It's September, which means the air is thick with the promise of fall, school is back in session, and Apple just revealed a new Apple Watch. This year, at its annual fall event, the company is showing off the Apple Watch Series 9. The Series 9 features a new processor, the S9 chip, and a quad-core neural engine, which promises 18-hour battery life and overall performance boosts. On the software side, watchOS 10 is poised to be the biggest UI overhaul in Apple Watch history, with a renewed focus on widgets, and a slew of app and input updates.
The neural engine enables offline Siri access, which means you won't need your iPhone nearby to interact with Apple's digital assistant on the Series 9. In the same vein, dictation is 25 percent more accurate on Series 9 than Series 8. The engine also processes AI tasks twice as fast as the previous iteration, and it powers new gestures. The Series 9 GPU is 30 percent faster than the Series 8, and it uses a second-generation ultra wideband chip that unlocks precise object location for other UWB devices. The new model features a maximum brightness of up to 2000 nits, doubling the Series 8's capabilities.
The new double-tap gesture allows wearers to control some Watch functions by bringing their thumb and index finger together in quick succession, without ever touching the screen. Double tap activates the primary button in an app, so it can be used to take a photo with the Camera Remote, answer and end a call, play and pause music, stop a timer, and other basic actions. Double-tap will roll out in a software update in October.
The Watch Series 9 is available in 41mm and 45mm sizes. For aluminum cases, it comes in starlight, midnight, silver, red, and a new pink colorway. The stainless steel case options are gold, silver and graphite.
Apple is touting the Series 9 as its first carbon-neutral product, meaning select case and band combinations are carbon neutral. Specifically, any aluminum Series 9 with a new Sport Loop band is carbon neutral. This is the first step toward the company's goal to be carbon neutral across its entire business, manufacturing supply chain and product life cycle by 2030. Apple products that fall under this category will display a logo featuring a ring of green leaves.
The redesigned Sport Loop band for Apple Watch includes 82 percent recycled yarn and these new ones are carbon neutral. The company is also ditching leather altogether, and in its place it's developed a material called FineWoven, which has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than leather and apparently feels like suede.
With watchOS 10, Apple is returning to its wearable roots. The original Apple Watch UI revolved around Glances, which offered a carousel of widgets and other features, but the company eventually transitioned to an app-first UI. WatchOS 10 puts widgets front-and-center once more, in a style similar to the existing Siri watch face. Rotating the digital crown opens a smart stack of widgets, and apps like timers, stopwatches and podcast players will populate as widgets when they're in use.
Other watchOS 10 upgrades include the ability to view FaceTime video messages and join Group FaceTime audio, track power and heart rate data during cycling sessions, and update your emotional state in the Mindfulness app using the digital crown. The software update also adds useful features to the Compass app, including a pin that will automatically drop near the last place you had cellular connection, which will be particularly useful while hiking and camping. Physical controls are changing with watchOS 10, too — press the side button to open the Control Center and double-press the digital crown to see recently used apps.
Of course, you won't need a shiny new Series 9 to take advantage of these new features. The watchOS 10 update will be available on Apple Watch Series 4 and later models starting September 18. Apple also unveiled the premium Watch Ultra 2 during Tuesday's event.
The Apple Watch hasn't seen a significant design update in years, with incremental hardware and software changes in each new model since the Series 6 in 2020. This makes the S9 processor upgrade in the Series 9 notable. Bundle that with the rollout of watchOS 10, and it's a mildly exciting year for Apple Watch users.
The Apple Watch Series 9 is available to order today and it's due to hit the market on September 22. It starts at $399. In the meantime, be sure to read some first impressions from Engadget's Deputy Reviews Editor, Cherlynn Low, who covered Tuesday's event in Cupertino.
Follow all of the news live from Apple's 'Wonderlust' event right here.
Update, September 20 2023, 2:33PM ET: Read our full review of the Apple Watch Series 9, which is now live on Engadget.