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When the Apple Watch Series 9 released in September 2023, it immediately supplanted the Series 8 in Apple’s lineup as the company’s flagship. Although it didn’t usher in many significant new upgrades, the Series 9 is the best Apple Watch you can buy, especially for new Watch wearers and those with older models.
But that’s not to say the Series 8 is past its prime. For certain users, the Series 8 is still a highly useful wearable, especially if it can be purchased at a discount on its original sticker price of $399. Current users don’t necessarily need to rush out and upgrade to the Series 9 and can instead wait for the Series 10 (or whatever gets announced next year).
Below is an in-depth breakdown of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Series 8, with comparisons of the watches’ design, smartwatch functionality, health and fitness tracking tools, and battery life. Read our full review of the Apple Watch Series 8 for more detailed insight.
The Apple Watch Series 8 features a temperature sensor, car crash detection, and low-power mode that weren’t available to previous generations of the smartwatch. Now the Series 9 is out, we’re seeing regular discounts on the previous model.
The Apple Watch Series 9 includes the newest S9 processor, a 2000-nit always-on Retina display, expanded Apple Health integrations with Siri, and a unique single-hand gesture to answer calls and interact with widgets.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Specs
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Size and design
Both the Series 9 and Series 8 are identical in size and appearance. However, the biggest distinguishable difference between the two is that the Series 9 is available in a new pink colorway.
Each comes in two different display sizes, 41mm and 45mm, and both feature an always-on display, as well as two case options of either aluminum or stainless steel. Both watches are also compatible with a variety of the best Apple Watch bands and the best Apple Watch Series 9 bands.
For the Series 9, its finish options include pink, Midnight black, Starlight tan, silver, and red in the aluminum case, and gold, silver, and Graphite black in the stainless steel case. The Series 8 comes in Midnight black, Starlight tan, silver, and red with its aluminum case, and Graphite black, silver, and gold with the stainless steel case.
Internally, the Series 9 has Apple’s new S9 chip, while the Series 8 uses the S8 chip.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Smartwatch features
The Series 9 and Series 8 are also nearly identical in terms of smartwatch functionality. Although Apple released the updated WatchOS 10 operating system alongside the Series 9, it’s also compatible with the Series 8.
The new features native to Watch OS 10 that work on both watches include updated app designs that make better use of the watch’s entire screen area, a new Smart Stack display setting, the ability to activate the Control Center by pushing the watch’s side button, and a range of new watch faces. It also offers other features like new cycling metrics, updated hiking data, and new mental health insights.
While both watches can use Watch OS 10’s new features, there is one new functionality native to only the Series 9: the unique Double Tap Gesture. The Double Tap Gesture allows users to interact with the Series 9 by double tapping their thumb and index finger. This gesture can answer or hang up phone calls, start or stop timers, and even take a photo as it’s able to control the main button in any app.
The Series 9 also offers smoother navigation and improved effects thanks to its S9 chip. Its new ultra-wideband chip improves location accuracy for features like Find My iPhone, as well.
Other smartwatch utilities, like sending and receiving text messages, interacting with apps, and taking phone calls, function exactly the same on both the Series 9 and Series 8. The Series 9 does have faster on-device Siri access, whereas the Series 8 utilizes Siri by communicating with the cloud.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Health and fitness tracking
Both the Series 9 and Series 8 have identical health and fitness tracking tools and function similarly when doing things like tracking activities, logging an ECG reading, or monitoring sleep. Since both watches are compatible with Watch OS 10, all new health and fitness features, such as the new cycling metrics and hiking stats, will work the same on either model.
However, the Series 9’s Double Tap Gesture will affect how users are able to use the health and fitness tools. For instance, since it’s programmed to control the primary button in any certain app, it can be used to start or stop a workout. This adds a degree of accessibility the Series 8 doesn’t have.
Beyond that gesture control, though, the Series 9 and Series 8 function exactly the same regarding their health and fitness capability.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Battery life
Battery life is yet another area where the Series 9 and Series 8 offer an identical experience. Both watches can deliver up to 18 hours of battery life on a full charge, with up to 36 hours of battery life in low-power mode. Low power mode shuts off some sensors while also disabling background apps in order to help the watch last longer.
The Series 9 and Series 8 are compatible with the same chargers, though the Series 9 does come with Apple’s new USB-C charge cable. The Series 8 can also use this charger, though any new purchase of the watch comes with the standard lightning cable.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Price
The Apple Watch Series 9 is available for purchase starting at $399 for the aluminum body model and $699 for the stainless steel option.
Conversely, the Series 8, which isn’t sold by Apple anymore, can be found via a retailer like Amazon or Target for anywhere from $300 to $350. However, it’s likely these prices will drop now that the Series 9 has been released.
Which should you buy?
The Apple Watch Series 9 and Series 8 are nearly identical smartwatches, with the Series 9’s upgraded S9 chip and the new Double Tap Gesture being the most substantial differences. But by and large, they function exactly the same.
Because of that, upgrading to the Series 9 is really only for a select set of users. That is, anyone wearing a Series 5 or 6, or older, should seriously consider the Series 9, while those wearing last year’s Series 8 (or the Series 7) can wait until next year. Even 2nd Generation SE users can hold off on upgrading.
But if the new features entice you enough to order a Series 9, you won’t be disappointed. It’s an improvement over the Series 8, even if it is minimal, and it’s not only the best Apple Watch but the best overall smartwatch you can buy, too.