Introduced in September of 2014, and released in April 2015, the Apple Watch has had a steady march of improvements over the last 8 years. While each year may bring only a small number of changes, if you look back at the original Apple Watch compare to the latest, no one could argue that the Apple Watch has come a long way over that time.
Some of the improvements have included the addition of Cellular, with the Series 3, a larger screen with the Series 4, the Series 5 provided an Always On Screen, and Emergency SOS came with the Series 8. The Series 9 brings its own new feature, called Double Tap, but more on that a bit later. For now, let us start with which device I purchased.
As has been the case since 2015, I have purchased an upgrade for each new Apple Watch. This year I bought the Apple Watch Series 9 in Midnight with a Midnight Sport Loop. I had considered the Apple Watch Ultra 2, but I prefer dark colors for the Apple Watch.
The Midnight color of the Apple Watch is the same color as the Series 8 in Midnight. The Midnight Sport Loop is visually different than last year's Midnight band. This year's Midnight band is a blue band. In fact it is a solid blue color whereas last year's Midnight band was a black with orange and blue strands woven within the band.
The new Midnight band is not a bad color at all. In fact it is a decent shade that matches closely to the other blue accessories that Apple is offering this year.
Now, let us move to setting up the Apple Watch Series 9, because I had a few issues with that.
My old Apple Watch Series 8 transferred to my new iPhone, which is the opposite of what I experienced last year. Even though my old Apple WAtch transferred, I could not setup the Apple Watch Series quite so easily. When I began the Apple Watch setup I attempted to use the backup of my Apple Watch Series 8. On the screen ther was a line that said that "an update is required". This made sense because I had updated my Series 8 to 10.0.1, and the Series 9 only had 10.0.0 on it. With Apple Watches you cannot restore a backup unless the new Apple Watch is on the same version, or a newer one. Therefore I started the update and the update downloaded without any issues, and it got to the point of sayin “Preparing”, but it would never continue.
Since I could not perform the update during setup, it meant that I had to setup the watch as a “new” Watch, perform the update, and then unpair it and reset it to transfer the Series 8 backup to the Series 9. This is not the first time that I have had this issue when setting up an Apple Watch, and I suspect it will not be the last. I had attempted to go through the process of setting it up as new, but I ran into an issue where I could not turn off the Series 9 Apple Watch.
Now, I am not new to Apple Watches and I have had to reboot them a fair number of times throughout my history of using them, but for some reason no matter which approach I took, it would not actually power off. I tried deleting the update from the Apple Watch and then powering it off, but even this did not work. The power off button never showed. Ultimately, this left me with no choice but to do a forced reboot. I was a bit worried not knowing what the current state of the Apple Watch was, but the forced reboot did reboot the Watch. I was then able to re-download the update and install it. This time the update did actually have the “Preparing” step actually move and the update was prepared.
After the update was done, I then went on to unpair and set up the Apple Watch again. Here, I ran into an issue. When you set up an Apple Watch it will perform an “Express Setup”. This was not what I had wanted. I had wanted to take the backup of my Series 8 and apply it to the Series 9. After I went back and did the “Customize Settings”, I was then able to choose my Series 8.
I really do wish that the Apple Watch that it could be setup on very similar versions, like watchOS 10.0.0 should be able to restore from an Apple Watch running 10.0.1. I completely understand not having a previous 10.1 restore to 10.0, but 10.0.1 should be able to be restored onto an Apple Watch running 10.0.0.
Apple has been on a three-year cycle for form factor for the Apple Watch since the beginning. The original Apple Watch, Series 2, and Series 3 all had the same size options, of 38mm and 40mm. The Series 4, 5, and 6, increased this to 40mm and 44mm. The Series 4 brought not only a bigger screen, but also a design change.
The Series 4 moved away from the square screen of its predecessors and instead went to a rounded display. The Series 4 also brought with its a new sensor array which provided support for ECG and fall detection.
It is somewhat difficult to try to come up with an innovative manner of indicating that the form factor of the Apple Watch has not changed in the last year, but that is exactly the case. The actual design of the Apple Watch has not substantially changed since the introduction of the Series 5 in 2019. The Apple Watch Series 9 still sports the same 45mm Watch Face with the rounded screen that provides and edge-to-edge display.
