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Apple Watch Series 8 Review: Still the iPhone’s Best Companion
December 22, 2022 Andrew Cheng

New iterations of the Apple Watch over the past few years have only brought incremental updates. There’s no major design overhaul or display upgrade, but the addition of new features do make for a better smartwatch with every series, and the Apple Watch Series 8 is no different.

It may look similar to its predecessor, but the Series 8 does have some notable improvements under the hood, including the ability to track menstrual cycle and Crash Detection. Yes, it also costs slightly more (from RM1,899) than the previous model, but if you want the utility of a smartwatch with your iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 8 is a great option.

What It Is

As mentioned, the Apple Watch Series 8 gets two new features: Cycle Tracking and Crash Detection. The former, through the use of the smartwatch’s temperature sensors to detect small changes in wrist temperature, allows women to track their menstrual cycle. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t put this feature to the test, but it’s certainly a convenient one.

Of course, I can’t test out Crash Detection either, as it…well, detects if I was caught in a “severe car crash,” as Apple puts it. The feature does work as intended, as tested by some folks, so while it’s a feature that we hope we’ll never need to use, it could be a literal lifesaver when it’s needed.

Beyond that, other hardware of the Series 8 are the same as its predecessor. These include 41mm or 45mm cases – the review unit you see here is the larger model – an always-on Retina LTPO OLED display with a peak brightness of 1,000 nits, water resistance up to 50m, IP6X rating, and GPS with optional cellular support.

The Good Stuff

Let’s get this out of the way: the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch to complement an iPhone, period. The seamless integration of the two devices is simply unbeatable. My phone notifications, for example, are pushed to the watch the moment I receive them without delay.

On top of that, I can interact with said notifications on the Apple Watch Series 8 without needing to take my phone out of the pocket. Not only can images be displayed on the watch, I can even quickly reply to messages with a full-size keyboard, which works surprisingly well.

Besides that, the display of the Series 8 is bright and vibrant as well. This comes as no surprise, given that it is an OLED panel. Visibility is a non-issue indoors or outdoors, and this applies to even the always-on display, which is slightly dimmer than the standard watch face.

Speaking of which, I really like the always-on screen of the Series 8. Not only does it look great, there are also a wide variety of watch face designs to choose from. Some watch faces even allow me to access certain features quickly, such as a stopwatch to time my workout routines.

And that is a good segue to the workout tracking capability of the Apple Watch Series 8, which is surprisingly fun, thanks to Apple’s ring system. There are three different rings to “close” every day: Exercise, Move, and Stand, and closing all three rings have a certain…satisfaction to it.

Unlike similar features offered by other brands, Apple’s implementation feels more refined and encouraging. Depending on my activity level on a certain day, the Activity app will let me know exactly what I can do to close my rings, such as going on a brief 15-minute brisk walk to close my Move ring.

These small, meaningful reminders do add up at the end of the day, and I find myself actually moving (and standing) more to close my rings with the Apple Watch.

Performance is also one area the Series 8 excels in. No matter what I throw at the smartwatch, the interface remains smooth and responsive. Throughout my time with it, I didn’t notice any major stuttering or lag – as expected of Apple’s software refinement.

Beyond that, I’ve also grown fond of the Series 8’s aesthetics. Personally, I prefer a smartwatch with a round watch face, but I find myself actually liking the square design of the Apple Watch. I also appreciate the fact that the 45mm model fits quite well on my wrist.

The Bad Stuff

There is one area where I wish the Apple Watch Series 8 could do better: battery life. Now, it’s not terrible by any means. With the always-on display switched on and sleep tracking enabled, I can easily get through a typical day with the smartwatch. I can even stretch it to one and a half day of use on certain days.

But compared to its competition – most notably, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which can last between three to four days – the Apple Watch doesn’t compare very favourably. Granted, it’s not like Samsung’s smartwatch can be paired to an iPhone, but it’s still worth a mention.

That brings me to my next qualm with the Apple Watch: it doesn’t work with Android devices. In my line of work, I need to review different phones from different brands, so the fact that the watch doesn’t work with my daily driver at the time is a tad bothersome.

Is It Worth It?

If you’re an iPhone user, the only choice you really have to make is to pick which Apple Watch is right for you. The Series 8 (from RM1,899) sits in between the high-end Apple Watch Ultra (RM3,799) and the more affordable Apple Watch SE (from RM1,199). If the Series 8’s feature set fits your needs, it’s the smartwatch for you.

I do wish the Apple Watch Series 8 had better battery life – and it would be great if it works with Android phones too – but its tight integration with iOS makes it the best (general) smartwatch for most folks. Unless your requirements are more niche where you’ll need a specialised smartwatch of sorts, the Apple Watch is your best bet.

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