The Apple Watch Ultra may have hogged the limelight (and rightfully so) at the Cupertino giant’s big launch event, but that doesn’t mean the regular watch didn’t get any love. The Apple Watch has now moved to Series 8 and while it comes as an incremental upgrade, it brings several important goodies, including a new life-saving feature in the form of a temperature monitor and crash detection. The design remains the same, and in my opinion, both good and bad. Let’s look at the points Apple Watch Series 8 Shines and hits where.
Which is better
- It is clear that the Watch Series 8 is indistinguishable from its predecessors in terms of look and design. It’s no doubt an iconic design that countless other wearable brands have emulated over the years. As always, the Apple Watch Series 8 is available in two different sizes – 41mm and 45mm, in GPS-only or GPS + cellular variants. Case material options include aluminum and stainless steel, both available in different colors and with different band options. The back of the watch houses various sensors, while the left is home to the speaker, while the right hosts the rotating crown, side button and mic. At the top is a 396 x 484 pixel Retina display (352 x 430 pixels in the 41mm variant), and the LTPO OLED screen is a joy to look at and interact with. With brightness levels of up to 1,000 nits, it’s very bright and easy to read even in harsh sunlight. Not only does the design feel very familiar, but the Watch Series 8 uses the same proprietary mechanism for its bands as before, so if you have any matching width bands, they’ll work just fine. Build wise, the Apple Watch Series 8 is said to be crack resistant, has an IP6X rating for dust resistance and is swim proof thanks to its WR50 water resistance.
- Apart from the design, the Watch Series 8 inherits its smarts and fitness features from its predecessor. As a lifestyle smartwatch, the device slots neatly into Apple’s ecosystem and complements your phone usage by faithfully mirroring your app notifications and letting you handle calls directly. You can also reply to emails and messages. Besides all the usual and expected pre-installed apps like Weather, Messages, Mail, Stopwatch, Calendar, etc., the latest WatchOS 9 update also adds other useful bits. For example, the new Medicines app lets you set up reminders for your daily medications. The Compass app also received a major update and now lets you backtrack and retrace your steps if you find yourself lost — say while hiking, in a large park, or in any other unfamiliar area. Useful stuff, really.
- Apple Watch’s already comprehensive health and fitness features have some new additions. The inclusion of new temperature sensors will provide new capabilities for health monitoring, particularly suited for women. Temperature sensors add to women’s health features by tracking temperature during sleep, providing insights into changes over time, retrospective predictions on ovulation, period predictions, and more. I haven’t been able to test it, but it’s very useful. Also, crash detection can save lives. The device has the ability to detect if you are involved in a car accident and if it happens, it will automatically alert your emergency contacts and emergency services. There are many user accounts of how the Apple Watch has helped save their lives, and the inclusion of crash detection adds another big feather to its already well-decorated cap.
Related Reading: 8 Ways Apple Watch Series 8 Can Save Your Life
Apart from this, the Apple Watch Series 8 has all the health features from earlier — including high and low heart rate alerts, ECG, fall detection, blood oxygen monitoring, etc. There’s also a smorgasbord of features for tracking physical activity and workouts, and most notably, the new addition of a detailed sleep analysis that shows how much time you spent in REM and deep sleep. The Apple Watch remains one of only two smartwatches to offer an ECG – the other being the Fitbit Sense.
- Thanks to the dual-core S8 chip, overall usability and performance is smooth and breezy. The refreshed platform in the form of WatchOS 9 adds goodies like the new Medications app and the BackTrack feature I mentioned earlier. And then there are improvements to the Workouts app, new accessibility features, new watch faces, and more. Speaking of watch faces, the Watch app now has a vast collection available, and since most of them are customizable in terms of colors and complications, the permutations and combinations are almost endless. Additionally, there are third-party apps like Facer that allow you to add additional watch faces as well.
- It’s worth mentioning that the Health app preinstalled on iPhones is one of the most comprehensive out there. Apple Watch users will be able to see detailed insights and trends on their health and physical activity, making the app handy even if you don’t have a watch. An example is a feature like Walking Steadyness, which monitors how steady you are on your feet while walking. Likewise, the Health app has quite a few features that can make it a very useful companion if you use its full functionality.
What is not so good
- The new temperature sensors I mentioned earlier are very useful for women’s health, but do not seem to be beneficial for other users. The key thing to note is that the Apple Watch measures wrist temperature, which is different from body temperature. And in any case, the numbers of these can vary from person to person and also based on other factors like environment, diet, exercise, alcohol etc. Because of this, the Apple Watch Series 8 does not offer a temperature reading on demand. Instead, it establishes a specific baseline temperature for the user if worn at bedtime for at least five consecutive nights. Once a baseline is established, it provides a daily reading on variations from that baseline. In theory, the user could use these to identify if something is wrong with them health-wise, especially if the variation seems significant. Although I wish Apple would find a way to make those new temperature sensors and related data more useful for non-menstruating users, it’s pretty useful.
- Battery life is still a concern. Don’t get me wrong — that’s a significant improvement from the days of the first few Apple Watch models, and as things stand, it’s rated for a day and a half. It can also deliver that with normal usage. However, if your usage is heavy and you use a lot of battery-guzzling features like outdoor workouts, you may want to look for a charger first. I also think the 1.5-day battery life figure is pretty confusing, because realistically, you’ll need to charge it once every day… especially if you’re out and about regularly. And then, there are times when you need to juice it up to wear it to dinner or a party, or to monitor your sleep. The Fitbit Sense, by comparison, lasts up to a week on a single charge, while the Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro lasts three days. I’d be happy if the Apple Watch could deliver that much. So there is a definite opportunity for improvement here.
- The price tag isn’t too surprising, but let’s just say it’s not cheap. The new Apple Watch Series 8 base model is priced at Rs. 45,900 will set you back, making you the proud owner of the 41mm, GPS-only model that comes with an aluminum case and sport band. Increasing the case size to 45mm adds another Rs. 3,000, opting for the GPS+ cellular model will cost another Rs. 10,000 adds up. The top-end variant comes in the form of a 45mm, GPS + cellular model that sports a stainless steel case and comes with a Milanese loop band, priced at Rs. 84,900. In a word, expensive.
Like the small, innumerable parts of a quartz watch, each of which fits seamlessly into the mechanism and plays its own critical role in keeping things running smoothly, the Apple Watch uses pieces of hardware and software to deliver a solid, all-round experience. With elements of health, fitness and smarts, the Apple Watch serves as a benchmark for a device that helps complete the ecosystem and adds value to the chain in its own unique way. For an iPhone user looking for a premium lifestyle smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 8 should be the defacto choice. But from Apple’s perspective, nothing is better if every part of the ecosystem plays a role in attracting potential customers. So does the Watch Series 8 itself offer enough to draw a new consumer into Apple’s ecosystem and entice them enough to buy an iPhone just so they can have a Watch on their wrist? I think so.
Editor’s Rating: 4/5
- A solid all-rounder
- Focus on women’s health
- Backtrack & Crash Detection
- Nice appearance & smooth performance
- Battery life should be improved