Apple Watch Series 9 Buyer's Guide: How Incremental Upgrades Stack Up Over the Years

The Apple Watch has received some incremental updates in recent years, with significant upgrades becoming fewer and farther between as the device has progressed. Since the Apple Watch's generation-over-generation enhancements are relatively small, it is all the more important to consider when an upgrade is justified and whether an older model could suffice for your needs.

Apple Watch Series 9 Buyers Guide Feature
The Apple Watch Series 9's headline upgrade is the S9 chip, bringing improved performance to the Apple Watch for the first time in four years and facilitating features like Double Tap. It is priced starting at $399. Last year's Series 8 introduced body temperature sensing and Crash Detection, but the last moderately significant update for the device was 2021's Series 7, which introduced larger display sizes and fast-charging capability. All previous Apple Watch models from before the Series 9 have been discontinued, but older models may still be found for even lower prices from third-party retailers or second-hand.

Read on to see the breakdown below for each new feature, change, and improvement that was added with each Apple Watch model compared to its direct predecessor. Viewing each generation's changes in this way helps weigh up the accumulative upgrades one receives by skipping multiple generations when buying a new device, as well as get a sense of which generations offered the biggest overall upgrades.

Apple Watch Series 9 (2023)

  • Retina display with up to 2,000 nits of brightness
  • Display can get dimmer in dark rooms and at night (down to 1 nit of brightness)
  • Double Tap gesture
  • S9 chip (based on A15 Bionic)
  • 4-core Neural Engine (x2 faster than Series 8)
  • Siri‌ processed on-device for requests that do not need information from the internet
  • ‌‌Siri‌‌ can access health and fitness data
  • 25% more accurate dictation
  • Second-generation Ultra Wideband chip
  • Precision Finding for iPhone 15 models
  • HomePod proximity integration
  • 64GB storage
  • Pink aluminum casing introduced

Apple Watch Series 8 (2022)

  • S8 chip (same CPU as S6)
  • More powerful gyroscope and high dynamic range accelerometer
  • ‌Crash Detection
  • Body temperature sensor
  • Wrist temperature sensing during sleep
  • Cycle tracking with retrospective ovulation estimates
  • Blue and Green aluminum casings discontinued, Silver aluminum reintroduced
  • Apple Watch Edition discontinued

Apple Watch Series 7 (2021)

  • 41mm and 45mm case sizes
  • 1.7mm display borders for almost 20% more screen area than Series 6
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Up to 70% brighter display than Series 6 indoors when wrist is down
  • S7 chip (Same CPU as S6)
  • Crack-resistant front crystal (50% thicker)
  • IP6X dust resistance
  • Fast charging for up to 80% charge in about 45 minutes (33% faster than Series 6)
  • Silver and Space Gray aluminum casings discontinued, Midnight, Starlight, and Green introduced

Apple Watch Series 6 (2020)

  • Up to 2.5x brighter always-on display
  • Access Notification Center, Control Center, and Complications when display is asleep
  • S6 chip (based on A13 Bionic, 20% faster than S5)
  • Always-on altimeter
  • First-generation Ultra Wideband chip
  • 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi
  • Blood oxygen sensor
  • Faster charging for a full charge in under 1.5 hours
  • Improved battery life for tracking certain workouts, such as indoor and outdoor runs
  • Blue and (PRODUCT)RED aluminum casing options introduced
  • Space Black stainless steel casing available with Apple Watch Hermès only, Graphite option introduced
  • Ceramic Apple Watch Edition discontinued

Apple Watch Series 5 (2019)

  • Always-on Retina display
  • Force Touch removed
  • S5 chip
  • Compass
  • 32GB storage
  • Apple Watch Edition reintroduced with White Ceramic, Natural Titanium, and Space Black Titanium casing options

Apple Watch Series 4 (2018)

