Apple Watch Series 9 review: tapping into a new era of gestures

The Apple Watch Series 9 is the future-proof iOS watch to get

Apple Watch Series 9
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

After a week with the Apple Watch Series 9, and a demonstration of some of the features unavailable at launch, it's clear that it's largely more of the same again – but with a twist. Thanks to the upgraded S9 chip, for once when discussing an Apple flagship model, it seems like there’s at least one genuinely useful, game-changing new feature here that will be used every day in the form of Double Tap. The shift towards more environmentally friendly materials is a welcome one, and the option of a brighter screen is always nice, but I’m again frustrated by the lack of any improvement in battery life.


  • +

    Brighter, more powerful screen

  • +

    Useful new double-tap gestures

  • +

    New S9 chipset


  • -

    Same 18-hour battery life

  • -

    Identical design and sizes

  • -

    watchOS 10 covers most bases on older watches

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Apple Watch Series 9: One-minute review

After several fairly iterative updates, the Apple Watch Series 9 finally brings a genuinely exciting, use-everyday new feature to the flagship Apple Watch in the form of Double Tap. The gesture is sure to make waves when it’s made available later this year, and I found it a delight to use in my brief time with it. 

A brighter screen and on-device Siri, ensuring that health queries are processed securely, are welcome changes, too. Although not much else has changed, as usual, the Watch 9 is going to be the best Apple Watch for most people. The exceptions occur if you're looking for a real budget bargain, in which case look to the Apple Watch SE 2, or a proper premium model in the Ultra 2.

The watch’s eco-friendly aspirations are admirable, and the move to Ultra Wideband radio technology is something that will pay dividends as subsequent iPhones make use of the tech. The improved Find Devices feature, for example, offers increased accuracy as a result of the stronger connection Ultra Wideband offers, even telling you how many feet away your phone is from your watch. At present this tech is only available with Series 9 and iPhone 15 at present, although it's sure to be on all subsequent phones and watches. 

Consider the Watch 9 fairly future-proof, at least for the next few years. It offers a preview of Apple’s ambitions, with a carbon-neutral approach to manufacturing (well, driven by marketing) and a growing list of devices linked by Ultra Wideband. The Series 9 will be able to make use of new features developed for Ultra Wideband-capable devices, presumably available on watchOS 11 and beyond.

However, innovation can only go so far: the new Apple Watch shares the exact same 18-hour battery life, sizes, operating system, and design as its predecessors, and so – as we tend to say every year – the update is iterative in many ways. As ever, it’s the iOS watch to get if you're looking for a new wearable, but if you already have the Apple Watch Series 8 or Series 7 you can probably be excused.

Apple Watch Series 9: Specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Component Apple Watch Series 9 (41mm)Apple Watch Series 9 (45mm)
PriceFrom $399 / £399 / AU$649From $429 / £429 / AU$699
Dimensions41 x 35 x 10.7mm45 x 38 x 10.7mm
Weight32.1g (aluminum) 38.7g (aluminum)
Case/bezelAluminum or stainless steelAluminum or stainless steel
Display352 x 430 px always-on OLED Retina Display 396 x 484 px always-on OLED Retina Display
GPS Yes (unspecified)Yes (unspecified)
Battery life18 hours18 hours
ConnectionBluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, LTE options availableBluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, LTE options available
Water resistantYes, WR50 (swimproof)Yes, WR50 (swimproof)

Apple Watch Series 9: Price and availability

Apple Watch Series 9 review

(Image credit: Future / Matt Evans)
  • Starts from $399 / £399 / AU$649 with aluminum case
  • Two sizes: 41mm and 45mm, with LTE options
  • Tougher stainless steel case also available

The Apple Watch Series 9 was announced at Apple's September 12 event and is available now, with prices starting from $399 / £399 / AU$649. That’s the price for the cheapest 41mm model with an aluminum case (with color options of Midnight (black), Starlight (a sort of silver/gold hybrid), Silver, Product Red or the new Pink offering) and GPS connectivity only, without cellular LTE connectivity, and it's the same price as the Series 8 was in the US, and slightly cheaper than the 8 in the UK. Score!

