The Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 launch on Friday, and the first round of reviews has already begun.
Let us remind you that the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 are almost entirely built on the new S9 chip. This will allow Siri to process some commands on the device, and health queries will be supported later this year. Apple is also adding a new Double Tap gesture that lets you select buttons on the screen by pinching your fingers.
Both watches have displays with 1,000 nits of brightness, bringing the Series 9 up to 2,000 nits and the Ultra 2 up to 3,000 nits. The original Apple Watch peaked at 500 nits, which doubled a year later. Speaking of doubling, Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 double the storage for the first time, from 32GB to 64GB. Oh, and there’s an upgraded ultra-wideband chip inside.
WSJ’s Nicole Nguyen tested a preview version of the Double Tap feature and compared it to a similar feature on the existing Apple Watch:
Double tap will be available in an update coming next month. It’s convenient for one-handed operation, whether you’re holding a subway pole or a cup of coffee. This also works when you are wearing gloves.
A similar accessibility feature called AssistiveTouch is available on Series 3 and later models. You can even slide two fingers to dismiss notifications. In my tests, AssistiveTouch wasn’t always as responsive as double-tapping on the Series 9, but if you already have an Apple Watch, it’s worth turning on.
CNBC’s Keefe Leswing noted the improved Siri responsiveness thanks to the S9’s internals:
The main thing I noticed is that Siri responds much faster on the device. In the past, I avoided using the Apple Watch as a Siri interface because I found that commands could time out on a weak Wi-Fi connection. I’ve found that I prefer the Apple Watch to the HomePod or phone for simple tasks like setting the kitchen timer, or quick questions like finding out when a particular game is on TV.
The Verge’s Victoria Song takes a look at perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Series 9 watch:
Pink is perhaps the best new color Apple has introduced for its Watch in years. First, it’s actually pink, unlike the green Series 7, which only looked green when the light was hitting it right. Secondly, this is the year of our queen and savior Barbie. Technically, it’s more millennial pink than Barbie pink, but that’s probably a good thing. I usually complain about Apple shying away from rich colors, but the added subtlety makes the watch more versatile. Depending on the strap, you can highlight or tone down the pink depending on the situation.
However, the difference in display brightness is harder to notice, she adds:
Indoors and outdoors, it’s hard to tell the difference unless you have older models on hand to compare. And even if you do it like I did, it will still be difficult to tell under certain lighting conditions.
And TechCrunch’s Brian Heater describes the Series 9’s repeat design, although this time more environmentally friendly:
The watch’s design remains largely unchanged from the Series 8. The biggest change in this regard is the fact that Apple is touting the wearable as its first carbon-neutral device, thanks to a number of different factories including recycled materials, reduced packaging and carbon offsets. According to the firm, its claims have been verified by SCS Global.
Brandon Menancio writes for Hodinkee about the Apple Watch Ultra 2 from the perspective of a mechanical watch enthusiast:
I wasn’t sure if I’d love it and avoid my favorite watch, or just despise the fact that it constantly buzzes and reminds me of things I already try to avoid on my phone.
I’ve only had the Ultra 2 for a little less than a week, and with such a feature-rich product, it’s nearly impossible to try them all, but given the small amount of time I spent with it, I can honestly say that none of the previous mentioned scenarios ended up came true. I still miss my Grand Seikos and Tudors, but I can find a place in my collection for the Apple Watch.
Watch Hodinkie’s video below to find out why.
TechCrunch’s Brian Heater reminds us how similar the original and the new Ultra are, minus the new processor:
Neither new watch ultimately represents a significant upgrade over its predecessor, and in both cases it’s hard to recommend an upgrade if you already own the previous generation. This is even more true with the Ultra, especially considering the product’s starting price of $799. […]
Of course, by doing this, you will miss out on some welcome upgrades. Double Tap is on top of this. There’s certainly something to be said for being able to interact with a device with one hand when you’re on a long run. The new S9 chip also delivers increased speed and efficiency, thanks in part to a 4-core Neural Engine that speeds up machine learning processing.
The Verge’s Victoria Song tested the new precision search feature with new hardware:
A precise search on Apple Watch is similar to searching for AirTags on your phone. First, you open the control panel and call your phone as usual. Once you’re within range of your phone, you’ll see an approximate distance and some directional guidance. When you’re within six feet, you’ll hear another beep on your phone. […]
But as much as I love this feature, it requires your phone to also be equipped with the new second-generation UWB chip, meaning it’s only available on the iPhone 15 line. So, if you’re only planning to upgrade your Apple Watch, this feature will not appear to you right away. Also, this is limited to just your phone at the moment; you won’t be able to use it to find AirTag on Series 9 or Ultra 2.
Her conclusion about both new watches is also true:
But to be fair, Apple didn’t make this watch for people looking to upgrade. They are designed for people who don’t yet have an Apple Watch. And it’s still true that the majority of people who buy an Apple Watch every year are new to the platform. For these people, it’s the latest and greatest. Well, until next year.
Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 go on sale this Friday.