The Apple Watch Series 9 and the new Ultra 2 have arrived, and it’s clear from the outset that these watches aren’t targeting those with somewhat recent Apple Watches. They serve as iterative updates for individuals without an Apple Watch or with an outdated model like the Series 3. Upon close inspection, distinguishing the differences from the previous generation requires a side-by-side comparison. Furthermore, some genuinely new features aren’t available immediately, set to arrive later in the year.
Specs on the Apple Watch Series 9 and New Ultra 2
The Apple Watch Series 9 is a spec bump over the Series 8, and the new Ultra 2 is the same spec bump over the original Ultra. Basically there’s one new color pink on the Series 9 that I have, and it’s pretty similar to the new pink iPhone, salmony-colored one. Aside from that, honestly, you could never even tell if someone is wearing the new watch.
Matter of fact, I’ve been wearing around The new Ultra 2 for more than a week now. Nobody’s asked about it. Nobody can tell because it looks exactly the same. There were some rumors floating around of heavily speculating on a black Apple Watch too. You might’ve seen these also. And it seemed like something everybody agreed was probably gonna happen. And it made a lot of sense because there’s always something Apple does just to visually distinguish the new one from the not-so-new one.
But what I think happened was Apple got to testing it, and then they started to realize just what happens to a coated titanium on a durable-focused item like a watch. So kind of similar to the new iPhone, there’s the new colors with PVD coating on top of titanium for the iPhone 15 Pro. But it’s a phone, so people put it in a case, and they’re a little bit more careful with it. But on an adventure watch, where you expect people to run around outside and beat it up and scrape it and drag it through rocks and sand and stuff, I think they realized that might have a tough time wearing well. So we just didn’t get it, Just looks exactly the same. So either way, okay, what is the new spec bump? It’s the S9.
Performance on the Apple Watch Series 9 and New Ultra 2
The new S9 chip inside this phone, or the system-in-package, the SIP, as they call it, literally everything that’s new about these watches stems from Watch series 9. So first of all it’s a faster chip, which just means generally flying around the UI and opening and closing apps and notifications and stuff like that all is technically faster. Honestly, not super noticeable just because you really don’t do a ton of that on the watch, and the refresh rate is exactly the same.
But you know what? I’ll still take it, But then it’s also a more power-efficient chip which you’ll always love to see in a small battery gadget like a watch. But Apple actually targets the same 18-hour battery life that they always do and, instead, cranks the maximum brightness of the new Watch Series 9 display up to 2,000 nits thanks to new display driver silicon.
And on the Ultra 2, that now goes from 2,000 up to 3,000 nits max brightness, so unsurprisingly, they look great outdoors. You don’t necessarily look at it right away and notice it’s brighter, It’s really only when you put it side by side with the last one that you can at least appreciate how impressive this is 3,000 nits is actually the brightest display Apple has ever put in any gadget they’ve ever made.
The watch Series 9 package also includes a new Ultra Wideband chip that enables precision finding of your iPhone. So basically Find My iPhone before on the watch was just pinging a sound to play from your iPhone. But now, with the watch, you can have it direct you to find exactly where your phone is, kind of like finding an AirTag. Even more useful if your phone is like, in between some couch cushions or something, or if it’s playing sound echoing in a weird way. I think this is a great ecosystem feature.
I’m sure a lot of people will love it, and the Apple Watch S9 package also has twice as much memory built in now and a double-the-speed neural engine, which combined is able to give you faster serial requests, and it’s able to process all the Siri requests on-device, without any connection to the internet.
Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 Siri
So Siri’s kind of famous at this point for occasionally just grinding to a halt and not answering questions, or just taking forever because you have a terrible internet connection, So this actually does make a big difference. Basically, asking it normal questions is pretty consistently quick. The on-device transformer model is also a bit more accurate. Now, Apple wasn’t actually specific about which Siri requests are happening completely on-device, but if we just use our inferencing, what I understand is happening is basically all of the voice processing is happening on-device from the S9, and then anything that actually needs to go to the internet to look something up, that’s when it goes and does the round trip.
So something like set a timer is always gonna be nice and quick no matter what your internet connection is because that’s all on-device. But if you ask it like, how tall is the Empire State Building, it’ll process your voice quickly, but then it still needs a decent internet connection to do the rest of it fast. It’s also supposed to be able to access your health data and be able to submit health data from just your voice, cause it’s all on-device and local and secure, but that’s one of the few things that’s supposed to be later this year. So as of right now when I try the things that were in the keynote, I just get non-responses and errors.
