Apple today updated its Apple Watch line with the anticipated Apple Watch Series 8 and SE models, which are decent but not earth-shattering upgrades over last year’s models.
Apple Watch Series 8 breaks new ground with skin temperature measurements, female health tracking, new motion sensors, extended battery life, and international roaming for cellular models. Here’s what you need to know about the latest Apple Watches — and where to get your hands on one.
Where to pre-order the Apple Watch Series 8 and SE
Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE are available to order from the Apple Store starting today. The Series 8 starts at $399 for the GPS version and $499 for the cellular version, and the SE starts at $249 for the GPS version and $299 for the cellular version. Both will start shipping on September 16th. Both watches include three months free with Apple Fitness+.
• Apple Watch Series 8 (starting at $399 at Apple)
• Apple Watch SE (starting at $249 at Apple)
Important updates for women’s health, general safety and battery life
Apple says the two temperature sensors — one on the bottom for skin and one on top for air temperature — allow for accurate body temperature readings down to 0.1 degrees Celsius. Wearing the watch at night will detect biphasic shifts, which are often an indicator of hormone shifts and ovulation. The company says all of this data allows your watch to retrospectively estimate your ovulation date. This is a big thing for family planning.
Women have been able to track their menstrual cycles on Apple Watches for a while, but this is the first time Apple has allowed an estimated ovulation date. Several apps are already available for this, but given current reproductive health policies in the United States, some women have had privacy concerns about this data being stored on servers.
Apple is sensitive to these concerns. The company says women’s cycle data is encrypted on the watch itself and is only accessible via a passcode, FaceID, or TouchID. When you sync with iCloud, end-to-end data encryption is used. Apple emphasized that nobody but you will be able to unlock the data.
Other new sensors include an improved accelerometer, barometer and microphone, which Apple says can detect car accidents. If it detects a sudden change in speed (up to 256g), air pressure (from airbag inflation), and the sound of an impact, it offers to call 911, send your location, and call your emergency contacts. This is a natural progression from the Apple Watch’s fall detection.
And, hallelujah, the Apple Watch now has longer battery life. Apple says the new Series 8 (starting at $399 for GPS and $499 for cellular) and SE ($249/$299) will get 18 hours on a full charge and up to 36 thanks to a new power-saving mode hours of battery life. The new power saving mode is more powerful than the current power saving mode, which turns off almost everything. The new mode uses new battery-squeeze algorithms that activate only the most power-hungry features, like the always-on display and automatic workout recognition.
Finally, the Apple Watch Series 8 cellular models include international data roaming (free or at a low price, Apple claims), making it more useful now that people are traveling internationally again.
The SE model offers much of the same as the Series 8, except for the temperature sensors, blood oxygen, EKG reading and always-on display. It’s also a hair smaller (44mm and 40mm faces compared to the 45mm and 41mm of the Series 8).
Women’s health features aside, the Series 8 and SE aren’t huge upgrades over the Apple Watch Series 7 or the Apple Watch SE 2020. The new watchOS 9 offers plenty of new features, but they’ll extend to several previous models, so you’ll be fine anyway receive about 90 percent of the new functionality.
But these are good upgrades if you’re a first-time smartwatch buyer or have an Apple Watch Series 4 or earlier. The SE is a great entry-level watch for kids or people who don’t need quite as much health data. The Series 8 women’s health features are great for people who want to take control of their reproductive health while maintaining their privacy.
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