Early Apple Watch Series 9 review roundup: New chip brings new tricks

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Apple Watch Series 9 on Wrist
Just because the outer design of Apple Watch Series 9 hasn't changed doesn't mean there aren't new features.
Screenshot: Apple

Early reviews of Apple Watch Series 9 praise its new processor that gives the wearable a nifty Double Tap gesture and improves Siri, too. The brighter display also draws kudos from reviewers.

The 2023 version can be preordered now, and starts reaching customers on Friday.

Apple Watch Series 9 is (mostly) about the S9 SiP

In addition to taking the wraps off the iPhone 15 series, Apple’s recent Wonderlust event featured
the debut of Apple Watch Series 9.

The standout feature is a faster S9 chip, the first substantial processor upgrade in three years. But a brighter screen is also a noticeable upgrade. And there’s an improved Ultra Wideband chip.

Aside from these, however, Series 9 is very similar to its predecessor. There are no new sensors, for instance.

New chip improves Double Tap

Double Tap is a highlight of Apple Watch Series 9
You only need one hand free to use Double Tap.
Screenshot: Apple

The Apple S9 processor offers a jump up in performance, but don’t expect to notice unless you’re using a very old Apple Watch.

“Minute improvements in performance are hard for the average person to see,” is how The Verge review puts it.

But don’t discount the S9. It’s required for Double Tap, a new feature that has the potential to truly improve the way we interact with Apple Watch. Just tap your watch hand’s thumb and index finger together twice.

“Double Tap takes some getting used to, and it’s not compelling enough on its own to justify buying the Series 9. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find myself using it to dismiss a notification and easily navigate back to my watch face here and there,” said the Cnet review.

“You’ll need to at least have your thumb and index finger available to pinch. But when I’m cleaning my apartment, holding a side plank, raising a single dumbbell or reading a book, the gesture does make my life easier,” said Engadget.

“Double Tap is baked into the Series 9’s user interface across the board, and its chip enables the watch to support this feature all day without impacting battery life,” notes Cnet.

And on-device Siri, too

Double Tap isn’t the only enhancement resulting by the S9.

“The improved Neural Engine on the S9 SiP means Siri processing happens on device,” says The Verge. “You can issue Siri basic tasks when you have no internet or cellular connectivity.”

And Engadget said, “The ability to still ask Siri for help when offline or disconnected from my iPhone, for example, was a surprisingly simple upgrade. I left my paired iPhone 15 Pro at home when I went to the gym, and was relieved when I could still tell the assistant to record an outdoor walk when I made my way home (since my hands were full, as usual).”

Plus a brighter screen

A new processor isn’t everything. The maximum brightness on Apple Watch Series 9 doubled from 1,000 nits to 2,000 nits.

“Indoors and outdoors, it’s difficult to tell the difference if you don’t have older models on hand for comparison,” said The Verge. “And even if you do, as I did, it can still be difficult to tell under certain lighting conditions.”

In short, you need to regularly use the wearable outside to fully appreciate the change.

Don’t overlook Ultra Wideband improvements

Plus there’s other new silicon in Series 9, a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip. This enables one Apple device to find another with more precision than before.

As Engadget notes, “With the Series 9 paired to another device with the new UWB chip, not only can you also see exactly how many feet you are from your misplaced device, you can also see what direction it’s in.

Apple Watch Series 9: Should you upgrade?

Engadget is very positive on Apple’s new model. “The Series 9 is a capable, well-rounded smartwatch that remains the best in the category. Double Tap and on-device Siri alone may be reasons enough to trade in your older Apple Watch (yes, even the Series 8), especially if you hate having to swipe or tap a tiny screen on your wrist.

But Cnet says whether Apple’s latest smartwatch is a worthy upgrade depends on which model you own. “The Series 9 feels like a minor upgrade over the Series 8. Coming from an older watch like the Series 6, you’ll have plenty to gain. In addition to what’s new on this year’s model, you benefit from a larger screen with a keyboard, a temperature sensor and noticeably faster performance compared to a three-year-old watch.”

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