It looks like the Apple Watch Series 9 is likely to get some new processor tech at long last – and could be great news for its battery life, because the upgrade will surely mean that the chip is much more efficient.
Every year, Apple introduces a new 'SiP' (system-in-package) to the Apple Watch, which is a single unit that includes the processor along with all the other major chips required, such as GPS. The Apple Watch Series 8 had a SiP called the S8, the Apple Watch Series 7 had a SiP called the S7, and so on. But here's the thing: in the S8, S7 and S6, the actual processor part is the same, which means the latest Apple Watch is still using a crucial bit of tech based on the Apple A13 phone processor from 2019.
According to regular Apple information font Mark Gurman (via Engadget) in his newsletter's Discord channel, Apple will finally update the processor that's the new S9 SiP for the new watch. He claims the new processor will be based on the Apple A15 chip, introduced on the iPhone 13 in 2021, which is notably more advanced than the earlier version.
This could be great news, not because we want the Apple Watch to be any more powerful (it's absolutely fine as is), but because the newer chip can be much more efficient, and that could mean using it boosts battery life even if nothing else in the Series 9 changes.
There are two factors that could mean the new chip requires less power than the old one. First is how they're made. The new chip will surely be made using either a 4nm ("nm" stands for nanometers) or 5nm process, while the older chip was made using a 7nm process. This just means that the parts of the chips are squeezed closer together, which makes them more energy efficient.
But that's not all. Apple's processor designs have become more advanced and powerful while using roughly the same amount of energy, so it might be possible that Apple is able to get the same performance as the S8 from the S9 using less energy, because the design is simply better.
The interesting question is whether Apple will still claim the same battery life in the Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 (which will probably use the new chip too). In the case of the Series 9, that claim is 18 hours – but I use the Series 8, and I can get two days of use from it, no sweat.
Apple has been under-selling the battery life of the best Apple Watches for years, and even though the real results still don't match the best Garmin watches when it comes to lasting days and even weeks, I wouldn't be surprised if the Watch 9 is another quiet leap forward that Apple doesn't brag too hard about, for some reason.
Of course, if Apple doesn't sell the new watch on its battery life, then we'll have to see what it does add to make it feel different from the Series 8. Right now, the rumors are that it'll be another very minor update, just like Series 8 was over Series 7. Maybe the whispered-about Apple Watch X is where the action will be.
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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Entertainment, meaning he's in charge of persuading our team of writers and reviewers to watch the latest TV shows and movies on gorgeous TVs and listen to fantastic speakers and headphones. It's a tough task, as you can imagine. Matt has over a decade of experience in tech publishing, and previously ran the TV & audio coverage for our colleagues at T3.com, and before that he edited T3 magazine. During his career, he's also contributed to places as varied as Creative Bloq, PC Gamer, PetsRadar, MacLife, and Edge. TV and movie nerdism is his speciality, and he goes to the cinema three times a week. He's always happy to explain the virtues of Dolby Vision over a drink, but he might need to use props, like he's explaining the offside rule.