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When the Apple Watch Series 9 was released in September 2023, it immediately supplanted the Series 8 in Apple’s lineup as the company’s flagship. It didn’t usher in many significant new upgrades but the Series 9 is still the best Apple Watch you can buy, especially for new Watch wearers and those with older models.
But that’s not to say the Series 8 is past its prime. For certain users, the Series 8 is still a highly useful wearable, especially if it can be purchased at a discount on its original price of $399. Current users don’t necessarily need to rush out and upgrade to the Series 9 and can instead wait for the Series 10 (or whatever gets announced next year).
Below is an in-depth breakdown of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Series 8, with comparisons of the watches’ design, smartwatch capability, health and fitness tracking, and battery life. Read our full review of the Apple Watch Series 8 and full review of the Apple Watch Series 9 for added insight.
The Apple Watch Series 8 isn’t the newest model anymore, but it’s still one of the best smartwatches around, perfect for both fitness nuts and everyday users. This is the best price we’ve ever found for it.
The Apple Watch Series 9 includes the newest S9 processor, a 2000-nit always-on Retina display, expanded Apple Health integrations with Siri, and a unique single-hand gesture to answer calls and interact with widgets. This matches the lowest-ever price too.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Specs
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Size and design
Both the Series 9 and Series 8 are identical in size and appearance. However, the biggest distinguishable difference between the two is that the Series 9 is available in a new pink colorway.
Each comes in two different display sizes, 41mm and 45mm, and both feature an always-on display, as well as two case options of either aluminum or stainless steel. Both watches are also compatible with a variety of the best Apple Watch bands and the best Apple Watch Series 9 bands.
For the Series 9, its finish options include pink, Midnight black, Starlight tan, silver, and red in the aluminum case, and gold, silver, and Graphite black in the stainless steel case. The Series 8 comes in Midnight black, Starlight tan, silver, and red with its aluminum case, and Graphite black, silver, and gold with the stainless steel case.
Internally, the Series 9 has Apple’s fast, new S9 chip, while the Series 8 uses the S8 chip.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Smartwatch features
The Series 9 and Series 8 are identical in how they function as a smartwatch. Although Apple released the updated Watch OS 10 operating system alongside the Series 9, it’s also compatible with the Series 8.
The new features native to Watch OS 10 that work on both watches include updated app designs that make better use of the watch’s screen area, a new Smart Stack display setting, the ability to activate the Control Center by pushing the watch’s side button, and new watch faces. It also offers other features like new cycling metrics, updated hiking data, and new mental health insights.
While both watches can use Watch OS 10’s new features, there is one new functionality native to only the Series 9: the Double Tap Gesture. The Double Tap Gesture allows users to interact with the Series 9 by double tapping their thumb and index finger. This gesture can answer or hang up phone calls, start or stop timers, and even take a photo as it’s able to control the main button in any app.
The Series 9 also offers smoother navigation and improved effects thanks to its S9 chip. Its new ultra-wideband chip improves location accuracy for features like Find My iPhone, as well.
Other smartwatch utilities, like sending and receiving text messages, interacting with apps, and taking phone calls, function the same on both the Series 9 and Series 8. The Series 9 does have faster on-device Siri access, whereas the Series 8 utilizes Siri by communicating with the cloud.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Health and fitness tracking
The Series 9 and Series 8 both have identical health and fitness tracking tools and function similarly when doing things like tracking activities, logging an ECG reading, or monitoring sleep. Since both watches are compatible with Watch OS 10, all new health and fitness features, such as the new cycling metrics and hiking stats, will work the same on either model.
However, the Series 9’s Double Tap Gesture affects how users can use the health and fitness tools. For instance, since it’s programmed to control a certain app’s primary button, it can be used to start or stop a workout. This adds a degree of accessibility the Series 8 doesn’t have.
Beyond that gesture control, though, the Series 9 and Series 8 function the same regarding their health and fitness capability.
It’s worth noting that newer versions of the Series 9 no longer offer a blood oxygen-sensing feature. While the initial release of the watch did have it, an International Trade Commission patent ruling against Apple forced the company to remove access to the technology from its current watches (this also includes the Ultra 2). The ruling does not impact the Series 8 or any Series 9 sold before the decision.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Battery life
Battery life is yet another area where the Series 9 and Series 8 are alike. Both deliver up to 18 hours of battery life on a full charge, with up to 36 hours of battery life in low-power mode. Low power mode shuts off some sensors while also disabling background apps to help the watch last longer.
The Series 9 and Series 8 are compatible with the same chargers, though the Series 9 does come with Apple’s new USB-C charge cable. The Series 8 can also use this charger, though any new purchase of the watch comes with the standard lightning cable.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs. Series 8: Price
The Apple Watch Series 9 is available for purchase starting at $399 for the aluminum body model and $699 for the stainless steel option.
Conversely, the Series 8, which isn’t sold by Apple anymore, can be found via a retailer like Amazon or Target for anywhere from $300 to $350. However, these prices will likely drop now that the Series 9 has been released.
Which should you buy?
The Apple Watch Series 9 and Series 8 are nearly identical smartwatches, with the Series 9’s upgraded S9 chip and the new Double Tap Gesture being the most substantial differences. But by and large, they function the same.
Because of that, upgrading to the Series 9 is only for a select set of users. That is, anyone wearing a Series 5 or 6, or older, should seriously consider the Series 9, while those wearing last year’s Series 8 (or the Series 7) can wait until next year. Even 2nd Generation SE users can hold off on upgrading.
But if the new features entice you enough to buy a Series 9, you won’t be disappointed. It’s an improvement over the Series 8, even if it is minimal, and it’s not only the best Apple Watch but the best smartwatch you can buy, too.