24 Hours with Apple Watch Series 8

Just got the new Series 8 Apple Watch and have had it for 24 hours. There are plenty of reviews online, so go check those out.

I’m coming from the Series 3 Apple Watch which Apple unceremoniously dropped support for in the newest WatchOS.

I originally got the Apple Watch because I wanted to try out Apple Fitness Plus and until recently, you had to have an Apple Watch to use it.

The Apple Watch is one Apple product I really don’t love. I laughed when I looked at the apps list and saw Mail. Mail on my watch? Not sure I have ever needed or wanted that. Everything that makes an Apple Watch “better” compared to a Garmin seems unnecessary, and it creates too much of a battery drain.

That said, the thing the Apple watch does better than anything, I think, are the rings. There are three of them: stand, activity, and move. (you can customize each of these goals) Stand I don’t really care about and it encourages you to stand for at least 2 minutes out of every hour. People talk about sitting being the new smoking, but I’m not sure 2 minutes is really enough to move the needle. I could lose this ring and not care in the least, it’s really more annoying than helpful.

But I think Apple got the next two rings right: move and activity. Activity minutes counts how many minutes throughout the day that you have an elevated heart rate. The move ring counts how many active calories you burn throughout the day.

Compared to the FitBit I used to have which was obsessed with hitting 10,000 steps a day (a goal I eventually lowered to 7,500) — I like these metrics way more. I can fill these moments with any exercise of my choosing and the Watch will monitor my heart rate and approximate my active calories burned and move my rings accordingly. I often go for 20-30 minute walks, but sometimes I want to go for a hike, or a bike ride, or lift weights, or play gagaball. It doesn’t matter. My watch is… watching (sorry I had to) and tallying up my points accordingly.

I definitely feel like I’m a lot more likely to hit my (self-set) activity and move goals because I can fill my day up with activity that counts towards them, but I can choose whatever activity feels right for me. It was always discouraging to me with my FitBit to hop in bed and realize I had 9,800 steps and would somehow have to find 200 more steps to go. When I’m similarly close on my rings it makes way more sense for me to go for a five minute row on my rowing machine to get those last few activities.

So, Apple really hit the gamification on the head for me. I’m definitely more encouraged to be active with my rings than with anything I’ve had with Garmin or FitBit.

That said, if you gave me an Apple Watch with a simple LCD/e-paper/whatever screen like most of Garmin’s line up, and it only had the sensors necessary to count calories and heart rate, but had a week battery life and (pretty pretty please) made it round instead of square, I would buy it instantly.

All the other features and bright beautiful color screen are fine, but most of the time it just gets in the way. All I care about is a long battery life. I could charge my Garmin once a week and wear it 24/7, and it would track all of my activities and sleep and … that’s all I really wanted to use it for.

That said, the Apple Watch S8 hardware is nice. It’s got a beautiful screen. I still think square watches look dumb, but this one looks less dumb than the S3 because it is just a bit bigger (going from 38mm case to 41mm) which I think allowed them to “flatten” it a bit. I haven’t measured but the S8 on my wrist appears thinner which makes it look slightly less dumb.

There’s an array of new sensors in the S8 that my S3 didn’t have. I have a complication that shows a live view of decibels. As I type this with a house fan running, it says we’re at about 47dB. I was in a quiet room and I farted while looking at my watch and … well let’s just say I have an idea for a new competition in the future.

The sleep tracking is a new feature in WatchOS 9. I didn’t get much sleep last night. I’m not sure what to do with this information. We will see if I keep wearing the watch while I sleep as this information seems like the same thing I used to get with my FitBit and it was never that actionable or terribly interesting, and with the poor battery life, waking up with less than 100% battery means I need to think about it the next day. I will need to experiment and see if charging it while I’m in the shower will be enough to power throughout the day.

I do appreciate the always on display. Apple’s wrist raising detection is way better than FitBit’s, but it’s nice to not have to move my wrist to just glance at the time. It feels ridiculous to write a sentence like that about a watch.

I guess the bottom line of my review: the Watch is great for gamifying fitness, but you could literally leave out every other feature except telling time and as long as that improved the battery life, I would be so much happier. I’m not really sure what to think about having paid $399 for this thing. It certainly delivers a lot of features, but I’d take 10% of the features for 50% of the price and 700% the battery life any day.