its Crash Detection algorithm.
Apple’s testing used typical passenger automobiles like sedans, minivans, SUVs, convertibles, and pickup trucks to model four different sorts of real-world collisions: head-on, rear-end, side-impact, and rollovers. Four crash test dummies in the car each wore an Apple Watch on each wrist throughout the tests. Additional data was gathered via iPhones in the crash dummies’ pockets, on dashboard mounts, and in the cupholders.
To effectively identify the distinct patterns of a collision, Apple’s Crash Detection system also considers information from additional sensors, such as the GPS and barometer in your watch and the microphone of a linked iPhone. In the event of a car accident, the iPhone microphone would pick up the sound of shattering glass and screeching tires, while the barometer would quickly alter in pressure if the vehicle’s airbags activated.
Does it operate? We’ll have to trust Apple’s word for it for the time being.
INSTALL A NEW RUNNING WATCH. Heart rate zone data, a new Multisport tracking option for triathletes, and support for Custom Workouts are just a few of the fitness-related features that WatchOS 9 offers. The Apple Watch can now display your power, stride length, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation in real-time while monitoring a run. Running power, which is measured in watts, considers your speed and incline to help you determine your effort. Efficiency measurements like stride length, ground contact duration, and vertical oscillation can be used to assess your form.
Apple intends to include a fun Race Route feature in watchOS 9 later this year that will enable you compare your most recent or greatest performance for routes you repeat. The Apple Watch will notify you whether you’re ahead or behind your prior result and will issue a route warning if you veer off course while tracking an Outdoor Run, Outdoor Cycle, or Wheelchair Run Pace activity following a previous route.
Additionally, Apple intends to introduce a brand-new Automatic Track Detection function that will use Maps data to automatically recognize when you enter a tally for running and track your completed laps. Your watchOS 9-equipped Apple Watch will display a notification when you arrive at a track with the option to select a lane. More precise pace and distance data are possible when you specify the lane you’re running in. According to Apple, this capability would initially be accessible in the US for 400m songs.
8 (Ana Moscaritolo is credited.) Calls made with my parents using the Series 8 over Wi-Fi while I was in the US were very clear to me, and they could hear me just fine. The complete QWERTY keyboard on the watch, which supports swipes and word predictions driven by machine learning, makes texting on it simple. Even GIFs and emojis can be sent via text message.
My Wyze Cam Floodlight detects motion and sends me a notification when it does, as does the Furbo 360, which also notifies me when my dog Bradley is barking, or Apple’s Find My iPhone. When my iPhone or AirPods are no longer nearby, my app alerts me.
To use Apple Pay, you simply tap the side button twice to bring up your card. To check out at participating stores, wave your wrist close to a suitable card reader. This method was flawless in our testing. Siri is always available to quickly bring up any apps or features that I can’t seem to find on the watch.
As I pointed out in my review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, the Wear OS-based smartwatches from Samsung have all the standard Google apps, like Maps and the Play Store, but they are missing some well-known ones that are exclusive to the Apple Watch, like Amazon Music, Facebook Messenger, Pandora, and Telegram.
YOUR PERFECT APPLE WATCH? The Series 8 is the just-right choice among the available Apple smartwatches. The $399 Apple Watch Series 8 is most likely the best option if the $799 Apple Watch Ultra is too expensive, too large for your wrist, or if the $249 Apple Watch SE is missing the capabilities you want. The Series 8 has functions that the model from the previous year does not, including the ability to track your body temperature fluctuations, calculate the date of your last ovulation, detect catastrophic motor accidents, and automatically call for assistance. If you currently own a Series 7, those features may not be enough to convince you to switch, especially because both models share the same design and watchOS 9, which supports Apple’s new Low Power Mode, is already available on older models. The Series 8 is our Editors’ Choice winner if you’re looking for a feature-rich iPhone-compatible smartwatch to remain connected, monitor your health, and track your activity.
Editors’ Choice: Apple Watch Series 8
Pros monitoring the temperature overnight detection of auto crashes longer battery life more precise time forecasts See More Negatives the same style as the previous model limited effectiveness for estimating ovulation in retrospect the conclusion The Apple Watch Series 8 is the best option for the majority of smartwatch purchasers because to new features like body temperature monitoring and automobile crash detection.
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