Apple Watch Series 9 review

Apple Watch Series 9 review: Still the best smartwatch

100% human
9

It’s getting harder to write meaningful reviews of each new Apple Watch, and the Series 9 doesn’t make it any easier. It’s not that the watches are getting any less good; there are small but helpful improvements every year. The issue is that it’s still basically the same watch. I could link you to last year’s review, or the one from the year before.

The problem is that the base Apple Watch model is still the best basic smartwatch. Without cannibalising what makes the Apple Watch Ultra great, the most it could do is add some more health sensors that don’t do anything more than look good on paper. Yet, Apple still feels the need to release a new watch every year, so there are three small (and delightful) upgrades for new watch owners to enjoy.

Apple Watch Series 9 review

First impressions

Having reviewed a few smartwatches recently, the main thing that really struck me about the Apple Watch Series 9 (priced from $649) was how easy it was to set up. It didn’t need me to link accounts with some nonsense to activate the fitness features (like the Google Pixel Watch), and it wasn’t going out of its way to make me feel bad about my body (like the Samsung Galaxy watches). I brought it near my phone, did an update, transferred data from my old watch, and I was ready to go.

Apple Watch Series 9 pink aluminium

It looks much the same as last year’s watch. The subtle pink of the pink aluminium model is nice. The new Nike band is soft and comfortable and looks fashionable with its recycled plastic marbling. Overall, a good first impression.

Apple Watch Series 9 specifications

DisplayAlways-On Retina LTPO OLED display
ChipS9 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor4-core Apple Neural Engine64GB capacity
BatteryUp to 18 hours normal use
Water resistance50m
Dust resistanceIP6X
Price (RRP)From $649
WarrantyOne year
Official websiteApple Australia

The main takeaways from these specs are that the chip is a bit faster, the screen gets a lot brighter, it’s now even better at finding your phone, and you can pinch your fingers to select stuff (more on that later).

Performance

Overall, the Apple Watch Series 9 performs like an Apple Watch. If you’re not familiar with Apple Watches, it’s easy to track workouts, operate various apps, get lots of information at a glance (or a little, if you prefer a more minimalist face), activate Siri, use as a Walkie-Talkie with any friends that also have Apple Watches, and check notifications without getting your phone out.

In comparison to Apple Watches of previous years, there are four main new features that stand out:

Brighter and Faster

The Series 9 has been upgraded with the new S9 SiP, which makes it faster than last year’s watch, and it has a brighter display. Compared to the Ultra, which has always had a blindingly bright display, I’ve found that the normal Apple Watch could be a little dark on very sunny days, and the new brighter display has really helped with that. I didn’t have any complaints about the speed of the S8 chip, but it is nice that things react slightly faster now. It’ll make a big difference coming from a Series 6 or older.

Apple Watch Series 9 activity rings

Better at finding stuff

Most people love their Apple Watch, and they’ll tell you a bunch of standout features if you ask them. Maybe they’re fitness junkies, or like knowing the UV at a glance because they’re as pale as a ghost and burn easily (that might just be me), the noise meter that tells them if the volume of an area is bad for their health, etc. But the one feature that is universally loved, and is certainly the most used on my watch, is pinging your iPhone when you’ve put it down somewhere and can’t find it. On the older Apple Watches, it would make your phone emit a little sound to help you find it. Now, with the new Precision Finding for iPhone feature, your phone will make a sound, and the watch will display in which direction you should look and how many metres away you are. It’s like a high-tech game of warmer-colder, and I am delighted.

Double Tap Gestures

Out of all the physical updates, it’s the double tap gesture that’s made the most difference for me. You can now tap together two fingers on the hand that’s wearing the watch in a kind of pinching motion (without touching the watch) to respond to notifications or to scroll through your open apps on your watch. It’s great for when your alarm goes off and you’re sleeping on your stomach, because then you don’t have to manipulate your other arm around to snooze the alarm. I’ve also really appreciated it when I’ve gotten a phone call while carrying shopping, or riding my bike and didn’t have a spare hand. Unlike the Action Button on the new iPhone 15 Pro, it’s easy to see how this would immediately change how you interact with your watch and reduce friction.

WatchOS 10

The best thing about the Apple Watch Series 9 is WatchOS 10. It’s a massive update that’s released to most models of Apple Watch (Series 4 and newer), and drastically improves a lot of things. My favourite is, of course, the new cycling workout features, which have really improved how I handle my training rides. But there are also medication reminders, logging your emotions at key times throughout the day, measuring how much time you spend in sunlight, finding hiking trails in the Map app (in some areas), and ping your Apple Watch from your iPhone (turning the tables a bit). It’s a really substantive update and well worth checking out.

Who is the Apple Watch Series 9 for?

The Apple Watch is still the best smartwatch around, though the gap between Apple and its competitors is shrinking with each passing year. The Series 9 is for iPhone users who want a great smartwatch. Hikers, endurance runners, and divers would be best served by the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (which is an incredible watch), but everyone else is more suited to the Series 9.

Apple Watch Series 9 [GPS 45-mm] Smartwatch with Aluminum Case with Midnight Sport Band M/L
  • WHY APPLE WATCH SERIES 9—Your essential companion for a healthy life is now even more powerful. The S9 chip enables a superbright display and a magical new way to quickly and easily interact with your Apple Watch without touching the screen. Advanced health, safety, and activity features provide powerful insights and help when you need it. And redesigned apps in watchOS give you more information at a glance.
  • CARBON NEUTRAL—Pair an aluminum Apple Watch Series 9 with a Starlight, Midnight, Winter Blue, or Light Pink Sport Loop for a carbon-neutral combination. Learn more about Apple’s commitment to the environment at apple.com/2030.
  • ADVANCED HEALTH FEATURES—Keep an eye on your blood oxygen. Take an ECG anytime. Get notifications if you have an irregular heart rhythm. See how much time you spent in REM, Core, or Deep sleep with sleep stages. Temperature sensing provides insights into overall well-being and cycle tracking. And take note of your state of mind to help build emotional awareness and resilience.

For existing Apple Watch owners, it’s perhaps worth upgrading from the Series 5 or 6, but any newer than that and I’d hold out a bit longer for a more substantial upgrade. People with a Series 3 or older watch should consider upgrading now, as those watches aren’t compatible with WatchOS 10.

But, put simply, the Apple Watch Series 9 is a fantastic smartwatch, and if you have an iPhone, and don’t already have a recent watch, then this is the one to buy.

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Apple Watch Series 9
The Apple Watch Series 9 is a fantastic smartwatch, and if you have an iPhone, and don’t already have a recent watch, then this is the one to buy.
Features
9
Value for money
8
Performance
9
Ease of use
9.5
Design
9.5
Positives
The best smartwatch on the market
The double tap gesture is easy and effective
Precision finding is super useful
Negatives
The battery still doesn’t last more than one day
The upgrade isn’t particularly significant over last year’s watch
9