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Apple Watch Series 9 review

In our Apple Watch Series 9 review, we find improvements from previous generations, but there's still a way to go compared to some of the alternatives.

Custom image for Apple Watch Series 9 review with the device sat on the charger

Our Verdict

The Apple Watch Series 9 is the best Apple Watch for most people. It might be a little expensive, but it's one of the best smartwatches you can buy. The app ecosystem carries this watch, and while Android Wear is catching up, what you can do on an Apple Watch without pulling out your phone is still unparalleled, so it earns its price tag.

Reasons to buy
  • Bright screen
  • Powerful processor
Reasons to avoid
  • Looks identical to previous model
  • Disappointing battery life

The Apple Watch is arguably one of the best watches you can buy with your iPhone. That’s mainly because you can’t use the Apple Watch with any Android phone. Apple has a distinct advantage in the hardware space because it builds everything with compatibility in mind. That’s the case with the most basic pairing – the iPhone and the Apple Watch. They complement each other marvelously.

It isn’t a perfect device, though. Like many of the best smartwatches, the battery is not impressive in its longevity, though it is better than some. But the Apple watch makes up for that lack of battery life with integrated functionality between the iPhone and Watch, to the point where you don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket for many tasks. You can open and launch apps, triage emails, reply to messages using voice, and even open your garage door from your wrist. So, is it the best Apple Watch? Keep reading to find out.

Why you can trust our advice ✔ At Pocket Tactics, our experts spend days testing games, phones, tech, and services. We always share honest opinions to help you buy the best. Find out how we test.

Custom image for Apple Watch Series 9 review with the device showing the inbox

Price and availability

Apple Watch Series 9 pricing begins at $399 for a 41mm aluminum case. It comes in Midnight, Pink, Starlight, and Silver. The price of the 45mm model is $429, climbing to $529 if you want the LTE version of the watch. If you want to go with the creme de la creme, that price is $799 for the 45mm Stainless Steel case. Put simply, this watch is not inexpensive, but it’s on par with equivalents in the WearOS space and even high-end fitness watches like Garmin.

For the price, you get the watch, your choice of strap style, and a charger (but no USB wall plug). You can buy the watch from Apple.com, various carriers, and other online retail outlets like Amazon.


Battery Li-Ion 308 mAh
Display 1.9-inch Retina LTPO OLED (484×396 pixels)
Chipset Apple S9
Storage 64GB
Colors Midnight, Pink, Starlight, Silver


The Apple Watch Series 9 has a full suite of sensors that can track your steps, sleep, blood oxygen, heart rate, and body temperature. Under the hood, the Apple Watch Series 9 runs on an Apple S9 processor specifically designed for the Apple Watch. You also get Siri on your wrist, which is much better than previous versions.

The newest feature this year is the double-tap action gesture. You can tap your thumb and forefinger together twice to trigger the dominant button on your watch face. That can include answering or ending a call, replying to a message, and more.

Custom image for Apple Watch Series 9 review showing the device on the wrist with options open

In practice, I have found the double-tap gesture to be akin to force touch on the iPhones of yore, which is to say it’s of limited use, and I usually forget that it’s there until after I’ve just tapped the screen to do what I wanted to do. That double-tap gesture comes with the Watch OS 10.1 update, which only arrived just before this review, so further exposure may get me more used to it.

Coming from previous generations are features like Crash Detection, Fall Detection, and Apple Pay, the first two of which you hope you’ll never need and the last of which is extremely useful. Additionally, you can load up boarding passes for air travel on your Apple watch instead of pulling out your phone. I would love to love this feature more, except the boarding pass only stays on the screen for a limited time before switching back to the watch face. As someone who travels with a cane for walking, this feature is handy, but I have to wait to pull it up until right before I need it, making it far less helpful.

Design and display

From a design standpoint, the Apple watch remains predominantly the same as previous generations. The display can get up to double the brightness of the Apple Watch Series 8 (2,000 nits in total), which is handy when viewing the screen under the sun. You still have the same rotating crown and second button on the right side.

Custom image for Apple Watch Series 9 review with a top down view of the device showing notifications

The Apple Watch Series 9 retains the same quick-release slots for the watch bands, which is ideal because it means that previous accessories you have purchased still work. In fact, a watch band that you bought for the first Apple Watch should still theoretically work. You don’t typically see that kind of longevity in a mobile accessory, and I’m here for it.

On the back, The Apple Watch Series 9 has an optical and electrical heart sensor, Blood oxygen sensor, and temperature sensor. The case is the same as in the past three generations, with roughly the same battery size. Overall, it’s hard to tell, at a glance, what Apple Watch generation someone has unless they are double-tapping their fingers or touching the screen.


