Notebookcheck Logo

Apple Watch Series 8 long term test - A small upgrade for the showpiece smartwatch

Accident detection included. With the Watch Series 8, Apple only offers few innovations on the hardware side. They are limited to the temperature sensors. The rest are software features that include accident detection and a detailed prediction of the female menstrual cycle. We summarize our experiences in this test.

The design of the Apple Watch Series 8 remains unchanged compared to the Series 7 predecessor, again coming in two sizes: 41 and 45 mm (~1.6 and ~1.8 in). In terms of the case materials, you can choose among aluminum or stainless steel. At this time, Apple doesn't offer Titanium so far but adds the Apple Watch Ultra (49 mm, Titanium) to its product portfolio instead. What is new are the additional temperature sensors as well as support for the more current Bluetooth 5.3.

The price of smartwatches made a big jump, and in the best case, an Apple Watch now costs 499 Euros (~$530), which is 70 Euros more than the predecessor. Our test units are a watch in the 41-mm format, and one in the 45-mm format, with both of the watches having an aluminum case without including their own mobile communication connection.

Apple Watch Series 8 Aluminum Stainless steel
41 mm from 499 Euros (~$530) from 849 Euros (~$902)
45 mm from 539 Euros (~$573) from 899 Euros (~$956)
Mobile communication +120 Euros (~$128) included
Watch Series 8 (45 mm, Aluminium, GPS)
Processor
Apple S8 2 x 1.8 GHz, Thunder
Memory
1024 MB 
Display
1.90 inch 9:11, 396 x 484 pixel 329 PPI, capacitive, LTPO OLED, always-on, glossy: yes, 60 Hz
Storage
32 GB eMMC Flash, 32 GB 
Connections
NFC, Brightness Sensor, Sensors: Always-on altimeter, compass, blood oxygen sensor, electrical heart sensor (ECG), third-generation optical heart sensor, high-g accelerometer (up to 256 g-forces with fall detection and crash detection), HDR gyroscope
Networking
802.11a/b/g/n (a/b/g/n = Wi-Fi 4/), Bluetooth 5.3, GPS
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 10.7 x 38 x 45 ( = 0.42 x 1.5 x 1.77 in)
Battery
308 mAh Lithium-Ion
Charging
wireless charging
Operating System
Apple WatchOS 9
Additional features
Speakers: Mono, charger, 12 Months Warranty, Apple W3 wireless chipset, Apple U1 chip (ultra wideband); Single-band GNSS: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and BeiDou; IPX6, water resistant up to 50 m, fanless, waterproof
Weight
38.8 g ( = 1.37 oz / 0.09 pounds) ( = 0 oz / 0 pounds)
Price
523 Euro

 

Case and Equipment – Titanium only for the Apple Watch Ultra

The build of both models of the Apple Watch Series 8 remains identical to that of the predecessor. This goes for the dimensions as well as the weight. In terms of the choice of materials, there are now only aluminum or stainless steel, with Titanium being reserved for the Watch Ultra.

The choice of colors has changed, with the aluminum version being available in Midnight, Polar Star, Product Red, and Silver colors. The stainless steel version is additionally available in Gold or Graphite. Space Black remains an exclusive color for the Hermès watch in stainless steel.

The thick glass cover is supposed to be particularly resistant to cracking, and the bottom is made of a material mix of ceramics and Saphire glass. We really like the workmanship, which impresses with clean material transitions and high-quality haptics. In addition, the Apple Watch 8 is waterproof up to a depth of 50 meters (ISO Norm 22810:2010) and dustproof according to IP6X.

The back includes a series of sensors, consisting of green, red, and infrared LEDs that are accompanied by four photodiodes, which serve to measure the blood oxygen content. The optical heart rate sensor (3rd generation) measures the heart rate and rhythm, and there is also an electrical heart sensor that is needed for the ECG app. So far, this corresponds exactly to the equipment of the Series 7, but there is now also a temperature sensor, and a second temperature sensor is integrated in front.

In terms of connectivity, the Apple Watch 8 again supports dual-band WLAN (2.4 and 5.0 GHz), Bluetooth 5.3, UWB, and NFC for Apple Pay. In the aluminum version, the mobile communication option costs extra and also supports connecting with an eSIM, allowing you to get notifications or make phone calls even without an iPhone. The Walkie-Talkie function allows Apple Watch users to easily contact each other.

