Apple Watch Series 9 Review – The Final Piece of Puzzle

Super Daddy
16 Min Read
Apple Watch Series 9 Review – The Final Piece of Puzzle
  • Appearance - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Efficiency - 6.8/10
    6.8/10
  • Features - 8.7/10
    8.7/10
  • Materials - 8.1/10
    8.1/10
  • Performance - 8.7/10
    8.7/10
  • User Experience - 8.8/10
    8.8/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10

Summary

If you have an Apple ecosystem around you, then you will quickly realize how the Apple Watch completes the final puzzle piece. If you don’t, it would just feel like another smartwatch with very beautiful display for you.

Overall
8.2/10
8.2/10

Pros

+ Plenty of aftermarket accessories to customize to your flavor
+ Gorgeous LTPO OLED display
+ Full day battery guaranteed
+ Almost instantaneous charging
+ Gestures control
+ Improved “Find My” feature to locate your iPhone

Cons

– Overwhelmingly health conscious
– Gestures are still very limited
– Proprietary charger means I need to carry another cable just for it

We started our journey with the Apple Watch Series 8 last year and it was already a rather exquisite piece of hardware that crossed our doors. This year, we got the Apple Watch Series 9 (45mm) and there were some rather exciting parts announced at the keynote that we wanted to test. So here it goes.

Unboxing the Apple Watch Series 9

Apple Watch Series 9 Box
Apple Watch Series 9 Box

Among the various Apple devices I have had the opportunity to unbox, I find the Apple Watch to be particularly engaging. The main packaging reveals two distinct boxes upon opening. The first box houses the watch itself along with its accessories, while the other contains the strap, already offering a choice for customization. Inside the boxes, you will find:

  • The Apple Watch Series 9 itself
  • Wireless Charger with Type-C connector
  • Textile Strap
  • User Guide
Apple Watch Series 9 with strap
Apple Watch Series 9 with Midnight Blue Strap

We got ourselves the 45mm Aluminium variant in Midnight color, has both GPS + cellular, a textile Sport Loop strap in Midnight color and an additional Rubber Nike Sport Band in Pure Platinum.

Specifications

CPU Apple S9
S9 SiP with 64-bit dual-core CPU
Apple W3 Wireless chip
4-core Apple Neural Engine
GPU PowerVR
Memory 1GB RAM
Storage 64GB
Display 1.9″ 484 x 396 (326ppi) Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display with Ion-X glass
2000 nits peak brightness with down to 1 nit in Sleep Focus
Audio Loudspeaker
Microphone
Camera No
Sensors High-g accelerometer (up to 256G with Crash Detection), High dynamic range gyroscope, Blood oxygen sensor (Blood Oxygen app), Electrical heart sensor (ECG app), Third-generation optical heart sensor, Temperature sensor, Always-on altimeter, GPS/GNSS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and Beidou, Compass, Ambient light sensor
Connectivity LTE and UMTS
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz, 5GHz
W3 wireless chip
Bluetooth 5.3
International emergency calling
International Roaming
NFC
Software watchOS 10.2
Battery 308mAh Li-ion
Apple proprietary wireless charging (USB-C)
Dimensions 45 x 38 x 10.7 mm
Weight 32.1g/39.0g
Ingress protection IP6X

The Good

Apple Watch Series 9 in pouch
Apple Watch Series 9 in its protective pouch

Apple consistently upholds its design principles across various iterations, and the Apple Watch Series 9 exemplifies this tradition. Distinguishing it from its predecessors is challenging, as its appearance closely mirrors that of earlier models. This similarity might diminish the novelty typically associated with newer versions. However, I personally appreciate this design continuity. Being a watch enthusiast, I find selecting designs often laborious. The Apple Watch alleviates this by allowing users to focus on its impressive internals. This design consistency contributes to the Apple Watch being one of the most customizable smartwatches available. The market is replete with an array of straps and cases, offering abundant choices for personalization. Additionally, the compatibility of accessories from older models with newer ones ensures that while the watch may initially appear standard, it can be transformed into a distinct, personalized accessory. How abundant you may ask? I personally wanted a Titanium band with snap lock but in matte black; and I found it on my first search.

