The new generation of Apple Watch, the Series 9, has officially dropped and with it comes a list of updates designed to intrigue Apple fans and lovers of smartwatches alike. As we do every year, we’ve taken the 2023 iteration of the Apple Watch for a spin and are excited to share our thoughts with you all.
Real Life Reviews: Apple Watch Series 9
Before we dive into our experience with the 2023 Series 9 Apple Watch, here are the specs you need to know about.
The below is quite literally every feature Apple has included for the new release smartwatch.
- 45-mm or 41-mm aluminium or stainless steel case size
- Carbon-neutral combinations available
- Always-On Retina display: Up to 2,000 nits
- S9 SiP
- Double tap gesture
- Faster on-device Siri
- Precision Finding for iPhone
- Blood Oxygen app
- ECG app
- High- and low-heart-rate notifications
- Irregular rhythm notifications
- Low-cardio notifications
- Temperature sensing
- Cycle tracking with retrospective ovulation estimates
- Emergency SOS
- International emergency calling
- Fall Detection and Crash Detection
- 50 metres water-resistant, swim-proof
- Available mobile connectivity
- Supports Family Setup (GPS + Cellular models)
- Connect family members who don’t have an iPhone
- Up to 18 hours of normal battery use
- Up to 36 hours in Low Power Mode
- Fast charging
- Colours: Pink, Midnight, Starlight, Silver, (Product) Red, Gold, Graphite
- Price: From $649
Now, onto the experience with this baby.
Whether you’re new to Apple Watch or not, there’s no denying the ease of setting up the device. As we’ve come to expect of Apple devices, getting your watch up and running requires little more than clipping in your chosen band, bringing your watch close to your iPhone (assuming you’re an iPhone user) and following the pop-up prompts. Hover your phone over the animation that will appear on the watch face, and you’ll be guided through the process of syncing the two devices. Alternatively, you can also ‘Pair Manually’.
The watch feels light on the wrist and, depending on your choice of band and how you wear it, is pretty comfortable to wear all day and even to bed (in my experience, at least).
When it comes to shiny new features available with the Apple Watch Series 9, many sit on the WatchOS side of things. However, there are a couple of changes to the build of the smartwatch that I have found pretty noticeably impressive.
First of all, I was lucky enough to be able to review one of the new pink Apple Watches and basic though it may make me sound, the colour option is bloody lovely. It’s a soft shade of pink that can be pretty easily matched with different-coloured bands – though I chose to keep my combo matchy-matchy with a pink band.
The display on Apple Watches has always been quite impressive, but this generation’s ability to reach up to 2,000 nits of brightness (in full sunlight), is something worth pointing out. Stepping out into the sunlight with my watch, I can confidently say that the display holds up perfectly well – even against afternoon glare. The Series 9 Apple Watch also dims down to 1 nit of brightness when you activate Sleep Focus – this means no disruptive light hitting you in the face if you wear your watch to bed. Very good, very helpful.
Next, battery life. One of my gripes with Apple Watches in the past is if you want to eat, sleep, shower and work with the thing on, charging can feel like a bit of a disruption to the experience. While earlier models do charge quickly, it was still somewhat frustrating to know that one night without a charger would leave me with a dead watch. With the Series 9, Apple boasts an 18-hour battery life with regular use and 36 hours when you use Low Power Mode. It is worth noting this is the same battery life deal as the Series 8; the Series 9 just has the new S9 SiP, which improves efficiency.
The 18-hour battery life is certainly convenient on its own, but the Low Power Mode option is really quite nifty. Turning it on will stop your watch from using elements like Always On display, background heart rate and blood oxygen measurements and from alerting you to calls (among other things), but it will keep your phone alive for much longer. And on days where you can’t charge it – say, if you’re travelling – this is really useful.
Okay, now onto WatchOS updates.
You’ve probably seen loads of excitement around the Double Tap hand gestures feature that is releasing with WatchOS10.1, a function that allows you to complete actions by tapping a finger and thumb together.
If you’ve ever used hand gestures within AssistiveTouch, you’ll have an idea of how the new feature works. In practice, I’ll say that it takes a tiny bit of getting used to, but it’s really quite simple – and makes it possible to complete certain actions (like answering calls) with just one hand.
Other features I quite enjoy are the State of Mind check-ins (which is a new addition to the Mindfulness app), used to offer you an opportunity to record and reflect on your mood, and the Time In Daylight measurement, which is a good reminder to get a little sunlight each day (please wear sunscreen).
On the fitness side of things, there are new additions for cyclists that allow you to connect to accessories and record new metrics. Great for cyclists, but as someone who hates a spin class, I will never use these features. I much prefer the running workout features that rolled out last year.
Oh, and new watch faces! There are Snoopy animated watch faces this year, and they are adorable.
What’s not so good?
Folks who have used older Apple Watches will notice some things have moved around with this generation. Instead of swiping up to access the Control Centre (where you find Water Lock and all), you now need to press the side button. It’s a small change, but it confused me a little. Now, swiping up will bring up your Smart Stack (a selection of your most-used app widgets). This feature is fine enough, but I keep the elements I use most (fitness tracker, weather, calendar) on my watch face, so it’s not all that useful for me.
Then there’s the element of cost. Starting at $649, it’s not a watch that just anyone is going to be able to purchase. Especially with the cost of living impacting so many people, I’d guess that it might be hard to justify spending that amount on the latest generation of watch, especially when many of the new WatchOS features can be used on older models.
Apple Watch Series 9: The verdict
The long and short of it is that the Apple Watch Series 9 is a really impressive smartwatch that looks great and works beautifully. Anyone who gets their hands on the device will almost certainly be happy with their new toy.
Moreover, a gorgeous display and a more powerful chip are great selling points, but a reasonably similar experience can be achieved with previous models of the watch. Whatever you decide, though, do check out the Snoopy watch faces – they’re too cute to miss out on.
You can shop the Apple Watch Series 9 from $649 here.
Lead Image Credit: Lifehacker Australia/Stephanie Nuzzo
This article has been updated to clarify that Double Tap is not an accessibility feature for Apple Watch Series 9.