As with all their products, Apple also provides a sustainability report for the Watch 8. The improvements compared to the predecessor also turn out rather small here as well. The Watch 8 now contains recycled gold, and the packing material is even more environmentally friendly. In addition, the CO2 footprint of the stainless steel version decreases slightly. You can download and view the full report from Apple here.

45 mm
45 mm
45 mm
45 mm
45 mm
41 mm
41 mm
41 mm
41 mm
41 mm
45 mm
45 mm
45 mm
45 mm

Setup and Operation - Apple Watch 8 with a simple setup procedure

Setting up the Apple Watch Series 8 works just the same as with the predecessor and is started practically automatically by an iPhone nearby. However, the iPhone has to have at least iOS 16, or in other words, it has to be an iPhone 8 or newer model. The Watch 8 can also be configured by another family member. Even though you need your own Apple ID, you don't necessarily need your own iPhone. If the new watch is brought near an iPhone for the first time, it is directly recognized, and the setup process can easily start. The Series 8 is delivered with WatchOS 9 and received an update to version 9.2 during our testing period.

In addition to numerous preinstalled apps, you can also install the watch apps that correspond to the apps on the iPhone. If it turns out that you don't want to use some of them, you can also uninstall them. Navigation happens mainly via the touchscreen. In addition, there is also the Digital Crown again, which allows you to comfortably scroll through menus and also serves as the confirmation button. A long press will also start Siri. The frame also houses an additional button, which can either display your own favorite apps or the last viewed apps, depending on your setting. A double-press of the key on the side will start Apple Pay directly, and a long press opens a screen with controls for backtracking, the emergency pass, and emergency calls. AssistiveTouch is also included again.

The basic operation is no different than that of the predecessor. Those who have owned an Apple Watch previously will find their way around easily. With the Apple ID, all the data is synchronized with other connected Apple products. In addition, the watch can also unlock access to devices. For example, as long as the watch wearer is near their MacBook, it will remain unlocked, and if the wearer moves away, it will get locked. You can also push notifications on the watch about devices that are possibly left behind. You can find additional insights on functions in our test of the Series 7 watch.

Phone Calls and Notifications

The Apple Watch Series 8 has a speaker and microphone, including all the necessary requisites to also use it for making phone calls. Those who purchased a model with the mobile communication option can also make calls without having a smartphone nearby. In our WLAN model, the iPhone is used as a base to make the call, which is transferred via Bluetooth or a connected WLAN. The voice quality of the Apple smartwatch is good. Both conversation partners can be understood easily, and in quieter surroundings, our conversation partner was unable to distinguish whether we were using an iPhone or the Watch 8 to make the call. However, the voice quality drops rapidly in more noisy surroundings, which also goes to the detriment of your privacy. If you like, you can also connect a headset to the Apple Watch.

Messages are pushed to the watch by all the customary messenger apps immediately and without any problems. Images are only displayed as a blurry preview or GIFs as a placeholder icon. This means that you often still have to pull out your smartphone. You can respond to messages using swiping or voice recognition, or you can use standardized responses. At this point, there is even a fully usable QWERTZ keyboard in the German version. However, since this is very small, you need a mixture of skill and luck to keep typing mistakes at bay. Most of the time, it is faster to pull out your smartphone to respond.

Voice Assistant

The Apple Watch Series 8 includes full Siri integration, but you cannot use other voice assistants. This is particularly useful for the control of Smart Home products, as long as they are compatible with HomeKit.

Health and Fitness - Apple Watch 8 with improved menstrual cycle and sleep tracking

The Watch Series 8 processes all the health data captured in the Apple Health app. You can find additional fitness data, completed trainings, and an overview of the activities in the Fitness app. That also gives access to Fitness+, three months of which are included for free with the purchase of an Apple Watch.

The smartwatch is able to measure the heart rate and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). This can be triggered manually but also happens automatically at regular intervals. In addition, you can create an Electro Cardiogram (ECG), which can potentially recognize atrial fibrillation. Unfortunately, it is still not possible to measure blood pressure with the Apple Watch. In this regard, Samsung with its Watch4 and Watch5 and Huawei with the Watch D are ahead with their technology.

