Apple launched its latest Apple Watch models today, including an Apple Watch Series 9 and a new Apple Watch Ultra 2. The new watches come with all new processors — the first new iteration of this crucial component since three models ago. That will mean big improvements for some features, but the experience probably isn’t going to feel dramatically different if you’re already using last year’s device.
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Based on my very limited time with the new Apple Watches, there’s no difference when it comes to how they feel on the wrist, their buttons or really anything else when it comes to physical interaction. Much of the benefit of these new models will be felt over time through use, as the big changes are under the hood and apply to things like battery life and general speed. I could identify speed gains generally versus my own Apple Watch Ultra, which has the outgoing S8 SIP powering it.
Siri is faster, as Apple advertised, and that’s due to it running locally — no round-tripping your requests to the cloud and back for off-device processing. The screens also appear noticeably brighter, at least when compared side by side with last year’s watch, but this is again hard to properly measure and appreciate in the highly artificial and chaotic environment of the Apple event demo room.
Bottom line, these feel very much like Apple Watches, and while even on a three-year-old chip, last year’s version doesn’t feel pokey, you will likely get some benefit from the performance boosts that come with the Series 9 and Ultra 2. Remember, they also have the new, second-generation Ultra Wideband chips, which help with precision location and increased finding range, but that’s not something I was able to put through its paces in my few minutes with the device.
The other standout new feature is double tap, which lets you tap your fingers together twice with the hand of the wrist wearing the watch to start some action. I tested it out with timers and it worked as advertised. It’s a nice new interaction model and I could see it becoming intuitive as an added input method.
The Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are both available for preorder from Apple today, and ship September 22.