Apple Watch 9/Ultra 2 – tech changes needed for Watch X (Watch 10) and Ultra 3.

Image: UTMB – is that Canyon Woodward taking a selfie with his iPhone?

Apple Watch 9/Ultra 2 – what the tech changes mean for the next generation of Watch X and Ultra 3.

I’m going to quickly go through the technical details of Watch 9 and Ultra 2 and say exactly what has changed to date…and it isn’t much. Then I’ll highlight what might be in store for the 2024/25/26 models which should be FAR more exciting than what we saw the other day

Buy: Apple Watch Ultra 2 from $799, Eu899, GBP799

Buy: Apple Watch Series 9 from $499, Eu449, GBP399

Apple Watch 9/Ultra 2 – changes from Watch 8/Ultra

These are the changes, I’ll use bullet points for clarity. The tiny number of changes made are in bold.

  • Durability – unchanged with WR50 (ISO 22810:2010 water resistant) and IPX6X for dust.
  • Connectivity – unchanged with Bluetooth 5.3 and  Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz & 5 GHz)
  • Optical HR Sensor –  unchanged 3rd gen sensor from Series 6 (six) with ECG and SpO2 sensing
  • Temperature – unchanged from Series 8
  • Ultra Wide Band – new gen 2 ability
  • GNSS – with GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou. Seemingly unchanged hardware from Series 7
    • However dual frequency was added to Watch 8/Ultra 2 so likely new hardware
    • It is unknown if Apple uses intelligent dual frequency control. My bet is they do.
  • Accelerometer – Same as the Series 8 High-G capability
  • Gyroscope – Same as the Series 8 High dynamic range capability
  • Ambient light sensor – unchanged
  • Altimeter – Always On since Series 6 (technically earlier than that)
  • Compass – Unchanged
  • Batter capacity
    • Watch 9 is unchanged from Watch 8 – 282 mAh (41mm) and 308 mAh (45mm)
    • Watch Ultra 2 is increased by 4% from 542 mAh to 564 mAh
  • Battery Life Claims are unchanged. Real-life usage can be significantly higher than the claimed figures.
    • Watch 9 claims 7 hours of proper GPS recording and 18 hours of all-day battery life.
    • Ultra 2 claims 12 hours of proper GPS recording and 36 hours of all-day battery life.
  • Display – same as Series 8 LTPO OLED Always-On Retina
    • Maximum brightness – increased from 1000 nits to 2000 nits for Watch 9
    • Maximum brightness – increased from 2000 nits to 3000 nits for Watch Ultra 2
    • Small size: 41 mm: 1.7″ 352×430px unchanged from Watch 8
    • Large Size: 45 mm: 1.9″ 396×484px unchanged from Watch 8
    • Ultra Size: 49 mm: 1.9″ 410×502px unchanged from Watch ULTRA
  • CPU: now 64-bit Dual-Core S9 SiP, was S8 SiP. How much has really changed? sure it claims lots more transistors but I bet those are mostly function-specific
  • Storage: doubled to 64Gb from Series 8
  • RAM: 1 Gb in Series 8. Series 9/Ultra 2 is unknown
  • Minimum iPhone: Now iPhone XS with iOS 17, was previously iPhone 8 with iOS 16.
  • Pricing: Unchanged
  • No older models are newly unsupported

What Next for Apple Watch?

The future will essentially see 5 broad areas of change for Apple Watch ie mostly we exclude software here

  1. Smaller and more energy-efficient sensor components with essentially the same features as already present. So, there might be a new gyroscope, or two sensors combined into one chip, that kind of thing. But nobody will really care or even get to know about it (IMPACT: LOW)
  2. Higher performance components – essentially ever more capable CPUs and supporting architectures that can run the Watch faster, more smoothly and at lower power levels. (IMPACT: MEDIUM)
  3. Transformative technologies. This is the exciting stuff with huge commercial rewards for Apple if it can pull it off (IMPACT: HIGH)
    • Micro LED screens will come in 2024, 2025 or 2026. Here pixels are controlled individually and this saves a ton of power. This is existing technology it just has to appear for the first time on a high-end watch like Apple’s
    • New NIRS sensing tech will come in 2024, 2025 or 2026. There are a whole raft of new physiological features on the cusp of being sensed. We mostly hear about blood sugar (Supersapiens/Abbot) and blood pressure but creatinine, lactate and hydration (Nix) are all up for grabs too from sensors similar to those in trials from Rockley. None of this technology is really properly working today in smartwatches but it is all tantalisingly close. These technologies have the potential to sense in subtly different ways that could be even more energy efficient than today as well as provide insights with new data points. Most of the new data points will probably be ‘wellness’-related rather than sports-related and thus show trends rather than provide real-time feedback.
    • New battery tech – we’ve seen silicone anode batteries from Whoop, solid-state batteries could come within a few years whereas graphene and other tech realistically won’t be with us until the 2030s.
  4. New form Factors are rumoured to be in the offing for Apple Watch. Whether this simply means a smaller version of Ultra or a more radical round watch face, who knows? (IMPACT: HIGH)
  5. Ecosystem Integration – Apple Vision could hand off maps or workouts or something else to Watch or iPhone. (IMPACT: HIGH)

Heads Up: there is NO WAY Apple will take the risky route and introduce many of these together. There might be one big leap one year and another big leap the next.

Buy: Apple Watch Ultra 2 from $799, Eu899, GBP799

Buy: Apple Watch Series 9 from $499, Eu449, GBP399

2023: new Garmin Endurance Sports Technologies for GPS Watches & Bike Computers Trends

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