Two new smartwatches are hitting shelves: the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2. If you're in the market for a smartwatch, you might be wondering which one is right for you.
The Apple Watch Series 9 arrived as scheduled, offering the most up-to-date Apple smartwatch experience starting at $399. Running watchOS 10, the Apple Watch Series 9 is pitched as the best smartwatch overall with a faster processor, new ultrawide-band capabilities and a useful double tap gesture for controlling the device single-handedly.
Last year, Apple released the Apple Watch Ultra, an all-new premium Apple Watch with a 49mm display and double the battery life of the Apple Watch Series 8. The $799 has been refreshed this year alongside the Apple Watch Series 9, with many of the same upgrades but in a more rugged design.
Both watches become available on September 22. Here's how the Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2 stack up in terms of price, design, features and more.
Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2: Price and availability
The Apple Watch Series 9 price remains the same as it has for years past. It currently starts at $399 for the 41mm model, with premiums for the larger 45mm model and cellular connectivity.
Unlike other the best Apple Watch models, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 has only one 49mm, GPS + Cellular configuration that costs $799. That remains the same for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra.
Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2: Design
The Apple Watch Series 9 design is mostly unchanged. It comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes (both in aluminum and stainless steel), as well as in an array of color options, including a new pink finish. Besides that, not much new looks-wise between the Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Series 8.
The 49mm Apple Watch Ultra 2 makes the Apple Watch Series 9 look small side-by-side. The Ultra also has a flat display, while the flagship Apple Watch screen has a soft curve. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 maintains the same general appearance, but it's now made of 95% recycled titanium compared to entirely virgin titanium on the first-gen model.
Changing the material source is part of Apple's mission to make all its devices carbon neutral by 2030. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, when paired with certain watch bands, are the company's first carbon neutral-certified devices.
Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2: Features
The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 have most features in common. Both come with watchOS 10, have the latest suite of health sensors, offer safety features, integrate with Apple Fitness Plus, support the best Apple Watch apps and more.
But the Apple Watch Ultra ushers in some new features that set it apart from the Apple Watch Series 8 as a rugged adventure watch. The titanium frame and brighter 3,000 nits peak brightness mean it's well-suited to surviving the knocks and dings of outdoor pursuits while remaining legible. The built-in siren is a game-changer for emergencies, too. It also offers the longest battery life of any Apple Watch and the added functionality of the Action Button, which is essentially a quick launcher for a selection of apps and tools.
The biggest upgrade we see for both devices is the Series 9 chip, which promises a 25% improvement to efficiency. It improves Siri experiences, too. Plus, a new ultrawide-band (UWB) chip makes it easy to find your iPhone 15 if you've misplaced it.
Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2: Battery life
We have a guide to the Apple Watch Series 9 battery life, but in short, the Apple Watch Series 9's battery life is the same as the previous-gen Apple Watch Series 8. It lasts 18 hours with normal use.
If battery life is your priority, you might want to consider the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Even with a brighter display, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 gets 36 hours of battery life with normal use.
Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2: Which should you buy?
If you’re going to be in the market for a new smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are both strong options. That said, these are incremental upgrades comapred to the Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Ultra, meaning our advice holds steady.
The Apple Watch Sieres 9 will be the better smartwatch for most people. The Apple Watch Ultra 2, on the other hand, is better for those who would benefit from the outdoor sports features, or who can justify spending $400 more for the premium design.
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.