What do you get when you take one of the best smartwatches in the land and add a few tiny improvements to it? Well, one of the best smartwatches in the land… only slightly better. That’s the Apple Watch Series 8 in a nutshell. It’s great… because so is the Series 7 watch.
It honestly is a rough time for gadget reviewers (in an incredibly privileged sense). Never mind the old complaint that every smartphone looks the same; in the past year, every updated gadget has barely been different than the device it replaced. It feels like an issue of Highlights where we all play “spot the differences.”
But I’m not sure I blame Apple (or the other companies) entirely, either. The Apple Watch Series 7 is, by all accounts, a pretty great smartwatch. Drastically change anything, and you might break something along the way. So the Apple Watch Series 8 plays it safe with minor differences here and there. It may not be exciting for a tech reviewer, but for the average person who will likely not upgrade every year, it means that, once again, the Apple Watch is one of the best (if not the best) smartwatches you can buy.
Design: Still The Same
- Dimensions: 41mm (41 x 35 x 10.7mm) or 45mm (45 x 38 x 10.7mm)
- Weight (Aluminum): 41mm + GPS (31.9g), 45mm + GPS (38.8g), 41mm + Cellular (32.2g), 45mm + Cellular (39.1g)
- Weight (Stainless Steel): 41mm + Cellular (42.3g), 45mm + Cellular (51.5g).
- Display: Always-On Retina LTPO OLED, up to 1,000 nits brightness
- Build material: Aluminum or Stainless Steel
You know that The Office meme that ends with “they’re the same picture” as the punchline? You could basically do that with the Apple Watch Series 7 and Series 8 side by side. You still get the same square screen with rounded corners (a squircle), the same Digital Crown, and the same button to push.
Look to the sides, and you’ll find the same cutouts, the same dimensions, and the same proprietary watch band connections. About the only real difference is fewer color choices. I have the Starlight Aluminin case and Sport Loop. Starlight Aluminum is apparently another way of saying “different shade of grey.” It looks fine. The Sport Loop adds more color than anything else and is fine for everyday use. It probably wouldn’t fit with formal wear, but you can always buy another band.
I don’t want to rely on “if you’ve seen one Watch, you’ve seen them all” too heavily here, but in this case, it’s pretty true. If you love the way the Apple Watch has looked in the past, you’ll like this too. And if you didn’t, then you won’t.
A Few New Features You May Not Use
- System-on-Chip: S8 SiP advanced dual-core 64-bit (same as second-generation SE and Apple Watch Ultra)
- Storage: 32GB
- Navigation: L1 (single channel) GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, Beidou, always-on altimeter, compass
- Optical sensors: third-generation heart rate sensor, ECG heart sensor, blood oxygen sensor, wrist temperature sensor
- Other sensors: High-G accelerometer (Crash Detection), high dynamic range gyroscope, always-on altimeter, ambient light sensor, microphone
So what’s new to the Apple Watch Series 8? Well, not a ton. And the few new features might not even be useful. One of the big hits is a new temperature sensor built into the watch. It measures your temperature at the wrist. But before you think, “sweet, I can check to see if I’m running a fever,” sorry, but you can’t.
It’s more of a background sensor that enhances other tracking, like sleep and ovulation. As a male, the latter doesn’t apply to me. And as for sleep tracking, well, the battery life still isn’t good enough for me to use that feature. You’ll get maybe a day and a half out of the Apple Watch if you don’t have the always-on-screen feature enabled. That’s my preference because when I turned it on, I didn’t even make it a day.
But with day-and-a-half battery life, overnight is still the best time to charge the watch. And that means I couldn’t use it for tracking my sleep patterns. In a pinch, a day and a half battery life means that if you forget to charge it, you’ll have enough battery life left to get it charged first thing in the morning. But it’s not long enough to forgo nightly charging altogether.
Another new feature is car crash detection. Alas, I haven’t tested this. I theoretically could try since, apparently, a quick trip on a roller coaster at my local theme park Kings Island will set the feature off and call 911. But that’d be irresponsible and cause undue strain on our 911 system, so I won’t.
Still, if you’re in a car crash and have an iPhone 14 or Apple Watch Series 8, the latest devices are supposed to be better at detecting that fact and call for help automatically. Other devices can do this, including other iPhones and Apple Watches, but the latest versions claim to be more accurate.
Beyond that, this is once again a near identical watch to the Series 7, which means everything good and bad about that applies here, right down to battery life.
Should You Get the Apple Watch Series 8?
So here’s the thing. I don’t often use Apple Watches. I spend more time on Android phones, and thus I tend to Wear OS watches. Let me tell you, ever time I do come back, the Apple Watch is the reason I consider sticking with an iPhone. The Wear OS experience, as far as it has come, just doesn’t compare.
The fact that Apple can tightly integrate the experience between the iPhone and Apple Watch really shows, and the entire experience is simply better than what Wear OS gives you. And when you get down to it, the latest round of Apple Watches are the best the company has offered yet.
But should you buy one? Well, that depends. Do you already own one? If you don’t own an Apple Watch and you use an iPhone, then I can wholeheartedly recommend some kind of Apple Watch. Chances are the latest Apple Watch SE is the best pick—it’s almost as good as the Series 8 for a smaller price. The Ultra, while the cream of the crop in the latest round of Apple Watches, is well beyond the average person’s needs. But if you want the best features that don’t call for mountain climbing, the Series 8 is the best Apple Watch you can buy.
On the other hand, if you already have an Apple Watch, the math is a little more complicated. Do you have an Apple Watch from the Series 7 era? Then you can skip this. There just isn’t enough to justify the extra cost. But if you have anything older, then yes, you’ll appreciate the upgrades you get here. Because, at the end of the day, it’s an Apple Watch. And truth be told, Apple still makes the best smartwatch in the land.
Here’s What We Like
- Still the same great watch
- Crash detection could save lives
- No price increase
And What We Don't
- Still basically the same watch
- Fewer finish choices
- Battery life could use improvements