If you get this version you won't be able to connect to the internet without Wi-Fi or your phone handy, although you can still use GPS functions while you work out. For those who want a larger model, LTE connectivity, or a stainless steel case (which comes in a choice of attractive gold, silver and graphite finishes), you’ll pay an additional premium as usual. 

For example, a 45mm aluminum watch in Pink, with GPS only, costs  $429 / £429 / AU$699, while the GPS and Cellular LTE option costs $529 / £529 / AU$859. If you were to go with the stainless steel option, the price would increase again. This is nothing new in Apple Watch world, but it's worth noting if you’re thinking of picking one up for the first time. 

If you want an even more premium option, there's also the Apple Watch Ultra 2. This brings a raft of outdoor-focused features, a more rugged design and a better screen - but for a higher price still. You can read more about that in our hands-on Apple Watch Ultra 2 review.

Value score: 4/5

Apple Watch Series 9: Design

Apple Watch Series 9 review

(Image credit: Future / Matt Evans)
  • Lots of recycled materials
  • Identical architecture to predecessors
  • New bands and pink aluminum case option

As you might expect from a flagship Apple Watch at this point, Apple isn’t reinventing the wheel. It got things right early on, and come hell or high water it's stuck to its guns (with the possible exception of the ‘radical’ Apple Watch Ultra design). Same two sizes, same rotating digital crown, same side button, the mic and speaker introduced several generations back are still present and correct… to look at its chassis, it’s virtually the same watch. Series 8 users hoping for a change are better off looking elsewhere.

Fortunately, the new watch is still incredibly simple to set up and use straight away. Using a combination of the digital crown, side button and touchscreen, our early navigation of the new watchOS 10 operating system was smooth and intuitive. Bringing up Settings with the side button feels like a logical move, and I love the new widget stack, which makes it far easier to jump to the one you want.

More than any other feature, the widgets have transformed the Apple Watch experience for me, but this isn’t unique to the Series 9 – any Apple Watch from the Series 5 or above will receive the watchOS 10 update.

What has changed is the composition of materials used in the Series 9. Apple is keen to emphasize the fact that each new Apple Watch produced is now ‘carbon-neutral’, in part thanks to a combination of recycled materials used both inside and outside the watch, such as the cobalt in its batteries and aluminum used in its casings.

Apple is also attempting to offset electricity used during charging and reduce shipping emissions – even the packaging is 25% smaller, so that more units can fit into shipping crates. 

Apple Watch Series 9 review

(Image credit: Future / Matt Evans)

We’ve covered Apple’s big carbon-neutrality claims extensively elsewhere, so we won’t go into much more detail in this review, but this eco-friendly ethos has also led to some cool redesigned bands. The standard sport loop is now made from 82% recycled yarn, while select versions of the swim-proof silicone-fluoroelastomer band are textured as a result of the recycling process, making each band unique. That’s pretty neat. 

A new Pink color, as mentioned, is sure to be snapped up by everyone who saw Barbie this summer, but the Midnight, Silver, Starlight, and Product Red colors all make a welcome return from last year. The premium stainless steel options can also be bought with a metal band matching the watch’s casing. 

Design score: 4/5

Apple Watch Series 9: Features

Apple Watch Series 9 review

(Image credit: Future / Matt Evans)
  • Double Tap is an obvious standout
  • New Ultra Wideband use cases are great
  • On-watch Siri secures health data

Let’s get into the details. I tried the Double Tap feature, which garnered much of the attention during the announcement event, although it won't actually land on the Apple Watch 9 until October. Double Tap uses the accelerometer and gyroscope to detect intention: you have to raise your watch as if looking at the time before performing the two-pinch gesture with your watch hand, as this prevents it from being triggered accidentally. It can be used to perform any main action on any complication you happen to have open on your watch face, from starting and stopping a timer to snoozing an alarm, to answering a call

I really liked using it, and I firmly believe this is just the start. My nightmares of having to pinch the air over and over again like a crab while trying to get the thing to work were completely unfounded: I was able to stop a timer, answer a call and access other complications very easily, first time. 