Using the microphone, you can also monitor the surrounding noise level. If it gets too loud, the Apple Watch 8 will alert you with a push notification. It also creates the corresponding profile in the Health app. In addition, the watch can determine walking stability and also includes fall detection. If the user doesn't respond that everything is okay, the latter can also trigger an emergency call. Accident detection works the same way and is also able to detect a possible car accident. In the Apple Watch model with integrated mobile communication, you can make an emergency call directly from the watch, assuming that you have the corresponding mobile communication service. The WLAN model is dependent on the connected smartphone or a WLAN connection to be able to call for help.

The Apple Watch also offers numerous other functions. Among other features, it is now also able to remind you to take your medication. To do this, you have to configure the corresponding medication plans in the Health app. The watch will then display a reminder, offering you to specify whether you took the medication or not. Alternatively, you can also choose to get another reminder in ten minutes. You can keep track of any saved medication on the Apple Watch.

Cycle Tracking

The two temperature sensors on the Apple Watch Series 8 measure the surface temperature of your skin, also reporting any variations. This allows the watch to derive a guess on your ovulation in hindsight. However, Apple specifically warns that this is not backed by medical certification and also doesn't represent a reliable method of contraception. It is merely supposed to allow you to come to an improved prediction about your menstrual cycle. 

Once the Watch 8 has collected sufficient data, this works surprisingly well. It does require some patience, however. Apple mentions two menstrual cycles to create a baseline, which also conforms with our own experience. You also have to wear a watch while sleeping. The calculated results can then predict the menstrual cycle up to half a year in advance.

Activity Goals

Three activity rings for movements (red), trainings (green), and standing (blue).
Three activity rings for movements (red), trainings (green), and standing (blue).

For motivation, the Apple Watch Series 8 works with the three well-known activity rings for Movement, Training, and Standing. In addition to the number of steps taken, it also determines the distance covered as well as the number of floors climbed. The calories consumed are calculated from all the activities including the trainings completed. The watch is able to measure the heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and breathing rate automatically.

The approximation of the VO2max value occurs only during training and requires a preceding recording of walking, hiking, or running training outdoors. The speed while climbing stairs, the step length, or the bipedal support duration are determined similarly. This all works the same as in the predecessors, but what is new is the Race Track function. This allows you to try to surpass yourself in own outdoor activities for running, biking, or wheelchair racing, so you can compete with your previous records.

Heart Rate, Heart Rhythm, and Blood Oxygen Saturation

The Apple Watch Series 8 is able to measure your heart rate as well as blood oxygen saturation. Both can also be measured automatically at regular intervals. For example, the smartwatch is able to inform its wearer of a low or high heart rate or an irregular heart rhythm. We compare the accuracy of the heart rate measurement with that of a Polar H10 chest belt. During resting periods, both devices determine identical results. During a bike ride, the deviations are also minimal at 1.1%. In some selected comparison points, this corresponds to a difference of only a single heartbeat.

We compare the blood oxygen saturation measurement with that of a Braun Pulse Oximeter 1. The sensors of the Apple Watch 8 are also very accurate in this discipline since the difference between the two devices is not even 1%.

Sleep Tracking

At the introduction of Series 7, sleep tracking was still very simple and unchanged compared to the predecessor. It was only able to display sleep phases and the time spent in bed. At this point, the software side has been improved significantly, keeping up in all regards with the sleep tracking functions from the competitors.

The Apple Watch 8 is now able to distinguish among various sleep phases: Deep sleep, Core sleep, and REM sleep as well as waking phases. Not only is the user informed of the length of their sleep but also the length of the individual phases and their percentual distribution overall. In addition, the heart and breathing rate during sleep are also tracked and displayed separately from the rest of the values during the day.

Training Recording

Like its predecessor, the Apple Watch Series 8 recognizes more than 60 different types of training. The watch displays them presorted but quickly adjusts to the habits of the wearer. If you cannot find your training type quickly, you can usually find it at the end of the list under "Add Training." You can also remove the types of sports that you don't want to see by swiping left from the main view.

For the most common outdoor sports such as running, Apple offers the option to pause the recording when you stand still, and it is also able to calculate the VO2max values. In addition, automatic training recognition is integrated. When the watch thinks that a workout has started, the user is asked whether it should start a recording. Training data isn't lost, since the watch already records the necessary data in the background before you confirm so that the training data can be completed once you continue with the training.