Apple Watch Series 9 watch face
Apple Watch Series 9 Watch Face

Discussing the display and interface of the Apple Watch reveals an aspect where Apple excels with little need for introduction. The device boasts a crisp, visually stunning LTPO OLED display. While exceptional displays are not exclusive to Apple – I’ve experienced numerous smartwatches that rival the visual quality of the Apple Watch – it’s the interface experience that truly sets it apart. The tactile interaction with the Apple Watch is remarkably smooth, offering a seamless glide that responds intuitively to every touch. This level of touch responsiveness is a unique hallmark of Apple. No other tech company has quite matched Apple’s prowess in delivering such a fluid and responsive touch experience across their devices.

One standout aspect of the Apple Watch Series 9 that impresses me is its battery management. It may not boast the longest battery life among smartwatches, but its efficiency in power management significantly reduces any battery anxiety. In my rigorous test, I pushed the Apple Watch 9 to its limits: activating GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, and even using an e-SIM package by Maxis. I enabled every possible feature, from health and mindfulness apps to heart and sleep monitors, and reminders. The concept of a smartwatch is to utilize these functionalities, so why not?

Remarkably, with every function active, the watch comfortably sustained a day and a half from full charge to depletion. This endurance became particularly evident during a short vacation where, with about 25% battery left and 18 hours away from a charger, I switched to battery-saving mode and observed minimal battery consumption. This experience underscores a crucial design philosophy in Apple products: the choice between constantly enlarging batteries, which can compromise other features like portability, and optimizing the device’s efficiency. Apple’s approach to intelligent engineering and optimization clearly shines in this regard.

Apple Watch Series 9 Front Facade
Apple Watch Series 9 Front Facade

Delving into the charging mechanism of the Apple Watch Series 9 reveals a thoughtful approach by Apple, balancing speed and battery longevity. In my experiments with the watch, I noticed a distinct charging pattern. The Battery Management System (BMS) permits the full current to flow until the battery reaches 80%. This phase is impressively swift, achieving a significant charge in just 40 minutes. Beyond the 80% mark, the charging process becomes more regulated, with a gradual reduction in power intake, allowing the remaining 20% to fill over approximately 30 minutes.

This charging strategy seems to align with user habits and the practical usage of the watch. Considering the device’s capabilities, like sleep habit monitoring, it’s plausible that Apple anticipates scenarios where users might forget to charge their watches regularly. By enabling a rapid charge for the majority of the battery and then slowing down for the final segment, the design appears to strike an optimal balance. It ensures quick top-ups for daily use while also taking measures to extend the overall battery lifespan. This hypothesis aligns with Apple’s known emphasis on user experience and device longevity, reflecting their commitment to integrating practicality with technological advancement.

Apple Watch Series 9 "Find My" feature
Apple Watch Series 9 “Find My” show directional pointers with accurate distance and sound enabler

The “Find My iPhone” feature in the Apple Watch Series 9 elevates the common functionality of locating a paired smartphone to a new level of sophistication. While it’s not unusual for smartwatches to assist in finding a connected phone, typically by triggering a sound or vibration, the Series 9 goes a step further. It integrates a directional indicator, which not only notifies you that your phone is nearby but also guides you towards its exact location.

Finally, gestures! Now this one is a love-hate relationship for me still. I’ll explain what I didn’t like about it in the next section, but for now, I love it! It almost works every time too and rather seamlessly. With the pinching gesture, you can navigate between the widgets that have been predefined. I think you can kinda see what I didn’t like about it already, but that’s for the next chapter. You can also answer calls or snooze an alarm with this gesture. Good for a start.

