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Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Which model should you buy?

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Apple Watch Series 9 Colors
June Wan/ZDNET

 In December, a patent dispute between Apple and Masimo, a medical technology company incited a ban on the sale of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2. But thanks to a pause issued by a US appeals court, both models are once again available to buy both online and in Apple stores. 

Also: Best Apple Watches: Expert tested and reviewed

The Series 9 introduces a new, one-handed gesture input, Double Tap, which allows you to answer calls, pull up apps, and more by simply tapping your thumb and forefinger together. This is great news for anyone who has issues with fine motor skills and might not be able to effectively use touch-based inputs or easily operate the digital crown. And if you’re looking to score a great deal, you can pick up a Series 9 from Walmart for just $299.

So, is it worth upgrading from your Apple Watch Series 8? Let’s take a look at the main differences between last year’s Apple Watch and this year’s.

Specifications

Apple Watch Series 8

Apple Watch Series 9

Display

41 or 45mm Retina

41 or 45mm Retina

Display brightness

Up to 1,000 nits

Up to 2,000 nits

Processor

Apple Silicon S8

Apple Silicon S9

Storage 32GB 32GB
Battery 18 hours 18 hours
Dust/water resistance WR50, IP6X WR50, IP6X  
Connectivity 5G LTE, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5G LTE, GPS
Price $429 $399 for GPS, $499 for GPS and LTE

You should buy the Apple Watch Series 9 if…

Apple Watch Series 9 at trail entrance, taken with iPhone 15 Pro Max
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You will benefit from the one-handed Double Tap gesture input

The Apple Watch has a tiny display and buttons, which can be a pain to navigate and operate — especially if you have issues with fine motor skills. 

With the single-hand gesture, you’ll be able to perform tasks that are assigned to the digital crown and action button, such as launching apps, answering calls, or snoozing your alarm.

2. You need a brighter display

The updated Retina display used in the Apple Watch Series 9 is capable of a peak brightness of 2,000 nits, which means you’ll be able to read texts, use FaceTime, and work with apps more easily in harsh overhead lighting or direct sunlight. 

Review: Apple Watch Series 9: Don’t settle for the less expensive models this year. Here’s why

The display can also be set to just one nit for an ultra-dim display when you need it, such as when you’re getting ready for bed and don’t want notifications waking you up, or when you’re in a movie theater.

3. You’re looking for a more eco-friendly smartwatch

The Apple Watch Series 9 is made with a case produced from 100% post-consumer aluminum, and the new woven watch bands are made with up to 68% post-consumer material. This means that Apple is helping to reduce the amount of metal and e-waste entering landfills, as well as reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

You should buy the Apple Watch Series 8 if…

Apple Watch Series 8
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You don’t need the faster S9 chip

The Series 9 is made with the new Silicon S9 chip and a 4-core neural engine processor for faster, smoother animations as well as on-device Siri request processing. 

Also: Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: Which is best for you?

However, if you don’t use Siri on your Watch very often, or if you don’t pay much attention to how pretty your apps look while launching or in use, the new S9 chip isn’t going to be much of a benefit.

2. HomePod integration is not your thing

The Series 9 is built to work with the Apple HomePod in order to enhance and expand your smart home’s device network. 

Also: Your Apple device may be eligible for a major software update

But if you don’t use smart speakers, or just prefer that your home be as disconnected from the internet as possible outside of your phone, TV, and computer, the ability to use your watch to control your smart devices will feel like a wasted feature.

3. You don’t need one-handed gesture inputs

The biggest change to the Series 9 is the ability to use the Double Tap feature to launch apps and control your new Apple Watch. And while this is great from an accessibility standpoint, it may feel like a gimmick for anyone who won’t see any real benefit. The expanded gesture input support may become a must-have feature in future Apple Watches, but for now, it’s up to personal preference.

Alternatives to consider

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