Last year, Apple introduced the Watch Series 8, which replaced the Watch Series 7 with a new S8 processor, crash detection, and a temperature sensor. And, because rumours suggest that the Watch Series 9 will have the same design, we thought we’d see how the Watch Series 8 holds up over time.
Should you wait for the Watch Series 9, which may cost more but provide less, or should you acquire a Watch Series 8 when it is discounted? To help you decide, here’s our long-term evaluation of the Apple Watch Series 8 after more than six months of use.
Design Apple Watch series 8
The Apple Watch Series 8 resembles its predecessor. The 41mm Aluminium (GPS + Cellular) model reviewed here has the same dimensions (41 x 35 x 10.7 mm) and weight (32 g) as the Watch Series 7 equivalent. The Aluminium version’s casing is built of 100% recyclable aluminium, as implied by the name, and the 1.69″ screen is protected by Ion-X glass (Sapphire crystal on stainless steel variants).
The speaker is on the left side of the Apple Watch Series 8, while the microphone is on the right, flanked by a recent/side button and a Digital Crown with a red accent. Both the button and the crown provide good feedback, with the latter providing snappy scrolling that, in my experience, was smoother than swiping on the screen. Both have kept their tactility even after months of use. ECG measures are also taken with the crown, but more on that in the Performance section.
The heart rate and SpO2 sensors are situated on a raised plate on the glossy rear panel, which is composed of ceramic. This helps to avoid dirt buildup over time and promotes optimal skin contact for accurate readings. A temperature sensor is also included on the crystal, with another beneath the display.
The straps may be released using two buttons on the rear of the Watch Series 8. Our device arrived with the black-coloured standard Sport Band bundle, which included S/M and M/L strap components that suit wrists measuring 130-200 mm. These are constructed of a “custom high-performance fluoroelastomer,” according to Apple, making them “durable and strong, yet surprisingly soft.”
The bundled straps are plush, and considering the weight of the watch, wearing them to sleep at night and after workouts was a pleasant experience. The bands feature a pin-and-tuck fastening, which made wearing the Watch Series 8 a hassle at first and caused amusing moments because I hadn’t worn anything with such straps in a long time (it was the Oppo Watch a few years ago, and I had a similar experience). It may take some getting used to for people who have never used a strap of this type, but once you figure it out, it’s a breeze to place the watch on your wrist.
However, owing to the design of the bundled straps, which caused rashes on my wrist, and my desire for a more classic design, I ended up purchasing a pair of third-party straps. And, given we’re talking about Apple, there are plenty of accessories to choose from.
It’s also worth noting that the Apple Watch Series 8 is dust- and water-resistant to 50 metres, making it “swimproof.” That means you don’t have to remove it from your wrist when taking a shower.
The general look of the Apple Watch Series 8 appeals to me. Yes, it resembles its predecessor, but it’s more durable, and despite a few drops on the floor over months of use, it didn’t have a single scratch.
The 41mm variant of the Apple Watch Series 8 has a 1.69″ screen with a resolution of 430×352 pixels, while the 45mm model has a 1.9″ screen with a resolution of 484×396 pixels. However, both devices include Sapphire Crystal Glass protection and Always-On Retina LTPO OLED displays with a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits.
The retina display of the Watch Series 8 is colourful and includes a 3-level brightness adjustment. And at 100% brightness, I had no trouble seeing what was on the screen even in direct sunlight outside. Additionally, the wristwatch incorporates an ambient light sensor for effective automatic brightness adjustment.
The Watch Series 8’s screen had a wonderful touch responsiveness and strong haptics, and despite my initial concerns, typing on such a small screen wasn’t as challenging as I had anticipated. This was mostly because of the swiping motions, which were ideal for a size screen.
The smartwatch only comes with one watch face, but there are many more to choose from via the Watch software on the paired iPhone, which is organised into more than two dozen categories.
The Always-On Display (AOD), which can be activated or disabled using the Watch app on the accompanying iPhone and the Settings app on the smartwatch, is compatible with many of these watch faces. Additionally, while the Watch Series 8 is not being worn, wear detection turns off AOD.
