Apple Watch Series 9 review: Time for a change?

Apple Watch Series 9 review

Apple Watch Series 9 review (Image: APPLE)

We remain huge fans of the Apple Watch and these devices still come highly recommend

What we love

  • Fast and fluid thanks to S9
  • Brighter display 
  • Great health features
  • Double Tap is nice addition

What we don’t

  • No design change this year
  • Does need charging every day
  • No Action Button

If you were hoping 2023 would be the year when Apple pulled a totally refreshed Apple Watch out of the bag, you’re going to be a little disappointed. The new Series 9 hasn’t been taken to the workshop for a new look – in fact, it still looks almost identical to every Apple Watch released in the last eight years.

When every other device in Apple’s line-up, such as the stunning iPhone 15 Pro Max, has been treated to a sleek new look, the curvy Apple Watch design is starting to look like the odd one out (and a little outdated). There aren’t even any new colours this time around to freshen things up.

Thankfully, aside from sporting last season’s style, this wearable remains one of the very best smartwatches on the planet. And still packs features that rivals can’t come close to matching.

For the Series 9, the biggest upgrades are the brighter touchscreen and faster S9 SiP (system-in-a-package, essentially, the chipset) under its Aluminum and Stainless Steel body.

This Apple-designed chip, which also appears inside the more expensive Watch Ultra, is supremely fast and makes the whole device extra enjoyable to use. Animations feel smoother and with apps and menus launched without a hint of a stutter.

It’s also allowed Apple to introduce a function called Double Tap, which lets you interact with the display without physically touching it. You simply tap your thumb and index finger together to answer calls, snooze alarms and even launch the new Smart Stacks function. It’s pretty useful for those times when your hands are full and a call suddenly comes in.

it’s coming soon in a software update but has put it through its paces via a beta test and it’s definitely a feature you’ll use once released.

Another helpful addition is on device Siri which means you can speak to the assistant and get useful responses without needing your iPhone nearby. It works really well and we’ve used it way more than we thought we would.

Finally, Apple has made a big claim that will surely please the likes of Greta Thunburg. The new Series 9 is now more eco-friendly with Apple promising this is its first fully carbon-neutral gadget.

We remain huge fans of the Apple Watch and these devices still come highly recommend. Just have a quick shop around as, with Black Friday around the corner, you may find the equally capable (and similarly-styled) Apple Watch Series 8 or Series 7 at a much lower price.

Apple Watch Series 9: Full review

We’ve had an Apple Watch strapped to our wrist ever since the first model was unveiled all the way back in 2015 and it remains our go-to wearable. Every year it’s received updates that have refined the experience, made things faster, brighter and more intelligent with this device even now able to check your heart rate and alert friends if you’ve taken a tumble.

It’s clever stuff, but has Apple now reached the summit of what it can do with the Apple Watch and does the new Series 9 offer enough to warrant an upgrade? has been checking it out and here is our full Apple Watch Series 9 review.

Apple Watch Series 9 review

The new display is now brighter than before (Image: APPLE)

Design and display

Place the new Apple Watch Series 9 next to its predecessors and you’ll quickly see that nothing has changed. This latest model keeps its soft curved edges, Digital Crown, and a single button for launching menus, Control Centre, and contactless debit and credit cards.

We’ve been calling out for a design refresh for a number of years, but Apple clearly thinks this is still the best styling for its most popular wearable. Given that every other gadget in the Apple Store, from the iPad to the iMac, now enjoy a sleek, boxier design… the latest Apple Watch is starting to look a little out of place with everything else from Apple’s design team.

Yes, it’s a shame there are no chiselled edges to match the latest iPhones or useful Action Button (a feature reserved for the Watch Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro) but the Watch 9 remains extremely comfortable to wear.

As a quick reminder, the Apple Watch Series 9 comes in two sizes (41mm and 45mm) with both including that OLED Always-On Retina display. There are also a number of colour options including Pink, Starlight and (Product) RED.

There is the addition of a brighter always-on screen

Like every other Apple Watch, the latest model can be easily transformed to suit your style for the day thanks to interchangeable straps, which are secured with a simple press of a button. This has always been a great feature of the Apple Watch and means you can add a sports strap for a workout and switch things to something a little more classy for dinner. Just be warned that these straps can be pretty pricey if you buy directly from Apple’s own store so shop around as there are plenty of third-party accessories now available at a more wallet-friendly cost.

Of course, every generation of Apple Watch bands will work with the latest Series 9, so you’ll be able to use your existing collection with the new smartwatch.

Although the style hasn’t changed, there is the addition of a brighter always-on screen. It pushes up to 2000 nits, which is 1000 nits better than before and certainly helps when trying to tell the time in the midday sun.

It’s not as bright as the new Watch Ultra display (3000 nits) but this is still a very nice upgrade that improves the usability of the device.

Apple Watch Series 9 review

Apple has kept the styling the same again this year (Image: APPLE)

S9 performance and battery life

Apple has added some extra grunt this year, thanks to a new S9 SiP (system-in-a-package) processor tucked inside the casing. It’s faster than before and you really notice the difference when whizzing through menus, launching apps and starting your daily workouts.

Everything feels silky smooth and totally stutter-free – not that the Series 8 was any sort of slouch but the S9 takes performance up to 11.

It’s worth remembering that this is the very same brain Apple has placed in its more premium Watch Ultra which means Series 9 users get identical power to those splashing out £799 on that impressive Ultra version.

This chip is also more efficient so despite the brighter screen and added features you still get a pretty decent battery life. We’ve easily been able to get through a day and night and still have power left in the tank.

