During Apple’s Wonderlust keynote on Tuesday, the company unveiled the iPhone 15, but the event started with news about the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. We compare the specs and features of both wearables to help you decide which Apple Watch is ideal for you, as well as provide pricing and availability information.
- New features in Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2
- Other Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 improvements
- Comparison of Apple Watch models
- What are the target markets of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2?
- How much do the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 cost?
- When will Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 be available?
New features in Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2
Design, colors and sustainability
The design of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 is unchanged since the Series 8 and original Ultra releases.
Apple Watch Series 9 is available in an aluminum finish in the colors pink, midnight, starlight, silver or product red, and in a stainless steel finish in gold, silver or graphite (Figure A). As with the previous Apple Watch Ultra, the Ultra 2 comes in the same natural titanium finish.
In terms of sustainability, the Apple Watch products being shipped are now carbon neutral when paired with certain Apple Watch bands, in Apple’s neverending push to make its product environmentally friendly and sustainable. As part of Apple’s efforts to be more environmentally friendly, the company no longer offers leather Apple Watch band products and has switched to a new, more environmentally sustainable material called FineWoven to replace the leather bands.
Very few processor changes have been made to the Apple Watch since Series 6. Apple made a big move with the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 by introducing a new System in Package called S9 that brings a new processor (dual-core CPU) based on the A15 Bionic and an all-new 4-core neural engine (Figure B). This improvement can help with on-device machine learning tasks such as allowing Siri to answer questions without needing to interact with the network. Apple is claiming 30% faster processing power, which means that apps and tasks will perform much faster on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 than previous Apple Watches. Older versions of the Apple Watch are significantly slower than these new chips.
This new SiP also includes an upgraded Ultra Wideband chip that can help with precision finding of AirTags and devices that support the Find My feature from more than 2x the distance of the previous chipset.
Another feature of the upgraded SiP is that the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 now feature 64GB of storage compared to the 32GB previously offered in the S8 package.
With the upgraded S9 SiP, Apple is able to do a lot more processing onboard for Siri and other machine learning applications, including those that third-party apps might introduce later on. Being able to process Siri requests on the Apple Watch instead of through a networking call means that the tasks return quicker and users aren’t left waiting. It also means that Siri can produce results offline when no internet connection is available for some tasks.
One example of this is Siri interactions on Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 are done on-device tasks not requiring an internet connection (e.g., setting an alarm and opening an app). This means those tasks complete faster than before and with 25% more accurate dictation.
The display on the Apple Watch is one of the best on any wearable, and Apple is making those displays easier to read, even in the harshest daylight that you might encounter. The Apple Watch Series 9 can illuminate the display up to 2,000 nits of peak brightness compared to the 1,000 nits available on the Apple Watch Series 8. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is able to get the peak brightness up to 3,000 nits compared to the backlighting of 2,000 nits peak brightness on the previous Apple Watch Ultra.
Ultra Wideband improvements
Apple introduced the Ultra Wideband a few years ago and popularized it with AirTags and the ability to find your devices through the Find My application. When paired with an iPhone 15, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 can provide detailed precision finding of the device similar to AirTags (Figure C), offering helpful arrows to guide you to your lost device. In addition, HomePod integration with the Apple Watch means that when your watch gets close to a HomePod, the Now Playing view can appear, and you can control music or replace music playing on a HomePod right from the watch.
Included in the S9 SiP is the ability for sensors to recognize a new gesture that Apple is calling “the double tap.” When pinching your index finger and thumb together twice in rapid succession, you can trigger actions on the Apple Watch such as being able to answer an incoming call, hang up the call or other tasks in watchOS (Figure D). This can be done thanks to a new machine learning algorithm running on the new 4-core neural engine in the S9 chip.
Other Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 improvements
- Siri can access health and fitness data and answer questions about that data on-device.
- A 4-core neural engine that allows Siri and other machine learning tasks to be completed on-device. Developers can also take advantage of this extra processing power to make apps more reactive.
- Display can get dimmer in dark rooms and at night (down to 1 nit of brightness).
Comparison of Apple Watch models
|Apple Watch Series 9
|Apple Watch Ultra 2
|45mm or 41mm aluminum or stainless steel case size
|49mm titanium case size
|Emergency SOS Siren
|Water resistant (50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010)
|Water resistant (100 meters under ISO standard 22810)
High-speed water sports
Recreational dive to 40m
|Precision dual-frequency GPS
|No, L1 GPS
|Yes, L1 and L5 GPS
|Up to 18 hours normal use
Up to 36 hours in Low Power Mode
|Up to 36 hours normal use
Up to 72 hours in Low Power Mode
|Depth gauge and water temperature sensor
|Microphone / speakers
|Second-generation speaker and mic
|Dual speakers and three-mic array with beamforming
What are the target markets of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2?
The Apple Watch Series 9 is targeted towards users who want a fitness tracking device that includes communication features such as the ability to make calls, reply to messages and reply to notifications more effectively and efficiently.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 takes what’s available on the Apple Watch Series 9 and upgrades it for users who want longer battery life and enjoy being outdoors. Users can wear it diving and outdoors for nearly three days on a single battery charge. It also includes advanced GPS for tracking yourself as you hike where cellular service may not be available.
How much do the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 cost?
The Apple Watch Series 9 starts at $399 USD and varies depending on band styles and case options. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is $799 USD.
When will Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 be available?
The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are available for preorder now and will ship to customers in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, the UAE, the U.K., the U.S. and more than 40 other countries and regions and be available for in-store pickup on Friday, September 22, 2023.
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