Apple kicked off its September 12 “Wonderlust” event by announcing the next generation of its Apple Watch lineup: Series 9.
At the heart of Series 9 is the S9 SiP chip, engineered specifically for Apple Watch. The S9 represents the first update to the CPU on the chip in the last three years as the S8, S7, and S6 chips featured the same CPU. The new S9 chip is Apple’s most powerful watch chip yet with more than 5.6 billion transistors: 60% more than the S8.
The S9 chip has a GPU that is 30% faster, making animations an navigation of Apple Watch Series 9 more fluid. The S9 also features a new four-core neural engine that is 2x faster. Apple is claiming 18-hour battery life on Series 9 watches.
Apple Watch Series 9 will ship with watchOS 10. You can read about all the new features in watchOS 10 right here. But Apple announced a new feature today, exclusive to Series 9, that the company says will change the way you use the watch.
Putting the power of the new S9 chip to use, Apple Watch Series 9 allows you to make on-screen selections without the need to tap the screen.
Double Tap is invoked by tapping your index finger and thumb together twice—kind of like a double click without the mouse or trackpad. Here’s a video of the feature in action:
Double Tap is a system-wide feature, so it will work in any app. Double Tap controls the primary button in an open app, allowing you to play/pause music, answer/end a phone call, and more. Double Tap can also open Smart Stacks in watchOS 10 from the watch home screen. Once a stack has opened, Double Tap adopts the function of the Digital Crown, allowing you to Double Tap to cycle through the stack.
Apple says Double Tap is made possible thanks to the new Neural Engine within the S9 SiP. The engine uses a machine learning algorithm to process data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart sensor on Apple Watch to detect the unique signature of wrist movements and changes in blood flow when a Double Tap is performed. (This is super interesting because you might assume that the watch is just looking for data from the accelerometer and gyroscope.)
The Double Tap gesture will be available in a software update due for October 2023.
Another big use of the S9 SiP chip is the new-and-improved Siri on Apple Watch. Thanks to this new chip, Siri requests that do not require information from the internet are now processed on-device, allowing you to control the watch with just your voice to accomplish tasks like starting a workout or a timer.
Thanks to the Neural Engine on S9 SiP, dictation has also been improved. Apple says dictation on Series 9 watches is now 25 percent more accurate than Series 8.
Apple has also added on-device processing to Siri for requests related to the Health and Fitness apps. For instance, you can ask Siri the status of your Move ring, log your weight, or ask how much sleep you got last night. Each request is handled on-device.
Ultra Wideband Improvements
Apple has also updated the ultra wideband (UWB) functionalities of Apple Watch in Series 9, bringing the same UWB chip found on the iPhone 15 models to Apple Watch Series 9.
For instance, you can now get precise location and directions of Apple devices and AirTags on Apple Watch, giving you the ability to track down something you’ve misplaced by following directions on the watch screen. HomePod users get an added bonus: when you bring an Apple Watch Series 9 near a HomePod, you’ll get media suggestions automatically via the Home Screen Smart Stack.
Apple Watch Series 9 also features a new display that will be easier to see in both bright and low light settings.
Series 9’s new display can reach 2,000 nits of peak brightness in bright conditions—double that of Series 8. Plus, the new display can now reduce brightness all the way down to 1 nit, making the display easier to read in dark rooms and at night.
As part of a larger initiative to be carbon neutral by 2023, Apple also announced that it will no longer sell leather products while offering more products made from recycled materials. That means new bands for Apple Watch.
Replacing Apple’s leather watch bands is a new Apple-designed material called FineWoven. Apple says FineWoven is a “durable microtwill made of 68 percent post-consumer recycled content that has significantly lower carbon emissions compared to leather.”
Apple says FineWoven has a suedelike feel and will replace leather on the new Magnetic Link and Modern Buckle Bands.
Apple has also redesigned the Sport Loop band to include 82 percent recycled yarn. The Nike Sport Band has been redesigned as well to contain 32 percent or more recycled fluorastomer. The Nike Sport Loop repurposes yarn from previous versions of the band.
Apple also worked with Hermès to create four environmentally-conscious bands. The Toile H and Twill Jump bands are woven; the Bridon is a knitted, hand-braided band with a chevron pattern; and the Kilim is made of waterproof molded rubber.
When is the new Apple Watch coming out?
Apple Watch Series 9 starts at $399 and is available to order today. Shipments and in-store availability will start September 22.