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Apple Watch Series 8 vs Watch Series 9: Which One to Buy?

Screenshot 2023 09 12 at 19.12.09
© Apple

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At first glance, the new Apple Watch Series 9 hardly looks any different from its predecessor. Even in a direct side-by-side comparison, the Watch Series 8 and Series 9 look absolutely identical. However, when you take a peek underneath the hood, there are stark differences between the two generations of smartwatches. In this comparison, nextpit reveals the important points to look out for when asking yourself: "Do I get the Apple Watch Series 8 or Series 9?"

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Apple Watch Series 8: The most important features

  The 2023 model The 2022 model
Image Apple Watch Series 9 product image Apple Watch Series 9
Apple Watch Series 9 review
Apple Watch Series 8 review
  • Aluminum: Starlight, Midnight, Silver, (PRODUCT)RED and a new pink aluminum case
  • Stainless steel: gold, silver and graphite case
  • Aluminum: midnight, starlight, silver, red
  • Stainless steel: silver, graphite, gold, space black
  • 41 mm / 45 mm
  • 41 mm / 45 mm
  • Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display, up to 2000 nits | minimum 1 nit
  • Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display, up to 1000 nits
  • Waterproof (50 meters); IP6X dustproof
  • Waterproof (50 meters); IP6X dustproof
  • Apple S9 + U2 chip (ultra-wideband)
  • Apple S8 + U1 chip (ultra-wideband)
  • Temperature, blood oxygen, ECG, heart rate, compass, constantly active altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS/GNSS, ambient light
  • Temperature, blood oxygen, ECG, heart rate, compass, permanent altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS/GNSS, ambient light
Safety functions
  • Fall detection, fall detection, noise monitoring, SOS emergency call, international emergency call
  • Fall detection, fall detection, noise monitoring, emergency SOS, international emergency call
Battery life
  • Up to 18 hours
  • 36 hours in energy-saving mode
  • Up to 18 hours
  • 36 hours in energy-saving mode
Memory capacity
  • 32 GB
  • 32 GB
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, W3 radio chip, LTE optional
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, W3 radio chip, LTE optional
Check offer*

While the Apple Watch Series 8 and Series 9 hardly differ from the outside, a lot has happened underneath the hood as far as the technical specifications are concerned. Apple installed the next-generation chipset in the Watch Series 9, including the new U2 chip for UWB, which enables some exciting new and future-oriented features. More exciting than expected: the display is also now extra dark!

Table of Contents:

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Watch Series 8: Prices and availability

As seen in the comparison table above, both the Watch Series 9 and the Watch Series 8 are available in 41 or 45-millimeter versions. They are available in both stainless steel and aluminum, while titanium remains exclusive to the Apple Watch Ultra.

The colors Midnight, Silver, (PRODUCT)RED, and exclusively for the Watch Series 9, a new pink aluminum case, are available. Prices start from $399 a pop. Those who opt for the stainless steel version can choose from gold, silver, and graphite.

For those who want to make a more sustainable choice, every aluminum Apple Watch Series 9 with the new Sport Loop band is touted to be carbon neutral. The Watch Series 8 lags behind in this department.

Check out the new colors and design of the Apple Watch Series 9.
These are the new colors and design of the Apple Watch Series 9. / © Apple

In line with Apple's sales strategy, the Watch Series 8 is no longer available in the official Apple Store but can only be purchased via third-party retailers such as Amazon. The price of the Series 8 can therefore fluctuate depending on when you buy it. The potential for a bargain here is therefore definitely much higher than with the newer Watch Series 9.

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

In terms of design, the two generations are very similar. Both offer 45 mm or 41 mm cases with an edge-to-edge display. Apple's decision to retain the display size and design suggests that the company believes it has discovered the ideal form factor. In addition, the new watchOS 10 makes more effective use of this display size as mentioned in the linked article.

As previously mentioned, the Apple Watch Series 9 introduced a pink color option reminiscent of rose gold. In addition, the Watch Series 9 is Apple's first 100% CO2-neutral product.

On surface, the Series 8 and Series 8 looks similar although the latter's darker display looks better in the dark.
Is this the Apple Watch Series 8 or Series 9? The case looks identical, but the darker display makes a noticeable difference in dark environments. / © nextpit

Compared to its predecessor, the Apple Watch 9 doubles the peak brightness this year and achieves 2,000 nits. Another important new feature is the display can now be dimmed down to one nit. This is a welcome innovation for dark places, such as movie theaters or in the bedroom, so that you don't burn your retina or those around you. The Watch Series 8 has a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits despite Apple not specifying the minimum brightness. However, the difference at the lowest brightness level is clearly noticeable.

Incidentally, anyone with an older Apple Watch can look forward to full compatibility when it comes to wristbands. Apple mentioned on its support page: "Bands for 38mm, 40mm, and 41mm cases are compatible with each other, and bands for 42mm, 44mm, and 45mm cases are compatible with each other." In addition, the bracelets of the 49 mm watches also fit the 44 mm and 45 mm versions.

In terms of durability, both the Watch Series 8 and Watch Series 9 are WR50 and IP6X certified, as Apple explained here. This means both models are suitable for swimming and snorkeling, but not for high-speed water sports or deep diving.

This is what the new wristband for the Apple Watch Series 9 looks like.
This is the new wristband for the Apple Watch Series 9. / © Apple

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Watch Series 8: Performance

One notable difference between the generations is the transition to the S9 SiP, which enables two important new features. The first is the double-tap gesture for one-handed operation of the Apple Watch Series 9. In addition, Siri runs locally on the smartwatch with the new chip which results in a significantly faster performance. In terms of pure numbers: The S9's new quad-core neural engine can handle machine learning tasks at up to twice the speed of the Watch Series 8.

