Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch 8 — biggest upgrades

Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch SE (2022)
(Image credit: Future)

Now that the Apple Watch Series 9 has been announced at Apple's Wonderlust event, we know definitively how the Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Series 8 compare. 

The Apple Watch Series 8 is the best smartwatch right now, but depending on the improvements for the Apple Watch Series 9, it could become our top pick. It's possible that the next Apple Watch will pack new features for communication, activity, safety and more.

Based on what we’ve heard and seen at the event, the Apple Watch Series 9 has a few key updates  compared to the Series 8. Specifically, a new processor will enable you to use the phone by just tapping your fingers, and make it easier to look up your health data and find your phone. 

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Price

Apple has held steady on the Apple Watch prices for several years, with the Apple Watch Series 8 starting price matching that of the Apple Watch Series 7 and most previous generations. The Apple Watch 8 currently starts at $399 for the 41mm model, with premiums for the larger 45mm model and cellular connectivity. You can typically check the best Apple Watch deals for a discount, though.

Fortunately for consumers, the Apple Watch Series 9 has the same price as the Apple Watch Series 8: It starts at $399 for the 41-millimeter, GPS-only model. The price is $499 for the GPS + cellular version. The 45-millimeter size, meanwhile, will start at $429 and goes up to $529 for cellular support. 

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Design

The Apple Watch Series 9 has the same design as its predecessor, which was the same as the Apple Watch Series 7. It's again available in 41mm and 45mm sizes and an array of color options; however, new for Series 9 is a fun pink color that matches the new pink iPhone 15.

There's nothing noticeable design-wise that differentiates the Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7 besides color options. So, it's possible the Apple Watch Series 9 will come in exclusive colors, perhaps ones that will match the iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro.

Otherwise, customizing the look of the Apple Watch Series 9 will come down to swapping out between the best Apple Watch bands.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Features

There are no major new sensors on the Apple Watch 9; the biggest difference you might notice is that its display has a max brightness of 2000 nits, which outshines the Apple Watch 8. 

The biggest change to the Apple Watch 9 is its new S9 processor and U2 ultrawide-band chip. The processor enables a pretty neat trick: When you're wearing the watch, you can double-tap your index finger and thumb to enable certain features, such as answering and hanging up calls, launch widgets, and more. It should come in handy for those times when your other hand is otherwise occupied, but you need to activate something on your Apple Watch.

Additionally, the upgraded U2 ultrawide-band chip makes finding your iPhone easier, as it can give you directions down to the foot, and powers new proximity-based experiences between your Apple Watch and HomePod. For example, when you approach your HomePod, music options and controls will automatically appear on your Apple Watch. 

The Apple Watch 8 got a skin temperature sensor that informs cycle tracking and crash detection, while the Apple Watch 7 debuted a QWERTY keyboard.

Older reports pointed to the next Apple Watch getting a built-in blood glucose reader, as well as a blood pressure measurement system, but we've also heard these features won't be ready for a few more years.

Other features of the Apple Watch Series 9  could revolve around watchOS 10. From what we know about the watchOS 10 public beta, the software's redesigned home screen experience driven by widgets and Smart Stacks offers a major upgrade. New watch faces, added workout types, refreshed apps and other improvements make watchOS 10 one of the most substantial software updates we've seen for Apple Watch in years.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Battery life

Nothing new here: The Apple Watch Series 9 will have the same battery life as the Apple Watch Series 8: up to 18 hours of battery life with regular fitness tracking, sleep-tracking and the always on display enabled. But Apple Watch low power mode disables certain power-draining features while leaving the device still mostly usable. With low power mode turned on, the Apple Watch can last up to 36 hours.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Outlook

Apple set the smartwatch bar high for itself several years ago, which is why the incremental improvements continue to pay off. But competing smartwatches are getting better. The Apple Watch Series 9 upgrades don't look to be all that major, with the exception of the new double-tap feature and the brighter display, both of which will definitely help those with usability issues. 

Kate Kozuch

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.