Once training is started, it can be paused or completed with a few inputs on the display. The Locking option allows you to activate water protection, preventing wetness on the screen from triggering inputs, whether during rain, while swimming, or even diving. You can also easily access a music control at any time with a simple swipe to the side. Otherwise, the Watch 8 displays basic live information on the current training. With a swipe to the top, you can display additional information, which now also includes the current heart rate zone.

You can store audio content on the Apple Watch itself to be able to play them during a workout even without an iPhone. This also works with third-party apps. You only have to connect Bluetooth headphones to the smartwatch, since it is not possible to play the sound via the speaker.

GNSS and Navigation

The Apple Watch Series 8 supports all the global satellite navigation systems - that much Apple tells you. But the technical spec sheet doesn't reveal any further details, other than preceding the list of GNSS systems with an L1, which suggests that this is single-band connectivity. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't share any specific information in this regard.

This is one more reason to take the Apple smartwatch for a ride and compare it with the Garmin Venu 2. In our almost 10-Kilometer (~6.2 miles) bike ride, the difference between the route recordings of both watches is only 40 meters (~131 ft). When taking a look at the detailed route recordings, both competitors are also very close, with the Garmin watch always being even slightly more accurate. However, this is still a good performance by the Watch 8.

GNSS test route: around the lake
GNSS test route: around the lake
GNSS test route: turning point
GNSS test route: turning point
GNSS test route: overview
GNSS test route: overview

Display - Apple Watch 8 with a bright LTPO OLED display

Subpixel structure
Subpixel structure

The Apple Watch Series 8 is again protected by thick Ion-X glass in front, which is particularly resistant to damage. Basically, Apple has not changed anything from the panel of the predecessor, and the display is supposed to get very bright at up to 1,000 cd/m². In our measurement, we find out that this is only the case when we configure the brightness to the highest level and there is plenty of light hitting the surrounding light sensor. In that case, the brightness can even reach 1,017 cd/m², at the medium level it is sufficient for 715 cd/m², and at the lowest level, up to 691 cd/m².

The brightness is more than sufficient to display ticket codes with rich contrast for scanning, and the contents always remain easily readable in direct sunlight. As with all OLED displays, the screen of the Watch 8 also uses Pulse Width Modulation. Apple seems to use some sort of DC dimming since we only determine a constant frequency of 60 Hz using the oscilloscope.

Screen Flickering / PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)

To dim the screen, some notebooks will simply cycle the backlight on and off in rapid succession - a method called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) . This cycling frequency should ideally be undetectable to the human eye. If said frequency is too low, users with sensitive eyes may experience strain or headaches or even notice the flickering altogether.
Screen flickering / PWM detected 60 Hz

The display backlight flickers at 60 Hz (worst case, e.g., utilizing PWM) .

The frequency of 60 Hz is very low, so the flickering may cause eyestrain and headaches after extended use.

In comparison: 53 % of all tested devices do not use PWM to dim the display. If PWM was detected, an average of 18205 (minimum: 5 - maximum: 3846000) Hz was measured.

Outdoors
Outdoors
Viewing angle stability
Viewing angle stability

Performance and Battery Life - An old SiP with a new name

The Apple Watch Series 8 is run by the in-house S8 SiP and uses 1 GB of working memory. While the label might have changed, the performance, manufacturing process, and clock speeds still correspond to the S6 from the Watch 6.

However, we still really like the everyday performance, even though we occasionally notice some smaller stutters, for example when an app was closed.

Octane V2 - Total Score
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Odd Browser 1.0.5)
3290 Points +293%
Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro
Samsung Exynos W920, 1536 (Samsung Browser 1.2.)
2023 Points +141%
Oppo Watch 46 mm LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
1730 Points +106%
Apple Watch Series 8
Apple S8, 1024 (Safari Watch OS 9)
838 Points
Average Apple S8
 
838 Points 0%
Apple Watch Series 7 41 mm
Apple S7, 1024
810 Points -3%
Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score
Oppo Watch 46 mm LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Web Browser for Wear OS 1.1.201123)
4139 ms * -122%
Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro
Samsung Exynos W920, 1536 (Samsung Browser 1.2.)
3048.2 ms * -63%
Apple Watch Series 8
Apple S8, 1024 (Safari Watch OS 9)
1867.3 ms *
Average Apple S8
 
