Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8

Apple Watch launches are always one of two things: A massive upgrade that changes the way you use your Apple Watch, with a bigger screen, or a new form factor, or an incremental upgrade that doesn’t do a whole lot. On the surface, the Apple Watch Series 9 announcement seemed to be just that — an underwhelming update on an Apple Watch that keeps the design of its forebears.

Under the skin, however, there have been some upgrades that make the Apple Watch Series 9 a little more interesting than that, with some more spec bumps and features than you might have noticed. Is it worth upgrading from your Series 8, however, and should you pay more for a brand new Series 9 rather than a reduced Apple Watch Series 8?

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Specs

Apple Watch Series 9 review

(Image credit: Future)

There were some significant spec bumps below the surface with the new Apple Watch Series 9, although they might not surface as much in everyday use.

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SpecsSeries 8Series 9
Display Size41mm, 45mm41mm, 45mm
Display TypeOLEDOLED
Peak Brightness1,000 nits2,000 nits
Splash, water, dust resistanceIP6XIP6X
ChipS8S9 SiP
Apple PayYesYes
Power and battery18 hours20 hours
SensorsAccelerometer, Gyro, Heart. Rate, Barometer, Always-on Altimere, Compass, Sp02, VO2maxAccelerometer, Gyro, Heart. Rate, Barometer, Always-on Altimere, Compass, Sp02, VO2max, Crash Detection, Temperature Sensor
Operating systemwatchOS 8 (On launch, supports watchOS 10)watchOS 10
Neural EngineNone4-Core

If you read closely there, a lot of stuff remains the same as in Series 8, such as the size of the screen, and the chassis sizes available. There is a bump in the processor, in the form of the S9 SiP, or ‘System in package’ (that’s the chip that runs everything). That is more powerful to allow for some fancier features to run, like one that lets you navigate the watch with a tap of your thumb and forefinger. The screen is brighter too, so that it’s more viewable in direct sunlight, and Find My functionality has been improved by a new Ultra wideband chip that works alongside the S9.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Features

Apple Watch Series 9 Review

(Image credit: Future)

There are some new features on the Series 9 that you won’t be able to access on a Series 8.

On-device Siri

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This means that the S9 SiP is strong enough to render Siri responses without the need to lean on your iPhone as a processing crutch. Siri commands and responses will be quicker and more accurate, so you’ll be less likely to throw your watch across the room.

Improved find-my

The new Gen 2 Ultrawide band chip in the Apple Watch Series 9 is primarily used to make the Find My function better. You’ll now get directions and sound feedback to help you find your devices.

Double tap

For those times when you can’t use your other hand, this feature lets you tap your forefinger and thumb together in order to use certain functions on the watch. You can select options on screen, answer and finish phone calls, and more — and it only works with the S9 SiP.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Sensors

Apple Watch Series 9 Review

(Image credit: Future)

There isn’t much difference here in terms of sensors — the two watches are identical in this regard. Both have a heart rate monitor, an ECG, a temperature sensor, and Blood oxygen sensors.

As always, these sensors make the Apple Watch perfect for fitness, and they all work side by side to make sure that you can track your workouts and health in the Apple Health app.

There is, however, no reason to upgrade here bar a slightly better algorithm that improves the accuracy of the heartrate sensor.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Processor

Apple Watch Series 9 Review

(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch Series 9 is equipped with the new S9 SiP, which we have touched a little on before. Where the iPhone line is powered with Apple’s A-series silicon, the brand's watches use ‘System in Package’ chips that control a few more of the watch’s functions. It’s all about getting as much power as possible in a small enough form factor that comfortably fits on your wrist.

The S9 chip features some extra goodies over the previous chip that you’ll find in the Apple Watch Series 8. It’s still a 64-bit dual-core processor, but there’s that new Ultrawideband gen 2 chip on board, as well as double the storage up to 64GB.

Apple also says that the new SiP has a 30% faster GPU, and a 2x faster neural engine so that Siri launches faster, and responds on-device rather than using the iPhone as a proxy. It’s here that you’ll find the biggest differences between the Series 9 and the Series 8 — and if our review is anything to go by, you'll notice them the moment you strap the watch to your wrist.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Display

Apple Watch Series 9

(Image credit: Future)

Size-wise, there are still only two options of OLED display for the Apple Watch Series 9: 41mm, and 45mm. These are the same options that you got on the Apple Watch Series 8, and the Series 7 before it. There are some extra boosts to the display — in the form of a much brighter surface.

The new display in the Series 9 goes all the way up to a peak of 2000 nits, which is bright. That will make it easier to view in direct sunlight, something that for a device worn on your wrist is going to be a big boon. Other than that, however, the display of the Apple Watch Series 9 is the same as that of the Apple Watch Series 8.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Colors

Apple Watch Series 9 in Pink and Midnight

(Image credit: Apple)

There is an extra color this year for the Apple Watch Series 9, in the form of a rather fetching Pink. The other colors are Midnight, Starlight, Silver, and PRODUCT(RED). That’s one more color than the Series 8, which only came in the latter four colors.

There is also the Stainless steel option, which comes in Gold, Silver, or Graphite. These are the same colors as the Series 8.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Strap options

Apple Watch Series 9

(Image credit: Future)

First things first about the Series 9; You’ll still be able to use all the same straps you’ve been using for your old Apple Watch, as long as it’s a Series 8 or 7. They are, after all, the same chassis at the core, and the attachment methods remain the same. That means your best Apple Watch straps are still going work.

There are, however, on launch more strap options for the Apple Watch, and they’re all aimed at being more friendly to the environment. That means more textile and rubber options, and nothing made of leather. The modern buckle and Magnetic link bands are now made with Apple’s new FineWeave material, the very same that is going into the new leather-like cases for the iPhone 15 family.

If you want a real leather strap, then there are other ways of getting one like heading over to the Hermes website — but there are no official Apple options that you can pick up.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Should you upgrade?

Apple Watch Series 9

(Image credit: Future)

There’s a very easy answer to that question — no. The Apple Watch Series 9 has some cool updates, yes, with a more powerful chip and a brighter screen, but the updates are not worth the extra cost that you’ll spend on a new watch.

That answer does change if you’re looking to buy a brand new watch, and it’s your first Apple Watch — if you can afford one, then go for the Apple Watch Series 9. You’ll be a little more future-proofed, and you’ll get a couple more features. You might, however, be able to save some money and buy yourself a cheaper Apple Watch 8, as prices are reduced as the new model rolls out. This could be a great idea if you don’t want to spend brand-new watch money, as you’ll get a watch that is mostly the same.

All in all, the Apple Watch Series 9 is an update to the Series 8, but not enough to warrant you buy one if you’ve already got the latter.

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.