The new Apple Watches look a lot like their predecessors, so there’s not much surprising on that front. The Ultra 2 still has that rugged look and titanium shell, and the Series 9 has the same general design as many of Apple’s recent smartwatches.
The tech specs have a few nice jumps, though. Both are equipped with a new S9 SiP (System in Package) and a new ultra wideband chip. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 jumps up to a screen brightness as high as 3,000 nits, while the Apple Watch Series 9 can max out at 2,000 nits. Both will also support a double-tap feature to help you do things like answer phone calls.
Looking at an Ultra side by side with the Ultra 2, it was really hard to spot any differences. At first, the Ultra 2 felt significantly lighter, but that was probably due to the fact that the new fabric straps are much lighter — after handling it a few more times, it felt like the units themselves were about the same. Likewise, although the Ultra 2 now has 3,000 nits of brightness, it was kind of hard to see the difference indoors.
That said, there were only titanium colors on display. While there were rumors of a darker version, that doesn’t appear to be the case. With the new modular Ultra 2 watchface, there are complications galore, which is great if you like to have a bunch of glanceable data. Likewise, the bezels around the border can be edited to display metrics like depth or elevation.
As for the Series 9, it’s visually pretty much identical to the Series 8. The new pink color is quite nice; it’s not something we’ve really seen on an Apple Watch just yet.
We only got to try some demo units, so it’s hard to evaluate how much faster the S9 SiP is. We did, however, get to try a limited version of the new double-tap feature on the Series 9. If you’ve ever used Assistive Touch, it’s quite similar to that but a bit more contextual. With Assistive Touch, you have to go through a more involved setup process. We got to try scrolling through the new smart widget stacks as well as editing timers, and it’s pretty intuitive, though it might take you a second to get used to double-tapping. (It feels more of a pinching gesture.) A representative also said that you’ll be able to use it to control the camera — which is pretty handy.
We’ll be getting our hands on some review units soon, so we’re looking forward to putting the new S9 chip through its paces to see how well Siri works compared to previous models. There was too much noise in the Steve Jobs Theater to really tell.
Here are some more photos if you’re curious: