Apple Watch Series 9 Review: Restrained Ambition for What is Still the iPhone’s Best Companion

Apple Watch Series 9 Review: Restrained Ambition for What is Still the iPhone’s Best Companion

  • Fantastic display with solid brightness and resolution.

  • The double tab feature is new to this generation and is beyond great.

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Apple Watch Series 9

It’s been a few months since Apple launched the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro, along with the updated versions of both Apple Watch models–the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and the Watch Series 9. Similar to what happened in 2022, the new generation of both watches has undergone more of an internal upgrade than an external one.

For this review, I’ve been using the Apple Watch Series 9 for three weeks. Let’s see if the new generation of Apple’s smartwatch is worth upgrading, especially if you own any previous models.

Table of Contents (8)

Apple Watch Series 9 Specs



45 mm


45 x 38 x 10.7 mm

39 grams



Up to 2,000 nits maximum brightness

Always-On display

484 x 396 resolution

326 pixels per inch


Apple S9

U2 chip (Ultra Wideband)


64 GB


Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHz)

Bluetooth 5.3





Heart Rate



High dynamic range gyroscope



Ambiental light sensor

Crash and Fall Detection

Temperature sensing


50 meters



Up to 18 hours of normal use

Up to 36 hours in Low Power Mode

Fast charge


Emergency calling


IP6X rating against dust

Ion-X front glass (aluminum cases)


Model reviewed: $529

From $399

Apple Watch Series 9 [GPS 41mm] Smartwatch with Pink Aluminum Case with Light Pink Sport Band S/M. Fitness Tracker, ECG Apps, Always-On Retina Display, Water Resistant

Design: Apple Watch Style

Apple Watch Series 9 The display takes the brightness and sharpness from the Ultra model.

The Apple Watch Series 9 looks very similar to its predecessors, the Series 8 and Series 7. In fact, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart unless you put them in full sunlight. The new Apple Watch’s screen beautifully deals with direct light, but otherwise, it’s difficult to distinguish between the three generations.

The Series 9 has the same dimensions as the previous models and is only 0.1 grams lighter in both the 41 mm and 45 mm versions.

Apple hasn’t made any significant design changes since the Series 7 because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

This is a very small weight difference, and Apple seems to take the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” saying very seriously. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple makes any significant changes to the Apple Watch’s design in the future, especially with the 10-year anniversary of its original release approaching.

Apple Watch Series 9 The display’s curvature leads to reflection on the sides.

While the debate over square versus round watches is ongoing, the square design looks great in the Apple Watch. In fact, the Apple Watch’s square design has proven successful, and many companies have copied it for their own watches.

The off-center crown on the side of the watch is a recognizable feature. I especially like its red perimeter, although the most important thing is that the touch and feel are still intact. The Digital Crown is solid, and users can use it to navigate the system quickly and accurately.

Apple Watch Series 9 The button is perfectly aligned with the case, but it can be annoying at times.

When we turn the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown, it provides a small haptic vibration that feels great—like you’re touching a mechanical component. The haptic feedback is solid, although it’s not as realistic and pleasing as the Galaxy Watch6 Classic’s bezel. After analyzing other premium models from different companies in 2023, the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown still feels the smoothest.

However, I don’t particularly like the elongated button on the side of the watch. It looks great and is discreetly aligned with the watch case, and the button’s click is fantastic and responds well. However, it can be challenging to press in certain situations.

The Digital Crown’s touch and response are perfect, but I’d appreciate a bit more relief on the side button.
Apple Watch Series 9 4 I’ve not had any allergic reaction to the back, but it does get dirty easily. I recommend cleaning it every time you take it off for good hygiene.

This is the case when you’re wearing gloves or during a workout, as you might need to press the button more than once. Despite this, my experience when pressing the button is just as good as when I use the Digital Crown.

I reviewed a Series 9 with an aluminum case–it feels fantastic. However, I noticed dirt and fingerprints in my Midnight unit, especially after a workout due to the sweat. You can, of course, wipe it with a soft cloth.

Apple Watch Series 9 On the other side is the speaker. It performs well during calls, navigation apps or Siri.

By the way, the blue color in Apple’s official pictures appears to be more of a black color in real life.

The watch’s back is made of ceramic and has a cluster of sensors in the central part. The watch’s relief perfectly matches the charging base’s convex shape. The strap change system still works as well as in the first generation.

Apple Watch Series 9 This is how a well-fitting 45 mm strap looks like.
Apple Watch Series 9 And this is what a 41 mm strap looks like–the small gap is barely noticeable.

If you’re wondering whether you can use 38 or 41 mm straps on a larger Apple Watch, don’t worry–they look as great. During the test, I used one of the microfabric straps and the new Nike strap, which has a spectacular feel and a very premium finish. I used my small straps for sports, and although there's a gap at the ends, you’ll barely notice it in everyday life.

