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Apple Watch Series 8 review: Not a lot new, but still one of the best

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Apple Watch Series 8
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Quick verdict: Apple’s only made light adjustments to the Apple Watch Series 8, leaving the big changes for the premium Apple Watch Ultra model. It’s still a very fine smartwatch with a lot of appeal, even if it’s only marginally different from last year’s model.


  • WatchOS 9 works very well
  • Temperature sensor for period tracking is a welcome improvement
  • Crash detection is great (in theory)

  • Still needs daily recharging
  • Little reason to upgrade from Watch Series 7
  • Locked to iOS

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Apple Watch Series 8
Buy for $628

Apple didn't invent the smartwatch, but it's very much been responsible for how people think about smartwatches, especially style-conscious smartwatches, ever since its first-generation model.

What's interesting here is how relatively little has changed 8 generations in. Putting the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Series 7 side by side, for example, you'd be genuinely hard pressed to pick which was which at a glance.

That points to the fact that Apple pretty much nailed what it wanted to do with the Apple Watch years ago. Ever since then, what it's done is largely been small-scale iterative improvements, making a good smartwatch just a little bit better year on year.

This year is different, though, because Apple is also releasing the Apple Watch Ultra, its high-end fitness-centric model. That watch will be too big and too expensive for many. While it's now the aspirational one, and the new Apple Watch SE is the affordable model, the Apple Watch Series 8 slots nicely in the middle as the style-centric choice.

Design: Very familiar, but curiously fewer body colour choices

Apple Watch Series 8 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Wearing any watch – whether it's a smartwatch or not – is 100% a style choice because it's not as if there aren't a number of ways to tell the time otherwise. Your smartphone's a good place to start.

Style has long been something that Apple's traded on for the Apple Watch family, but here it's very much resting on its design laurels.

The Apple Watch Series 8 sells in either 41mm or 45mm sizes, the same as last year's model. There's a little red-ringed digital crown on the side, same as last year's Apple Watch too. Got any old Apple Watch bands hanging around? They'll fit on the Apple Watch Series 8 too.

Bands aside – where the many options Apple's released over the years, plus the small army of third-party band choices gives you near endless variety – the one big design change that Apple's made this year is to offer slightly less choice when it comes to case colours.

Last year's Apple Watch Series 7 shipped in Midnight, Starlight, Green, Blue or (PRODUCT)RED with an aluminium body; Silver, Gold, Graphite or Space Black in stainless steel; and Space Black or Titanium with a titanium body – all at different price points.

Apple Watch Series 8 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

This year's Apple Watch Series 8 can be yours in Midnight, Starlight, Silver or PRODUCT(RED) for aluminium bodies or Gold, Silver, Graphite or Space Black in stainless steel. I guess Apple's designers decided they just didn't like Green or Blue watches or titanium-body watch options anymore.

Apple sent me a 45mm Apple Watch Series 8 with the Midnight aluminium case to review, a combination that would cost you at least $679 with a sports band or $839 if you wanted the cellular-capable model for making and taking calls from the Watch itself.

The range of band style is where Apple can really sting you on price and additions; the same watch in a 45mm Gold stainless steel case with a Space Black link bracelet will hit you for $1,869. If you want one of the fancy Hermès models, they can run you up to $2,269 for a 45mm model with a Noir Swift Leather Single Tour Deployment Buckle. That's the price you pay for style and fashion, I suppose.

The lack of fundamental design change in the watch body means that the Apple Watch Series 8 is much the same, largely enjoyable experience as it has always been.

The OLED display is nice and bright, and like last year's model, the extension out towards the bezel gives you a reasonably large viewing area – although again, the Ultra will make the regular Series 8 feel a bit titchy.

Performance: Fast enough with upgraded sensors

Apple Watch Series 8 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The Apple Watch Series 8 runs on Apple's new S8 chip, which, in typical Apple style, it claims is the fastest watch processor it has developed yet. That may be true in a technical sense, but coming from a Series 7 (and its S6 chip) to the Series 8, I really haven't noticed anything being notably faster or better in this regard.

The Apple Watch Series 8 is nicely responsive for most apps, but it's not a radical reinvention in terms of what you can really do with watchOS.

It's also worth noting that most of the features of WatchOS 9 that the Apple Watch Series 8 relies on can be accessed on older Apple Watches. Basically, if you've got an Apple Watch Series 4 or newer, many of the new watch faces, productivity and fitness routines and health tracking features may already be available to you.

What won't be available to you – and this is unchanged since the first Apple Watch model – is any way to use an Apple Watch with an Android phone. If you want to play with Apple's wearable, it's got to be paired with a compatible iPhone and nothing else.

WatchOS 9 is a joy to use and comes with a wide array of smart features – as well as Apple's rigid insistence that only Apple's designers may make watch faces for it. You do get a few new ones in WatchOS9, but again, you don't need to buy a new Apple Watch to get those; you just need a WatchOS9 compatible model.

