The Apple Watch has been a huge success for the company, pretty much tying up the wearables sector at the first attempt. With 2023 well underway, we’re looking forward to seeing what Apple will do with the next generation of its digital timepiece. So, here’s all the news, rumors we’ve discovered about the Apple Watch Series 9 as well as our expectations for the new device.
Apple Watch Series 9: Release date
Apple has a release schedule for its Watches that, if you’ll pardon the pun, runs like clockwork. For years now, its latest iterations have made their debut in the second or third week of September, usually alongside the new iPhones, with on-sale dates about a week and a half later:
Apple Watch Series 8: September 7, 2022
Apple Watch Series 7: September 14, 2021
Apple Watch Series 6: September 15, 2020
Apple Watch Series 5: September 10, 2019
Apple Watch Series 4: September 12, 2018
Apple Watch Series 3: September 12, 2017
It seems highly unlikely that Apple will change the cadence this year, so we expect the Apple Watch Series 9 to launch in September 2023, likely at an Apple Event on September 6 or 12.
Will there be a new Apple Watch Ultra?
The two loudest voices among Apple watchers: Mark Gurman of Bloomberg and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo think it’s not only the Apple Watch Series 9 that we will see in fall 2023.
A report from Kuo in mid-July 2023 mentions that a new Apple Watch Ultra is coming sometime in the second half of this year, while Gurman wrote in June that the second generation of the Apple Watch Ultra will arrive later in 2023 alongside the new Watch Series 9. Gurman wrote: “There will be two Apple Watch Series 9 models and an updated version of the Ultra (the watches are codenamed N207, N208 and N210).”
Will there be a new Apple Watch SE?
The Apple Watch SE isn’t likely to be updated until 2024. It’s usually the case that the SE is on a bi-annual update schedule. The first launched in 2020, the second in 2022, so the third is expected in 2024.
2023 Apple Watch Pricing
Again, Apple has been remarkably consistent with its pricing strategy for the Apple Watch for U.S. buyers. However, 2022 saw European countries take the brunt of several price increases. As such, the U.K. saw the baseline model rise by £50:
The Apple Watch Ultra costs $799/£849 and we don’t expect that to change for the second generation.
New Apple Watch Design
No changes are expected for the Apple Watch Series 9 design, however, some changes may be coming to the design of the Apple Watch Ultra that are likely to eventually make their way down to a later Apple Watch model.
One upcoming change coming to the Apple Watch Ultrsa could be to the screen size. A DigiTimes report back in February suggested that the Ultra screen size could increase from 1.9 inches to 2.1 inches.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has also predicted that a next-generation Apple Watch will get a larger display, but this may not happen in 2023 instead being a feature of the 2024 Watch (or later). Gurman wrote in early April that Apple is planning “a major update to the watch hardware in 2024, complete with a larger, custom-built display.”
Another change that could be coming to the Ultra is the use of 3D-printed parts for manufacturing. This rumor comes from analyst Ming Chi Kuo who says that Apple is planning to adopt 3D printing technology for “some of the titanium mechanical parts” of the next-generation Apple Watch Ultra.
The move to 3D printing should enable Apple to cut production times and costs and if it works out well the company may adopt the technique for more products in the future, according to Kuo.
Apple Watch Series 9: Software
One thing we know for sure about the Apple Watch Series 9 is that it will ship with watchOS 10. This means you can expect a few new watch faces—possibly a couple that are exclusive to the new model—and a new feature or two.
Following WWDC on June 5 we got a preview of a number of new features and apps coming in the Apple Watch software, from a new way to navigate and redesigned apps across watchOS 10. There will be new Clocks to choose from and new Watch faces as well as new apps and updates to existing apps, including the Compass and Maps app and new Health features. Read about watchOS 10 in our separate story.
We expect that watchOS 10 will be available for download around September 8. It will be available to install on Apple Watch Series 4 and newer.