Like previous models, there’s fast charging which gets you from 0 to 80 percent in about 45 minutes although this function only works with the supplied lead and more powerful plug. Apple states you’ll need at least an 18W adapter to use this feature.

If you want a smartwatch that lasts weeks on end, the Series 9 won’t be for you but as long as you are happy to charge it up every other day you won’t ever run out of juice.

Apple Watch Series 9 review

The S9 chip inside the Apple Watch makes it super powerful (Image: APPLE)

Apple Watch Series 9 review

Despite no design changes the Watch remains supremely comfortable to wear (Image: APPLE)

Bonus features

Along with some extra oomph, another bonus of that S9 processor is that it brings a new Double Tap gesture to the device. This basically allows you to tap your thumb and index finger together to interact with the screen without physically touching it.

So, you can now answer calls, stop timers, play music, change the Flashlight brightness and launch the Smart Stack function without needing your other hand – that’s pretty useful when out walking the dog or if you’ve just stepped out of Starbucks and have a Frappuccino in your hand.

It’s coming in a software update soon, but has had an early preview and it works really well. In fact, the whole thing becomes pretty natural after just a few hours of having it enabled.

Next, there’s a nice update to Siri with the Watch Ultra able to respond without needing a connection to an iPhone. Thanks to a more powerful Neural Engine, Siri requests are now processed right on the watch itself. This makes starting timers or asking for information about workouts and heart rate much faster and more fluid.

Those with the Series 9 get the bonus of Precision Finding which points you in the right direction of your lost smartphone

If you like dictating messages rather than bashing things out on the mini keyboard this is also now more accurate so you’ll get fewer typos when responding to friends and family.

One feature Apple Watch users will have accessed many times is the Find My iPhone function. Until now a simple swipe on the Watch instantly sets off a loud alarm on the phone to help track it down.

Those with the Series 9 now get the bonus of Precision Finding which actually points you in the right direction of your smartphone via arrows – a distance is also shown on the screen so you know exactly how far away you are from it. The alarm was already very good but mislaying your iPhone should now be pretty much impossible.

Finally, anyone with a HomePod will also see music suggestions pop up on the Watch when they get close to their smart speakers which helps get to their favourite playlists playing faster. It’s a pretty niche function but it certainly gets the music started faster.

Apple Watch Series 9 review

The new Double Tap feature lets you interact with the screen without touching it (Image: APPLE )

Health, fitness and safety

The Apple Watch continues to offer impressive health and fitness features and it’s honestly a great device if you’re trying to improve your activity levels or stay fit.

It will track your daily runs, walks, bike rides, swims and even tell you when you’ve been idle for too long.

A temperature sensor helps woman track their monthly cycles plus there’s full heart and blood oxygen monitoring. You can even take an ECG from your wrist with the watch able to reveal abnormalities such as irregular heart rhythms.

Other useful functions include Fall Detection which knows if you’ve taken a tumble and rings for help – something we’ve unfortunately discovered works well after a trip down the stairs.

There’s also Crash Detection and Emergency SOS which could also genuinely save your life should the worst happen.

Perhaps the only health function we don’t get a lot of use out of is Sleep Tracking. Firstly, you have to wear the device all night and the data you get in return simply reveals how well-rested you are – something you’re probably aware of if you’ve been constantly woken up through the night.

Apple Watch Series 9 review

Apple Watch Series 9 review (Image: APPLE)


The Apple Watch Series 9 starts from £399 which feels like pretty good value considering what this device does.

That’s for the smaller 41mm model with an aluminium and no cellular connection.

Things steadily increase from there, and you can quickly end up with a bill of close to £1,000 if you’re looking for the stainless steel finish, posh metal straps, and 4G connectivity so you can leave your iPhone at home and continue to make and receive phone calls.

Of course, it’s up to you how much you decide to spend – our only advice would be not to opt for the cellular model unless you think you really need to make calls and access the web without needing your iPhone nearby. It’s a nice but pretty niche feature and you will have to pay your mobile network around £5 per month to keep it active.

Apple Watch Series 9 review

The Apple Watch Series 9 is still top dog (Image: APPLE)

Apple Watch Series 9: Final verdict

We’re still massive Apple Watch addicts and this remains our go-to wearable. Despite no major design changes for the eighth consecutive year, the Apple Watch still looks pretty good. Under the bonnet, it has more power than ever before – thanks to the S9 SiP – and a brighter screen for hassle-free outdoor viewing.

The new Double Tap and on-device Siri features are useful additions that you’ll definitely rely on, and Apple continues to offer impressive health and fitness functionality that can genuinely change your life. Unlike the latest additions from Google and Fitbit, none of the insights into your health and wellbeing are locked behind a subscription fee – everything is available to browse in the Health app, or import into your favourite fitness app. Equally, you don’t have to rely on Apple’s own Fitness services, with third-party options like Strava available directly from the App Store built into the Watch itself.

We’d have loved a new look in 2023 that’s more in keeping with the design language seen on the latest iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. It really is time Apple refreshed the appearance of this smartwatch.

This latest model is still the top dog that comes highly recommended.

You’ll still need to pack a charger when heading away for the weekend and it can get very expensive if you start adding a stainless steel finish and fancy straps to your shopping basket.

There’s also the Series 7 and Series 8 which can be found in UK stores if you hunt around. These remain great wearables and will set you back a lot less than a Series 9. Apple still actively supports both models, so you’ll be able to enjoy the latest watchOS features including the adorable Snoopy watch face, redesigned Fitness app, and clever Smart Stack shortcuts available with a quick whirl of the Digital Crown.

That said, if you want a new Watch from Apple – and don’t fancy the giant Ultra on your wrist – this latest model is still the top dog that comes highly recommended.


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