Review: The pros and cons of the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE (2022)

The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE (2022).
The Apple Watch Series 8 (L) and Apple Watch SE (2022). Photo credit: Newshub.

Apple unveiled its three latest smartwatch models in California earlier this month: the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple Watch Series 8 and new Apple Watch SE.

Although the Ultra won the most hype with its groundbreaking features, it's the other two that are likely to be more popular as they focus less on new, niche selling points and rather iterate what has already proven very successful for the brand.

They're also both far less expensive.

In New Zealand they were released on September 16 with the Apple Watch Series 8 starting at $729 and the Apple Watch SE (2002) starting at $469. The Apple Watch Ultra will be available from September 23 for $1499.

But how do the just-released products they stack up against the competition in the increasingly crowded smartwatch market? Is there enough new stuff to warrant an upgrade in these tough economic times?

I've been using the Apple Watch Series 8 and new SE for the past two weeks or so and here are my thoughts.

Apple Watch Series 8

Although there are plenty of great smartwatches on the market, Apple's are the best there are for many people, especially those who also use iPhones.

The Series 8 is the latest and greatest standard Apple Watch, for sure, but the upgrades are minimal on the previous model.

Apple Watch Series 8 stainless steel.
The Apple Watch Series 8. Photo credit: Newshub.

There are basically two new features with the Series 8: temperature monitoring and car crash detection.

Being able to measure body temperature has long been talked about for Apple Watches and is available in competitor products already abvailable in Aotearoa from the likes of Fitbit.

Apple's first go at it is being heralded principally as a fertility aid to be used in conjunction with Cycle Tracking to tell users retroactively when they ovulated.

For some folks trying to conceive, that's a particularly helpful feature. For everyone else, it's rather less so.

You can't check your temperature on demand like you can check your heart rate, for example. After five nights sleeping with the watch on it'll establish your baseline temperature and thereafter record changes from it.

Apple Watch Series 8 temperature monitoring app.
Photo credit: Newshub.

From how it's tracking my temperature it appears to be quite accurate so far, but of all the data my smartwatches track, this isn't very helpful info for me. It's just another set of data that'll build up in my Health app and may be useful at some stage.

As for crash detection - this is something I've not tested yet, thankfully. But it's a very impressive feature that is also in all iPhone 14 models.

If you drive alone in rural areas, it could be a genuine lifesaver. If you're unresponsive after a serious car accident, it will automatically call emergency services and tell them where you are, as well as notify your emergency contacts.

Other than those two features, using the Series 8 isn't noticeably different from the Series 7.

The advanced compass app of watchOS 9 update in action on the Apple Watch Series 8.
The advanced compass app of watchOS 9 update in action on the Apple Watch Series 8. Photo credit: Newshub.

The classic problem that plagues Apple Watches remains - the battery. The Series 8 I've been using generally goes for about a day and a half before needing charging, which is about the same as I got from the 6 and the 7.

With watchOS 9 you can extend by about double the time by putting it into low power mode, but still, that's several days less use you get than you would from say a Huawei watch before needing to recharge.

So yeah. If temperature checking or crash detection are features that are worth a few hundred dollars extra to you, this watch is worth getting over a cheaper model. Some people just want the latest version of a device if they're buying a new one too, and fair enough.

Otherwise, it's probably better to go for the more impressive Ultra, a previous model standard Appe Watch - or the new SE.

The Apple Watch SE (2022).
The Apple Watch SE (2022). Photo credit: Newshub.

Apple Watch SE (2022)

This is, in my opinion, the best value Apple Watch ever released. It's going for less than $500, it's got pretty much everything most people will want in an Apple Watch and it runs great.

The new SE is nice and fast, with no delays or other performance issues I can see compared to the Series 8. It also includes the new crash detection feature.

There are a few things it doesn't have: an always on display, temperature monitoring, the ECG app, blood oxygen measuring or the option of a stainless steel or titanium body (it's aluminum only).

But it does give you most of the best new Apple Watch features, which actually come via the watchOS 9 update and are therefore available for all Apple Watch models from Series 4 onwards.

Apple watchOS 9's advanced sleep tracking feature.
Apple watchOS 9's advanced sleep tracking feature. Photo credit: Newshub.

Included in that are a much improved Workout app, a better compass App with backtrack and waypoint functionality, better sleep tracking that tells you how much of each type of sleep you're getting, better heart health monitoring, a medications app and the low power mode.

All of that good stuff comes in this cheaper model, on top of all the standard health tracking features and the helpful extension of your iPhone that all Apple Watches are.

In short, the new SE is a great product for a relatively great price.

The Apple Watch Series 8 (L) and Apple Watch SE (2022).
The Apple Watch Series 8 (L) and Apple Watch SE (2022). Photo credit: Newshub.

The Verdict

  • Apple Watch Series 8: The Series 7 was a fantastic device and this is basically the same product with added temperature monitoring and crash detection. Like the standard iPhone 14, the upgrades are minimal this year.
  • Apple Watch SE (2022): I'd definitely recommend the SE as the right choice for people keen to try out an Apple Watch for the first time, as the one to get one for one of your kids, or to anyone who doesn't need the extra features offered in a Series 8 or Ultra.

Newshub was supplied an Apple Watch Series 8 and SE for this review.