Apple Watch Series 8 review: Time for an upgrade?

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Apple Watch Series 8 review (Image: APPLE • GETTY)

As regular as clockwork, Apple has revealed its annual refresh of the Apple Watch. The Series 8 brings the ability to estimate ovulation, something that could help with family planning and spotting abnormalities with your monthly cycle. This is thanks to a new thermometer built into the rear case, which keeps a check of temperatures throughout the night to provide an insight into what’s happening inside your body.

Just like the latest iPhone models, there’s also Crash Detection built into the Apple Watch Series 8, which can automatically alert emergency services if it detects you’ve been involved in a serious collision – even if you’re unconscious and unable to make the call yourself.

As mentioned in our iPhone 14 review, this is a very clever system …but one that, hopefully, you’ll never get any use from. And aside from these two new additions, the Series 8 remains identical to the Series 7.

It feels about time the Apple Watch had a massive overhaul. The design has stayed the same since this best-selling smartwatch first launched back in 2015 and the ageing case is further highlighted by the arrival of the all-new Apple Watch Ultra. This rugged model gets a striking new industrial design with sharp edges, a bigger and more defined Digital Crown, and a chunky case made from aerospace-grade titanium.

Apple Watch remains our go-to wearable, thanks to a plethora of fitness features along with seamless connectivity with the iPhone and AirPods.

Sadly, it just feels like the Apple Watch Series 8 doesn’t move things forward from the Series 7. Especially since Apple has raised the starting price for the Apple Watch Series 8 compared to its predecessor (which has been dropped from the Apple Store), so you’ll need to pay more than ever before to strap one of these devices to your wrist.

Apple Watch Series 8 – full review

The Apple Watch continues to be the most popular wearable gadget on the planet and this latest upgrade makes some minor enhancements to what is already a pretty stellar smartwatch.

There are only two new features this time around: the ability to track ovulation and automatic car crash detection. Both of these new functions aren’t particularly showy and will happen behind the scenes, providing peace of mind rather than exciting additions to show off to your friends and family.

We’ve only had the Apple Watch Series 8 on our wrist for a very short amount of time (it was only announced last week) so it’s tricky to assess exactly how well these upgrades work.

Apple says the new temperature sensor on the rear of the case tracks how hot or cool you’re running during the night, with readings collected every 5 seconds. This technology is so sensitive it can pick up on changes as small as 0.1° Celsius, the company claims.

Apple Watch Series 8 review

Cycle Tracking can help with family planning (Image: APPLE)

Cycle Tracking and new sensors

Nighttime wrist temperature can be a good indicator of overall body temperature because while you sleep, your blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to your limbs. Over time, this sensor is able to show a range of data and seeing these nightly changes can give you insight into your overall wellness.

However, where this technology really comes into its own is for female users who want to check their menstrual cycles. By tracking changes throughout the month, the Series 8 can show wearers when they have most likely ovulated, which could be useful for family planning.

However, while Apple is happy to talk about the accuracy of its new temperature-sensing components, the Californian company is careful to draw the line at using these readings as birth control. If you’re thinking of upgrading to an Apple Watch Series 8 to avoid pregnancy – don’t.

Instead, the smartwatch should be used to keep tabs on your monthly cycle – flagging any discrepancies in your period or ovulation.

Apple Watch Series 8

Apple Watch Series 8 has tech inside to check your temperature at night (Image: APPLE)

Cycle Tracking, which has been available in all Apple Watch models for a few years now, relies on wrist temperature in the Series 8 to improve period predictions, as ovulation estimates can be used to inform when your next period will start.

It’s all very clever but one thing to note about this useful upgrade is that it does require the device to be worn throughout the night.

Sadly, Apple hasn’t extended the battery life on the Watch Series 8 which means it will be very low on power when you wake up. Just like the Series 7, the new Apple Watch can be fast charged but owners will need to make sure they give it a quick refill once they hop out of bed as it definitely won’t survive 48 hours strapped to your wrist. There is the addition of a new Low Power mode which does extend things but switching this on also disables some key features such as the always-on screen.

Apple Watch Series 8 review

The Watch 8 now features Crash Detection (Image: APPLE)

New Crash Detection

Alongside that temperature sensor, the Series 8 also gets Crash Detection which instantly alerts the emergency services after a severe car accident. This has been achieved using the sensors tucked inside the device which can feel the full force of a crash. In our brief time with the smartwatch, the sensors haven’t been fooled but a stumble on the pavement.

