Apple Watch Series 8 and SE (2nd generation).
I tested the new generation Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE before their launch on Friday.
If you already have an Apple Watch, the $399 Series 8 won’t have enough new features to warrant an upgrade. Most of the noteworthy innovations are on Watch OS 9 software, which you can download as long as you have your Apple Watch Series 4 paired with an iPhone 8 or later.
On the other hand, the Apple Watch SE got a pretty big makeover. Pricing for the new SE starts at $30 less than the first-generation SE at just $249. It’s Apple’s most affordable watch and has new upgrades including the new Apple S8 processor – which makes performance faster and smoother – Low Power Mode, sleep tracking, fault detection, and you can set up SE for a family member without an iPhone.
The Series 8 and SE are pretty much the same, except for the $150 price difference. The benefits you’ll get from paying the premium for the Series 8 are some extra health tracking features and a larger screen.
The $799 Apple Watch Ultra, designed for people who engage in extreme sports, won’t be available until September 23rd, and we’ll cover that when we get our hands on it.
Apple doesn’t separate its revenue from watches as it does with the iPad, iPhone, and Mac. However, the company’s wearable, home and accessories business — which includes the Apple Watch, HomePod, AirPods and Apple TV — saw sales decline in Apple’s fourth quarter to $8.08 billion from $8.78 billion a year earlier. The two watches that go on sale on Friday likely won’t have much of an impact on this business segment, but the Ultra’s price – if it works – could help boost sales of wearables for the company’s next fiscal year, which begins in October.
The same goes for the new AirPods Pro 2, which I will review later.
This is why I would refrain from bragging about the Series 8, and why the SE is such a great value.
The 8 Series has a bigger screen and is always on
Series 8 comes in two sizes: 41mm and 45mm. Like the new iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max, the Series 8 comes with an always-on display, which means you can see the time even when your watch is inactive. You can choose a case made of aluminum or stainless steel. The aluminum comes in black, tan, silver and red. Stainless steel comes in black, silver and gold.
The second generation Apple Watch SE comes in aluminum only at 44mm or 40mm, and it doesn’t have an always-on display. It is available in black, tan and silver.
While aluminum looks a little cheaper, you can feel a little better knowing that the production process Apple is now using in the 2022 SE reduces carbon emissions by more than 80%.
Apple Watch SE.
I appreciate the size of the SE. The Apple Watch 8 felt a little heavy while using it, which is a complaint I’ve heard from my other female friends. I also found that because the SE is lighter, it was more comfortable to use for sleep tracking.
Both SE and Series 8 have the same S8 processor
Despite being a cheaper model, the SE has the latest S8 processor, the same processor found inside the new 8 Series. Apple says the upgrade makes the SE 20% faster than the first generation SE, which debuted in 2020.
The 8 Series also has a U1 chip, which the SE does not have. This chip allows you to use location tracking in the Find My app.
Both clocks felt like they were running at the same speed to me. It was easy to navigate on any of my two hours between the Workout & Mindfulness app and the Weather app without any glitches.
Apple Watch Series 8.
SE has fewer but important health features
The SE has heart rate and fall detection, while the Series 8 can measure oxygen levels in the blood and has an ECG app to monitor heart rhythms.
The Series 8 has a new temperature sensor that enables menstrual cycle tracking with retroactive ovulation estimates.
While I appreciate Apple incorporating women’s health into the new watch, I have a hard time understanding how retroactive ovulation will provide the necessary data for women trying to conceive. Instead of giving you data about when you ovulated last month, other wearables like the Ava Fertility tell you when you’re actively ovulating so you can take advantage of your fertile period if you’re trying to conceive.
Heart rate notifications on the new SE can alert users of unusually high or low heart rates or irregular rhythms that Apple says has helped save lives.
Apple Watch SE.
There is one advance in Series 8 that can provide users with important information. She now has an AFib monitor, which will help diagnose people with atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia.
When it comes to sleep, both watches offer comprehensive sleep tracking, although as I mentioned, the smaller and lighter SE is more comfortable when worn to sleep.
The new fault detection feature is available on both the SE and Series 8.
Series 8 has better battery life
Series 8 ships very quickly. Apple says it can recharge from 0 to 80% in 45 minutes and to 100% in about 75 minutes. I definitely noticed a difference when charging my Series 8.
When the Series 8 is in low power mode, it lasts up to 36 hours. Both watches have an “all-day” battery life of up to 18 hours.
If Apple had wanted me to buy the Series 8, they would have given it the same battery life as the new Ultra, which features 36 hours in normal mode and 60 hours in low power mode.
Low Power Mode on Apple Watch SE.
Having a wearable that only lasts 18 hours or less is disappointing. A few months ago, I started using the Oura Ring, which gives me many of the same scales as my Apple Watch, except that I forgot I’m wearing it and it only needs to be charged every three and a half to four days.
Which one should you buy?
If you’ve never owned a smartwatch and just want the basic functions, like notifications and activity monitoring, the SE is a great value. If you’re concerned about your health, and want early warnings if things go well, the Series 8 can give you even more peace of mind.
The SE is also an ideal buy for a child who is too young for a smartphone. You probably don’t want them to take to social media or text, but setting them up with SE can allow you to track their location and contact them in an emergency.
If you already have a recent model of Apple Watch, I wouldn’t suggest upgrading. I barely noticed a difference when using the Series 8 compared to the Series 7, or even the Series 5. The new health tracking features like the temperature sensor didn’t seem worthwhile enough to justify the price, especially since the ovulation tracking back-up looks.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the acronym AFib stands for atrial fibrillation. The previous version used an incorrect term. It has also been updated to remove indications that the Apple Watch is using a healthy device by people who have already been diagnosed with AFib. Apple says in a footnote on its website that the watch is not intended for such use.