  • 40mm and 44mm case sizes
  • Over 30% larger display with curved corners
  • 3.0mm display borders
  • S4 chip (2x faster than S3)
  • Gyroscope and accelerometer
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Fall detection
  • 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
  • Optical heart sensor and electrical heart sensor for ECG
  • 16GB storage
  • Digital Crown with haptic feedback
  • 50% louder speaker
  • Relocated microphone for reduced echo and better sound quality
  • Faster charging for a full charge in 1.5 hours
  • Gold stainless steel casing introduced
  • Apple Watch Edition discontinued

Apple Watch Series 3 (2017)

  • S3 chip (70% faster than S2)
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • ‌Siri‌ able to speak through the onboard speaker
  • LTE cellular model available with red Digital Crown
  • Rose Gold aluminum casing discontinued
  • Gray Ceramic Apple Watch Edition model introduced

Apple Watch Series 2 (2016)

  • Retina display with up to 1,000 nits of brightness (2x brighter than previous generation)
  • S2 chip (dual‑core)
  • GPS and GLONASS receiver
  • Water resistant up to 50 meters
  • Gold and Rose Gold aluminum casing options added
  • 18K Gold and Rose Gold Apple Watch Edition discontinued, Ceramic model introduced in White
  • Apple Watch Nike+ variant introduced

The ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ does not seem to provide a meaningful upgrade for most Series 7 and Series 8 users. If you have an Apple Watch Series 6 or older, upgrading to the ‌Apple Watch Series 9‌ will generally be worthwhile, with plenty of new features across the board. Discounted Apple Watch Series 7 and Series 8 models are also a good option for those coming from a Series 6 or older if you are looking to save money.

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple has considered moving the Apple Watch away from an annual upgrade cycle to offer more substantial updates less frequently. Next year's Apple Watch "Series X" is rumored to be a significant update to mark the tenth anniversary of the device, featuring thinner casings, larger displays, microLED technology, larger batteries, blood pressure monitoring, and a new mechanism for connecting bands.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 9
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)

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Top Rated Comments

agsystems Avatar
9 months ago

Yeah, think this S7 will hold on for at least another year and I'd need something big to give me a reason to upgrade.
Really - I still have the S4 with 87% battery -works perfectly for what I need
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PsykX Avatar
9 months ago
They're all welcomed changes, quality of life improvements and all, BUT...
I think most people buy a Smart Watch for the Health Features, and there's been nearly nothing since the Blood oxygen sensor on Series 6.

Not that we didn't get anything, but I mean...

We got Car Crash detection, but you also get it on newer iPhones.
We got the siren on the Ultra, but it's a feature you're not supposed to be end up using - else you got yourself into some real trouble.
We got cycle tracking and ovulation tracking, and while I will admit this is often underestimated, it doesn't serve me as a man, at least I'm not gonna buy a new watch for myself for that.
We got body temperature sensor - but it's so inaccurate it cannot be used to predict you're becoming sick (unlike my Oura Ring can do).

Where's all that was mentioned in the rumors before, the "clinic on a wrist" ? Glucose tracking, alcohol, hydration, blood pressure, an actually useful body temperature sensor, etc.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
indychris Avatar
9 months ago
Can’t wait until next year when it can distinguish between a pinch of the thumb and forefinger and a pinch of the thumb and pinky. Imagine the possibilities! I could save at least three seconds a day by not having to touch my phone to adjust volume on my AirPods. The potentialities are mind blowing!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MrRom92 Avatar
9 months ago
I have big expectations for either next year’s Apple Watch, which will be series 10/series X, or the year after which will actually be the 10th anniversary of Apple Watch.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
StudioMacs Avatar
9 months ago

Yeah, think this S7 will hold on for at least another year and I'd need something big to give me a reason to upgrade.
I’m in the same boat. I watched the keynote this year wondering if Apple would give me a reason to want to upgrade my S7, but there was no killer feature. I guess double tap is the headline, but I can wait another year for that. I wasn’t motivated enough to turn on any of the accessibility gestures when I first read about them a while back…
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LedRush Avatar
9 months ago
I have to charge my AW 6 twice a day, which makes me not want to use it. I moved back to a traditional watch a few months ago and mostly liked it. But 3 days ago I started using the 6 again and it is much more comfortable than I remember. Maybe I will try out the 9.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)