Impressive Screen in Any Situation

Apple hasn’t introduced any design changes in this new generation of the Apple Watch. However, the screen is much brighter than the previous generation, which is a significant improvement. This brightness level allows for comfortable viewing under any lighting conditions, even in direct sunlight.

Apple Watch Series 9 The new watchOS 10 watch faces are incredible. The Snoppy one is full of animations.

Apple has increased the display’s maximum brightness from 1,000 nits in the Series 8 to 2,000 nits in the Series 9, which is remarkable and the same settings we loved in 2022’s Apple Watch Ultra. The minimum brightness is 1 nit, which is perfect for extremely dark environments such as when you use it at night.

The device features a sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness level based on the environment, and it works incredibly well. In fact, I haven’t had to manually adjust the brightness level once in the three weeks I’ve used it.

Moreover, the screen is an OLED panel with a 1.9-inch diagonal on the 45 mm case model. Its resolution is 484 x 396 pixels, which translates to a Retina density of 326 pixels per inch.

Apple Watch Series 9 The pixel density is awesome.

The icons and information displayed on the screen of the watchOS interface look great, with rich and deep colors. The interface cleverly takes advantage of the black backgrounds to make every color stand out. Additionally, the touch response is excellent, and the LTPO display lowers the refresh rate when the Always-On mode is enabled to save battery life.

However, I’m not a big fan of the oleophobic coating as fingerprints are easily noticeable on the screen. Though you can wipe them off quickly, they’re quite noticeable, especially if the Always-On mode is turned on or you use a watch face with a black background.

I, however, do like the hydrophobic protection, which turns off the screen when water falls on it and makes the drops slide. This helps to reduce the interference and weird animations when you touch the screen.

Apple Watch Series 9 Fingertips show up on the display easily.

Furthermore, the Series 9 boasts IP6X protection and water resistance of 50 meters. The aluminum models feature Ion-X front glass while the stainless steel models use sapphire glass. Sapphire glass is more resistant to shocks and scratches, and my Ion-X unit was spotless after three weeks.

As Smooth as Always

Apple Watch Series 9

The screen and design are crucial elements in any watch, but the software and the Apple ecosystem make it the best smartwatch for iPhone users. This is nothing new, but it’s great to see it still offers a very polished experience.

The watch’s hardware features a powerful 64-bit dual-core Apple S9 SiP processor with a quad-core Neural Engine and 64 GB storage for apps and music.

Apple Watch Series 9

When it comes to raw performance, this is an incredibly stable and fast watch. watchOS navigation is perfect, with fast loading times for native apps and excellent animations. Multitasking is also great, as navigating through apps feels like a breeze.

Third-party apps work well, but their performance depends on their level of optimization. Some apps, such as Meross, open quickly, while others, like Roborock’s, take forever. The Xiaomi Home app also takes a while to launch, but Google Maps, Spotify, YouTube Music, or Kernel are all a joy to use.

Apple Watch Series 9

There’s no denying that the watch’s powerful processor makes everything seamless, and I find responding to texts or emails while training very easy. In this sense, the on-screen keyboard, voice-to-text system, and predefined phrases work great.

Apple Watch Series 9 You can reply to app notifications easily, but you can even start a conversation first when using iMessage.

If you own a Series 8 or even a Series 7, you’ll still benefit from some of the new features, such as new widgets, the new method of swiping to switch watch faces, the new heart rate zones and the Medication app. All these come to the Series 9 (and previous models) via watchOS 10 rather than the watch's hardware.

The best part is that the watchOS 10 list of compatible devices is very extensive, so the latest Apple Watch software is available from the Series 4 onwards. However, there’s one unique feature to the Series 9: the double tap, which I will discuss later.

Apple Watch Series 9 Multitasking can be done quickly.

Siri is also faster thanks to the Apple S9 SiP. Although I’m not a frequent Siri user, I tend to ask Apple’s virtual assistant for things when I’m doing the dishes or playing console games. I’ve noticed that the processing is faster in this generation as it’s done within the system.

NFC payments are fast, and you no longer need to hold your Apple Watch too close to the payment reader. It’s a great experience, especially when you’re in a hurry–simply double tap on the side button, and the Wallet app will open.

You’ll find the same settings on the Apple Watch and the iPhone, which means you don’t need to use your phone to set up your watch. In fact, I only used the iPhone’s Watch app to check if I could install all my apps on the watch. For everything else, including the Settings menu, you can use your Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Series 9

Speaking of settings, the synchronization with the iPhone works perfectly fine, and the Sleep app is accurate as long as you turn on the ‘Wind Down’ mode. To view the sleep data, go to the Health app on your phone. The app provides tips to improve the quality of life and useful metrics such as heart rate, noise levels, respiratory rate, blood oxygen and mobility data.

