Update 12 September 2023: We have updated this guide with the latest information from the Apple Watch Series 9 launch. Read our full Apple Watch Series 9 review
The Apple Watch Series 9 has been officially unveiled, and while it's a minor physical update, there are plenty of new features that keep it streets ahead.
Apple has added the all-new S9 chip, which has a new neural core that takes control of new features and gestures, which could be a game-changer for the Apple Watch – and smartwatches in general.
There's an important piece here too, that the aluminum Series 9 is now the first Apple range to be carbon neutral.
Read on for the key takeaways of the Apple Watch Series 9.
Price and release date
All the new Apple Watch models are available to pre-order now.
The Series 9 starts at $399/£399, and there's a new pink aluminum colorway, which joins the standard starlight, midnight, silver, and (PRODUCT)RED. There are also three stainless steel options.
It will start shipping on 22 September.
And watchOS 10 will be available for Apple Watch Series 4 and later on Monday, September 18.
Design and screen
We know you all love shiny new hardware, so there is one physical change of note: the Apple Watch Series 9 display now kicks out 2,000 nits, double that of the Series 8.
It's the same as the Apple Watch Ultra which has a fantastic display – but not to be outdone, the Ultra 2 has been boosted to 3,000 nits.
Elsewhere, everything else is the same.
The Series 9 still comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes – and in starlight, midnight, silver, (PRODUCT)RED, and a new pink aluminium case, as well as stainless steel in gold, silver, and graphite cases.
Battery life is also unchanged for the 9th year running. It will last 18 hours officially by Apple, but under testing, we've never achieved less than about 30 hours. However, whichever way you cut it, it's still a single day.
The S9 chip and the Neural Engine
The biggest hardware change to the Series 9 is the new S9 chip – which is also at the heart of the Apple Watch Ultra 2.
The key change is the addition of a four-core Neural Engine, which is designed to handle machine learning tasks, twice as fast as the Series 8.
OK, that might sound pretty technical – but it yields two new features that are exclusive to the new generation of smartwatches.
The double-tap gesture
Apple has introduced a new double-tap gesture, which takes control of the main button control of every app and feature.
Users tap their thumb and forefinger together twice to do anything from taking/canceling calls, dismissing timers, or pausing workouts.
It will also enable the SmartStack in watchOS 10, and you can keep double-tapping to cycle through suggested apps.
It’s clever tech that involves using machine learning on the Neural Engine to analyze heart rate, blood flow, and gyroscope data to detect the gesture.
Wearables have flirted with gesture control for many years, and have made an appearance as accessibility tools – but the simple nature of the double tap gesture could make this a watershed moment of gesture control coming to the mainstream.
Apple seems pretty confident that double-tapping will catch on. If it manages the feat, we could see a new era of wearable control, and we can see every rival quickly trying to play catch up.
The double-tap gesture control feature will land in October, so it will be a few weeks after the initial launch of the Series 9.
The neural engine is also tasked with taking many Siri commands out of the cloud, and there’s a huge boost in the responsiveness of tasks.
Before, starting a simple timer would see your request be heard by Siri (maybe) and then it would go up to the cloud to be understood, and back down to be actioned. And that process wasn't exactly fast.
The Neural Engine means that those types of queries can now be handled on the Watch – which is a huge boost for speed.
And Apple says Siri dictation is now 25% more accurate on Series 9 – which frankly – is much needed.
The presence of on-watch processing is also a boost for privacy, and that has meant that Apple has ramped up the integration of Siri and Health.
You can now ask Siri for health-related information (e.g. 'how did I sleep last night?') and you can also log things like medications or period symptoms. If adopted, this could make logging of symptoms easier, and thus boost the usefulness of Apple Health in general.
Ultra Wideband features
Apple has also added ultra-wideband capabilities to the Apple Watch Series 9 via the S9 chip.
That means you can use the precise finding of your iPhone or AirPods, using the Find My App.
We've been using this feature for a while to locate our AirPods Pro 2 using iPhone, and it's absolutely brilliant. The Find My app on Apple Watch Series 9 will navigate you step by step to your iPhone, even down to a couple of feet away, vibrating as you get closer.
It will also enable the Apple Watch to detect your HomePod when close by, and you can quickly start playing suggested playlists from the wrist, and control via Now Playing.
Carbon neutral options
Green credentials were a big part of the Apple keynote and select Apple Watch combos are now carbon neutral.
Any aluminum Apple Watch Series 9 with a new Sport Loop band is carbon neutral.
This is undoubtedly the smallest update we've had to the Apple Watch in the nine years of annual releases.
It speaks to the strength of the Apple Watch that there are so few wholesale changes to make – and this update just keeps the line-up fresh.
A few years ago the addition of Fall Detection and the improved sensors required seemed like a small addition, but fast-forward those algorithms and sensors are now a big part of the Apple Watch – and woven through health, fitness, and now gesture tracking.
So the addition of the Neural Engine may not seem groundbreaking now – but the gesture control and Siri benefits it offers will likely be realized over future generations of the Apple Watch.
If Apple can get us to use gestures naturally (and we feel that Apple is the only company that could actually achieve that) it would be a game-changer for wearables.
As it is the Series 9 is the best version, of the best smartwatch. Even if it's not dramatically different from the Series 8.
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