Battery life on the Apple Watch is decent, but that’s as far as it goes. I typically averaged about 29 to 36 hours on a single charge, with always-on-display turned on, though I often didn’t run the battery down entirely. When you have a watch that lasts over 24 hours, you need to top it off at the end of the day so it can track your sleep all night. That’s not terribly inconvenient, but it can be a bit of a headache, depending on when the watch decides it’s about to die.

Fortunately, the watch charges relatively quickly with the included charger. I frequently use several third-party chargers, such as a neat ESR 3-in-1 MagSafe folding charger I used on a Maui work trip for a week. Those don’t charge the watch as quickly as the included charger, which can top up a low battery in just over an hour.

The point here is that the Apple Watch earns its short battery life by being as functional as it is. The watch gets bullet-proof notifications, syncs seamlessly with the iPhone, and has tremendous app support. All that functionality makes for a shorter battery life. That functionality includes boarding passes from the United app, pizza tracking from multiple pizza apps, and the ability to disarm my security system, open my garage door, and unlock my kitchen door without taking my phone out of my pocket. It’s ideal.


The S9 processor on board can easily keep up with your day-to-day activities. There are no stutters or lag when switching between tasks, summoning Siri, or making a contactless payment. It’s all very smooth, which we’ve come to expect, given the hardware involved.

Custom image for Apple Watch Series 9 review showing apps including the United app

Background processing is fantastic, too, and it’s this background processing that allows the watch to work seamlessly with the iPhone. You get every notification, have rock-solid connectivity, and experience no delay when using the Find My feature. Android smartwatches are catching up in this regard, but now and then, you’ll get a missed notification or a bunch all at once because the phone put the smartwatch app to sleep or you lost connectivity for a while and didn’t notice.

Background processing enables features like loud noise notifications or automatic exercise detection. The latter is very convenient because you don’t always realize when your guided tour is about to turn into a 45-minute powerwalk. The Apple Watch logs this activity and pops up automatically without you thinking about it.

Should you buy the Apple Watch Series 9?

Ultimately, the Apple Watch remains the best watch to buy if you have an iPhone. Apple has built its ecosystem of devices from the ground up to ensure that all these devices complement each other well. It’s expensive, to be sure, but it brings a ton of value that another watch company can’t, like the app ecosystem.

It’s easy to overlook the apps you can get on the watch, but it’s one of the biggest value-adds for the Apple Watch. None of the other smartwatches offer this much utility. Whether or not you’re able to take advantage of that capability largely depends on the apps you use on a day-to-day basis.

If you’re looking for health data, you can get similar data on a Fitbit or a Garmin smartwatch. Some of those watches will even include crash detection and an ECG. By comparison, Apple has fewer watch faces than some of its competitors. So, if all you’re looking for is health data, there are cheaper options. But if you want a watch that is an extension of your phone and built to work with it effortlessly, then the Apple Watch is the way to go. But the Series 9 has competition from the Apple Watch SE, as you’ll find below.

So, yes, there are less expensive options, which makes it hard to justify the price of the Series 9. If you want a temperature sensor, double-tap, and Siri access to health data, then the Series 9 is the way to go. Otherwise, you might be okay with the SE.


If you’re not sold on the Apple Watch Series 9, check out some alternatives below.

Apple Watch SE

As mentioned, the Apple Watch SE brings much of what the Apple Watch Series 9 offers, but it starts at $150 less than its bigger sibling. You still get the deep integration between the watch and the phone, the same solid notifications, and a lot of the same performance. What you lose with the SE is the Watch 9’s 2000 nit display, blood oxygen sensor, ECG, and the double tap feature.

Given all that, it’s easy to see why the Apple Watch SE starts at $249, so it comes down to your use case. For an older person like me, the ECG and blood oxygen sensors are helpful, but I can take or leave the rest of them. I was looking forward to the prospect of double tap, but it’s rarely top of mind when I’m using the watch, and an opportunity presents itself to use the feature. Then again, I’m rarely carrying armfuls of groceries or hanging from a cliff face. In those situations, I’ll probably just call my mom back.

Garmin Venu 3

One of the Apple Watch’s most significant compromises comes in the form of battery life. While I regularly averaged more than the 18 promised hours of battery life with the Series 9, the Garmin Venu 3 will give you a round display, multiple watch faces, and battery life measured in days, not hours. The Garmin Venu 3 usually gives me around 5-7 days of battery life, or even more if I turn off the always-on display.

The health data is just as good. You even get Siri access on the Venu 3, though not summoned by voice). There isn’t the same level of app support, but the battery life alone might be worth the sacrifice. When I’m not using an iPhone, I’m wearing a Garmin Venu 3.