The Apple Watch Series 8 Is Here, With a Super-Tough Ultra Version for Athletes and Explorers

Apple officially announces the Apple Watch Series 8, a new Apple Watch SE, and an Ultra model for athletes.

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The new Apple Watch Ultra smartwatch.
Image: Apple

The Apple Watch has already taken a big bite out of both the smartwatch and traditional watch markets, but today Apple has revealed it’s also going after companies like Garmin and Casio with its new Series 8 collection that, for the first time, includes a pro model called the Ultra designed specifically for athletes and explorers who aren’t as gentle with their hardware. A new SE 2 model and standard Series 8 are also coming, but let’s start with what’s brand new.

Apple Watch Ultra

We already had a good idea of what the rumored Apple Watch Pro (now named the Ultra) would look like thanks to case leaks, and the Apple Watch Ultra, as it’s officially called, delivers as promised with the first completely flat screen for the wearable, a semi-protected crown and button on the right hand side, as well as an additional and programmable Action button included on the other side, all designed to be operated using gloves when needed.

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Photo of Apple Watch Ultra
Screenshot: Apple

The Apple Watch Ultra is officially the largest Apple Watch to date with a beefy 49mm titanium case and with the brightest and largest screen featured on an Apple wearable yet. Said screen is protected by sapphire glass and also boasts a night mode with a high-contrast but monochrome red on black effect, ideal for adventures at night when users won’t want to throw off their night vision.

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The Apple Watch Ultra's night mode to help preserve night vision in the dark.
Image: Apple

Three built-in microphones are included to better capture a user’s voice even while it’s being almost drowned out by ambient sounds like wind or other distractions, and the larger case accommodates a larger battery good for up to 36 hours of use on a single charge, or up to 60 hours in a low power mode. The Apple Watch Ultra is WR100 waterproof and EN13319 rated for diving to depths of 40 meters, with diving computer apps on the way too. It also features a beefier speaker than other Apple Watch models capable of emitting an 86-decibel siren that can be heard up to 600 feet away, depending on the terrain.

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Three different watch straps are included with the Apple Watch Ultra.
Image: Apple

Just one model and size of the Apple Watch Ultra will be available, starting on September 23. As expected, it’s considerably more expensive than the Series 8 at $799, although that price includes three strap options, including one that can be stretched over a wetsuit.

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Apple Watch Series 8

Although the new Apple Watch Ultra finally delivers on the long rumored flat screen upgrade for the wearable, the standard Apple Watch Series 8 continues to stick with its recognizable waterfall screen featuring curved edges and an ultra-minimal bezel that makes the screen look like it stretches right to the edges of the watch’s body.

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Photo of Apple Watch Series 8 temperature sensing
Screenshot: Apple

That means the Apple Watch Series 8 looks a lot like the Apple Watch Series 7, with the same 45mm and 41mm sizings, and color options that include Midnight Starlight, Silver, Product Red, and three stainless steel options tinted silver, gold, and graphite. But while the Series 8 doesn’t change much with the Series 7's physical design, it introduces a couple of new features.

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Temperature Sensing

For the first time, the Apple Watch is gaining a temperature sensor, or two, to be exact: one located on the back that presses against the wearer’s skin, and a second one located on the front, just beneath the surface of the Series 8's touchscreen, to measure the temperature of the surrounding environment for improved accuracy.

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Photo of Apple Watch Series 8 ovulation tracking
Screenshot: Apple

Apple claims the temperature sensor can measure changes as small as 0.1 degrees Celsius, but it doesn’t appear to be focused on being an alternative to a thermometer for detecting fevers or illness. Instead, the temperature data is used to provide more information for fertility tracking and ovulation cycles, and the Series 8 can actually provide estimates on when your next ovulation cycle will begin based on when it last occurred. Apple also promises all of this information is completely encrypted, even from the company, when the data is synced to its iCloud service.

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Crash Detection

The other big reason to upgrade to the Apple Watch Series 8 is another feature simply called Crash Detection that’s self-explanatory.

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Apple Watch Series 8 crash detection
Screenshot: Apple

The Series 8 includes a redesigned three-axis accelerometer that’s paired with a new high G-force sensor that can measure impacts generating as much as 256Gs. Data from both of those new sensors is collected 3,000 times every second and is processed by custom algorithms to detect the impact of a severe crash and then automatically notify emergency services with info on the user’s location, while other emergency contacts, specified in the Apple Watch app, will be notified as well.

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But to not completely drain the Apple Watch Series 8's 18 hours of battery life, the crash sensors are only activated when driving is detected. Other features for the Apple Watch Series 8 include a low power mode that can boost battery life to 36 hours, and international roaming allowing users who are traveling to potentially leave their iPhones locked away in a hotel safe during daily excursions and simply rely on local cellular networks for calling or streaming music.

The Apple Watch Series 8 will be available for pre-order staring today, with availability on September 16, and will start at $399 for the GPS only model, or $499 for the GPS + Cellular connected model.

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Apple Watch SE

One of Apple’s best bargains is also getting an update, and a price cut. Alongside the Apple Watch Ultra and the Series 8, a new version of the Apple Watch SE was also announced today.

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Apple Watch SE 2 exercise and colors
Screenshot: Apple

The most notable upgrade appears to be a back plate made of a nylon material designed to match the color options of Apple Watch SE straps, but the watch itself is also promised to be about 20% faster than previous versions, and includes a screen that’s 30% larger than the one included on the Apple Watch Series 3.

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Apple Watch SE 2
Screenshot: Apple

The new Apple Watch SE will also benefit from the same Crash Detection safety features as the Series 8, but will be much cheaper, starting at $249 for the GPS only model, and $299 for the GPS + Cellular option, with pre-orders starting today, and official availability on September 16.