The same form factor has been in use since the Series 7, when the size of the screen increased from 44 to 45mm. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given that it takes so much tooling to design and manufacture a product that using the same physical design for three years makes sound financial sense.
When Apple introduced the original Apple Watch they indicated that it had a System in Package, or SIP. This SIP houses all of the processors for the Apple Watch. As you might have gleaned with each iteration of the SIP the Apple Watch adds functionality, or gains some improvements.
According to Apple the S9 has 5.6 billion transistors, which is 60 percent more transistors than the S8. Along with this it has a new four-core Neural Engine, which allows for twice the speed when processing machine learning models.
One of the benefits of the machine learning improvements is with Siri. Many of the requests that you make with Siri are now done on the Apple Watch itself. This includes things like playing music, obtaining Health data, like sleeping, and starting and stopping timers.
This may just be a placebo effect, but it does seem like the S9 is faster than the Series 8, particularly when it comes to things like unlocking the Apple Watch when Sleep Mode is activated.
The one thing that the Apple Watch has not always had is a lot of storage space. The original Apple Watch, through Series 3 all had 8GB of storage. The Cellular version of the Series 3 and Series 4 both had 16GB. The Series 5, 6, 7, 8, both SE and SE 2, and the Apple Watch Ultra all had 32GB of storage. Now with the Apple Watch Series 9 has 64GB of storage.
It seems odd to have 16 times the amount of storage in an Apple Watch as my first iPhone. I am not one who keeps a bunch of data on my Apple Watch. I do keep some music on it, just in case I am in a situation where I only have my headphones and Apple Watch.
Do not get me wrong, it is better to have more storage that you might need than not enough, as was the case with the Series 3, where it became problematic when trying to do updates on later versions of watchOS with only 8GB of storage.
The Apple Watch Series 9 has a display that is capable of going from a single nit up to 2000 nits. This range is twice as bright as the Series 8. It is not likely that you will see the difference in brightness that often. It is likely that you will see it if you use the Flashlight feature from Control Center. This is where the screen on the Apple Watch will become as bright as possible.
I could not find a way of making the screen drop down to its lowest level of 1 nit. According to Apple’s Apple Watch Series 9 press release.
For dark rooms or early mornings, the display can also lower to just one nit so as not to disturb people close by.
Being able to have the screen go as low as a single nit yet go as high as 2000 nits is a good thing to have on an Apple Watch, particularly for those times when you need it.
Staring with watchOS 10.1 there is a new gesture that you can use, called Double Tap. Double Tap is a simple gesture that you can use your index finger and thumb to perform an action. The action performed is the primary action for the app. You can perform actions like snoozing a timer, answering or ending a phone call, playing and pausing music, or even swiping through the Smart Widget Stack.
The way that the Double Tap gesture works is by uses a machine learning algorithm and the optical sensor to be able to detect the slight movement of your fingers as well as the minuscule blood flow changes in your arm when you perform the double tap gesture. This is only made possible with the new S9 and its Neural Engine.
I have not yet had a chance to try this yet, because as of this writing watchOS 10.1 is not yet available. Since it is not yet available I cannot vouch for how well it works, nor its capabilities.
One of the features of the Apple Watch has had for a long time is the ability to ping a paired iPhone so you can locate the iPhone. This is still available with the Series 9, but there has been some improvements. The new improvement with the Series 9 is that you can now use precision finding to find your iPhone. This works in the same way that finding any other device that supports precision finding does.
In order to perform Precision Finding on a paired iPhone, you simply bring up Control Center by pressing the side button, and then tap on the Find iPhone button. Once you do this a sound will be played as it was before, but it will also start the Precision Finding mode, which will direct you to your paired iPhone.
This is a nice addition that will allow you to more easily find your paired iPhone, particularly if it is in a location that is not easy to find at first glance.
On a year over year basis the Apple Watch does not radically change, in fact the form factor for the Apple Watch has been on a three-year cycle. While the exterior of the case may look the same as the previous two Apple Watches, the new sensors allow for new interactions, like the Double Tap gesture.
I will be interested to test out the Double Tap feature once it is available in a software update. According to Apple it will be available in an update in October, probably watchOS 10.1.
The Apple Watch Series 9 is a great upgrade if you have an Apple Watch Series 7, or older. If you have an Apple Watch Series 8, unless you want the new Double Tap gesture, it may not be a worthwhile upgrade.