The Apple Watch 8 is the best smartwatch around – although this is a minor year for updates.
- Excellent tracking features
- Plenty of sensors, including clever use of temperature sensor
- Charges quickly
- Additional low power modes
- No big battery upgrade
- Minimal additions over the last model
- Plenty of sensorsHRM, GPS, blood oxygen and a new temperature sensor
- Bright displayFantastic OLED screen that’s easily readable outside
The Apple Watch 8 is a minor update to the best smartwatch you can currently buy.
2022 has become a year of modest updates to the majority of Apple’s products, with only a few packing hefty changes.
Design and Screen
- Works with any previous Apple Watch bands
- Bright, responsive display
- Comes in two sizes
The design of the Apple Watch has stayed roughly the same since its inception. There have been years where the screen has grown, the colours swapped and the material choice altered – but the overall look has rarely changed. If you picked up the first Apple Watch and a number of bands to go with it, those bands would still work today. In this era of disposable tech, that’s a massive bonus.
With the Apple Watch 8 (or the Series 8), the design once again stays the same. Taking the slightly larger screen and tougher material choices introduced with the Series 7, the only real visible difference is a rejigged colour line-up.
I’ve typically been a huge fan of the look of the Apple Watch. It has become an iconic product for Apple and is instantly recognisable. The Series 8 remains a looker, however, after spending a lot of time wearing the Apple Watch Ultra, I do wish Apple had adapted the design of its more consumer-friendly wearable to more closely match the Ultra.
For instance, I prefer the flatter display on the Ultra over the more domed screen on the Series 8 as I find it far easier to read when I’m on the move. I also appreciate the addition of the new Action Button and again would have liked to see it present on the Series 8.
This third button, which joined the Digital Crown and the app switching button already present, lets you add another shortcut to a selection of apps and actions. It also changes its functionality when you’re in that app, so you can use it to open the stopwatch and then press it again to mark a lap.
But, none of the changes Apple introduced with the Ultra have filtered down to the Series 8, leaving this as a wearable that could do with some freshening up. Still, it remains comfortable to wear, even with the fairly large HRM sticking out of the underside, and it ticks most of the boxes I look for in a smartwatch at this price.
It’s durable thanks to both IP6X and a 5ATM water resistance rating, meaning it can withstand dust and be used for swimming or worn in the shower with no issue. The rounded glass covering the screen is tough too, and I have never cracked an Apple Watch, which is always a good sign it will stand up to daily use.
There are two sizes available and they stick with the same 41mm and 45mm sizes as before. Both remain a lot smaller than the 49mm Apple Watch Ultra. For this review, I have been using the larger model and it fits my wrist well and doesn’t feel overly large, though I do like the smaller nature of the 41mm size and it certainly looks a little more subtle.
While there haven’t been any updates to the display either, it still remains the best I have used on a wearable at this price. Yes, you’ll get a far brighter display on the Apple Watch Ultra but the 1000 nits of peak brightness here still make this screen visible outdoors on bright days with ease.
Just as importantly, it gets very dim too – to the point where it can be checked at night without a bright light exploding across the room.
Choosing the Series 8 over the SE 2 also gets you an always-on display, this uses LPTO refresh rate tech to keep the time visible at all times in a dimmed state. An always-on option helps it look more like a typical watch and lets you glance down the watch to check the time without properly interacting with it.
Fitness Tracking and Performance
- Accurate data for runs and other activities
- HRM, GPS, ECG and body temperature sensor
- Sleep tracking is better thanks to watchOS 9
There are a few more changes and additions under the surface, notably the new temperature sensor and improved accelerometers – the latter of which enables the same Car Crash Detection feature found in the iPhone 14 series. This isn’t a reason as such to update, but it does add some extra peace of mind
The temperature sensor is the more interesting addition. This will track your body temperature over time (you’ll need to give it five nights to get going) and it can be used for female cycle tracking, giving estimates of when you last ovulated. This data can be helpful for family planning and is a really nice addition that expands the scope of the Apple Watch.
It is important to note this is retroactive tracking, so it’s not going to be able to tell you future ovulation dates. Apple is also clear to make sure that this cycle tracking data stays on your device and is encrypted with either Touch ID or Face ID.
If you’re not interested in this cycle tracking, the sensor will also give you an overview of your body temperature each night, showing you how it deviates from a calculated baseline. I can’t say I have found this data overly interesting, and the Watch doesn’t tell you how to decipher it, but it’s there and I can only assume it will become more apparent with software updates in the future.
It feels like the blood oxygen sensor Apple introduced a few years ago, which simply gave you a percentage readout without little else. Apple is giving you access to these sensors, but not turning them into medical tools.
