Apple unveiled its latest generation of smartwatches — the Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 — during its product launch event on Tuesday, 12 September 2023.
The wearables feature Apple’s latest in-house silicon, promising significantly faster performance and enabling several new features.
“We’re introducing our best Apple Watch lineup, with incredible new capabilities and technological advancements, including a new double tap gesture, brighter display, on-device Siri, as well as our first-ever carbon neutral products,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
The Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 pack Apple’s S9 chip, which features a 56 billion-transistor CPU and four-core neural engine.
Apple says the S9 chip’s GPU is 30% faster than the S8 featured in last year’s model of the Apple Watch.
The improved chip enables several new features for Apple’s smartwatches, including NameDrop, on-device processing for Siri, and a new gesture.
Apple Watch product marketing director Deirdre Caldbeck said the four-core neural engine makes on-device Siri request processing a reality. This results in faster responses and improved security.
Apple said the S9 chip makes dictation on the latest generation of smartwatches 25% faster than on the Apple Watch Series 8.
Regarding display capabilities, Caldbeck said the Watch Series 9’s edge-to-edge Retina display offers a peak brightness of up to 2,000 nits to improve visibility in direct sunlight. It can drop as low as one nit for low-light scenarios.
On the other hand, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 has an entirely flat display capable of reaching up to 3,000 nits of brightness.
The new chip, combined with WatchOS 10, adds NameDrop to its list of supported Apple features.
Like on iPhones, NameDrop lets wearers bring their devices near one another and easily share contact information.
Regarding fitness features, Apple Watch Series 9 owners can access and log health data directly with Siri on-device.
“For requests that do not require information from the Internet, such as starting a workout or setting a timer, Siri does not rely on Wi-Fi or cellular networks, resulting in quicker and more reliable responses,” Apple said.
It emphasised that all on-device processing is private and secure.
The Apple S9 chip features a second-generation Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) chip, which enables Precision Finding for the iPhone 15 family, which packs the same UWB chip.
“Precision Finding provides distance and direction, as well as visual, haptic, and audio guidance to a misplaced iPhone, even if it is in a different room,” Apple said.
It also enables deeper integration with Apple HomePod.
Apple added a new gesture for the Apple Watch Series 9 — Double Tap — letting wearers answer or end calls, start or stop timers, and play or pause music by tapping their index finger and thumb together twice.
“The algorithm detects the unique signature of tiny wrist movements and changes in blood flow when the index finger and thumb perform a double tap,” Apple said.
Regarding battery life, Caldbeck said the S9 chip enables all-day battery life in the Watch Series 9, while the Watch Ultra 2 offers up to 36 hours of typical use and up to 72 hours on low power mode.
Pricing and availability
The Apple Watch Series 9 is available in two sizes — 41mm and 45mm — and in two finishes, each offering various colour options.
Customers may opt for Pink, Midnight, Starlight, Product Red, and Silver in the aluminium finishes. In the steel finishes, the options are Gold, Silver, and Graphite.
Pricing for the Apple Watch Series 9 starts at $399 (R7,550 excl. VAT, duties, and exchange fees), while the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is available from $799 (R15,115 excl. taxes and fees).
Pre-orders for both wearables open today, with shipping commencing from Friday, 22 September 2023.