Apple Watch Series 9 Review: A Deeper Look at the Latest Iteration

The Apple Watch Series 9, while not a radical departure in design, impresses with its brighter screen and new Apple S9 chip. On-device Siri and eco-friendly initiatives make it a compelling choice for Apple enthusiasts. However, it retains the need for daily charging, a drawback compared to the Apple Watch Ultra.

In the ever-evolving landscape of wearable technology, the Apple Watch has emerged as a prominent player, setting the bar high for what a smartwatch should be. Over the years, Apple has continued to refine its smartwatch offerings, culminating in the release of the Apple Watch Series 9. In this comprehensive review, we delve deep into the Series 9, examining its design, performance, new features, and its place in the ever-expanding Apple Watch lineup.

Design: Staying True to Form

The Apple Watch Series 9 doesn't attempt a radical redesign, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Apple has adhered to its iconic "squircle" dome design for almost a decade, and it's a design that works exceptionally well. While some users might have hoped for a fresh new look, the Series 9 maintains the sleek aesthetic of its predecessors. The build materials remain consistent, with a glass front, ceramic back, and your choice of aluminum or stainless steel casing.

What sets the Series 9 apart in terms of design is its impressive screen brightness. With a maximum brightness of 2,000 nits, double that of the previous generation, the Series 9's display excels even in bright, sunny conditions. I personally experienced this firsthand while wearing the watch in the scorching sun of Thailand; the brighter screen made a noticeable difference.

Other physical aspects of the Series 9, such as dimensions, weight, screen size, and resolution, remain virtually identical to the last few iterations of the Apple Watch. The rotating crown, a hallmark of Apple's smartwatches, retains its dual role of utility and occasional annoyance, as I found during my workouts. Accidental crown presses are not uncommon when engaging in activities like pushups.

Additionally, the sensors on the watch's back panel remain unchanged. In essence, if you've laid eyes on an Apple Watch in recent years, the Series 9 will feel familiar and unassuming from a design perspective.

Under the Hood: The Power of the Apple S9 Chip

The most significant upgrade in the Apple Watch Series 9 lies beneath the surface: the new Apple S9 chip. Unlike its predecessors, which were essentially rebranded versions of the previous chips, the S9 chip is a genuinely new iteration.

Apple's marketing touts the S9 as "faster and more powerful," but this time, there's a tangible and noteworthy improvement: on-device Siri functionality. No longer dependent on an internet connection, the Series 9 can run Siri seamlessly, even in areas with spotty cellular reception. I found this feature particularly useful during my time in Thailand, where cellular connectivity was unreliable. I could summon Siri to perform various tasks, from setting alarms to currency conversion, all without a hitch.

The new chip also boasts improved battery efficiency, but this doesn't translate to extended battery life in real-world usage due to the added power requirements of the brighter screen and enhanced features. You'll still need to charge the Series 9 at least once every 24 hours.

A Greener Approach: Carbon Neutrality in the Mix

Apple has taken an environmentally conscious step with the Series 9, making it the company's first carbon-neutral product when paired with a sports loop band. This eco-friendly shift encompasses various aspects, including transitioning to recycled packaging, crafting the aluminum casing from recycled materials, and utilizing recycled cobalt for the battery. While Apple has indicated that this sustainability approach will extend to its other products, the Series 9 leads the way in this eco-conscious endeavor.

Software Enhancements with watchOS 10

The Apple Watch Series 9 comes equipped with watchOS 10, a software update that will eventually roll out to older Apple Watches. This update brings significant aesthetic changes, introducing colorful system apps with vivid animations. A dedicated page for Apple Watch widgets is easily accessible via a scroll of the digital crown, allowing users to arrange widgets to their liking. This feature enables quick access to information like weather updates or Activity Rings without the need to delve into specific apps.

One standout software addition, made possible by the new S9 chip, is the "Double Tap" feature. While it's not available to the masses until October via a software update, it's a promising innovation. The Series 9 can detect when you rapidly press your thumb and index finger together (with the arm wearing the watch), even though your fingers don't physically touch the watch. This capability is achieved through a blend of machine learning, the optical heart rate sensor, and the gyroscope. During a hands-on experience at an Apple launch event, the feature worked impressively well, and given Apple's reputation for delivering on promises, it's likely to be a reliable addition.

Fitness Tracking: A Consistent Performer

The Series 9 continues Apple's tradition of accurate fitness tracking. Automatic workout tracking, a staple feature of Apple Watches for years, remains reliable. What stands out is the watch's ability to detect when you're walking faster than usual for an extended period, automatically initiating tracking. Furthermore, step counts and stairs climbed measurements maintain their precision, a testament to the device's capabilities in this regard.

As someone who is no longer as physically active as I used to be, I haven't fully tapped into the fitness tracking potential of the Series 9. Nevertheless, the watch's existing features that simplify daily life are still present. The ability to respond to messages from various messaging apps directly on my wrist, using accurate voice dictation or an intelligent keyboard, remains a valuable asset. This convenience aligns with my primary criterion for a smartwatch: reducing the need to constantly check my smartphone. While some competing smartwatches falter in this aspect, the Apple Watch excels, allowing users to accomplish tasks without pulling out their phones.

The Battery Life Conundrum

If there's one aspect of the Series 9 that leaves room for improvement, it's the battery life. This is where the Apple Watch Ultra truly shines, as it offers a more extended battery life, sparing users the daily ritual of recharging their device. While the Series 9 benefits from a more efficient chip, the power-hungry screen and additional features offset any potential gains. Consequently, the need for daily charging persists.

Should You Buy the Apple Watch Series 9?

In conclusion, the Apple Watch Series 9 occupies a somewhat unique position in Apple's product lineup. It may not generate the same level of buzz and excitement as its premium counterpart, the Apple Watch Ultra, but it remains a highly polished and capable device. Its design, while familiar, continues to function effectively. The introduction of the new S9 chip future-proofs the watch, ensuring it remains relevant for years to come.

The Series 9 is an incremental upgrade over its predecessor, the Series 8, with the primary enhancements being the new chip and on-device Siri. While it may not revolutionize the smartwatch industry, these additions enhance the overall experience. The Series 9 is a testament to Apple's commitment to providing a top-tier smartwatch experience.

Ultimately, the choice to purchase the Apple Watch Series 9 depends on your specific needs and preferences. You should consider it if:

You value on-device Siri functionality and the forthcoming Double Tap feature.

You prioritize an environmentally conscious product with carbon-neutral credentials.

You appreciate the reliability and accuracy of Apple's fitness tracking features.

You are deeply integrated into the Apple ecosystem and seek a seamless smartwatch experience.

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