The Apple Watch Series 9 (and Ultra 2) are finally here, and it'd be fair to say they're not quite the expansive revisions many were hoping for (although the rumored Apple Watch X coming next year may offer more surprises). Still, in true Apple fashion, they represent the pinnacle of the lineup so far.
When it comes to the Series 9, big, wholesale new features may not be the order of the day, but there's still plenty to enjoy. Is it worth upgrading from a Series 8, or even a Series 7? Possibly not, but we've rounded up our favorite Series 9 features so far, as well as one elephant in the room that Apple hasn't addressed yet.
The Apple Watch Series 9 isn’t a big change from the Series 8, design-wise, but one of the more obvious ways to spot the latest model is the new Pink version, available on the aluminum models.
While the shade itself no doubt draws from a certain blockbuster movie that arrived this year (no, not Oppenheimer), it’s a great color that provides a bit more ‘fun’ for Apple Watch users that aren’t interested in the very serious tones we usually get year in, year out.
Here’s hoping it leads to some more color options in the future - give us an Orange Apple Watch, Apple, iMac style.
The Double Tap (Coming Soon)
Okay, so it’s not actually a feature that’s here yet (coming in watchOS 10.1), but while Double Tap isn’t necessarily a new feature (we covered its accessibility-focused prior iteration back in April), it makes the list because it’s a tantalising glimpse at what’s to come.
In many ways, the Double Tap gesture offered on Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 will be the first taste of the tech giant’s promised future of ‘Spatial Computing’, and it has a lot of convincing to do.
Vision Pro is so unlike anything that we’re used to, at least judging by Apple’s demos, that it feels like the Double Tap is a very small way to anchor the upcoming platform in something familiar.
Pausing a workout, playing a song, or any other action it triggers is essentially a baby step of sorts into a new world, one that doesn’t come around often - and it’s exciting.
I love my Apple Watch Ultra, but I’ve not got a data plan because the 4G connectivity in my area is poor enough when using a phone, let alone a watch. But, as someone that loves to run without needing to take my phone with me, that means I’m constantly shuttling songs from Spotify, or podcasts from Pocket Casts, to and from my Watch.
For that reason, I’m glad I have 32GB of space to play with, but add a few playlists and apps and that soon shrinks. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 both double that, making it a much more useful replacement music player for those instances when your phone is at home.
Also, it’s crazy to me that the Apple Watch now has the same storage as a base iPhone, especially since they began life in the Series 0 with just 8GB.
If you’ve been keeping up with Apple Watch models in the last few years (we have a guide to catch you up if not), you’ll know the Apple Watch Ultra marked the brightest display of any Apple Watch when it launched in 2022.
That’s no longer the case, and while the Ultra 2 will now burn your retinas with 3,000 nits, the Series 9 has now matched the first generation’s 2,000 nits of brightness.
Unless you’re in particularly challenging lightning conditions, you’re unlikely to notice, but you’ll be thankful for it in direct sunlight, or if you regularly go somewhere, like my gym, where iPhone auto brightness constantly gets confused and you just need to glance at your watch.
It’s not all good news, sadly, and I feel a little like I’m bemoaning the same thing I have been for years at this point.
I’d hoped the new S9 SiP would allow for the Apple Watch to be more power efficient, but it’s not quite moved past the nebulous ‘all-day battery life’ claims Apple has long held its Watch models close to.
As a result, expect to charge it before bed each night, particularly if you’re interested in sleep tracking - although we will concede charging in recent models is faster, and you’ll get more from a charge by turning the Always-On display off.
Still, with the Ultra hitting multiple days, and drastically cheaper alternatives lasting a week or more, it’s a shame Apple hasn’t seen fit to squeeze extra power out of the battery.
Have you picked up the Apple Watch Series 9? How are you finding it? Let us know!
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Lloyd Coombes is a freelance writer with a specialism in Apple tech. From his first, hand-me-down iMac, he’s been working with Apple products for over a decade, and while he loves his iPhone and Mac, the iPad will always have his heart for reasons he still can’t quite fathom.
Since moving from blogging to writing professionally, Lloyd’s work can be found at TechRadar, Macworld, TechAdvisor and plenty more.
He’s also the Editor in Chief at GGRecon.com, and on the rare occasion he’s not writing you’ll find him spending time with his son, or working hard at the gym (while wearing an Apple Watch, naturally). You can find him on Twitter @lloydcoombes.