The new Apple Watch Series 9 does look the same as its predecessor but it is definitely not the same watch. Most upgrades in the Series 9 are under the hood and its manufacturing.
Apple Watch Series 9 is the tech giant’s first carbon-neutral device; recyclable material is not only used in the smartwatch’s design but also in its watch bands. Apple has also reduced Series 9’s packing to reduce carbon footprint during transportation.
Furthermore, the new smartwatch is powered by advanced S9 SiP and second-generation Ultra Wideband chip to offer features like a brighter display of up to 2000 nits, a double tap gesture, on-device Siri, Precision Finding for iPhone, and more.
To tell us how new changes perform in the real world, reviews of the Series 9 are out. The general consensus amongst the individuals, who were sent the smartwatch by Apple to test for a week, is that this year’s improvements are small but smart.
Apple Watch Series 9 performance review
The new S9 SiP in Series 9 delivers faster dictation, more responsive Siri, and a smoother user experience.
The Verge test revealed that Siri processed words in a foreign language and dictation faster and more accurately. Apple Watch Series 9 uses the ambient light sensor to detect the surroundings and save the battery by reducing the brightness.
Wired found that the S9 SiP improves the performance and battery life of the Series 9.
The S9 processes tasks much more quickly, which makes the battery more efficient. The difference is notable. I have the smaller 41-mm Series 9, and the battery life on Apple’s smaller watch models has historically been not so great. It’s a pleasant surprise to wake up in the morning and see the Series 9 has 40 to 50 percent of its battery left.
CNBC was impressed with faster Siri powered by the S9 which no longer needs to be connected to the internet to respond to commands. It can also access users’ health data so they monitor their vital stats, more conveniently.
The main thing I noticed is that on-device Siri feels much quicker when responding. In the past, I’ve avoided using my Apple Watch as a Siri interface because I found commands can time out with a weak Wi-Fi connection.
I found myself preferring my Apple Watch over a HomePod or my phone for simple tasks like setting a kitchen timer, or quick questions like finding out when a particular game is on TV.
Apple Watch Series 9 pink color review
The Verge calls the new pink is Apple’s “best” color option. Its “subtlety” makes it a versatile smartwatch that can be accentuated or toned by the strap.
Pink is easily the best new color Apple’s introduced for the watch in years. First, it’s actually pink, unlike the green Series 7, which only looked green if the light hit just right. Second, this is the year of our queen and savior Barbie. Technically, it’s more Millennial pink than Barbie pink, but that’s probably a good thing.
Apple Watch Series 9 display review
The Verge wrote although the Apple Watch Series 9 display can reach peak brightness of up to 2000 nits which is double the brightness of the Apple Watch Series 8, the increase is hard to notice.
Indoors and outdoors, it’s difficult to tell the difference if you don’t have older models on hand for comparison. And even if you do, as I did, it can still be difficult to tell under certain lighting conditions.
CNBC said that most users do not set maximum brightness on their Apple Watches, only users who spend a lot of time outdoors will appreciate their brighter display on Series 9.
It’s nice-to-have but not a must-have upgrade, especially since many people don’t have their Apple Watches set to the maximum brightness to begin with. But people who spend all day outdoors with their watches will appreciate it, and I’d rather have the brighter screen than not have it.
Apple Watch Series 9 double tap gesture review
Reviewers compared the new double tap gesture in Series 9 to the AssistiveTouch feature available on Series 3 and newer models.
WSJ said that the double tap gesture on Series 9 was more responsive than AssistiveTouch and useful when only one hand is free.
Double tap will come in an update rolling out next month. It’s useful for one-handed operation, while you’re holding on to a subway pole or cup of coffee. It also works while you’re wearing gloves.
A similar accessibility feature called AssistiveTouch is available on Series 3 models and newer. You can even double-pinch to dismiss notifications. In my tests, AssistiveTouch wasn’t always as responsive as double-tapping on the Series 9, but if you already have an Apple Watch, it’s worth enabling.
TechCrunch found double tap to be useful but the feature comes with a learning curve.
Ultimately, it’s a clever and fun way to circumvent some of the device’s hardware constraints, adding to touchscreen, voice and the digital crown. It’s most useful for quick, one-off tasks, when you’re juggling too many things with your other hands.
As is the case with any of these new input paradigms, it takes a bit of brain rewiring before you feel confident integrating it into your daily life.
The Verge wrote that although the double tap gesture and AssistiveTouch features have the same functionality, they are not the same. “AssistiveTouch is more power-intensive, as it’s run directly on the CPU, while double-tap’s algorithm has been optimized to run in the background via the S9’s Neural Engine.”
The final verdict is that the double tap gesture is helpful as it makes it easy to control the smartwatch with a single hand.
Wired called the double-tap gesture a “bonus” feature that carries out tasks with one hand only but with limitations.
In my limited experience with the feature, I mostly liked using Double Tap to stop and start music on my HomePod Mini and to start and stop timers. Other functions, like responding to texts, were a little confusing. I’ll need more practice.
CNBC found the double tap gesture to be useful and fun but not indispensable.
The gesture also requires the Apple Watch interface to be activated, with its backlight on. You can’t just double tap when your arm is at your side. Instead, you have to raise your arm to wake the display first, then tap your fingers twice, which makes it feel like a much more exaggerated motion.
Apple Watch Series 9 on-device Siri review
In comparison to Siri on older models, CNBC said that on-device Siri on Series 9 was faster and more accurate.
The main thing I noticed is that on-device Siri feels much quicker when responding. In the past, I’ve avoided using my Apple Watch as a Siri interface because I found commands can time out with a weak Wi-Fi connection. I found myself preferring my Apple Watch over a HomePod or my phone for simple tasks like setting a kitchen timer, or quick questions like finding out when a particular game is on TV.
The Verge also found the on-device Siri to be more responsive and accurate.
Apple Watch Series 9 Precision Finding for iPhone review
The Verge said that the feature is designed for those who habitually lose their iPhones and works just like finding an AirTag. It works when the iPhone is stationary and isn’t moving. However, Precision Finding for iPhone on Apple Watch Series 9 requires an iPhone 15 which limits its use.
TechCrunch also highlighted the limitation of Apple Watch Series 9’s Precision Finding for iPhone feature which is only compatible with iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro.
you can use the iPhone 15 to find other iPhones. You can now use the Watch to find them, as well. But neither the new phone or Watch are capable of finding other phones through this method, owing to the limitations of antenna size.
Apple Watch Series 9 eco-friendly watch bands review
Apple has replaced leather with new FineWoven material in watch bands for environmental reasons.
The Verge said the FineWoven is like suede “soft and lil’ fuzzy” but could be scratched easily by nails or other sharp objects. FineWoen bands were not recommended for workouts.
Who should buy the Apple Watch Series 9?
Based on reviews, it can be said that the Apple Watch Series 9 is not for users with an Apple Watch Series 7 or newer. It is primarily for users who want to upgrade from an Apple Watch Series 5 or older models or are first-time Apple Watch buyers.