I’ve been using the new Apple Watch Series 9 for nearly three weeks, but before I give you my review, I want to share a little bit of context. I bought my first Apple Watch in 2018; it was the Series 3, which had been released a year prior. I picked it up for $US30 from Best Buy as I conveniently was there during the Black Friday sales. I wore it for the good part of two years, then COVID happened, and I was leaving my house less and the watch would mess with the trackpad on my then-laptop when working from my lounge. So, I just stopped using it.
I’ve never been a watch guy, and I had turned notifications off because gosh that’s annoying, and it wasn’t until reviewing the Huawei Watch GT 3 that I remembered just how useful a smartwatch was.
I stuck with the Huawei Watch GT 3 for a few months, loving the fitness features, but hating the user interface of the app. But then that watch started living on the tech shelf in my home office. I then declined any smartwatch reviews, until the Google Pixel Watch came along. It wasn’t great, either (Google has just released the Pixel Watch 2, so stay tuned for our take on that), but I thought to myself “I’ll stick with this one”. I didn’t. fast-forward to July this year and Samsung released the Galaxy Watch 6. I wanted to keep this thing, the sleep tracking was exceptional. But, it wouldn’t work with an iPhone.
The Apple Watch Series 9 then arrived on my desk to review and it really had one test to pass: Would I stick with it for longer than the review period?
The short answer, yes, I would.
Apple Watch Series 9 review
On the surface, it promised nothing massive that the Series 8 didn’t have, but under the hood it’s quite different. This year, Apple gave the Watch its most powerful chip ever, enabling the 18-hour battery life and the fact the Series 9 has an always-on display that can reach 2000 nits of brightness.
Two comments here – the first, battery life. I actually got longer than a day quite often over the last three weeks. But I didn’t have phone notifications (ie messages on any platform) on. I wore it to bed to track my sleep and found myself doing a quick top up charge during the work day when I was sitting at a desk to enable me to have the battery last the night. Impressed with the battery life, but, of course, I would love more. Second comment is around brightness. I have terrible eyes that are so affected by light. Having the brightness reach 2000 in direct sun allowed me to still see it. Stunning.
For those wanting a few more details on the chip, the S9 SiP has a dual-core CPU that has 5.6 billion transistors (60 per cent more than Series 8) and a GPU that Apple says is up to 30 per cent faster. The S9 also has a new 4-core Neural Engine that can process machine learning tasks up to twice as fast as Series 8.
What I get out of it
The Watch Series 9 boasts Apple’s best health and wellness features to date. Included this year is Temperature Sensing and Cycle Tracking, which uses a sensor that samples wrist temperature and tracks shifts from your baseline temperature so you can see changes that could be caused by things like exercise, jet lag, or illness. But, what shocked me the most was cycle tracking.
I was casually minding my business sitting on the lounge watching TV when I got a notification that my period would be arriving soon. Anyway. It was accurate to the HOUR. I’d describe it as mind-blowing, but Apple says, “For those who menstruate, changes in temperature can also reveal the biphasic shift, an increase in temperature that can indicate ovulation—so the Cycle Tracking app can retrospectively estimate when ovulation occurred, which is valuable information for family planning, and provide improved period predictions”.
I also was warned on a number of occasions that I was in a very loud space. I now wear noise-minimising earbuds (Loop ones, if you’re interested) when at a gig. I didn’t for years, and I was reminded on a number of occasions the irreversible damage I have done. I was also encouraged to put earbuds in before I otherwise would have.
As both a Collingwood Magpies and Penrith Panthers fan, there was two weekends in a row that really pushed my body to the extreme. This photo was taken during the NRL grand final, and while this is severe, it reached 156BPM – I took every opportunity to actively calm down once alerted to how bad this was getting.
I also got a more accurate step count on the Apple Watch Series 9 than I do on my iPhone, and the two syncing meant I got a more precise gauge on how many steps I had taken in any one day. Sleep tracking was also helpful – and sleeping with the watch on hasn’t bothered me once.
While the sleep tracking isn’t as in-depth as it is on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, it still gave me enough information to know that I need to do better.
Something I haven’t tried is the new Double Tap gesture for the Apple Watch Series 9. The gist of it is you can now use your index finger and thumb (tapped together twice) to answer a call and end it, stop a timer, snooze an alarm, play or pause music, take a photo with Camera Remote, reply to Messages, etc. Although it’s not something I would really use, this is a great feature and, as a friend who is also a mum to two small kids said, it’s something she can do while her other hand is holding a baby.
One thing Apple made a huge song and dance about when announcing the Watch Series 9 was the fact Siri requests are now processed on device, which it said makes them faster and more secure. I don’t have a benchmark for how fast they previously were not, but what I am looking forward to is the ability to ask the watch about my health data using my voice (that’s coming later).
For those of you that cycle, the Apple Watch Series 9 boasts the ability to connect Bluetooth cycling accessories, but also it has a tonne of workout features that I didn’t test in-depth enough to say anything other than “they’re really cool”.
Fall Detection, Crash Detection, Emergency SOS, the ability to draw the battery life out with Low Power Mode, and Heart health notifications are also great features baked into the Apple Watch Series 9. To go into all of them would take a lot of your time, but one comment to encapsulate everything is that there is enough in the Apple Watch Series 9 for each individual to get what they want out of it.
Of course, I also appreciate the Watch Series 9 marks the first carbon-neutral product from Apple. And the fact it also tells the time.
Should you buy the Apple Watch Series 9?
Apple will collect the Watch Series 9 in a few months, so I’ll be spending the time leading up to that determining if I can justify spending the money on one myself. The takeaway for me so far has been I want a watch, and it just makes sense that that watch be one that operates within the same ecosystem as my main phone.
Sleep tracking and overall health features, although you may consider them gimmicks, are things I love knowing about and what the Series 9 provides is definitely top-tier. But you might want it more for the ability to reply to messages, and the size of the watch allows for that (it becomes a little tricky if you have fake nails, though). The point I’m getting to is that the Apple Watch Series 9 has many different use cases and what I’m getting out of it may be of zero importance to you; and vice versa.
Just like I said in my iPhone 15 Pro Max review, if you have the Series 8 watch, maybe skip the Series 9 (unless of course you get one each time a new iteration is released), but if you’ve got a Series 5 that you use religiously, the Series 9 is definitely worth a look. Similarly, if you’ve never had an Apple Watch before, but you use an iPhone, this is probably the best device to start with – unless of course you want to dip your toes into the Ultra pool.
Apple Watch Series 9 Australian pricing and availability
The Apple Watch Series 9 I had for this review was the 41mm GPS + Cellular model in Pink. Not once did I have a need for the cellular capability, just FYI. Pricing via the Apple website:
- 41mm GPS: $649
- 45mm GPS: $699
- 41mm GPS + Cellular: $809
- 45mm GPS + Cellular: $859
- 41mm Stainless Steel: $1,199
- 45mm Stainless Steel: $1,279.
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia
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