It feels like only yesterday that we were debating the entry of Apple into the wearables market. And yet, here we are: Apple is on to the Series 8 of its watch.
A lot of refining has gone on since the early days of the Apple Watch. Design tweaks, some new features and software updates that have made the Apple Watch a success for the company. So what else could they possibly add?
A few features, actually. Apple has gone down the route of other wearables, adding temperature sensing to its line-up. The new watch has a sensor located near your skin, and another in the display. The two sensors work in tandem to track changes in your body temperature, which feed into cycle tracking, estimating when the wearer has ovulated. It won’t act as a warning sign in advance, so don’t expect to use this as a fertility predictor, but it will help you chart the trends in your cycle so you can get a general idea of what is going on in your body. It could also help pinpoint any potential health conditions.
The other notable new feature is one that the company hopes you never have to use: crash detection. The system uses a mix of advanced sensors and machine learning to sense when you have had a car crash. If you don’t respond for 10 seconds, it will automatically trigger a call to the emergency services, potentially saving a life or two. For obvious reasons, we didn’t actually test this one, but Apple says it was trained on models of the most common types of crashes and in a range of vehicles, so regardless of whether it’s a head-on collision in an SUV or a rear collision in a small family car, the watch should pick up the abnormal movement.
The Series 8 is largely the same as its predecessor. In terms of design, it has the same display, with curved edges that make the watch look very smooth. The size hasn’t changed either, with the device available in 41mm and 45mm. The always-on display is also back, although you get some new watch faces with the Series 8. The Lunar one is particularly interesting, charting phases of the moon and offering different calendars, including the Chinese and Islamic calendars. Like the Series 7, you get fall detection, blood oxygen sensors and gyroscope.
The set-up process is still relatively painless, with Apple’s system automatically detecting the presence of the Apple Watch and guiding you through it step by step.
Some of the best features are brought by Watch OS 9. The low-power mode, which extends the battery life significantly by knocking off some of the non-essential features, will be welcomed by everyone who has ever left their Apple Watch charger behind, because the Series 8 has the same battery life as its predecessors.
There is also an updated workout app that gives you more information than before, a medications app and atrial fibrillation (Afib) history.
Is it worth the upgrade?
It depends on what you currently have. If it’s the Series 7 or even the Series 6, the incremental updates aren’t enough to justify spending five hundred quid. The temperature sensors are handy if you want to keep a closer eye on your cycle, and the crash detection features are reassuring.
Older watches will still get the benefit of all the upgrades Watch OS 9 brings, such as the low-power mode. In short, if it’s still working for you, why bother changing this year?
If you have the versions without the extra sensors and the always-on watch face, it may be worth looking at the Series 8.
Good The addition of the temperature sensors makes the Watch a more fully rounded health tracker. Fitbit, Oura and Huawei have all added skin temperature sensors to their wearables, so it makes sense for Apple to join in. And while the crash detection is a feature we hopefully never have to use, it’s nice to know it is there.
Not so good This may not be enough of a leap to prod people into upgrading. And at €499, it’s €70 more expensive than its predecessor.
The rest The Series 8 comes with all the durability of the Series 7, from the tougher glass on the watch face to the water resistance. It doesn’t quite reach the depths of the Apple Watch Ultra, but 50m will more than likely satisfy most people’s exploits.
Verdict The Series 8 is incremental, but has some useful features. It won’t be for everyone, though, and with the price hike, picking up an older Series before they disappear could be a bargain.