A magical new double-tap gesture, brighter displays and new ways to log health data – these are just some of the exciting new features coming to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2.
Head to your local gym or favourite park and you’re likely to notice something everyone has in common – the number of wrists sporting an Apple Watch. And it’s not hard to understand why.
I’ve previously admitted to using one since they were first introduced in 2015, and like many other people, I’ve been able to track run times, rides in the saddle (lockdown hobby) and countless laps in the pool. As a result, it’s been an invaluable tool in helping to monitor my progress (and occasional setbacks) when used with Apple’s Health app.
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Last year, the tech company took the popular wearable to the next level with the introduction of the Apple Watch Ultra, designed to be the most durable and capable in its lineup of smartwatches. With that came new features such as the customisable ‘action’ button, a corrosion-resistant titanium case and water resistance up to 100m. No, a year on, Apple is again looking to build on its success.
From Apple’s Cupertino-based headquarters in Silicon Valley, we detail everything you need to know about the cool new features coming to Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2.
What’s new with Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2
Say hello to the double-tap gesture
Of all the features announced at today’s special event, none gained more attention and fanfare than the introduction of the new double tap gesture. While gestures for Apple Watch aren’t new, they’ve previously been limited to those requiring a direct physical connection with your device’s display – that is, until now. Starting with Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, the new double tap gesture, made by tapping your index finger and thumb twice in quick succession, will enable you to control your watch without having to touch the display.
The gesture can be used in multiple ways, from answering (or ending) a call, playing or pausing music, and even stopping workouts. Having tried the feature out after the special event, we believe this will change the way users interact with their Apple Watch forever.
Siri gets a glow-up with on-device processing and the ability to retrieve and log health data
In what was also a major update for Apple Watch users, Siri requests that don’t require Wi-Fi or mobile reception can now be processed directly on your device. As a result, Siri will be able to complete the command faster and with more reliable responses. Want to start a workout or set a timer to monitor your break between sets, but your gym has poor mobile reception? Siri will get it done directly from your wrist.
And because on-device processing is secure and private, you’ll also be able to retrieve and log health data using Siri. Want to know how many hours of sleep you had or log new data such as your weight, period or body temperature? Siri now has your back.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 takes centre stage
While the Apple Watch Series 9 will come with several exciting improvements and new features, it’s the Apple Watch Ultra 2 that we’re really excited about. When Apple says it’s the most rugged and capable watch they’ve ever made, they weren’t kidding. The team put the Apple Watch Ultra 2 through rigorous and extreme testing for use across an incredible range of altitudes, we’re talking up to 9,000 metres right down to 500 metres below sea level. In short, it’s seriously tough.
The new model will also feature an updated display, up to 50 per cent brighter than its predecessor, making it easier to view and read mid-run, hike or while on your bike in harsh sunlight conditions. Speaking of displays, a new watch face, aptly called Modular Ultra, will allow you to see the most real-time data and number of complications of any Apple watch face.
Cycling (and hiking) gets a significant update with watchOS 10 on Apple Watch
When WatchOS 10 launches later this month, Apple Watch users will now be able to view key live cycling metrics on their iPhone (as long as it’s running iOS 17) for ease of view when mounted on their bike. Riders will also be able to access two new metrics, including watts and cadence, when paired with Bluetooth accessories such as speed and cadence sensors and power meters.
For avid cyclists, WatchOS 10 will be able to estimate the highest intensity a rider can maintain theoretically for an hour (known as Functional Threshold Power or FTP), and new personalised Power Zones will help track and improve performance without the need for additional accessories.
For the keen hikers among us, the Compass app on Apple Watch will receive two new updates: the ability to record a waypoint that estimates the last known place with phone reception, and another that allows the creation of an emergency call waypoint that estimates where a user last had access to reception on any available network – not just your own.
For more on how WatchOS10 will change the way you cycle, discover the one secret to taking your cycling to the next level.
Pricing and the lineup
Apple Watch Series 9 prices start at $649 and will be available in both 41mm and 45mm sizes in starlight, midnight, silver, (PRODUCT)RED, and a new pink aluminium case, as well as stainless steel in gold, silver, and graphite cases.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 will be available for A$1,399.
When can we expect to get our hands on them?
Orders for Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 can be made from today, with availability beginning Friday, September 22.
This writer travelled as a guest of Apple.