The screen is left on at night while you sleep since AOD cannot be set to automatically switch on and off at a specific time every day. Even with lesser brightness, this might annoy other people in the room at night, deplete the battery unnecessarily, and raise the possibility of accidental mistouches on the display.
That doesn’t imply that there isn’t a fix for this. The Cinema Mode (also known as Theatre Mode) function in watchOS allows you to keep the Apple Watch Series 8’s screen black while you’re sleeping. It may be turned on via the Control Centre on the smartwatch, which is accessed by swiping up from the home screen. The two-mask symbol serves as its representation.
With the next watchOS and Apple Watch releases, let’s hope Apple will allow consumers to schedule Always-On Display to enhance the user experience.
With an iPhone 8 or later and iOS 16 or later, the Apple Watch Series 8 is compatible. WatchOS 9.0 was used to launch it, and watchOS 9.6.1 is now installed. The three applications Watch, Health, and Fitness that come pre-installed on the iPhone 13 I tested for this review are what the Series 8 depends on.
The Health app handles all of your health-related data, including sleep, heart rate, ECG, blood oxygen level, and step count, among other things, whereas the Watch app is used to configure the Watch Series 8 and play about with its basic settings. The Fitness app, as its name suggests, displays all of your indoor and outdoor workout data. Additionally, it shows your data on the mindfulness exercises Reflect and Breathe as well as all the accolades you’ve received.
The Watch and Fitness apps have a simple and clutter-free UI, which I found pretty easy to use. The Health app isn’t complex either, but Apple could’ve done a better job of displaying some health data.
In addition, I would have preferred a one-stop solution rather than having to switch between three distinct applications, such as a single app for everything. It’s not difficult; we’ve seen several other companies, like Amazfit, achieve it for their wearables.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is powered by Apple’s S8 dual-core processor, which, together with watchOS 9, provided a fluid experience because the wristwatch continually performed quickly over these months of use.
Like the aforementioned apps, the Watch Series 8’s user interface (UI) is uncomplicated and easy to use. On the home screen, a swipe down displays the notification centre, and a swipe up displays the control centre, which gives you access to fast settings that can be customised. I think it is wasteful to do nothing when you swipe left or right. Apple might have made it possible for users to swipe left or right on the smartwatch’s home screen to access their favourite functions and applications.
Pressing the crown will launch any installed applications on the wristwatch, including the Settings apps. The applications are shown in a grid layout by default, but you may switch to a list view. The app may be closed with the crown as well. On the other hand, the side button allows you to move between recently used apps.
Most of the UI navigation on the Watch Series 8 with watchOS 9 depends on these two buttons, especially the crown since it’s used to bring up the app list, return to the previous screen, and exit the app. A more open approach towards gesture-based navigation would’ve been appreciated since it’d have allowed for better customization of the physical buttons. One example is swiping left on the home screen to access all the apps and swiping right for the app switcher.
The Watch Series 8’s reliance on the crown to return to the previous screen or exit the app proved more inconvenient when dealing with the notifications.
You may view a list of notifications by tapping on the grouped notifications from an app in the notification centre. If you click on a specific notification to expand it, you will see associated fast actions for some applications. However, unlike an iPhone, you cannot just swipe right to return without taking any further action.
To return, tap or press the crown or side buttons in the top-left corner of the screen or the “Done” button. Additionally, while seeing an extended notice or a set of alerts from the same app, you may swipe down to delete the notification or the grouped notifications from both the linked iPhone and watch.
Apple should allow users to swipe right to return to the previous screen in various apps, such as the notification centre and the App Store, if possible. Additionally, the notification handling should be improved.
Since a right swipe doesn’t always return you to the previous screen, the user interface (UI) navigation is comparable to the iPhone’s. Similar to the iPhone, I find it inconsistent and nonsensical to have to press the arrow/back button in the top-left corner of the screen.
Features and Performance
The S8 processor, a temperature sensor, and crash detection are new additions to the Apple Watch Series 8, which is otherwise virtually unchanged from its predecessor. The typical array of health and fitness functions are also included, such as real-time heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen level measurement, sleep tracking, ECG, sedentary reminder, steps counter, and indoor and outdoor exercises.