Double Tap on Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2
The one big feature, the one genuinely interesting, new thing that stands out to me in this generation of watches as actually innovative is double tap. The double tap feature is like the perfect symphony of impressive processing power and clever computation and high-quality sensors all combined to give you something genuinely new that honestly I don’t actually expect other smartwatches to be able to copy, at least anytime soon.
So It’s just double tapping your thumb and your pointer finger on the same side that you’re wearing your watch to select things on the watch. Apple actually had to ship me a separate watch running, I guess, an early copy of watchOS 10.1. All the new watches shipping right now have 10.0. But the feature itself is simple. You raise to wake, and then you double tap your fingers together to control what’s happening on the screen of the watch.
This is basically most useful in instances where your other hand is full, Maybe you’re carrying something, or you’re walking a dog, or you’re cooking and your hand is dirty. Something like that, whatever, But when you actually do it, it’s basically set up to either select the primary button in whatever app you’re in, or advance through the stack of widgets in a Siri Smart Stack. So basically, if you’re receiving an incoming call, no matter what, when you double tap, it will accept the call.
It’s the primary button, and then when you’re in the call another double tap, that hits the end call button, cause now that’s the primary button. That’s also strangely satisfying. In the past, for me, I know if one hand is busy, it’s been like a nose tap. I know I’m not the only one who’s done that, so you can’t judge me. But I’m welcoming of this sort of solution to that problem. And honestly, it’s been very accurate. Very few false triggers.
I know that I kind of have to give it a second once I raise to wake and then double tap, but it’s consistent. It’s very good. Now, the whole but actually thing about this not being new here was an accessibility setting called assistive touch added, I think, all the way back with the Apple Watch Series 6, which was designed for people who don’t have another hand to use their Apple Watch. So they have to be able to control it with just their one hand, and so it had double pinch, it had single pinch, it had clenching your fist and double clenching your fist.
Why Double Tap on Apple Watch Series 9 and New Ultra 2
From my limited experience, cause I turned it on and tried it on other watches, it works pretty well when you’re very deliberate about it. But the official reason why this double tap is new, and therefore only available on these newest generations of watches and not the older ones, is the most Apple thing ever.
Basically, the algorithm that is doing all of the processing from all the data from the sensors, which is the same sensors on the old watches, is so much more complicated and so much heavier now that it couldn’t possibly run on an S8 or an older piece of silicon, Just the Apple watch Series 9 convenient.
Apple Watch Series 9 and New Ultra 2 Carbon Neutral
Either way something both useful and clearly foreshadowing to the upcoming Apple Vision Pro, whose primary gesture will be selecting things by putting your thumb and index finger together. Honestly, it’s one of the most fascinating things about Apple watch. But the other fascinating thing is that paired with one of these sport bands, the Apple Watch is Apple’s first fully carbon-neutral product. Like, full carbon neutral that might be the most impressive thing about this entire watch, that includes all of the materials, energy, and emissions used to create it, assemble it, package it, ship it to your door.
And it accounts for all of the energy that it actually takes to run the device for the lifetime of you owning it, that is extremely impressive. I’m kind of taking their word for it on their face. I do wanna dig more into this later, but it’s also something that I hope other companies start to copy.
You know the thing Apple’s done in other product categories, where they’ll have a big silicon upgrade and the same old design as before, and then the next generation they’ll actually update the design of the product? They’ve done this with the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, other stuff. I’m thinking, and I’m hoping, that to line up with rumors, that that’s exactly what’s happening with the Apple Watch. This is what we’ve been wanting for a while.
Apple Watch Series 9 watch looks basically exactly the same as last year, and that one looked just like the year before, which looked just like the year before that and the year before that. Same shape, same buttons, same fundamentals. And I get that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s pretty classic. But there’s been so many things that we’ve kind of just been waiting for / hoping for to maybe see from an Apple Watch someday. Something like maybe a circular redesign, maybe a little more classical shape. Maybe a rotating bezel like we’ve seen on the Galaxy Watch, which is sick. Maybe an actual leap forward in battery life. Like, literally any one of those features would be the biggest update to the Apple Watch in years, But this ain’t it.