Apple Watch 8 Hands-On: First impressions of all those new sensors

Apple Watch 8 Hands-On: First impressions of all those new sensors

This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2022CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice on Apple’s most popular product.

Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 8 during the company annual autumn product event on Wednesday. The GPS version starts at $399 (£419, AU$629), while the mobile version starts at $499. It will be available on September 16 with pre-orders start immediately. Apple also announced a robust Apple Watch Ultrawho starts at $799and the new version more affordable Apple Watch SEstarts at $249 and now on pre-order. Here is everything Apple has announced at its event on September 7.

The most significant change is the addition of a temperature sensor, the first time Apple has added a new health sensor to its smartwatch since the arrival of the Series 6 with blood oxygen saturation measurement in 2020. The new batch of Apple Watch, which includes the Series 8, as well as new models The SE and Ultra are also the first to include car crash detection, further underscoring Apple’s emphasis on wellness and safety. The Apple Watch Ultra is a new outdoor version of the Apple Watch aimed at athletes, while the SE is a refreshed version of Apple’s cheaper smartwatch.

Temperature sensing and car accident detection

The Apple Watch Series 8 temperature sensor is the biggest improvement to this year’s watch. There are actually two sensors, one under the display and the other on the back, closer to the skin. This should improve accuracy by helping the watch distinguish your wrist temperature from other factors affecting the temperature in your environment. The watch takes your wrist temperature every five seconds overnight and tracks it in the Apple Health app.

Since this is a passive read that happens overnight, I wasn’t able to test it in Apple’s demo room. But I could see how this information would be presented in the Health app. The app will display changes in your core temperature on a graph in the app along with context of what the data means. The company says that shifts in your core temperature can indicate exercise, jet lag or illness. There’s also a new wrist temperature tile in the summary section of the Health app where you can tap that data.

Apple Health app on iPhone showing temperature readings on the wrist

The Apple Health app will display temperature data from the Series 8.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Apple positions the temperature sensor as the most useful for monitoring women’s health. Temperature sensors allow the Series 8 to provide retrospective ovulation estimates and improved period predictions.

Apple Watch is also getting a new safety feature this year: car accident detection. If the watch detects a crash, it notifies the wearer’s emergency services and emergency contacts if the wearer is unresponsive for 10 seconds. This is only available on the Series 8, new SE and Apple Watch Ultra models as it uses an improved gyroscope and accelerometer.

Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Lord/CNET

Go directly to the source of your Apple Watch Series 8 pre-order and get three months of Apple Fitness Plus.

Low power mode

A description of the low power mode that appears on the Apple Watch Series 8.

A description of the low power mode that appears on the Apple Watch Series 8.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Another notable addition is the Apple Watch’s Low Power Mode, which Apple says should extend battery life up to 36 hours on the Series 8. The new Low Power Mode turns off features like the always-on display and automatic exercise detection to preserve functionality while extending battery life battery. Although Apple just announced this feature today, it will also be available for the Series 4 and above. Otherwise, Apple Watch battery life is generally the same 18 hours.

The overall design of the Apple Watch seems largely unchanged this year. The size and overall shape of the 8 Series remains the same and it will be available in midnight, star, silver and Product Red variants with aluminum housing. The stainless steel version that I got to try out during my time will come in silver, graphite and gold.

The Apple Watch Series 8 in stainless steel in gold is worn on the wrist

Apple Watch Series 8 in stainless steel in gold color.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Most of the most significant changes to the Apple Watch Series 8, such as temperature sensing and low power mode, are more under-the-hood changes than cosmetic improvements. We’ll have to spend more time with the Series 8 to know how much these extras really affect the overall experience. But based on what we know so far, the Series 8 appears to be the next step towards making the Apple Watch an even more comprehensive wellness device.

Apple leads worldwide smart watch According to Counterpoint Research, with 29.3% of shipments in the second quarter of 2022. Samsung follows in second place with 9.2% of global smartwatch shipments in the same period. Still, Apple faces increased competition. Although Samsung lags far behind Apple in terms of shipments, Samsung saw 40% year-over-year growth compared to Apple’s 8% growth, according to data from Counterpoint.

In August, Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. Meanwhile, Google is expected to launch its first smartwatch, the so-called Pixel Watch, this fall. Google hasn’t revealed many details yet, but it appears to be positioning the Pixel Watch as a premium Apple Watch-like smartwatch.

Although iPhone is Apple’s biggest money maker, products like the Apple Watch are an important part of the company’s business. The wearables, home and accessories division, which includes products such as the Apple Watch and AirPods, is the company’s third-largest business after the iPhone and digital services. Apple introduced the quarterly earnings call in April that its wearables business is now the size of a Fortune 100 company.

Read more: The best smartwatches for 2022

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