Along with these other features, the Apple Watch Series 8 has GPS (L1), weather forecast, compass (with Backtracking), phone finder, stopwatch, countdown timer, fall detection, and music controls. Temperature sensing is another feature of the Watch Series 8, however, it is primarily helpful to women because it is utilised for Cycle Tracking with retroactive ovulation predictions to assist them in understanding their menstrual cycle.
With 32GB of internal storage, the Apple Watch Series 8 enables users to download songs for offline listening. If you’re feeling daring, you may listen to them through the watch’s speakers. Alternatively, you can pair it with any Bluetooth earbuds to listen to music without an iPhone.
This saves you from having to bring your iPhone along when exercising outside, especially if you have the LTE variant, which enables you to make and take calls without being linked to an iPhone.
In addition, the Apple Watch Series 8 supports Bluetooth 5.3 and Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) connection and is equipped with Apple’s W3 and U1 wireless chips.
Speaking of the health and fitness aspects, the Apple Watch Series 8 automatically takes a heart rate reading every minute without a method to modify it. This isn’t ideal because allowing users to expand the gap by even a few minutes would help the battery last longer. I understand why Apple didn’t offer that option, however, most wearables advocate automated heart rate recording at intervals of one minute for more precise data.
However, you can always take a manual heart rate reading using the Heart Rate app on your wristwatch if you don’t want to rely on information from automated tracking. It is quick and shows the resting heart rate, and the associated iPhone’s Health app offers a thorough examination. Although the heart rate sensor generally captures the pulse properly, it is still advised to avoid using it for diagnosis.
With the help of the ECG app on the wristwatch, the ECG sensor in the Watch Series 8 may produce an ECG resembling a single-lead electrocardiogram. The ECG data may be found in the Health app, just as heart rate tracking, by placing your finger on the crown for 30 seconds. Despite the fact that I had no way of verifying its authenticity, we advise against using that information as the foundation for a diagnosis or course of therapy.
Like the heart rate sensor on the Watch Series 8, the SpO2 sensor can detect blood oxygen levels throughout the day, including in Sleep Focus and Cinema Mode. However, the Blood Oxygen app on the wristwatch also allows for on-demand readings, which take 15 seconds to complete. The Health app has the relevant information. The lessons were generally correct. However, avoid using it for diagnostic reasons.
Sleep monitoring comes next, which divides the total number of hours of sleep into Core Sleep (also known as Light Sleep), Deep Sleep, REM Sleep, and Awake. The Sleep app on the Apple Watch displays your total number of hours of sleep, your wake-up and fall-asleep timings, and the amount of time you spent in each of the aforementioned phases of sleep. You may see the two-week average for sleep time as well. The iPhone’s Health app offers a thorough analysis, and the Sleep section includes intriguing statistics like the length of time you spend in bed as well as details on your heart and breathing rates while you sleep.
However, in my experience, the Apple Watch Series 8’s sleep monitoring was disappointing and inaccurate. It precisely tracked the awake moments but not the time when you go to sleep.
Even while you are moving about while viewing movies on a phone or tablet while lying on a couch or bed, the Watch Series 8’s sleep monitoring algorithm keeps track of the time spent sleeping.
I’ve used smartwatches before with similar behaviour, and the Watch Series 8 would have been good for that as well if it hadn’t sent me Stand Reminders when the algorithm believed I was asleep. It’s strange. Additionally, because the Health app does not allow you to alter the sleep log, the total sleep analysis is erroneous due to incorrect data. I’m hoping Apple would allow users to alter previous sleep records with the next updates because the firm now lets you enter sleep data via the Health app.
It’s also important to note that, despite activating the Sleep Focus mode, the Apple Watch Series 8 doesn’t monitor midday naps, which is unfortunate because even watches that cost less than half as much as the Apple Watch do. We can only hope that Apple will release a software update that will enable that feature on some, if not all, of its smartwatches.
There are several indoor and outdoor workouts that the Apple Watch Series 8 supports. Obviously, I was unable to test them all. I generally used the exercises for indoor and outdoor walks. Like most other smartwatches, the steps tallied by both modes weren’t totally precise, but the margin of error was small enough to not cause alarm.