Apple Watch Series 9: New features
The Apple Watch Series 9 isn’t expected to be a major upgrade over the 2022 models. According to a tweet from Mark Gurman in April 2023, the Apple Watch Series 9 upgrades will be “anything but major,” with the new model “poised for a more modest year.”
Even without major changes, there are still several possible new features that would make the Apple Watch Series 9 a worthy upgrade.
If you look at the tech specs for every new Apple Watch, you’ll see a new chip listed. The Series 8 has an S8 chip, the Series 7 has an S7, and the Series 6 has an S6. The only thing that’s weird is that they’re all the same chip with different names. While the S6 delivered a 20 percent boost in performance over the Series 5, the S7 and S8 are rebranded versions of the same processor according to teardowns and Apple’s conspicuous commission of any sort of performance improvements. But the S9 is rumored to change that, with a design based on the A15 that brings a boost in performance and battery life, and maybe a Neural Engine built into the chip.
If Apple updates the Ultra it is also expected to get the S9 chip.
New health sensors
Apple has been working for years on a non-invasive way to monitor glucose levels without needing extra equipment. A report in February claimed that a secret team within Apple has reached several “major milestones” in the project, and the feature is now considered to be at a “proof of concept” stage. However, it’s unlikely that it will appear in this year’s watch and could still be several years away.
Other possible sensors for inclusion could be an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor for measuring stress levels and a bioimpedance sensor for measuring body composition.
There have been plenty of rumors about Apple potentially using MicroLED displays on various devices over the past few years, but the strongest are targeting the Apple Watch as the first device to make the switch. After all, the Apple Watch was the first device to have an OLED screen—years before the iPhone—so it’s likely that Apple will debut its MicroLED screen on the Apple Watch too. Switching to microLED brings numerous advantages: the panels are thinner, brighter, higher-res and more power-efficient, and have faster response times.
However, we may have a bit of a wait for microLED watches, with the first to adopt the technology being the Apple Watch Ultra.
At one stage it was believed that the next-generation Apple Watch Ultra would sport a microLED at launch, but that change was predicted for 2024 and a new Apple Watch Ultra is now expected in 2023. It seems that Apple has encountered manufacturing problems with the new screen technology, so the Apple Watch Ultra model with a microLED display is now thought unlikely to launch until 2026, according to research company TrendForce. Hence we are likely to be waiting for the 3rd- or 4th-generation Apple Watch Ultra before microLED features.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Could we see the Action Button come to the Apple Watch Series 9?
Last year Apple introduced the all-new Apple Watch Ultra with a dizzying array of features and components. The newest member of the Apple Watch family featured a more rugged design, flat edges, and a slightly larger display (49mm vs 45mm on the Apple Watch Series 8), along with a surprising new feature: the Action button.
The Action button is located on the opposite side of the Digital Crown and would easily fit on the Apple Watch Series 9. On the Ultra you can set it to trigger specific tasks such as a stopwatch, workout, or flashlight, functionality that would be an excellent upgrade to the existing Apple Watch design.
Like the iPhone 14 Pro, the Apple Watch Ultra upgraded its GPS to include the L5 band in addition to the standard L1 for faster and more precise location tracking. Even if you’re not hiking in steep terrain, the extra band would be handy in busy city areas where the standard Watch can struggle. Apple has a habit of introducing new features on high-end models and then trickling them down to the lower-end models, and we think that very well could happen here.
Thus far, Apple Watches are one of the few remaining Apple devices that hasn’t been updated to 5G—even the high-end Apple Watch Ultra has 4G LTE. With the Apple Watch moving closer toward complete independence, having the fastest connection available seems like a good idea. We’re sure there are no doubt a few problems to overcome, but Apple tends to be good at that.
We’ll keep updating this article as more information becomes available, so be sure to check back regularly. In the meantime, if you can’t wait until September, here’s our roundup of the best Apple Watch deals currently around.
Martyn has been involved with tech ever since the arrival of his ZX Spectrum back in the early 80s. He covers iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, writing tutorials, buying guides and reviews for Macworld and its sister site Tech Advisor.