Following the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro reviews yesterday, the Apple Watch Series 8 is the latest Apple product to go under the microscope.
It’s not a massive update over the Series 7, bringing in a chip that’s very much the same as the last one, a design that’s also the same (read: no square edges). It does come with new sensors to power additional health-focused features, but are those enough?
Pending our reviews, which are coming in short order, we rounded up some of the more interesting written reviews for the Apple Watch Series 8 and pulled out some key points.
Good upgrades, small upgrades
The Apple Watch Series 8 is a lot like the Series 7, both visually and internally. Two major changes here are the inclusion of a new car crash detector, as with the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, and a new temperature sensor.
Not many reviewers tried out the car crash detector — for obvious reasons. The Verge did attempt to give it a spin but was unable to cause it to activate.
“We did strap the Series 8 to an RC truck that we “crashed” around the Verge office, but as you might expect, it did nothing. (I suspect we mostly wanted an excuse to play with an RC truck.) I’ve worn the Series 8 in multiple dubious Lyft rides with some terrible stop-and-go traffic, but that also didn’t trigger the feature. That doesn’t surprise me. Back when Apple introduced fall detection, I — and several other reviewers — tried to see if you could trigger the feature with fake tumbles. None of us succeeded. All this to say, I’d be genuinely surprised if you got a false alert. That’s a good thing,” The Verge’s Victoria Song wrote.
As for the temperature sensor, it’s not something that can be immediately gauged for usefulness. Primarily, it’s directed at sensing ovulation rather than letting you know if you’ve got a fever as a prelude to some nasty bug. Naturally, its true effectiveness will come over an extended period of months, as many reviewers point out.
The battery still runs short
While competitors from Fitbit tout weeklong battery life, Apple’s smartwatch has a lot more to do. It can’t quite match that, but the Series 8 still targets a full day of use and manages to hit those targets, especially with the aid of tools like WatchOS 9’s low-power mode.
“Speaking of battery life… the Series 8 is still a device you have to charge daily, but watchOS 9 adds a new low-power battery mode. It turns off the always-on display and background sensor readings while limiting Wi-Fi/cellular connectivity. It also leaves heart rate and GPS intact during workouts. Supposedly you can get up to 36 hours with it on the Series 8,” The Verge’s Song says.
The issue with the Series 8’s battery, however, comes when one thinks of its sleep tracking feature. It would seem you may end up having to sacrifice sleep tracking if you want to charge your Series 8 overnight or carve out time while you’re awake to charge the Series 8.
And hey, maybe that’s not such a big deal. If you do intend to use its sleep-tracking features, though, you just might be pushed to pay closer attention to your battery. “Simply put, it’s one thing to promise ‘all day’ battery life. It’s another to add ‘all night’ to the mix,” TechCrunch’s Brian Heater wrote.
“The watch charges up fully in about an hour and a half, or up to 80% in 45 minutes or so, but when will you charge it? Before bed? In the morning while showering? At your desk?” asked CNET’s Scott Stein rhetorically.
WatchOS ticks along smoothly
WatchOS, unlike Wear OS, has always known what it wants to be. On the Apple Watch Series 8, it’s truly come into its own. The Verge calls it “the bee’s knees,” which is how you know it’s really cool, unlike the higher designation of “poggers,” which is reserved for WatchOS 10. That said, on the Series 8 specifically, it doesn’t add much that you won’t find on the Series 7 and lower. Low-power mode and the new Compass app appear to be the biggest draws.
“adds a number of extras that are really great: a compass app that now tracks your steps via GPS to help you navigate back home during hikes, medication tracking, multistage sleep tracking and a low-power mode that shuts down some functions to extend battery life. But you don’t need a new watch for these; a free update to WatchOS 9 could give you these upgrades and make you feel like you already have a new watch, ” CNET’s Stein said.
“I used the new low power mode in watchOS 9 one morning when the Series 8 was down to 20 percent battery and I still had to run to the gym for an 8am workout. It managed to last another two hours at least while also being able to track my performance during the HIIT class. I was impressed by how little it felt like I had to sacrifice in exchange for the extra juice,” Engadget’s Cherlynn Low said.
The takeaway — no time to buy
Apple has, as with the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, made an excellent but ultimately iterative product. If you have a current model, you best hold on to it. If you want to save money while buying a competent model, a previous version of the Apple Watch might be a really good steal. If, however, you’re invested in the more meaningful features such as ovulation and sleep tracking, the message seems to be that you should absolutely shell out for Series 8.
It should go without saying that the other reason the Apple Watch Series 8 seems a little underwhelming is the new Apple Watch Ultra. Compared to that behemoth that’s coming in a few weeks, the Series 8 seems to play the part of amuse-bouche.