Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Series 8: Should you upgrade?

Apple Watch S9 with Nike bands
Apple / Apple

Apple has debuted its next generation of smart watch, promising more power, increased functionality, and an all round upgrade on previous generations. But if you dropped around $400 on an Apple Watch less than a year ago, is it really worth opening your wallet again?

There are several arguments against buying new tech every time it comes out. There may not be that big a performance leap between one or two generations of a device, or in the case of an iPhone changes may actually be minimal from year to year. Then there’s cost to consider. A device like a smartwatch is a significant purchase, so why buy another if you really don’t have to?

We’re going to directly compare the Apple Watch 9 to its predecessor, and work out if it’s worth Apple Watch 8 owners cracking open their collective wallets again. Here is why you should maybe consider upgrading to Apple’s latest smartwatch, along with a reason why you shouldn’t

Apple Watch S9 display
Apple / Apple

The Apple Watch 9 has far better specs

We’re going to begin by addressing the elephant in the room. Head to head, in terms of raw specs, the Apple Watch 9 blows its predecessor out of the water. The company’s in house S9 chip offers a 30% overall performance increase when compared to its predecessor.

It also removes some potential bottlenecks from the equation, thanks to things like a built-in version of Siri. According to Apple, common requests will no longer be met with a loading wheel when your internet connection is bad. Instead, the built-in assistant will just answer straight away.

As for  specs you can see, the Retina display is a lot brighter on the Series 9, coming in at 2000 nits. So if you’re often squinting to read your watch in bright conditions, then this could be the upgrade you’re looking for. The only area that hasn’t seen a vast improvement is battery life, which remains the same. So if you were hoping for an extra day, or at least the ability to get 24 hours of “regular use” from a single charge, then you’re out of luck.

An Apple Watch Series 8
Apple / Apple

The Apple Watch 8 is still a solid piece of kit

While things may look impressive on paper for the Apple Watch 9, let’s give the Apple Watch Series 8 its due. The watch was a cutting edge piece of kit on launch, and is still one of the best smartwatches you can purchase.

As far as raw hardware goes, the watch is in no way sluggish and the “30% performance boost” may not be something you’ll notice during regular use. In terms of appearance, the Series 8 and Series 9 look pretty much identical, from what we’ve seen so far anyway. And you still have plenty of fancy features to impress your friends with.

In addition to the boosted ECG functionality, and other health-focused tweaks to the Series 8 — you have cutting-edge features like crash and fall detection. So while Apple’s latest watch boasts a couple of new toys, its predecessor could still save your life. If, for some reason, you’re reading this and you don’t own an Apple Watch 8 — it may be worth considering one if the new release pushes the older tech’s price down.

Apple Watch S9 Double Tap
Apple / Apple

The increased functionality really seals it

Moore’s Law, a long standing idea that hardware doubles in power and drops in price every couple of years, has pretty much held true for decades. So if a 30% to 50% performance boost alone could justify an upgrade, we’d be doing so every year without question. But the watch’s new chip, and the software it is capable of powering, offer more than a simple performance boost.

The newest Apple watch comes with a bundle of new features you’ll probably find yourself using in daily life. The “double tap” feature means navigating your smart watch when your other hand is occupied is likely to get easier. Built in Siri looks great for avoiding irritation. And health functionality, which has been a major selling point for smart watches since they first hit the market, has also received a huge boost. On top of everything else, the ultra-wideband chip powered “find my iPhone” feature doesn’t only look immensely useful, it also looks a little fun. Yes, misplacing your phone can be frustrating, but the thrill of pulling out the wrist radar might make up for it.

Apple Watch Double Tap

“Double Tap” is a new gesture that is made possible due to the increased sensory capability of the S9 chip. Users can navigate the watch by “double tapping” the thumb of their watch hand into their index finger. This allows for one handed operation of the watch, and can be used to scroll menus, answer calls, and play media — amongst other things. It joins a range of gestures that were present on the Apple Watch 8 and older devices, but is exclusive to the Apple Watch 9, Ultra 2, and beyond.

Apple Watch power users may have already experienced something similar to Double Tap. A function called “Assistive Touch” was added to the accessibility menu as far back as the Apple Watch Series 4. But the new gesture seems to be far more streamlined, and is enabled fresh out of the box.

It’s this functionality that may swing it for many potential buyers. No one has a stopwatch out, nobody actually cares if a screen pops up an almost immeasurable fraction of a second earlier. But people do notice the actions they perform, and see other people perform, daily. If you’re sitting there surrounded by people double tapping away on their watch hand while holding a coffee in the other, you could start to feel a little left out.

To make things clear, as big a leap as the Apple Watch 9 is — hanging on to the Series 8 for another year probably won’t ruin your life. But if an upgrade is in the budget, then you can enjoy what is a significant single-generation leap forward.

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