If there's one wish I could throw Apple's way for next year's Apple Watch, it's to open up watch-face design to the wider designer community. You could build a watch-face app store and take 30%, Apple. I know you like money, Apple. Let's make this happen!

Ahem. Back to the Apple Watch Series 8.

Apple Watch Series 8 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

I've tested out the Apple Watch Series 8 for fitness capabilities, mostly through running, and it does a good job of tracking my paths and progress. Naturally, if I were more of a heavy-duty athlete, I'd be more tempted towards the Apple Watch Ultra for that kind of functionality. The Apple Watch Series 8 is good at fitness tracking for a consumer smartwatch, but that's not really anything new.

What you do get that is new are upgraded sensors, especially those around temperature and gyroscopic detection, which lead to new features for the Apple Watch family.

On the temperature front, Apple hasn't invented the wrist thermometer, such that you can take your temperature at any given time. Indeed, there's no on-demand temperature tracking, and you have to enable sleep tracking and give the Apple Watch Series 8 a good long whack of temperature data before it'll even start thinking about your temperature. This is a passive approach that will alert you if there's a large variance, and it's especially useful for anyone tracking ovulation.

Lacking in ovaries as I am, I can't say that I tested that particular function, but as a parent, I can 100% see how that's a very useful feature for half of the population.

For those with concerns about medical privacy, especially as it pertains to pregnancy data in some parts of the world, Apple says that all data is only stored on the device, not saved in the cloud anywhere by default.

The other new feature is another detail I can't really test, although it doesn't have to do with a lack of specific biological function.

It's more to do with my reticence to imperil my own personal biological functions because the enhanced gyroscopes in the Apple Watch Series 8 can detect – so Apple says—when you've had a car crash. Fail to respond if it thinks you've been in a serious bingle in time, and it'll contact the emergency services for you.

Great stuff in theory, and as much as I do love going that extra mile when it comes to product reviews, you'll have to forgive me when I reveal that the extra mile doesn't include driving deliberately into a brick wall for fun.

I did try dropping the Apple Watch Series 8 onto the floor a few times to see if I could trick it, but it's wise to my wily ways, which does at least suggest you're not likely to see false positives from it. For what it's worth, the new iPhone 14 models also have this functionality baked in, so you don't need to buy an Apple Watch Series 8 for this specific function if you're upgrading in that way.

Battery: You’ll still need to recharge it every day (mostly)

Apple Watch Series 8 review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The Apple Watch Series 8 is officially rated by Apple as being capable of up to 18 hours of regular usage or up to 36 hours with its new low-power mode. That mode is again a software feature, so you'd be able to access it on older Apple Watch models, albeit with lesser battery life extension relative to the size and health of your watch battery.

Apple's figures aren't totally out of whack, and I'm only working with a week's worth of data here, but the practical reality is that you're still looking at needing to recharge it mostly on a daily basis. I've typically had it complaining at me after around 16 hours of usage, sometimes just a little more but not by much.

You can certainly extend battery life with the low-power mode, which kills the always-on display and many sensor readings, but that's more likely to be a use case to enable you to last the distance until you can get to your charging cable.

I say charging cable because, like other Apple mobile products, you get a cable but no power supply in the case. You'll need a USB-C charger – Apple does sell one, funnily enough – if you don't have one spare.

Should you buy the Apple Watch Series 8?

  • Buy it if you want a highly capable style-centric smartwatch.
  • Don't buy it if you’re an Android user or want a bigger fitness watch or cheaper smart wearable.

I said in last year's review of the Apple Watch Series 7 – and I quote myself – that:

"The Apple Watch 6 was the best smartwatch of its generation, and the Apple Watch Series 7 is essentially its bigger sibling."

The Apple Watch Series 8 isn't bigger than the Apple Watch Series 7. It's slightly more capable if you're tracking temperatures or want a little car crash detection in your life, but otherwise, it's a very gentle evolution of the Apple Watch model.

Does that matter?


I can't see the logic in upgrading from the Apple Watch Series 7 in any way whatsoever, but those on older generation watches, especially if your battery is fading and you want the style choice, will find plenty to like here.

Those who want heavy-duty fitness tracking will need to pony up the serious cash for the Apple Watch Ultra instead, while those on a budget should probably consider the Apple Watch SE instead.

Of course, if you're an Android user, Apple doesn't want to know you in a wearable sense, unless you're also willing to buy and use an iPhone.

Pricing and availability

The Apple Watch Series 8 retails in Australia from $629; pricing depends on watch size, case material and band selection.

Apple Watch Series 8



Water Resistance Depth


Heart Rate
Sleep Tracker

How we tested

Apple loaned me a Midnight aluminium case 45mm Apple Watch Series 8 for the purposes of review. Paired with an iPhone 14 Pro, I tested it over a week, using it for notifications, health and fitness tracking and music playback extensively.

As a reviewer, I have more than 2 decades of tech product reviewing under my belt, including extensive experience with every prior Apple Watch generation. I'm a multi-time Australian IT Journo award winner, including awards for best reviewer and best technical journalist.

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