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Apple Watch Series 9 Review: The Best Smartwatch for iPhone Users Gets a New Gesture

Apple Watch Series 9 Review: The Best Smartwatch for iPhone Users Gets a New Gesture

You should have an Apple Watch if you use an iPhone. It is the defacto accessory, perfectly tailored to the iPhone user’s needs and, presumably, wants. I say “presumably” because Apple’s idea to add the Double Tap gesture is such a distinctive, niche feature to add to a wearable. And yet, it fulfills such a need. At its Wanderlust event, Apple mentioned using your nose to tap something on the watch screen as an example of a need that had to be met. I immediately recalled the handful of times I’d made the same sporadic decision to use some other part of my body to try to interact with a screen. The Double Tap gesture is an actual solution to a common problem.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get much time to double-tap myself before penning this review. The feature only went live with the public beta of watchOS 10.1. But at least now, you can try it out if you buy the Apple Watch Series 9 for $400. Unlike Google’s Pixel devices, often saddled with a “coming soon” caveat for many of its coolest features, you can try this one immediately after dropping all that cash.

 Frankly, not much has changed. The Apple Watch Series 9 is the same square-but-rectangular shape as the Apple Watch Series 7 and 8 and every Apple smartwatch before that. But there is no point in fixing what isn’t broken. Square-ish is the signature motif of the Apple Watch. The only new addition this time is a soft pink-hued chassis, which pairs nicely with a pink watchband.

I love that the Apple Watch comes in a 41mm size because it is smaller than the 42mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 I wear daily. It’s also smaller than the Pixel Watch. Indeed, this is not an obtrusive wearable, especially for smaller wrists. There is a 45mm size, which I tried on after Apple’s Wanderlust event in September. It was too big for me, but it is an option.

Our review unit came with the pink Sport Loop Band to match. I generally don’t do well with this type of material for sensory and logistical reasons. Mostly, I’m afraid of going near water with the band’s cloth-like nylon. I periodically loosened the band and took off the watch so that I wasn’t constantly feeling the abrasion of the tiny fibers. I prefer the regular silicone Sport Band, so choose your path wisely when filling your cart. And definitely don’t choose the FineWoven if you’re worried about how easily scratched it gets.

The leading kicker with this generation’s Apple Watch is that the Series 9 display is the brightest Apple’s ever made. It can go up to 2,000 nits, though you won’t be able to force the full nit capabilities since it still relies on the ambient light sensor to initiate it. It ensures you don’t blast your eyes out (or kill the battery).

Siri is now available offline


Inside, the Apple Watch Series 9 runs on an S9 SiP with a four-core neural engine. Apple claims it’s twice as fast as its predecessor, the S8, and built it on the bones of the iPhone 13's A15 Bionic. The company designed the processor to handle many of the Series 9's new features, like on-device Siri requests. You can ask the assistant how much sleep you got, and Siri will pull that data locally from logged stats without touching the cloud.

For the most part, I haven’t noticed a significant difference in speed compared to the Series 8. I don’t ask Siri very complicated questions, anyway. I stick to the time, the weather, and reading a message aloud if something comes through from one of the five people who know the number to my iPhone review unit. I still prefer Google Assistant for the super complicated stuff. But for most iPhone users, Siri on-device is excellent news, and I hope similar functionality will come to WearOS soon. Android’s watch software still requires an internet connection to get help from Google.

The Series 9's S9 chip also enables the double tap gesture, as it has the algorithm processing prowess to detect when you’re doing the maneuver. The watch is programmed to know if you’ve raised your wrist before it enables access to this feature. It’s generally fluid: raise your wrist, then tap your thumb and index finger together. A little icon at the top of the Apple Watch screen lets you know it’s working. Double tap is straightforward, though it relies on actively raising that wrist to initiate the feature. It’s best to exaggerate taps; that’s when I had the most success.

A couple other perks of the S9 processor include access to the Precision Finding feature with the iPhone 15 Pro, enabled by the ultra-wideband wireless chip in each device. You can easily access the feature by pressing the side button and selecting the option to look for your iPhone. The watch will then measure how close the phone is, down to the foot.

The Apple Watch Series 9 battery is good enough. It’s on par with what I get on Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 6's 300mAh battery with about the same use. After about a day and a half of use, the Series 9 still had 30% battery. I woke up the next day and the battery still had about 30% left allowing me to run a few errands before charging. I went to a doctor’s appointment, this time without the iPhone in tow, and I still had about 20% of its battery left when I returned home. It’s best if charged daily, as the battery in the Series 9 is smaller than what you’d get with the bigger Apple Watch Ultra 2. But this is standard smartwatch behavior.


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