I’ve been seriously impressed with the skills of the Apple Watch when it comes to fitness, and during my testing of both this model and every single previous version, it can easily match pricier watches in terms of accuracy. I’ve been testing the Series 8 alongside the excellent Garmin Forerunner 955 and Apple’s watch manages to lock on to GPS just as fast and churn out equally accurate data, whether it be my heart rate or the distance of a run. The data is also far more accurate than that gleaned from the Pixel Watch, and cheaper watches like the Fitbit Versa 4.
While a Garmin Forerunner will offer more in-depth modes for runners, the Apple Watch is a better pick for the more casual person. The addictive nature of the Activity app – where you’re tasked with filling three rings a day by moving, exercising and standing – remains excellent and the smart, and fast, auto workout tracking means you’ll end up tracking longer walks and bouts of exercise you’d probably have not bothered starting a dedicated workout for.
My favourite watchOS 9 feature is the updated sleep tracking, which now splits your slumber into time awake, deep sleep, REM and core sleep. Once you’ve woken up in the morning, all this data is viewable through the Health app on your connected iPhone. I’ve become slightly addicted to tracking my sleep since putting on this watch and knowing how your sleep breaks down is a good start to improving it.
The Health app can fling out other handy tidbits of information, too. For example, I found out that my resting heart rate dropped by 8bpm during the week I was away on holiday, and, on average, I do 1000 more steps a day this year than last. You can even set medication reminders, handy if you often forget to take tablets or a puff of an inhaler every morning.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is a very complete device for both fitness and general health tracking. From the ECG monitor that is easy to use, to the handy fall detection and the paid-for benefits of Apple Fitness+ – I really believe this watch makes you want to be more active and healthy.
- Updated low-power modes
- You’ll still want to charge frequently
- Fast charging with USB-C cable
The Apple Watch Series 8 features a new chipset, the S8, which is a little more efficient than before. That said, battery life is very similar to the outgoing models – heavy users will be charging the watch every day, while those happy to sacrifice some features, notably the always-on display, can stretch that out to two days.
I sit somewhere in between the two. I tend to charge the Apple Watch when I get to my desk in the morning, typically with it having 25-30% left. That’s after having worn it overnight to track my sleep. Unlike the Pixel Watch, the Apple Watch doesn’t drain a lot overnight.
There is an improved low-power mode included in WatchOS 9 that isn’t quite as restrictive as before, and this is great if you want to eke more juice out of the wearable if you’re away from a charger for an extended period – though I wouldn’t keep it on all the time.
If you’re after an Apple Watch that lasts longer, there’s the Apple Watch Ultra. In my tests, I found this often offered double the endurance of the Series 8, comfortably lasting into a third day even with heavy use.
To charge the Apple Watch 8 there’s the same fast USB-C charger introduced with the Series 7, but no USB-C plug. If you don’t have one of these then it’s certainly worth picking one up rather than using an old Apple Watch charger, as it’s far quicker to get from 0-100%.
In my tests, charging times were almost exactly the same as the Series 7. A full charge takes less than an hour, while 10 minutes can get you just below 20%.
You still do need to use the dedicated Apple Watch charging puck, and there’s no support for standard Qi pads.
Should you buy it?
You want a smartwatch for an iPhone: No other smartwatch offers what the Apple Watch can and it’s really the only smartwatch that properly integrates with Apple’s smartphones.
You want battery life that goes and goes: The Apple Watch 8 battery life is much the same as the previous iterations. It’ll get you easily through a day (and night) just don’t expect it to last as long as some of the best running watches or the Fitbit Versa 4.
Simply put, the Apple Watch 8 is the best smartwatch for iPhone users and if it supported Android devices, it would be comfortably clear of the Galaxy Watch 5 and Google Pixel Watch – both of which simply cannot offer what this wearable can.
Yet, if you have the Series 7, or even the Series 6, I don’t think there’s enough here to warrant an upgrade – unless the cycle tracking benefits are key.
If you’re new to the Apple Watch, or coming from a much older model, this is the most complete option for most people. The Ultra is great for serious athletes, while the Watch SE 2 is certainly more affordable – but the Series 8 combines the best features of both.
It’s not only great for health and fitness. It has access to loads of apps, gets frequent software updates, packs lovely watch faces and is very customisable.
How we test
We thoroughly test every fitness tracker we review. We use industry standard testing to compare features properly and we use the watch as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Worn as our main tracker during the testing period
Heart rate data compared against dedicated heart rate devices
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The Apple Watch 8 requires an iPhone 6S or newer, running the latest available version of iOS.
There is no charger included with the Apple Watch, you’ll need to buy one separately. A USB-C cable is included.
Yes, as long as the sizes match up. If you get the 45mm one, look for compatible straps with the size, Same for the 41mm version.
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