Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch Series 7: do you need to upgrade?

Is the latest Apple Watch 8 or the slightly older Apple Watch 7 best for you?

Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch Series 7
(Image credit: T3 / Apple)

 The Apple Watch Series 8 has just been announced but with the Apple Watch 7 still available, do you really need it? 

If that's the decision you're grappling with, we're here to help. Both watches look similar, but it's a bright idea to weigh up if you need to pay the extra for the latest Apple Watch 8 or if the older Apple Watch 7 will suffice. 

Whichever you pick, you're going to end up with one of the best smartwatches and the best Apple Watches, but we're on hand to help you figure out what's best for you, by pitting them head-to-head. 

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch 7: price and availability

The Apple Watch 7 was released on 15 October 2021 and has been surpassed by the Apple Watch 8. That means you can't buy it directly from Apple anymore, but it is still available from other third-party retailers. 

At launch, it cost from $399/£369/AU$599 for the 41mm version or from $429/£399/AU$649 for the 45mm version. Prices increase depending on the watch band you choose and the casing. You may see more discounts now that it's the older version.

The Apple Watch 8 launches on 16 September. It starts at $399/£419/AU$679 for GPS and $499/£529/AU$789 for cellular. Again, prices vary depending on your watch strap and casing configuration. 

Winner: The Apple Watch 7 is the cheapest, but that's because it's the older model and one that may become trickier to find.

Apple Watch Series 8

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch 7: design

The Apple Watch 8 and Apple Watch 7 share the same design. They both offer a distinctive rectangular screen with a choice of 41mm or 45mm model. Depending on the size you choose, the screen is either 1.57-inch or 1.73-inch with a resolution of either 352 x 430 or 396 x 484 and up to 1,000 nits of brightness. Both have an always-on OLED display. 

There are dozens of watch straps to choose from, both from Apple and third-party sellers. The Apple Watch 8 comes in one of four colors - midnight, starlight, silver and product Red, with three stainless steel finishes also available if you want to pay more. The Apple Watch 7 has slightly more options thanks to having been around longer.

Both watches have a tougher display than some competitors, with IP68-certified protection against dust and water and swim proofing up to 5 ATM.

Winner: Tie. Design-wise, these are identical smartwatches.

Apple Watch Series 7

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch 7: features and performance

 On the surface, both Apple Watch 8 and Apple Watch 7 are pretty similar in terms of features. They will both run WatchOS 9 when it's released. Both also have standard fitness and workout tracking, plenty of notification support, and Apple's Activity Rings system, which is always a hit when it comes to motivating you to do more each day.

Both watches will also benefit from WatchOS 9's new low-power battery mode, where an 'all-day' life of 18 hours should increase to 36 hours if you cut back on some features.

There are some differences, though. The Apple Watch 8 has an S8 SiP processor, while the 7 has the older S7 chip. It won't make a tremendous difference in real-world use, but if you need the fastest performance, you'll like it. 

The Apple Watch 8 also has a new crash detection function. If you're in a serious car accident, it can automatically connect you to emergency services and notify your emergency contacts. Hopefully, you'll never need it, but it could be a lifesaver.

Winner: Both watches are similar, but the Apple Watch 8 is slightly faster and has a car crash detection feature.

Apple Watch Series 8

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch 7: Sensors

Again, there's a lot of overlap here with the Apple Watch 8 adding to the fold. Both watches have a blood oxygen sensor, ECG facility, and notifications if your heart rate suddenly becomes unusually high or low.

The Apple Watch 8 adds to that by including a temperature sensor. It's aimed at people who ovulate with a two-sensor design promising high accuracy. One is on the back crystal near your skin, while the other is under the display. It can sample wrist temperature every five seconds overnight and detect differences as subtle as 0.1 centigrade.

The car crash detection feature also relies on improved sensors. The Apple Watch 8 has new motion sensors to detect extreme impact, while the microphone spots unusual sounds.

Winner: The Apple Watch 8 has slightly more sensors than the Apple Watch 7, but it's not essential if you don't need to track ovulation.

Apple Watch Series 7

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch 7: interface and user experience

You guessed it -- these are Apple Watches that run the same version of WatchOS, so you're getting a pretty much identical experience. 

Both watches will now support international roaming. WatchOS also means you'll be able to track your stride length and ground contact time and race against your past self. 

They also require you to use an iPhone alongside it, so Android owners will want to steer clear. There's no change in battery life, although the new low-power mode should help both last longer throughout the day and beyond.

Winner: Tie. Your daily experience will be exceptionally similar, whichever watch you choose.

Apple Watch Series 8

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch 8 vs Apple Watch 7: verdict

There's not much difference between the Apple Watch 8 and the Apple Watch 7. The 8 is slightly faster and has a new temperature sensor and car crash detection. For most people, though, these won't be features you need all the time. Instead, they're nice extras if you don't already own an Apple Watch or you own a much older model.

If you already own an Apple Watch 7, there's not much point in upgrading. Similarly, if you're on a tight budget, many people will be happy with the 7 rather than paying the extra for the Series 8. 

Still, if you need the latest model and can afford it, you might as well go for the 8. Don't count on it being significantly different to the older version, though.

Jennifer Allen has been writing about tech for nearly a decade. Her specialisms include fitness wearables, Bluetooth speakers, and all things Apple.