Apple Watch Series 9 The Apple Watch reminds you that it's not a medical device and you should seek expert help if needed.

However, the Apple Watch can’t sample your skin temperature yet. Although the Series 9 comes with a thermometer, it’s only used for specific algorithms and menstrual cycle control. Even though wrist temperature is not essential, it would’ve been a nice feature to have.

Overall, the system is reliable and as good as in previous years. The best part is the new features are available through watchOS 10 rather than the Series 9 itself, which means you can benefit from them even if you own an older model.

Double Tab vs AssistiveTouch

Apple Watch Series 9

However, as I mentioned earlier, the Series 9 has something unique– the double tap. Although you shouldn’t buy devices relying on future software updates, this feature is somewhat of an exception.

Most of the new features in this model have to do with the brightness of the screen, the processor speed, and the double tap system. The double tap was announced as one of the great new features at the Series 9 launch event, but it didn’t arrive on the Watch until October 25 with the release of watchOS 10.1.

According to Apple, the double tap feature is exclusive to the Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2, due to the new processing and NPU capabilities of the new SiP. However, users of previous Apple Watch models can also navigate the device by using hand gestures such as closing their hand into a fist or tapping their pointer finger to their thumb.

Apple Watch Series 9 Double tab and you can press the play button.

These features used to be available in the ‘Accessibility’ settings, but the Series 9 and the Ultra 2 have now added a new hand gesture section. Go to the ‘Settings’ menu, and you’ll see a new ‘Hand Gestures’ option between ‘App View’ and ‘Accessibility’.

Double tap is more limited than AssistiveTouch.

With the Accessibility feature, you can navigate through each screen, while the double tap function can only interact with apps and screens that support the new feature.

For instance, while you’re on the main watch face, you can do a simple tap to see the widgets menu. If you then double tap, you’ll be able to navigate between them. If someone calls you, we can pick up the call with a double tap, and you can also double tab to pause or play when you’re listening to music.

The feature’s name–“double tap”–already tells us that it’s a bit more limited than the AssistiveTouch hand gestures, but it’s more useful than I thought for certain situations in which using two hands would be somewhat more uncomfortable.

However, I don’t understand why it’s only possible to use it with the latest generation processor when it’s more limited than the old hand gestures. Watch the video above to see what you can do with the double tap feature and the taps and fist-clench gestures from the Accessibility settings.

Exercising with the Apple Watch Series 9

Apple Watch Series 9

As we’ve seen, the Apple Watch offers a range of health options, but it’s also worth discussing its fitness capabilities.

You can use the Apple Watch to track a wide variety of sports and even monitor interval workouts. As with the Series 8, you’ll see all cardio fitness levels when tracking certain sports, such as running or using a stationary bike. Simply navigate through the watch faces to see what level you’re in at all times.

Apple Watch Series 9

After completing a workout, you can view your stats on the Watch or in the Fitness or Health app on your iPhone. The data is quite comprehensive, although not as detailed as I would’ve liked as the heart rate bars can be confusing.

The Watch automatically switches to Workout mode if you're walking or running, although there have been a few occasions when the Watch failed to detect that I was exercising. However, I must say GPS tracking works well.

Apple Watch Series 9 Going through the same point twice, there’s a meter or so of error in a certain part of the course–this is common with this kind of devices

As is usually the case with this type of watch, there’s always a margin of error. However, in my tests, the watch didn’t “smooth off” the corners of my running route excessively or track it as if I’ve walked through a wall or the roof. On a couple of occasions, the measurements were identical when passing through the same point except for a couple of stretches.

The Health app provides more statistics, and you can explore different aspects of your health as in-depth as you want. Some of them are quite surprising, such as stride and step length or walking steadiness.

Apple Watch Series 9 The rings are here to motivate us, and the different measurements seem accurate enough.

Everything you click on has a few paragraphs of explanation, and if you’re curious and want to take care of yourself, it doesn’t hurt to read them. Although many of these features and statistics depend more on the iPhone than the Apple Watch, the Watch’s Health app is very comprehensive.

Apple Watch Series 9

The ring system is still solid and encourages you to train, as do the challenge badges. If you’re concerned about the accuracy of the sensors in the Apple Watch, I, unfortunately, don’t have an oximeter to compare my blood oxygen level. However, I got the same heart rate results with the Fitbit Charge 6 and the Apple Watch Series 9. I also got similar heart rates with a chest strap.

2-day Battery Life, Although It Depends on How You Use It

When discussing a phone’s battery life, we typically consider the amount of usage and screen time. While these metrics can provide useful context, measuring the battery life of a watch is a bit more complex.

