Review, Smartwatch, Wearable

Apple Watch Series 9 Review: Minor, But Welcome Improvements

The Apple Watch Series 9, at a glance, isn’t particularly different from last year’s Series 8. But under the hood, the Series 9 features some noteworthy (albeit minor) upgrades, such as a new S9 SiP chip that enables the double tap gesture and a more refined Siri experience. Of course, there’s also the brighter display.

These upgrades, complemented by the fact that the Apple Watch Series 9 is touted as Apple’s first carbon-neutral product, certainly make this the best iteration of Apple’s smartwatch yet. If you’re planning to upgrade from an older Apple Watch, the Series 9 is definitely worth considering.

What It Is

As mentioned, there are no design changes between the Apple Watch Series 9 and its predecessor; they are basically identical to each other. But this is only on the surface, as the Series 9’s OLED display now has a peak brightness of 2,000 nits, which is doubled from the Series 8.

And then there’s the new double tap gesture, which is offered by both the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2. Basically, the gesture allows me to control the primary button in any given app with just a double tap of the index finger and thumb.

Oh, the Series 9 is also equipped with an upgraded UWB chip for the (very useful) Precision Finding feature; more on this later.

As for pricing, the Apple Watch Series 9 continues to retail from RM1,899, but this is for the smaller 41mm model. The larger 45mm model in this review, however, now starts at RM2,049. This is exactly RM50 more than the starting price of the 45mm Series 8, though you do get more smartwatch for the money.

The Good Stuff

Let’s start with the double tap gesture of the Apple Watch Series 9. Truth be told, I was sceptical of the feature at first. But after using it for a couple of weeks, I’m pleasantly surprised by how useful it is. When I receive a notification, for example, I can just double tap to read through the rest of the notification, and even craft a reply with Siri’s dictation.

Speaking of which, Siri certainly feels more refined on the Series 9, which can be attributed to the S9 SiP chip. The new chip allows for onboard Siri processing and 25% better dictation, and as far as I can tell, Siri does feel more responsive compared to my experience with the virtual assistant on the Series 8.

Though I don’t use it particularly often, Precision Finding is now offered with the Series 9. If you ever lose track of your iPhone 15 – unfortunately, it doesn’t work with older iPhones – bring up the Control Panel, ring your phone, and it will show you the distance between your Apple Watch and the paired iPhone. Basically, it’s great for folks who often have trouble finding their phones.

Of course, there’s also the brighter LTPO OLED display of the Series 9. Even though its 2,000 peak brightness is doubled from that of the Series 8’s screen, I…honestly can’t tell the difference. Plus, I never had any issue with the brightness level of the Series 8, but a brighter screen is always a good thing in my books.

Despite all of these improvements, I’m happy to say that the Series 9 can still deliver the same battery life as its predecessor. On average, with the always-on display and sleep tracking enabled, I can easily get through a typical day with the smartwatch. I can even stretch it to one and a half day of use on certain occasions.

The Bad Stuff

While the Apple Watch Series 9’s double tap feature works seamlessly most of the time, there are some instance where I accidentally activate it. When I am driving while listening to some tunes, for example, the watch seems to think that I am doing the gesture as I’m driving, pausing my playback. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often.

As much as I enjoy all the new features brought by the Series 9, these improvements are still relatively minor. If you’ve got a more recent Apple Watch, such as the Series 8, it may not be worth upgrading to the Series 9. Well, unless you absolutely need the practicality of the double tap gesture.

Is It Worth It?

In a vacuum, the Apple Watch Series 9 is absolutely worth it. The double tap gesture is handy, Siri is more responsive, the Precision Finding feature is especially useful for folks who lose track of their phones often, and the display’s 2,000 nits peak brightness is great for outdoor visibility.

But, again, if you’re already an owner of a relatively recent Apple Watch, the new features you’re getting with the Series 9 may not warrant an upgrade. Of course, this is really down to personal preference, and it’s a different question altogether if you’ve got an older Apple Watch.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying that the Apple Watch Series 9 is the best smartwatch to pair with your iPhone, thanks to iOS’ tight integration. Unless you need a specialised smartwatch of sorts for a particular use case scenario, you really can’t go wrong with the Series 9.

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