Apple Watch Series 8 versus Apple Watch Series 7 will be a tough call for those considering a new Apple wearable this fall. While the Series 8 offers some compelling new features, expect to see some solid Apple Watch deals making the excellent Series 7 a compelling alternative.
Except for a few new color options, the Apple Watch Series 8 looks identical to the Apple Watch Series 7. So looks alone won’t solve that question, we’ll need to take a look under the hood to see if the latest and greatest is worth the upgrade.
Apple Watch Series 7 has 4.5 stars and an Editor’s Choice award from us, so you’ll need Series 8 to earn that win.
Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: Price and Value
Apple Watch Series 8 starts at $399 for the 41mm GPS model only. Upgrading to the larger 45mm model takes it to $429, and adding cellular connectivity to either costs an additional $100. These prices are for the aluminum model with one of the standard watch straps; Upgrading the bands or switching to a stainless steel Apple Watch can go for $1,499.
Unlike the iPhone line, Apple doesn’t offer the Series 7 anymore, so there’s no direct discount from Apple for the previous generation watch. However, if we take a look around, the Series 7 starts at as low as $329, and we’ve seen it occasionally drop even further, which may happen again once the Series 8 becomes available.
As you’ll see in later sections, the Series 8 advantages won’t be critical for everyone, so while at the same price I’d recommend the Series 8, if you can find a Series 7 for at least $50 the discount is the best value for most buyers.
winner: Apple Watch Series 7
Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: Design
Rumors of a major redesign of the Apple Watch have failed yet again. The Apple Watch Series 8 is virtually indistinguishable from the Apple Watch Series 7 other than some new color options. That’s not a harsh criticism, last year’s design update with its slightly larger screen and smooth transition from screen to edge of the watch still looks great and works well.
This also means that the bracelet mechanism stays the same, so you can still use your old Apple Watch bands and swap in easily.
The Apple Watch Series 8 aluminum case is available in four colors: midnight, silver, stars, and red; Choosing stainless steel reduces your options to silver, gold, and graphite. By comparison, the aluminum Apple Watch Series 7 case is available in five colors: midnight, starlight, green, blue, and red (product). Stainless steel models come in four colors: silver, gold, graphite, and space black. So, there is less choice for each option, but you will have no problem finding the one you like.
Durability has been improved for Apple Watch Series 7 and this is still true for Series 8 as well. Both offer a swim-proof rating of up to 50 meters and IP6X dust resistance.
You can probably argue about the additional color options, but for all intents and purposes, the design of these smartwatches is identical.
winner: I drew
Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: Offer
Again, no changes were made to the screen this year after the big Apple Watch Series 7 update. To refresh your memory, the bezels have been reduced by 40% and the display size has increased by 20% compared to the Apple Watch Series 6 and to me. It was a game changer. The 1.9-inch screen on the 45mm model in particular provides a more user-friendly experience than previous models, making it easier to view and navigate the content that can be seen on the watch.
Screen quality also got a bump last year, and while we’ve never taken the watch to our lab to test Apple’s claim of 1,000 nits of brightness, it’s certainly easy to read in any lighting conditions.
winner: I drew
Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: Health Tracking
Here we finally have a highlighter, Apple Watch Series 8 introduces a skin temperature sensor for the first time on Apple Watch and an improved gyroscope to detect malfunctions or falls.
Apple’s primary focus on the skin temperature sensor during the announcement was related to women’s health and ovulation tracking, which according to Apple has been greatly improved with this temperature data. Sure, it can contribute to a whole healthy picture of anyone, but we’ll need to see how Apple materializes this feature over time.
Troubleshooting was the topic of the entire event with it also being rolled out on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models.
That’s pretty much it though, other than that, the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Series 7 feature an identical set of sensors for health tracking.
Both watches feature an FDA-approved ECG sensor that monitors your heart for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a heart rhythm disorder that can be a sign of a serious health condition. Both also support basic heart rate tracking, which is useful for health and fitness tracking if you’re looking to stay in a specific heart rate zone.
Another notable sensor of both watches is the SpO2 monitor, which measures oxygen levels in the blood. Unlike the EKG, this is not FDA approved for either watch because the reflective sensor used by each user is not as reliable as the carrier sensors used by medical professionals. This could be a lifesaving sensor if it detects a significant drop in your SpO2 levels accompanied by other symptoms.
The Apple Watch Series 8 has a narrow bezel, but the additional skin temperature sensor and sensor won’t be critical for everyone, so your mileage may vary.
winner: Apple Watch Series 8
Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: Fitness Tracking
Again, nothing new here from a hardware perspective.
Apple Watch Series 8 and 7 support up to 17 distinct exercise classes to provide data more precisely tailored to your specific activity, while Fitbit Sense includes a total of 20 exercise classes. These allow watches to more accurately measure calorie burn along with activity-specific metrics such as speed, distance or laps.
Both Apple Watch Series 8 and 7 rely on built-in GPS along with accelerometers and gyroscopes to detect what you’re doing and how fast you’re traveling. Each one can automatically detect if you are exercising and start recording them, but you get the best result if you turn on exercise recording yourself.
The Apple Watch Series 8 may be able to collect some additional data from this improved gyroscope, but until we test it I won’t award additional points here.
winner: I drew
Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: Battery life and charging
The Apple Watch is nothing if inconsistent when it comes to battery life, and the Apple Watch Series 8 offers the same 18 hours of battery life as the Series 7. New to watchOS 9 is a Low Power Mode that disables automatic exercise tracking and always-on-screen to push that to 36 hours, but that goes back to all Apple Watches back to Series 4.
Both watches support magnetic wireless charging, with a full charge it takes about an hour. If you want to use the watch to track sleep, you’ll probably need to charge it briefly while you’re getting ready in the morning and when you’re getting ready at night, assuming you’re not using low power mode or aren’t very active during the day.
I’d still like to see Apple improve battery life, but for that, you’ll need to take a look at the Apple Watch Ultra.
winner: I drew
The final verdict will need to wait for our Apple Watch Series 8 review, but based on everything we’ve seen, I feel reasonably confident in saying that most people will get better service by going with the Apple Watch Series 7 (assuming you can find it on sale).
The changes to the Apple Watch Series 8 this year are minimal. While the improved ovulation tracking through the skin temperature sensor is an excellent addition that I have no doubt would mean the world to some people who don’t need to go through the hassles of other ovulation tracking methods, it is not a universally applicable improvement. Likewise, there is no doubt that improved gyroscopes and fault detection can save someone’s life, but this feature will not be sold to everyone.
If you’re looking for a dramatically different Apple Watch in 2022, you’ll want to use the Apple Watch Ultra, but if you’re just looking to upgrade from the Apple Watch Series 3-6 and are sticking with seeing what the 8 has to offer, you can probably save money and upgrade to the Series 7 .