However, for some reason, the Indoor Walk utilised GPS, which I believe was superfluous because outside workouts benefit more from it. The Outdoor trip option made use of GPS, however, it simply marked the beginning of my trip on the map rather than tracing the path, which I didn’t find to be very helpful.
In addition, the Apple Watch Series 8 prompted me to conclude my Indoor/Outdoor Walk even though I hadn’t slowed down or stopped for a while to wait for the algorithm to do so. With watchOS 9.2 and watchOS 9.6.1, this problem first appeared.
When using the built-in microphone on the Watch Series 8’s LTE capability, I placed and received calls using the wristwatch, and the folks on the other end could easily hear me when I pulled the watch closer to my face.
Its speakers should do the same by paying attention to the people on the other end. Due to the Watch Series 8’s LTE connectivity, you may always use any Bluetooth earbuds in a loud setting to make calls without needing an iPhone. As long as the new device isn’t Bluetooth-connected to the old one, this also worked when I switched the SIM card from the accompanying iPhone to it, although it didn’t work for text messages.
The Apple Watch Series 8 LTE is a genuine extension of the iPhone since it allows you to make and receive calls, send texts, and write emails in addition to doing a few other tasks when unconnected from an iPhone.
I obviously didn’t test the Apple Watch Series 8’s crash detection capability, but the backtracking function worked just well. We have, however, come across reports throughout the months that it was helpful.
After using the Apple Watch Series 8 for almost six months, my sole big criticism is that the device’s sleep monitoring should be much better. I’m hoping the upcoming update will address this. Apple should also add monitoring for midday naps, in my opinion.
The 282 mAh battery in the Apple Watch Series 8 Aluminium 41mm (GPS + Cellular) is advertised to last for 18 hours with “90-time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 60-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth” on “4 hours of LTE connection and 14 hours of connection to iPhone via Bluetooth.”
My usage was comparably more restrained, and frequently, I didn’t get in a whole 30 minutes of exercise. However, the Watch Series 8 was Bluetooth- and an LTE-connected to the iPhone 13 at all times. With that type of use, the Apple Watch Series 8 kept up with me throughout the whole workday, but it needed a recharge before bed because sleep monitoring requires at least 30% battery.
When the Watch Series 8’s battery was entirely depleted, it took the included charger a little over an hour to fully recharge it, of which the first 9 to 10 minutes were spent turning it on.
Since you can make and receive calls, send and receive texts, and perform a few other tasks like checking and creating emails without being linked to an iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 8 with a cellular connection is a good addition to an iPhone. When working out or going for a run, you may download music for offline listening and listen to it through the watch’s speakers or Bluetooth earbuds without keeping it linked to an iPhone.
The Watch Series 8 features a solid body that has held up well after more than six months of use and a brilliant screen that is legible outside in harsh sunlight. The wrapped straps are the same. The performance of the smartwatch is also quick, which, when combined with superb haptics, provides a satisfying experience.
However, for a more streamlined experience, notification handling needs refinement and UI navigation may be enhanced. The necessity for consumers to switch between three distinct applications for various tasks would be removed if Apple were to create one app that acts as a one-stop shop for everything connected to Apple Watches.
Should you get the Apple Watch Series 8 now, a year later, or hold off till the Watch Series 9? The Apple Watch Series 9 is rumoured to be “basically unchanged” from the Watch Series 8, therefore it won’t have any big advancements. It is anticipated to receive a new chip based on Apple’s A15 SoC, which might enhance the smartwatch’s functionality and efficiency.
Given that, and if you believe Apple will address the software issues we mentioned with the ensuing software updates, I don’t see any reason not to purchase it if you can find a fantastic deal on it, which is likely to happen soon as we get closer to the September 12 Apple event since retailers would want to clear out their old stocks at reduced prices before the Watch Series 9 arrives.
Pro’s & Con’s
- comfy and portable.
- robust construction.
- A clear screen with good touch sensitivity.
- Quick performance.
- 50-meter water resistance.
- Great haptics.
- One highly useful feature to have on a wristwatch is LTE connection.
- requires the usage of three distinct applications.
- The handling of notifications needs some refinement.
- Sleep monitoring is unreliable.
- No monitoring of afternoon naps. a battery’s life.
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