Apple Watch Series 9

According to Apple, the new Watch 9 models offer 18 hours of use based on the following use:

  • 90 time checks
  • 90 notifications (no vibration enabled)
  • 45 minutes of app use
  • 60-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth

In my experience, I haven’t had to charge the watch every night as Apple suggests. In fact, I’ve been able to use it for almost two full days without any significant issues, even if my daily use is not particularly light.

Apple Watch Series 9 The GPS drains the battery.

During my tests, I received notifications on my Apple Watch (although they won’t display on the watch if your iPhone is unlocked). I also checked the time multiple times a day and did a daily workout. I played music directly from my iPhone, and from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., the Sleep mode was activated.

In case it’s helpful, here are my battery results with different watch faces and settings:

  • On Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., I started wearing my Apple Watch, using the Sport watch face and with the Always-On mode disabled. The battery lasted until Thursday at 12:45 p.m.
  • On Thursday at 2:00 p.m., I started wearing my Apple Watch, using the Minimalist watch face and with the Always-On mode disabled. The battery lasted until Saturday at 10:35 a.m.
  • On Saturday at 8:00 p.m., I started wearing my Apple Watch, using the Minimalist watch face and with Always-On mode enabled. The battery lasted until Monday at 5:20 p.m.
  • On Tuesday at 11:45 a.m., I started wearing my Apple Watch, using the Full Screen watch face and with Always-On mode enabled. The battery died on Tuesday night while I was sleeping.
Apple Watch Series 9 A watch face with a black background helps save battery, but it’s not critical.

However, it’s important to note that, to test it, we’ve drained the battery from 100% to 0%, which is not recommended. In fact, I recommend charging the watch when it reaches 20% to keep the battery healthy. If you’re away from home and can’t charge it at that point, it’s okay to wait a bit longer, but I wouldn’t stretch it too much.

For normal use, I suggest charging the watch while you work or study. This will keep the battery within a healthy range and ensure you don’t run out of power during the day. Plus, if you get any notification, you’ll have your phone or computer nearby to check it anyway.

If you charge it at work or at uni, you’ll be able to use the Sleep app without worrying about running out of battery the next day. Although the smartwatch has a Low Power Mode that disables some of the Apple Watch’s features, limits the sensors and disables the Internet (you’ll only be able to check the time), it’s best not to use it excessively because it limits the essence of a smartwatch.

Apple Watch Series 9

Charging the watch with a 20 W PD charger takes the following amount of time:

  • 5 minutes: 10%
  • 10 minutes: 24%
  • 15 minutes: 30%
  • 20 minutes: 37%
  • 25 minutes: 43%
  • 30 minutes: 52%
  • 35 minutes: 58%
  • 40 minutes: 70%
  • 45 minutes: 78%
  • 50 minutes: 88%
  • 55 minutes: 91%
  • 60 minutes: 94%
  • 65 minutes: 98%
  • 68 minutes: 100%

I was surprised to see that the initial charge was quite fast, going from 10% to 24% in just 5 minutes. However, after that, the charging rate becomes slower until it reaches 100%.

Apple Watch Series 9: Xataka’s Take

Apple Watch Series 9 There’s a muted version of all watch faces optimized for the Always-On mode.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is a great choice if you’re looking to upgrade your watch, although that’ll depend on your current model. If you currently have a Series 6 or SE, then buying the latest model will provide you with better performance and exclusive features.

The new Apple Watch offers smoother performance and innovative features that have been released in previous generations. Its processor is also more powerful, which means it’ll support more software updates in the future.

However, if you already have a Series 7 or Series 8, then the new features don’t justify the upgrade. The design is exactly the same, and the majority of new features depend on software updates rather than the hardware.

It’s not a revolution, but it’s extremely solid in all departments.

Therefore, if you have a watch from 2020 or older, you should consider upgrading to the Series 9. The brighter screen is a joy to use, and the automatic brightness system works perfectly. Plus, the S9 is an extremely powerful SoC that doesn’t drain the battery.

Furthermore, the Series 9 is the best watch to pair with an iPhone. If you feel like upgrading your fitness tracker to a smartwatch, this Apple Watch generation is the best companion your iPhone can have without the price and size of the Apple Watch Ultra 2.


Design 9
Screen 9,5
Software 9
Battery 8
Interface 8,75


  • No changes in the design, which means it still feels premium.
  • The screen is brighter and is an absolute joy.
  • It's the iPhone’s best companion.


  • The main new features rely on software rather than hardware, so they are also available for older and cheaper Apple Watches.
  • The double tap function is good, but not revolutionary.
  •  Same battery life as before, and that's not good.

Note: Some of the links published in this article are affiliate links, which means Xataka On may earn a commission for purchases made using those links. Despite this, no brand or store has paid to have their products featured in this piece. All products are chosen independently by our writers and editors.

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