Apple Watch Series 8: the definitive smartwatch for women?

New sensors open up new ground for well-being and safety features.

by Justin Choo

With the introduction of upgraded sensors, the Apple Watch Series 8‘s most distinct features are outwardly centred around health and safety. It now sports temperature-sensing capabilities along with retrospective ovulation estimates, crash detection, and international roaming. With better sensors come better data, it seems.

What’s new: temperature sensors

The key behind the new developments is that the watch now has two sensors (on the back and under the display) to improve accuracy. As such, the watch is able to sample wrist temperature during sleep every five seconds and logs temperature changes as small as 0.1° C. Apple says that you can see the nightly shifts in our baseline temperature, which can be caused by exercise, jet lag and illness. This tech makes retrospective ovulation estimates possible; this feature can potentially be useful for family planning, and improved period predictions. While it remains to be seen how effective this feature is, it seems far more convenient than what is already available.

These insights can also be shared with relevant apps. In Apple’s given example, Cycle Tracking users (iOS 16 and watchOS 9) can receive notifications for possible deviations like irregular, infrequent, or prolonged periods, and persistent spotting, which may point to underlying health conditions.

What’s new: crash detection

Also new is a more powerful gyroscope and accelerometer that Apple claims have the highest dynamic range in any smartwatch, and this is the core of the new Crash Detection feature. Apple also developed a sensor-fusion algorithm using data collected from these new motion sensors at professional crash test labs simulating real-world accidents of all kinds. And it’s through this algorithm, along with the barometer, GPS, and the microphone on iPhone that Crash Detection will assess if a severe crash has occurred.

It then checks in on the user (through the watch first if present), but will dial emergency services (via the phone if possible) and share the user’s location and emergency contacts 10 seconds later if there is no response.

What’s new: low-power mode

With the expanded feature set, it’s good to know that power management on the Series 8 has been improved with a new Low Power Mode, which limits features and helps extends battery life up to 36 hours (with an iPhone present).

What’s new: a new SE

Meanwhile, the new Apple Watch SE represents the core Apple watch experience at an affordable $379, albeit with a redesigned back case made from a nylon composite that also shaves weight off your wrist–5-6 grams (between aluminium to aluminium). Series 8, Ultra and SE will all have the same S8 SiP dual-core processor, so you don’t lose out on base performance. While SE users will enjoy new features like the Compass app, there are compromises: there’s no U1 chip (for finding other devices), it doesn’t have an always-on display and higher-level features like ECG, oximeter, and temperature sensor are missing, which not everyone needs if all they want is a great basic tracker and smartwatch.

watchOS 9

Another year, another new OS update. Here’s the good stuff:

  • International roaming: your watch can now stay connected on cellular even overseas with supported data plans. Arriving later in the year.
  • AFib History: displays important information, including estimates of how frequently your heart rhythm shows signs of AFib, as well as insights. Along with other pertinent data stored in your Health app, the information can be shared with healthcare professionals so they can make better-informed assessments.
  • Compass app: A new hybrid view with an analog compass dial and a digital view, where you can access additional layers of information by turning the Digital Crown, e.g. latitude, longitude, elevation, incline, Compass Waypoints (mark locations) and Backtrack (retrace steps).
  • Workout: new in-session views with more precise data, e.g. Segments, Splits, and Elevation. New advanced workout experiences, e.g. Heart Rate Zones, Custom Workouts, Pacer, and Race Route (coming soon). Automatic switching between workouts (e.g. swimming, biking, or running) in Multisport. New running form metrics, including Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, and Vertical Oscillation, can all be added as metrics on Workout Views.
  • Sleep tracking: now tracks sleep stages. You can view information like interactive sleep stages charts, time asleep alongside heart rate or respiratory rate, in sleep comparison charts.
  • Medications: track medication with lists, schedules and reminders.

Lineup

Series 8 (41 or 45mm) will be available in steel or aluminium while the SE will only be available in aluminium. Aluminium case colours include starlight, midnight, silver, and (PRODUCT)RED (Series 8 only), while the stainless steel case offers silver, graphite, and gold. The Hermès collaboration is available in silver and space black.

Nike has vibrant new Sport Band colours and a new Sport Loop with the “Just Do It” logo woven right into the band, and will be making all Nike faces available to Watch users running watchOS 9.

Apple Watch Hermès gets H Diagonal, featuring a sporty pattern of the Hermès H created with hundreds of microperforations and Gourmette Metal, a polished stainless steel chain with noir leather wrapping twice around the wrist. There’s also a matching watch face called Lucky Horse designed to celebrate the equestrian roots of the house.

Pricing and Availability

Both are available for preorder now and will go on sale on Friday, September 16. The Apple Watch Series 8 starts at S$599 and Apple Watch SE starts at S$379. Likewise, the Apple Watch Nike bands and Apple Watch Hermès bands are now available for order and will go on sale on September 16.

watchOS 9 is now available and requires iPhone 8 or later and iPhone SE (2nd generation) or later running iOS 16. 

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