Apple Watch Series 9 Review: Elevating the Smartwatch Standard

The Apple Watch Series 9, the latest iteration of Apple’s flagship smartwatch, has made a significant impact with its impressive features and upgrades. While it may not stand out in terms of appearance, it’s the internal improvements that truly shine. With a focus on sustainability and enhanced performance, the Series 9 sets a new benchmark for smartwatches. In this comprehensive review, we will delve into the Series 9’s design, performance, features, battery life, and its position in the ever-evolving world of wearables.

Apple Watch Series 9 Price and Availability

The Apple Watch Series 9 is available for pre-order, with full availability scheduled for September 22. The pricing structure starts at $399 for the GPS-only model and $499 for the GPS + Cellular variant. The larger 44mm model is priced from $429 and extends to $529 for optional cellular support. It’s worth noting that independent connectivity to your mobile carrier comes with an additional fee.

Design: A Subtle Evolution

At first glance, distinguishing the Apple Watch Series 9 from its predecessor, the Series 8, can be a challenge. The most notable change is the introduction of a subtle pink finish, which, contrary to expectations, appears more understated in person. This addition adds a touch of elegance to the watch.

Under the surface, Apple has incorporated enhanced sustainability measures. All aluminum models of the Apple Watch already featured 100% recycled aluminum, and now they boast even more recycled components, including a 100% recycled cobalt battery. The Sport Loop included with the Series 9 review unit incorporates 82% recycled yarn, contributing to the watch’s carbon-neutral certification.

Apple has also made the commendable decision to phase out leather bands in favor of a new recycled textile called Fine Woven. Although the Stainless Steel models don’t carry the carbon-neutral certification, they pair well with the Fine Woven bands. Importantly, the Series 9 remains compatible with a wide range of Apple Watch bands, allowing users to personalize their style.

In a move towards sustainability, the Apple Watch Series 9 arrives in a smaller box, using less paper. Apple is also making strides in reducing the carbon footprint associated with shipping and offsetting power demands. This collective effort positions the 2023 Apple Watch family as the first set of carbon-neutral Apple devices on the market.

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Performance: The Power Within

The Series 9 chip, under the hood of the Apple Watch Series 9, marks a significant leap in performance. This chip boasts 5.6 billion transistors and a 4-core neural engine, leading to a 25% increase in efficiency. With a 30% faster GPU, the watch offers smoother visual effects, enhancing the user experience.

Switching between apps and navigating menus on the Series 9 feels noticeably more responsive compared to the Series 8. The new Smart Stack UI in watchOS 10 functions effortlessly, and Siri’s performance gains from the Series 9 chip’s on-device computing support, eliminating the need to send requests to the cloud.

The Series 9 is designed to maintain the Apple Watch’s signature 18-hour “all-day” battery life despite the display brightness being boosted to 2,000 nits, double the brightness of the Series 8. However, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 claims the title of the brightest Apple Watch with a peak brightness of 3,000 nits. During outdoor use, the Series 9’s display brightness aligns with the first-gen Apple Watch Ultra, aligning with its ratings.

The introduction of the Apple Watch Series 9 also includes Apple’s new U2 ultra-wideband (UWB) chip. This addition facilitates enhanced functionality, such as locating your iPhone. While this feature is incredibly handy, it’s worth noting that it relies on having an iPhone 15 with the newer U2 chip. This requirement may disappoint users who don’t plan to upgrade their smartphones anytime soon.

Double Tap Gesture: A Game-Changer

One of the most notable features of the Apple Watch Series 9 is the introduction of the “double-tap” gesture. This innovative gesture allows users to control their Apple Watch with one hand, making it a practical addition for all users.

Imagine you’re holding a cup of coffee and receive an incoming call. Instead of using your opposite hand to answer the call, you can simply double-tap your watch hand’s index finger and thumb to accept it. A subsequent double-tap ends the call. This gesture has various applications, from navigating the Smart Stack to controlling specific Apple Watch apps like the timer and Apple Music. It also enhances the experience of the Apple Watch Camera Remote app.

The double-tap gesture is compatible with Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, available through watchOS 10.1. The Series 9’s processor powers the algorithm responsible for detecting the intentional double-tap gesture. Users can disable this feature if they find it unnecessary or worry about accidental activations. Importantly, the double-tap gesture only works when your wrist is raised intentionally, and it deactivates in sleep mode, ensuring it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.

Features: Staying True to the Apple Watch Legacy

The Apple Watch Series 9 continues to offer a wide array of features that have become synonymous with the Apple Watch. These include workout tracking, step counting, heart health alerts, sleep monitoring, phone calls, and the use of various apps. While the Series 9 excels in these areas, there are no significant updates compared to the Series 8.

However, the watchOS 10 update brings some new tools, including features for cyclists, mental health tracking through the Mindfulness app, vision health monitoring using the ambient light sensor, and a couple of new watch faces. Apple Fitness Plus also receives significant enhancements, allowing users to stack classes and create custom workout plans. The platform offers a free trial with the purchase of a new Apple Watch, making it an attractive proposition for fitness enthusiasts.

Users can further personalize their Apple Watch experience by exploring and downloading a variety of apps from the App Store. These apps cover diverse needs, from sports scores through the ESPN app to water intake tracking with Water Llama. Even devices like the Oura Ring Gen 3 offer dedicated Apple Watch apps and complications for seamless health data monitoring.

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Battery Life: The 18-Hour Standard

The Apple Watch Series 9, like its predecessors, maintains the “all-day” battery life, lasting up to 18 hours with normal use. While this falls short of the multi-day battery life seen in some other smartwatches, Apple’s low-power mode, introduced last year, helps optimize battery usage. An hour of charging is sufficient to fully charge the watch, and a brief top-up before sleep can ensure it lasts through the night while tracking sleep.

For users who prioritize extended battery life, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 offers approximately 36 hours of regular use and up to 70 hours in low-power mode.

Verdict: The Best Smartwatch Yet

The Apple Watch Series 9 represents a significant step forward in the world of smartwatches. While it may not compel current Series 8 or Series 7 owners to upgrade, it undoubtedly offers a more future-proof option. The improvements in usability, the introduction of the double-tap gesture, and the sustainability initiatives collectively make the Series 9 the best choice for those in the market for a new smartwatch.

The Series 9’s internal upgrades enhance its performance, making it an essential device for various tasks. While these enhancements may not be crucial for everyone, they lay the foundation for future life-changing features. If you’re in search of a new smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 9 stands as a compelling choice, backed by its notable improvements and the eco-friendly message it brings to the table. Apple continues to lead the smartwatch industry with the Series 9, ensuring that it remains the go-to option for consumers seeking the best in wearable technology.

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