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Apple's Series 8 smartwatch announcement was all about the sensors. While the watch may look almost identical to its predecessors on the outside, the inside could well save your life.
Review: Apple Watch Series 8
From the new body temperature sensor that can help track fevers and ovulation, to the new crash detection technology that can automatically call emergency services in the event of a car wreck, the new smartwatch is designed to help keep you safe and well.
That said, the Apple Watch Series 8's upgraded specs may not be enough for everyone to make the jump. So, let's look at what's new to help you decide between this year's main-line Apple Watch and last year's.
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Apple Watch Series 8
Apple Watch Series 7
45mm: 396 x 484 pixel Always-on Retina LTPO OLED | | 41mm: 352 x 430 pixel Always-on Retina LTPO OLED
45mm: 396 x 484 pixel Always-on Retina LTPO OLED | 41mm: 352 x 430 pixel Always-on Retina LTPO OLED
45mm: aluminum (38.8g), stainless steel (51.5g) | 41mm: aluminum (32g), stainless steel (42.3g)
45mm: aluminum (38.8g), stainless steel (51.5g), titanium (45.1g) | 41mm: aluminum (32g), stainless steel (42.3g), titanium (37g)
Apple S8 chip
Apple S7 chip
|Battery||18-hour lithium-ion battery (36 hours in Low Power mode)||18-hour lithium-ion battery|
|Sensors||GPS, altimeter, blood oxygen, optical heart sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, body temperature sensor, high-G accelerometer||GPS, altimeter, blood oxygen, optical heart sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE (GPS + cellular model only)||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE (GPS + cellular model only)|
Case materials and colors
Aluminum: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, (PRODUCT)RED | stainless steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold
Aluminum: Midnight, Starlight, Green, Blue, (PRODUCT)RED | stainless steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold | titanium: Space black, Titanium
IP6X dust-resistant, water-resistant to 50 meters
IP6X dust-resistant, water-resistant to 50 meters
|Price||Starting at $399||Starting at $299|
Apple made it clear during its presentation that its new temperature sensor was the showpiece of this year's Apple Watch refresh. Not only can it provide basic body-temp information, but it can also draw on its readings and those of other sensors to provide a more holistic image of the wearer's health. This permits things like better cycle and ovulation tracking, as well as new health-tracking alerts that may catch brewing health concerns earlier.
The Apple Watch Series 8 includes the company's new Crash Detection feature, also found on its latest iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro. This safety feature makes use of an improved three-axis gyroscope and a completely new accelerometer to record 3,000 samples per second. Combined with the Apple Watch's other sensors, the new hardware is designed to allow the device to almost instantly detect vehicle crashes. When a crash is detected, it should call emergency services automatically, and send messages to the user's emergency contacts. It's an extra layer of peace of mind if you have family members who wear this new generation of Apple Watch.
Also: Apple Watch SE (2022) vs Apple Watch SE (2020): What's new?
The new Low Power mode available on the Apple Watch Series 8 provides up to 36 hours of operation on a single charge. This is twice the normal 18-hour runtime the device is rated for. To accomplish this, the Apple Watch disables some services, while attempting to maintain operations as close as possible to its normal mode. It doesn't truly double the Apple Watch's battery life, but if you frequently forget your charger or you often go on short trips without, this could be a life-saver.
With the introduction of the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple appears to now be reserving its titanium finish for its new, top-end model. Because of this, anyone wanting a less expensive (relatively speaking) Apple smartwatch with a titanium finish will need to stick with 2021's Apple Watch Series 7. The Apple Watch Series 8 only comes in less colorful aluminum and stainless-steel options now.
Of course, just about all of us could (but hopefully never will) need the Series 8's new Crash Detection feature to help us in an emergency. But given the "what-if" nature of that scenario, shoppers may not find that alone enough reason to buy a Series 8. For those doubters, Apple's hoping the new body temperature sensor will be enough. It's worth noting that most of the more complex uses for the Series 8's new temperature sensor involve cycle tracking and fertility. People without those interests can certainly make use of it as well, such as checking for fever, but in fewer ways.
Apple launched an updated Apple Watch SE (2nd generation) at this year's event as well. While this latest update to the budget-friendly line brings it close in performance to the new Apple Watch Series 8, it still sports the same larger bezels and lacks the main-line Series 7 and 8's always-on display technology. This means if you want an Apple Watch that won't hit your wallet quite so hard, but you must have those upgraded display features, the Series 7 will still likely be the way to go as its price is already well below the Series 8's launch price, and will likely continue to fall.
More: Apple Watch Series 7 review: Bigger really is better
Open to other smartwatch prospects? Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices: