Apple Watch Series 9 review: Double-tap your way through a brighter view

Apple Watch Series 9 review: Double-tap your way through a brighter view
The Apple Watch has become a staple for Apple users, being the equally high-tech partner of the iPhone.

Apple Watch Series 9 is the newest release, introduced alongside the iPhone 15 line-up last month. It has a few new tricks – including one that makes you tap in a different way – which we'll explore.

Apple's first carbon-neutral product
We will be remiss not to mention this first: Series 9 is Apple's first carbon-neutral product. This was made possible by "significantly" reducing emissions in the products' three key pillars – manufacturing, electricity and transportation.

And it's an all-around carbon-neutral offering, since the new bands, loops and packaging are also carbon-neutral. This puts the company well on its way to achieve its Apple 2030 plan, which is to make all of its products carbon-neutral by that year.

Series 8 and Series 9: What's the difference?
Design-wise, nothing has changed on Series 9 compared to its predecessor. In terms of build, you'll still be able to choose from 41mm or 45mm in aluminium or stainless steel casing. Colour options remain the same, with pink added to the aluminium line-up.

There were rumours, in correlation to the iPhone 15 Pros, that a titanium option was to be added; that didn't come into fruition, but that could've made a nice tandem. (If you want a titanium Apple Watch, go for the premium Ultra 2.) There has also been talk for a while now that Apple was planning to redesign its Watch to make it consistent with the flat edges and curved corners of the present iPhone generation. That would've been great, but maybe Apple is saving that for next year?

Display: Brightness twice as nice
The brightness of Series 9's display now maxes out at 2,000 nits, which is twice as bright as Series 8. That makes it as bright as the iPhone 15 Pros' peak outdoor brightness, but still behind the Ultra 2's 3,000. In a place like the Middle East where the sun is so abundant, that's a big plus.

Other than that, everything else has technically remained the same. However, you still get the benefit of those ultra-slim bezels that maximise the digital real estate on your wrist.

Double tap and more with watchOS 10
Apple's watchOS 10 brings what the company says is the biggest update since the digital timepiece was introduced, with redesigned interface and apps, and, of course more watch faces to choose from.

Apple designed watchOS 10 in such a way that all apps make full use – literally and technically – of the display, so users "can see and do more, faster than ever". To put it simply, Apple is cramming in more utilities into each app to maximise that tiny screen on your wrist.

One of the new features is Smart Stack. As its name implies, this lets you scroll through your widgets that are stacked on top of each other. To trigger this, press the digital crown and scroll away.

You can customise your stack by tapping and holding the screen to enter edit mode, after which you can add or remove complications.

Apple has also ramped up its gestures – they were first introduced two years ago on watchOS 8 – with the new Double Tap feature.

By simply double-tapping your thumb and index finger, you can trigger actions for specific situations, including answering and ending calls, playing and pausing music, stopping a timer or even replying to a message.

We found Double Tap to be very handy – eliminates the need for extra taps or swipes that you'd normally do – and pretty accurate as well. Apple says this is the result of the new S9 chip, which adds more power into Series 9.

And if you're a fan of the classic Mickey Mouse watch face, then you most probably would adore the new Snoopy collection, which is really cute.

Health benefits
Apple's cast of health metrics characters continue to be on full display (pun intended) on Series 9 – blood oxygen, ECG, a third-generation optical heart sensor, high and low heart rate notifications, irregular rhythm notifications, sleep stages, temperature sensing and menstrual cycle tracking.

Let's certainly not forget emergency features, including Emergency SOS, international emergency calling, crash detection and fall detection.

These offerings continue to be industry-leading features. There are no significant upgrades this time, but the more powerful S9 chip makes them snappier and, more importantly, logs a user's health data privately and securely.

How long does the battery last?
Battery life on Series 9 is still listed at par with its predecessor – up to 18 hours on normal, regular use, and up to 36 hours on low power. While Apple believes this – the former, specifically – is the ideal setup given that you'd be charging your Watch at night, we certainly won't mind if its normal use can be bumped up to a couple of days (we know it can be done).

Low-power mode disables certain functions such as always-on display and other background stuff. You also have the option to keep the mode on for one, two or three days.

We had similar results compared to Series 8 – a good day-and-a-half on normal use that can stretch for a few more hours on somewhat limited use – and that's despite having twice the brightness as last year's iteration.

You're also good to go after an hour's worth of charging: our unit climbed up to 78 per cent while hooked on its new, woven power noodle, which isn't that far behind the 82 per cent Series 8 logged.

The verdict
Apple Watch Series 9 is, pound-for-pound, a token upgrade from the 2022 version. You may not readily see or feel it, but its biggest bump-up is within, having a more powerful processor that can crunch data faster.

The device is, by all accounts, physically indistinguishable from its last two iterations. The question of whether to upgrade or not is then an interesting one: our recommendation here is if your Apple Watch is old – and we mean Series 3 old – then seriously consider it, since watchOS 10 support starts on Series 4.

But this comes on the backdrop of the looming release of the 10th-generation Apple Watch in 2024. That being said, in relation to what we mentioned above regarding its design, we do hope and expect that next year's version will have significant aesthetic and feature boosts, maybe even inheriting some of those found in the Ultra.

And we're calling it now: just like how we predicted the iPhone X, it'll be called Apple Watch X (or Series X). 
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