Even if you don’t own the more expensive cellular Apple Watch Series 8, Crash Detection should still work via a connection to your iPhone. Although, you’ll need to have your iPhone charged and nearby …something those with the cellular model won’t need to worry about.

Fortunately, we’ve not had the opportunity to test this feature, but it could save your life should the worse happen.

And that’s about it. If you were hoping for a big design refresh for the Apple Watch this year – as we were – you’re going to be disappointed.

This new wearable looks pretty identical to all of its predecessors and that’s both good and bad. This device remains incredibly comfortable to wear and the square screen is better than the circular displays found on a number of Apple’s rivals for reading texts and notifications.

However, with Apple launching its striking new Watch Ultra …we can’t help thinking the design is starting to look a little tired. It’s worth noting that iPhone, iPad, iMac, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro have all now enjoyed a design refresh with a modern, flat-edged design that all feels apiece. Meanwhile, Apple Watch keeps the curvier corners most associated with the iPhone 6 design (that makes sense since this was the latest and greatest phone design from the company when the Apple Watch made its debut)

Apple Watch Series 8 review

Like most new Apple Watch models the new Series 8 checks your heart (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Apple Watch Series 8 review

Sadly, the design hasn’t moved on again this year (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Most features remain the same as the Series 7

As well as no flashy new look, the Apple Watch 8 also uses the same S8 processor found inside the Series 7, which remains fast but you won’t see any boosts to performance or efficiency this year.

Other features to return from the Series 7 include the always-on OLED display that’s shielded with a toughed sapphire glass and a waterproof case that’ll survive a dip in the pool. Elsewhere, the heart monitor continues to offer an instant two-point ECG and the Watch will check for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib). You can check blood oxygen levels too.

We’ve been wearing an Apple Watch for years and it’s genuinely helped us to stay fit and healthy, thanks to all of its tracking features, workout detection, and motivating ring system and competitions with friends.

There’s also the new WatchOS software which now offers Heart Rate Zone date, a batch of new watch faces, better sleep tracking and it will soon be able to show regular routes you run and offer motivation to help beat previous lap times.

The Apple Watch still leads the pack, but the Series 8 definitely lacks the usual exciting upgrades we’ve come to expect from Apple. Despite that, the smartwatch is now more expensive, with prices starting from over £410 for 41mm model and £469 for the larger 44mm devices.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 8 continues to be water resistant (Image: APPLE)

Apple Watch Series 8: Final verdict

Apple Watch Serei review – at a glance

What We Love

  • Car Crash Detection Could Save Your Life
  • Thermometer Brings New Heath Benefits
  • Still The Best Smartwatch On The Market
  • Low Power Mode Is A Welcomed Addition

What We Don’t

  • Price Rise Makes It Feel Very Expensive 
  • No Big Design Change 
  • Many Features The Same As Series 7
  • Still Needs Charging Every Day

Thanks to the mind-boggling innovation we’ve seen from Apple since the debut of the Apple Watch back in 2015, this remains one of the best wearables on the planet. Unfortunately, there’s a distinct lack of must-have features in the Series 8.

The latest Apple Watch model comes with a new temperature sensor to track ovulation and Crash Detection feature, which could be genuinely life-saving if the worst should happen. These features are packed into the same design we’ve seen since the initial launch back in 2015.

Just like its predecessors, the Apple Watch Series 8 can track your sleep, motivate you to get off the sofa and into the gym, and pre-emptively alert you about serious health issues, such as AFib.

It’s a great little gadget and we love wearing our Apple Watch, but the Series 8 lacks the excitement we’ve had from previous generations.

The design is unchanged, the screen is unchanged, the chipset is unchanged, and the battery life is unchanged.

One thing that has changed is the price, which has increased compared to the Series 7 last year and makes the Apple Watch Series 8 feel pretty expensive.

If you want every feature Apple Watch has to offer, the Series 8 is the way to go. However, if you can find stores selling the Series 7 at a cheaper price, then that’s definitely a purchase worth considering. And don’t forget the newly-refreshed Apple Watch SE (from £259) boasts the same S8 processor and many of the same health and fitness features too.

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