Apple Watch Series 8: Battery, Rings, Niceties

Posted on September 18, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Apple Watch with 36 Comments

I was hoping to use the Apple Watch at the gym today, but my wife and I had the genius idea of getting three vaccinations yesterday—our third COVID-19 booster, Shingles, and Flu—and we spent most of the day in a funk that can only be described as debilitating. So I will chime in a few other observations and plan on getting to the gym tomorrow.

Battery

Apple Watch battery life was pretty well understood going into this experience, meaning I knew that I was looking at about a day of longevity and would need to develop a viable charging strategy, especially since I want to use this device to track my sleep. My plan, as noted, was to charge the Apple Watch while I shaved and showered each day, but I don’t believe this will work because the device charges so slowly and I can only spend so much time in the bathroom.

Today I decided to measure it. Apple includes a USB-C magnetic charging pad with the Apple Watch, but no charging brick, so I plugged it into an old 18-watt Google Pixel charger in our main bathroom, figuring that would be powerful enough to handle fast charging. But it’s not that fast: the Watch was at 23 percent when I started charging it, and 45 minutes later, it was only at 83 percent. After one hour, it was at 95 percent.

A 60 percent charge in 45 minutes. Hm. To be fair, my Fitbit doesn’t charge that fast either, but then I only need to charge it once every 6 days or so. But this means I’ll need a different strategy. Charging it in the bathroom still makes sense, but I’ll need to think about charging it elsewhere at different times too. And if I stick with this thing, that will mean another charging cable (which costs about $29) or similar. I hate having to babysit this.

(I know it will get better battery life if I disable the always-on display. I will test that, but that’s one of the big differentiators between the Series 8 and the SE.)

Closing the rings

Apple Watch fans often cite how they feel motivated to “close the rings,” meaning they meet its three primary fitness goals for movement (by calories), exercise (by minutes), and standing (once per hour for at least one minute each time) each day. On Saturday, the first full day in which I was able to measure my success (albeit it being a non-gym day), I just missed it, having fallen 79 calories short of meeting my movement goals (811 calories vs. 890). But I did close my exercise ring somehow (30 minutes), and I exceeded my stand goal nicely (17 hours vs. 12).

I was curious about that exercise bit: when I returned from our normal walk that day, the Watch had recorded only 28 minutes of exercise and so I figured I’d never close that ring just walking since I wouldn’t be exercising otherwise that day. (We can debate whether walking is exercise, I guess. It’s not as strenuous as some exercise, but I think it qualifies. It’s certainly healthy.) And looking at the chart that the Fitness app provides, I don’t see any other periods of exercise. So I’m not sure what happened there.

For today’s walk, I wanted to see how much longer I’d have to go to just close that ring. So we did our normal walk and when we got back to our circle I told my wife I was going to walk around the circle a few times and see how long it took. She made a comment about me turning into an Apple automaton, but I had only gone about 3/4 the way around the circle when the Watch started celebrating. Granted, I had walked a bit extra earlier by going in some circles because my dog has slowed down so much too. I guess the lesson here is that when I do go to the gym—which I usually do 4 or 5 times per week—my time on the elliptical will always put me over the top so this particular ring won’t be problematic.

I did well on exercise today but not so well on the other two. As I write this at about 5:30 pm, I’ve only gotten 10 of 12 hours standing (with 6 idle hours) and 452 of 890 movement calories burned. It’s a lost day.

Niceties

Two factors will determine whether I keep the Apple Watch Series 8: my ability to deal with having to charge this thing every single day and whether its advantages over Fitbit are meaningful enough. Those advantages take two forms: presentation and functionality. I mean both broadly. With presentation, I’m looking at how the Watch itself displays information and how the iPhone apps that support it visualize the data it collects and present it in useful ways. With functionality, I mean both the core fitness tracking features, which is the real reason I would use either device in the first place, but also the myriad of other things that an Apple Watch can do. In case it’s not obvious, this is a very real example of the “better together” thing that Microsoft used to promote so often.

Here’s an obvious example: I’ve configured my Apple Watch with a PIN that I need to enter when I put it back on, similar to what we see with Windows PCs and smartphones. So when it’s on my wrist, it’s signed in, and it is connected to my iPhone (and to a lesser degree to my iPad and Apple TV, which is interesting). So it can pass through my sign-in authentication to the iPhone, and I can do things like OK Microsoft Authenticator signs-ins from the Watch too.

I haven’t explored this stuff too much, but I’ve already seen some fun niceties. For example, when we were watching a movie on Apple TV the other night, playback controls appear on my wrist. (That’s literally useful because you may not always be right next to the remote, but it doesn’t matter.) I’m curious to see what travel apps like Google Maps, United (the airline), Hilton (the hotel chain), and so on are like with the Watch.

There are some interactions I don’t quite get yet. I configured a sleep schedule when prompted, telling Apple Watch that I typically go to sleep at 11 pm and wake up at 7 am, with the understanding that this can vary. But in the half-hour leading up to 11 pm each night, the Watch goes into a sleep mode that dims the display and makes you press an extra button to do anything on it. OK, fine, I guess. But my iPhone and, more curiously, my iPad also go into sleep mode at the same time (as indicated by a bed icon in the status bar on each). I don’t understand what that means, however, as neither of those devices seems to work differently when this happens. I don’t know.

More soon.

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