The Bad

Apple Watch Series 9 Rear Sensor
Apple Watch Series 9 Rear Sensor

One thing that ticks me a lot is that Apple Watch puts too much emphasis on health related features; not that its bad, but it feels over-done. Like 80% of the watch just revolves around this. I’m not 24/7 health conscious and I could for once want a watch that probably focuses more on entertainment stuff instead? What if it could aid me in my gaming by displaying quick overview of my character? Or maybe function as a mouse for my Macbook when I’m just lazing around? Over the years, every time the Apple Watch has been announced, most of it is around health.. health.. health..

Regarding the charging aspect of the Apple Watch Series 9, while I appreciate its commendable battery performance, I find the necessity for a unique charging cable somewhat inconvenient. This is particularly notable in my current tech ecosystem, where my iPhone 15 Pro Max has significantly reduced cable clutter. The Apple Watch Series 9 stands as the sole device requiring a dedicated charging cable, incompatible with Qi chargers, MagSafe, or even the back of the iPhone. This requirement slightly detracts from the otherwise impressive capabilities and convenience offered by the watch, highlighting an area for potential improvement in future iterations of Apple’s wearable technology.

Apple Watch Series 9 Gestures
Apple Watch Series 9 Gestures

Okay, about the gestures that I was talking about above? It was the one thing I was really looking forward to when I got the Apple Watch Series 9 but it quickly turned into a bit of a disappointment because the only thing it does is scroll between widgets. I don’t need to scroll through the same widgets. I don’t know who does. What I actually want is to scroll through my notifications instead. That’s something I need quick glances all the time without taking my phone out of my pocket. I could sit in a gathering and scroll my notifications without looking like an anti-social, wouldn’t that be great? Knowing Apple, I know this will be something they will implement in the future, but I was hoping it would have been THE first thing they implemented with gestures instead.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but I have to highlight it here. The Apple Watch is not alien to me and I never understood what was the big deal about it. It’s nowhere near durable as my Casio G-Shock GSW H-1000 either. However, as I have been building my Apple ecosystem, it started to make more sense. The Apple Watch Series 9 helps me to unlock my other Apple devices, search for them, and perform a myriad of tasks that are otherwise not possible. For this experience, you need to have more than just the Apple Watch and we know this is not an affordable route. Every device that I have added to my ecosystem has unlocked something and the Apple Watch feels like that final piece of puzzle that cohesively holds all of them together.

It does all of this in a beautiful orchestration. I wake up in the morning, wear my Apple Watch Series 9 on my wrist but its asking for my passcode and I ignore it. I then pick up my iPhone 15 Pro Max and unlock it with Face Recognition. As soon as it identifies that its me, it proceeds to unlock my Apple Watch Series 9 too – provided its already on my wrist. I get into my car, CarPlay connects to my iPhone and my watch immediately switches to album art and play controls ready to play my music. I reach my workplace, lift up the lid of the Macbook Pro and it helps me to unlock it without having to enter the passcode. Remove the watch from your wrist and suddenly it gets removed from the ecosystem and something feels missing. That seamless! You can’t have this experience with anything outside of Apple ecosystem and that is a bummer.

Apple Watch Series 9 Verdict

Apple Watch Series 9 Boot Logo
Apple Watch Series 9 Boot Logo

The Apple Watch Series 9 is probably one of the most beautiful watches I myself have ever used. It’s elegance lies underneath its simplicity and its seamlessness deliver a somewhat magical experience on its own. This is the first time I would say, I don’t think the Apple Watch Series 9 is expensive for what it offers, starting at RM1,899 or even its Stainless Steel counterpart at RM3,299. It does become expensive if you do not own other Apple products yet because the real beast that you actually want to unleash in it lies underneath that ecosystem that it completes. And let me warn you now, once you dive into that ecosystem, it becomes extremely hard to get out of it and its dependencies. Classic Apple.

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