1867 ms * -0%
Apple Watch Series 7 41 mm
Apple S7, 1024
1785 ms * +4%
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Odd Browser 1.0.5)
1461 ms * +22%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total
Apple Watch Series 7 41 mm
Apple S7, 1024
85527 ms * -20%
Apple Watch Series 8
Apple S8, 1024 (Safari Watch OS 9)
71340.2 ms *
Average Apple S8
 
71340 ms * -0%
Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro
Samsung Exynos W920, 1536 (Samsung Browser 1.2.)
18706.2 ms * +74%
Oppo Watch 46 mm LTE
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100, 1024 (Free Browser for Wear OS 0.8.40)
17098 ms * +76%
Speedometer 2.0 - Result
Apple Watch Series 8
Apple S8, 1024 (Safari Watch OS 9)
22.6 runs/min
Average Apple S8
 
22.6 runs/min 0%
Apple Watch Series 7 41 mm
Apple S7, 1024
21.74 runs/min -4%
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS
Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100, 1024 (Odd Browser 1.0.5)
14.13 runs/min -37%

* ... smaller is better

Battery Life

The battery life is the Achilles heel of the Apple Watch Series 8. Even though the Californian manufacturer promises a longer battery life when the power saving mode is activated, this should rather remain the exception, since it also limits the functions of the watch significantly.

In everyday operation, a battery charge usually lasts for 24 hours, but you then cannot use it for extensive trainings or force the panel to be very bright too often. During some very sunny days when we looked at the watch often, we already had to recharge it early in the evening. The always-on display was always activated.

On quieter days in the office or at home, the battery charge easily lasted until the next morning, including sleep tracking at night. With this, the advertised quick-charging technology is desperately needed, since otherwise, you'd have to skip one night of sleep tracking or else the battery would be empty the next morning.

The battery life is relatively similar in the 41 and 45-mm models. 

Pros

+ bright LTPO OLED
+ expansive health functions
+ accurate sensors
+ fast charging
+ large selection of apps

Cons

- short battery life
- old SiP
- no blood pressure measurement
- no BIA sensor

Verdict - A small upgrade for the Apple Watch

Testing the Apple Watch Series 8 (aluminum, 45 mm)
Testing the Apple Watch Series 8 (aluminum, 45 mm)

The Apple Watch Series 8 also remains an excellent smartwatch this year, impressing us with high-quality workmanship, first-class software integration, accurate sensors, and extensive functionalities. In addition, it is dustproof and waterproof up to a depth of 50 meters. Apple Pay is not only easy to use but is also supported by most banks without any additional apps.

The Apple Watch Series 8 is the gold standard among smartwatches, but it also has some deficits in some areas.

The available sensors work very reliably, and Apple also teases out the maximum amount of information from the measured data. Unfortunately,  Apple failed to extend the medical capabilities of the watch further. You can neither use it to measure blood pressure nor to get a Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA). Not even the two new temperature sensors can really make up for this, even if the resulting menstrual cycle analysis delivers accurate data. The new 256G sensor is also an additional value since it allows for accident detection.

The largest weakness remains the battery life. Depending on the intensity of usage, between 18 and 30 hours are possible - without power saving mode. In this regard, a more efficient SiP would definitely have been desirable.

A powerful alternative is the Galaxy Watch5, which offers a BIA sensor as well as the option to measure blood pressure. The BIA sensor is also very accurate. But unfortunately, there are also some functional limitations for those users who don't have a Samsung smartphone. The same is not the case with the Huawei Watch D, which also includes an extensive array of sensors and offers a significantly longer battery life.

Price and Availability

All the versions of the Apple Watch Series 8 can be purchased directly from Apple. Alternatively, it is more affordable from Amazon or Costco, for example.

Pricecompare

Read all 1 comments / answer
static version load dynamic
Loading Comments
Comment on this article
Please share our article, every link counts!
> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > Reviews > Apple Watch Series 8 long term test - A small upgrade for the showpiece smartwatch
Daniel Schmidt, Klaus Hinum, 2022-12-21 (Update: 2022-12-22)