Apple Watch Series 9 Wish List: The Biggest Features I Want to See
The Series 9 is expected to be a modest update over the Series 8. But there are a few ways Apple could make it stand out.
Lisa EadiciccoSenior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
It's almost September, which means the rumored Apple Watch Series 9 could be right around the corner. If Apple's next smartwatch follows the same pattern as its predecessors, it will likely be a modest upgrade that brings minimal changes.
However, there are plenty of ways Apple could push its next flagship smartwatch even further.
Above all else, I'd like to see the Series 9 inherit some traits from the pricier $799 Apple Watch Ultra, such as longer battery life and the handy Action button. These features are helpful , even if you're not an athlete, which is why they belong on Apple's standard smartwatch and shouldn't be reserved for its sports-focused watch.
Apple typically releases new smartwatches in the September time frame alongside fresh iPhone models, meaning we likely won't have to wait long to see what Apple has in store. Bloomberg reports the upcoming watch could have a new chip and updated color options, while Apple is planning a larger revamp of its mainline smartwatch that could arrive in 2024.
Longer battery life
The Apple Watch's biggest shortcoming is battery life. And it's not just Apple; competing Android watches like the Google Pixel Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 also last for little more than a day on a single charge. The Apple Watch Series 8 that I've been wearing typically dies in the early afternoon after being worn for a full day and night.
That's long enough if you don't care about sleep tracking and plan to charge your watches overnight. But if you do want to log your slumber, you'll need to carve out some time the next morning to juice up your Apple Watch. Apple has made some improvements in recent years to make this easier, such as faster charging times and the introduction of low power mode, which arrived last year.
But there's no doubt you'll get longer battery life on the Ultra model. In my experience, the Apple Watch Ultra lasted for roughly two to three days. My colleague Lexy Savvides, who reviewed the Apple Watch Ultra in 2022, said you can expect to get almost two full days out of the watch, although workout and GPS features drain the battery more quickly.
Apple has already proved it can extend the Apple Watch's battery life, as the Apple Watch Ultra shows. Now it's time for Apple's regular smartwatch to catch up.
The Action button
I don't consider myself to be an athlete, which is why I assumed the Apple Watch Ultra would be too much for my taste. But there's one aspect of the Ultra that really resonated with me: the Action button.
It's the first time Apple has significantly updated the way you can interact with the Apple Watch since the original model's launch. The Action button can be programmed to carry out specific tasks, such as starting a workout, running a stopwatch, launching navigation features like Backtrack or using the watch's screen as a flashlight.
These small conveniences make jumping between apps on the watch much easier, which is why the Action button belongs on the regular Apple Watch too. Just like longer battery life, the Action button improves the Apple Watch's general usefulness rather than just its functionality as a sports watch. Apple has plenty of other ways to distinguish the more expensive Ultra from the standard Apple Watch, such as its larger screen, more durable design and depth gauge.
More uses for the temperature sensor
The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra are the company's first two watches to come with a temperature sensor. This enables both watches to measure nighttime wrist temperature, which Apple uses to provide retrospective ovulation estimates and improved period predictions.
But if you don't use the Apple Watch's cycle tracking features, there's little other use for the temperature sensor. While you can view temperature fluctuations in Apple's Health app, there isn't a useful way to make sense of that data. I'd love to see Apple combine temperature changes with other data points to provide more context about how rested you might be, similar to the readiness scores that Oura and Fitbit offer.
An update like this wouldn't necessarily require new hardware. Apple could likely add more features that make use of the temperature sensor through a software update.
Updates to the always-on display
On a display as small as the Apple Watch's, the way screen space is used is very important. As such, I'd like to see Apple come up with new ways to make the Apple Watch's screen more helpful, whether it be through updates to the always-on display functionality or new watch faces. Apple has done a lot of work in this area on the iPhone in recent years through features like the Dynamic Island and Standby mode in iOS 17. Now Apple should carry that approach over to the Apple Watch with the Series 9.
We won't know what to expect from the next Apple Watch until the company announces it. But I can imagine a few ways Apple could take the display on its smartwatch to the next level. For example, the always-on display hasn't changed much since Apple introduced it with the Series 5 in 2019. The current always-on display is already helpful, but it would be great if Apple could find ways to show even more data in this mode without impacting battery life.
When your wrist is down, the Apple Watch limits certain watch face functions to preserve battery life. For example, complications that show live data aren't active, and clock-themed complications like the timer and stopwatch round up to the minute so that they don't have to refresh each second. Perhaps advancements in Apple's processors and display technology will expand what you can do in always-on mode in the future, although this is just speculation for now.
The Apple Watch didn't get a significant performance boost last year, leaving Apple an opportunity to make a bigger impact on the Series 9. The Apple Watch Series 8 is already fast enough for basic tasks such as launching apps, starting workouts and navigating back to the home screen.
But since the Apple Watch's display is so tiny compared with other devices, interactions need to be as snappy and smooth as possible. That makes me think there's always room to improve performance on a device like the Apple Watch, especially as it gains new features like widgets in WatchOS 10.
Aside from the Apple Watch Ultra's arrival last year, Apple's smartwatch has only improved incrementally in recent years. And that's not necessarily a criticism, it just means the Apple Watch has matured. Like smartphones, year-over-year smartwatch upgrades aren't as impactful as they once were because features that were once considered premium -- like heart rate sensors, integrated GPS and cellular connectivity -- are now the standard. As such, it's harder for new devices to stand out.
But there's potential for Apple to expand the areas in which its smartwatch already excels, like health tracking, while addressing its weaker points, such as battery life. I'm hoping it takes that approach with the Apple Watch Series 9.