According to Apple, the new CPU is 30 percent faster than the previous generation, which increases speed and efficiency, extends battery life, and shortens charging times. In addition, the Series 9 is equipped with the U2 ultra-wideband (UWB) chip, which enables precision search, allowing you to locate your iPhone 15, for example, using visual, haptic, and acoustic cues despite being in different rooms. The Apple Watch Series 8 cannot do this as it is equipped with the old U1 UWB chip.

As far as the operating system and general functions are concerned, both models run on watch OS 10 and therefore, both offer Apple's revised new smartwatch operating concept. You can find all the new features of what is probably the biggest watchOS update of all time in our major watchOS 10 guide.

Check out all the new features of the Apple Watch Series 9.
All new features of the Apple Watch Series 9 at a glance. / © Apple

Finally, when it comes to performance, now Siri on the Apple Watch can process requests directly on the device. This means for tasks that don't need internet data, like initiating a workout or setting a timer, Siri operates faster and more reliably without needing Wi-Fi or cellular connections.

Dictation is now up to 25% more precise than on the Series 8. This on-device processing ensures privacy and security and lets Siri access the Health app for health and fitness inquiries. You can also use a Siri command to record health metrics like weight or menstrual cycles with no problem.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Watch Series 8: Sensors

The Watch Series 9 didn't introduce any new sensors or physical controls. The Series 9 boasts features such as the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, and intuitive gestures including tap, swipe, and wrist raise. Do take note the double-tap gesture is a new addition. 

You can tap your thumb and index finger together to remotely control the Apple Watch Series 9.
The new Apple Watch Series 9 can also be remotely controlled by tapping your thumb and index finger together. / © nextpit

The "double tap" gesture proved very practical in our Apple Watch Series 9 review. Based on this gesture, users can control their watch with just one hand without touching the screen. By simply tapping your thumb twice on your index finger, you can perform primary app actions such as reading WhatsApp messages, answering calls, or even controlling the camera.

Powering this feature is the Series 9's advanced Neural Engine, which processes data from multiple sensors and uses a machine learning algorithm to recognize the specific motions and blood flow changes from the double tap.

The Apple Watch Series 9 carries over the Series 8's slew of sensors.
The Apple Watch Series 8 (pictured here) has the same sensors on the underside as the Watch Series 9. / © nextpit

The double tap gesture was only added to the latest Apple smartwatch via a software update a few months after the Watch Series 9 went on sale. Older Watch models will not receive the feature later.

That said, both the Series 9 and Series 8 incorporate identical temperature sensors: one positioned near the skin and another within the display. These sensors, primarily designed for menstrual cycle and ovulation tracking, continuously monitor body temperature, offering precise insights into ovulation timing or the forthcoming menstrual phase.

They also share the "Crash Detection" feature introduced last year, which now detects car accidents, enabling it to notify emergency services during severe incidents, as well as alert your emergency contacts.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Watch Series 8: Battery and fast charging

In terms of battery performance, even though we had some enhancements in processor efficiency, such as the advantages in the display brightness, Apple claims the battery life is the same as we have in the Series 8. This means the battery lasts all day for 18 hours as confirmed in the review.

However, both models feature a low-power mode, which Apple states can last up to 36 hours. Bear in mind, though, that this mode limits access to features like WLAN and LTE connections and deactivates sensors such as the PPG sensor for heart rate tracking. It can also curtail some background app functionalities.

The Apple Watch Series 9's brightness can now be dialled down all the way to just 1 nit.
Up to 1 nit: The display of the Apple Watch 9 can now also be darker. / © nextpit

For charging, both series employ a magnetic charger with a USB-C connector.

Conclusion: Is the upgrade worth it?

Yes, the Apple Watch Series 9 looks very similar to the Watch Series 8. However, you shouldn't be misled by this close resemblance because underneath the hood, there's a new SiP and the new second-generation UWB chip. Together, the new hardware enables exciting features, all of which provide a glimpse into the future.

The local and faster Siri features are certainly just the first step in the current AI explosion as far as the Apple digital assistant is concerned. The intuitive one-handed Double Tap gesture could also become even more important in the future in combination with Siri and not least with the Apple Vision Pro.

The UWB chip, which improves interaction with different devices, also belongs in the same category, even if the benefits are currently relatively limited with the precise iPhone search. However, future watchOS updates will certainly improve this, and this is precisely where the Apple Watch Series 8 will probably be left out.

All in all, the Apple Watch Series 9 is hardly worth an upgrade for those who already own a Watch Series 8. If you have an older Apple Watch and are wavering between the Series 8 and the Series 9, you should aim for the newer model in view of the relatively small price difference. This is especially true if you want to use as many of the new watchOS features as possible in the coming months and years.

Which model would you choose: the Apple Watch Series 8 or the Series 9? Which criterion was the deciding factor for you? I look forward to your opinion in the comments!

Article updated in March 2024 with the full review of the Apple Watch Series 9.

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Camila Rinaldi

Camila Rinaldi
Head of Editorial

With over 10 years of reviewing smartphones and wearables, I recently became addicted to smart home gadgets. Even though I dove into the Apple ecosystem two years back, Android remains as one of my passions. Previously editor-in-chief of AndroidPIT and Canaltech in Brazil, I now write for the US market. I love my records and I believe that the best way to get to know a place is through its food.

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