Other notable new features include the use-cases for the new second-generation Ultra Wideband radio technology. The Find Devices app has changed: as long as you’re connecting to another device with a second-gen Ultra Wideband chip in it (so just an iPhone 15 model for now then), you’ll be able to see exactly how many feet away that device is on your Watch, along with a directional icon. You can then play Marco Polo until you get within a foot of it, at which point the Series 9 will issue a green tick to indicate that you’ve found it. 

I was very impressed by the demo, but at the moment it’s limited to just the Series 9, Apple Watch Ultra 2, and iPhone 15 models. As future devices come along with this technology installed, it’s going to become far more widely used (and rightly so, the feature’s great), even if relatively few of us are going to be lucky enough to snap up two new Apple gadgets this year.

On-device Siri is available for the first time, which means it doesn’t have to connect to the cloud in order to process your questions. This is a fairly niche change for most, but a big leap forward for those concerned about privacy is that you can now use Siri to access your health data.

Apple is very keen to emphasize that any data about your health either remains on your device or is encrypted before being shared. Having Siri available to read you your Move ring status or menstrual-cycle tracking data might sound like a minor thing, but it's a long-term win: we’re slowly realizing that, collectively, we’re far too cavalier with our health information these days. 

Features score: 4/5

Apple Watch Series 9: Performance

Apple Watch Series 9 Smart Stack

(Image credit: Future)
  • Excellent day-to-day usage
  • New brightest setting is redundant
  • Lack of improvement on battery is a frustration

Since my initial first impressions, I’ve been wearing the watch for six days, paired with an iPhone 13 running iOS 17. I won’t delve too much into what it’s like to live with watchOS 10 for a week, as that’s not strictly speaking unique to Apple Watch Series 9. However, watchOS 10 does dramatically improve the experience via the Smart Stack. With a swipe or a scroll up, I can see my upcoming events (including all the events cluttering up my work shared calendar, which I must sort out) the beautifully animated widget version of the weather app, movement rings, a trending news headline, and anything else I’m actively running, such as workouts or Spotify.

I’ve always loved widget stacks and lists. The widget list comes as standard on the best Garmin watches, but the experience here is very unlike Garmin’s pared-back health-focused approach. Small animations, in beautiful full-color and with that refresh rate we mentioned in the Design section, make scrolling through the stack with the digital crown a breeze, serving me up snapshots of all the information I’d want on my watch at any given time. As usual with Apple, the interface is beautifully designed, and I’ve found that the only times I need to press into the digital crown and open my watch are if I’m after a specific app, such as the ECG functionality. 

At the time of writing, the Double Tap function is still not available, so beyond my initial test with Apple I was unable to use it regularly and judge its performance in an everyday situation. However, I was able to test all the usual features, and found them, as expected, up to snuff. I used my Apple Watch to accept a call and chat when I didn’t have a free hand, find my phone when I lost it (unfortunately, the improved Find Devices functionality compatible with iPhone 15 also wasn’t available for regular use during testing) and set timers for myself while I was cooking with Siri. On-device Siri is now noticeably snappier and responsive, and these everyday tasks are more intuitive to perform than they are on any other smartwatch to date. 

Asking Siri about your Health status without having to worry about sharing your data is neat, but niche, and I find more use for Siri as a fancy kitchen timer than I do as a font of knowledge. I can’t wait until I can cancel those timers with a simple double-pinch. 

I did use my Apple Watch to record a run and a hilly hike on separate days. It wasn’t a strenuous hike, as you can see in the picture below - we stopped for a cup of tea from a thermos halfway round - but the Apple Watch Series 9 offers identical tracking capability to previous models, with split paces, a heart rate graph, and GPS tracking. More granular information, such as time spent in different heart rate zones and (for runners) ground contact time and vertical oscillation, is available by expanding these windows. Loading the third-party AllTrails app onto the watch during my hike allowed me to see my progress without reaching for my phone every time I was in danger of taking a wrong turn on the trail.  

