Apple Watch Series 9 hands-on: pre-orders, price, specs

Today was Apple Christmas, where Tim Cook (aka corporate St. Nick) announced the new Apple Watch line. As with last year, the new Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are nice, but hardly offer earth-shattering upgrades. But good news: Pricing remains the same for all the new watches

The two new watch models rely on a new, boosted S9 chip for a couple of interesting new features like gesture controls, faster Siri and brighter screens. Here’s what you need to know about the latest watches and where you can preorder them right now.

How to preorder the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2

The Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 are available for preorder on the Apple Store right now. The Series 9 and Ultra 2 starting prices haven’t changed: $399 for the Series 9 with GPS, $499 for the Series 9 GPS and cellular and $799 for the Ultra 2. Both begin shipping on Sept. 22.

The Apple Watch lineup gets its first big chip upgrade since the Series 6, and with it come some new features. The biggest (and coolest) one is called double tap, which monitors your wrist movements and blood flow to determine when you tap your thumb and forefinger together twice. This will then cause the watch to trigger its primary action with whatever app is on the screen. It’s a neat trick, and it owes a lot to the Vision Pro headset due to be released early next year. You can control the watch with just one hand, which is handy if you’re got your hands full, to stop a timer, play or pause music, snooze an alarm or answer a phone call.

The new chip also allows for on-device processing of Siri commands. That means most mundane commands you ask of Siri will not need Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity. This also increases privacy, allowing health- and fitness-related queries to be handled from the watch, thus allowing the watch to log health data like your weight, your period or medications.

The watches also come with a much brighter display. The Series 9 has a maximum brightness of 2,000 nits – double the brightness of the Series 8 — while the Ultra 2 maxes out at 3,000 nits, some 50% brighter than the previous model.

A new Ultra Wideband chip enables precision finding alongside the iPhone 15 line, which will lead you directly to a lost iPhone, and a deeper integration with Apple’s Homepods.


Apple Watch Ultra 2

The Ultra 2 comes with many of the same upgrades as the Series 9, including the S9 and Ultra Wideband chips, and throws in a custom watch face called Modular Ultra that looks relatively neat, but let’s face it: It’s a digital watch face.

The dive functions of the watch get a minor boost, with the built-in Depth app now storing a log of each dive in the Fitness app on your iPhone. It’s unclear if this data will be accessible to other dive log apps, since the Oceanic driving app is a black box for your dive data. Let’s hope so, as many scuba divers have their own dive log solutions and don’t want to be locked into a subscription service like Oceanic+.

The Series 9 watches come in five colors — Starlight, Midnight, silver, Product Red and pink — in 41mm and 45mm sizes. You can also choose from gold, silver and graphite bodies.

No one can accuse Apple of thinking small. As part of Apple 2030, Apple’s attempt to reach net carbon-zero emission by that year, sustainability was a huge focus of this year’s presentation. The company announced that its watches would now use reused cobalt in the battery and recycled materials in the cases. Even the bands got an eco-friendly makeover after Apple said it would no longer use leather in any of its products. (So long, leather watch bands…) Instead, Apple will use something it calls “FineWoven,” a suede-like fabric consisting of 68% recycled material. Its Sports Loop bands are moving to 82% recycled yarn, including material from recycled fishing nets.

This all adds up to carbon-neutral options for both watches. At the store, you’ll be presented with a little icon indicating that your choices of bands, cases and watch models are eco-friendly. For instance, the Series 9 aluminum case paired with a Sports Loop band is marked as carbon neutral, while the stainless steel Series 9 isn’t. All the Apple bands designed for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 are carbon neutral except the Ocean band, which is made from a rubbery plastic.

Display Always on, up to 2,000 nits
Battery life Up to 18 hours, or 36 hours in low-power mode
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Cellular (optional)
Colors Pink, Midnight (black), Starlight (gold), silver, and Product Red
Size 41mm
Price 41mm: $399 with GPS, $499 with GPS and cellular
45mm: $429 with GPS, $529 with GPS and cellular
Display Always on, up to 2,000 nits
Battery life Up to 18 hours, or 36 hours in low-power mode
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Cellular (optional)
Colors Gold, silver, graphite
Size 41mm
Price 41mm: $699 with GPS and cellular
45mm: $749 with GPS and cellular
Display Always on, up to 3,000 nits
Battery life Up to 36 hours, or 72 hours in low-power mode
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, precision dual-frequency GPS, Cellular
Colors Silver titanium
Size 49mm
Price $799

Apple has stuck to its iterative approach to improvements for 2023. While these new watches are certainly the best that Apple has ever made, that’s true every year. If you have a recent Apple Watch, like the Series 8 or Ultra, I’m not sure these are compelling upgrades, despite some of the new features like double tap available only on the most recent models. But owners of the Apple Watch Series 7 might want to give either of these new watches a look.


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