Hike taken with the Apple Watch Series 9

(Image credit: Future / Matt Evans)

So far, the Apple Watch Series 9 performs pretty much the same as its predecessors, but was the battery compromised by that up-to-2,000-nit OLED screen? Happily, no: I still got about 20 hours of use out of my Apple Watch on average, though I should caveat that by saying that the screen has three standard brightness settings and I found the middle setting more than sufficient for my needs; on the brightest setting, battery life may suffer. 

Then again, you may not ever need the brightest setting. Even on my hike, when the September sun was clear and unobscured on the side of the hilly outcrop we were trekking around, the Retina Display screen was bright enough that I never needed to dive into my settings and start changing things. The only time I actually went into the settings to turn it up was to deliberately test the brighter screen function: most of the time, the watch is so good that the brighter screen option actually seems unnecessary.

My biggest gripe is that the Watch 9 still needs charging daily. I’m used to watches that last days or even weeks and would have loved last year’s Ultra battery improvement (36 hours) on this year’s mainline Apple Watch. Unfortunately, Apple seems intent on providing only minor upgrades with each refresh, and though it exceeds its promise of 18 hours, it’s never quite enough. Thank goodness it’s quick to charge.

When chatting to our phones editor Alex Walker-Todd, he likened Apple’s iterative upgrades to improving a fire extinguisher - it doesn’t have to be reinvented, it just has to be great at doing its job when you need it. And the Apple Watch Series 9, despite its comparative lack of innovations outside of the new Double Tap feature, and even allowing for its frustratingly short battery life, is great at doing its job. 

Performance score: 4/5

Apple Watch Series 9: Scorecard

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryComment Score
ValueThe flagship Apple Watch retains the price structure of previous years, and is actually less in the UK.4/5
DesignAn improved eco-ethos and excellent software architecture when paired with watchOS 10.4/5
Features Double Tap is going to change the game, but the Watch’s improved S9 chip has other tricks, too.4/5
PerformanceIt performs well enough, just like any other Apple Watch, and shines in many everyday scenarios. Needs more juice, though.4/5

Apple Watch Series 9: Should I buy?

Apple Watch Series 9 review

(Image credit: Future / Matt Evans)

Buy it if...

You own an older Apple Watch

If you're rocking an Apple Watch 5 or 6, the last few years of cumulative upgrades are worth the price of admission. 

You want hands-free operation

Faster Siri and Double Tap mean that using your watch without your other hand is easier than ever.

You're concerned about data privacy

On-device Siri that doesn't share your health data with the Cloud means your cycle tracking and other health info remains safely encrypted.  

Don't buy it if...

You own a recent Apple Watch

Unless you really, really want Double Tap, there isn't much new for you here.

You're an Android user

Bit of an obvious one, really. Apple only thrives when its products are used across the board for seamless integration.

You need something rugged

Want a mountaineering watch for dives and long weekends? Consider the Apple Watch Ultra 2 instead. 

Also consider

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Component Apple Watch Series 9 (41mm)Garmin Foreruner 265Apple Watch Ultra 2
PriceFrom $399 / £399 / AU$649$449 / £429 / AU$770$799 / £799 / AU$1,399
Dimensions41 x 35 x 10.7 (mm)46.1 x 46.1 x 12.9 (mm)49 x 41 x 14 (mm)
Weight32.1g (aluminum)47 g61g
Case/bezelAluminum or stainless steelFibre-reinforced polymerTitanium
Display352 x 430 px always-on OLED Retina Displayss416 x 416 px AMOLED, Corning Gorilla Glass502 x 410 px poly-silicon always-on OLED Retina Display
GPSGPS (unspecified)GPS, Beidou, Glonass, Galileo, SatIQYes (unspecified)
Battery life18 hours13 days (20 hours GPS)36 hours
Connection Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, LTE options availableBluetooth 5.2, ANT+, Wi-FiBluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, LTE
Water resistant?Yes, WR50 (swimproof)Yes, 5ATMYes, WR100 (waterproof)

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Matt Evans
Fitness, Wellness, and Wearables Editor

Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.

Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.