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Apple started the segregation when it refused to make Apple Watch compatible with Android phones. Today, it’s clearly a dichotomy, Apple Watches works with only iPhones. Returning the favour, high-end Wear OS watches like Galaxy Watch 5 and 6 series only work with Android phones. Moreover, the Ticwatch Pro 5 and Pixel Watch don’t support iPhones. So if you own an iPhone and need a smartwatch, your best bet is clearly an Apple Watch. And as far as I know, Apple makes some of the best watches. In fact, they dominate the market. So which Apple watch should you get?
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In this article, I will try to help you understand the major differences between the different Apple watches so that you can make a more informed decision.
Which Apple Watch is the Best?
In all sincerity, if you have the budget, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the best Apple watch. A step down from that is the Ultra. And if you have the budget but want something more compact, go for the Watch 9. A step down from that is the Watch 8. If you are really on a tight budget but still want to experience an Apple watch, the Watch SE 2 is decent entry-level. In my case, I settled with the Watch 9, and that’s because I have a slim budget.
Interestingly, the new Ultra 2 and Watch 9 are the same price as their respective predecessors.
So, recently, Apple released the Ultra 2 and Watch 9. While the Ultra 2 succeeds the Apple Watch Ultra that debuted last year, the Watch 9 succeeds the Watch 8. For some reason, Apple didn’t release a successor to the Apple Watch SE 2 which had only seen the second generation last year.
The new Apple watches ship with WatchOS 10 which is the latest operating system for Apple watches. Interestingly, WatchOS 10 will also come to older Apple Watches down to Apple Watch Series 4. So if you have the same operating system and many similar features to the older Apple watches, why get a more expensive Watch 9 or Ultra 2? Well, while the operating system is the same, the newer watches have slightly more features; the display is brighter and the storage is bigger. Moreover, the latest Apple watches for the first time in the last years are powered by a more advanced S9 chip which in conjunction with a 4-core neural engine enables a faster and more secured on-device Siri as well as double tap gestures that makes it easier to interact with the watch when your hands are full. The Watch 9 and Ultra 2 also come with the ultra wideband 2 chip that will make it easier to precisely find an iPhone 15 and above.
Apple Watch SE 2 vs Series 8 vs 9 vs Ultra 2 – Full Specifications Comparison
Apple Watch SE 2 (44mm) - Full Smartwatch Specifications
Apple Watch Series 9 Aluminum (45mm) - Full Smartwatch Specifications
Apple Watch Ultra 2 - Full Smartwatch Specifications
|ABOUT DEVICE||ABOUT DEVICE||ABOUT DEVICE||ABOUT DEVICE|
|Device name||Apple Watch SE 2 (44mm)||Apple Watch Series 9||Apple Watch Ultra 2|
|Device type||Standalone/Fitness smartwatch||Fitness/Sport smartwatch||Standalone/Fitness smartwatch|
|Release date||September, 2022||September, 2023||September, 2023|
|Predecessor||Apple Watch SE||Apple Watch Series 8||Apple Watch Ultra|
|Versions||Cellular + GPS, GPS||GPS/WiFi/Blutooth, GPS/WiFi/Blutooth/Cellular Model||—|
|Dimension||44 x 38 x 10.7 mm||41 x 35 x 10.7mm (41mm), 45 x 38 x 10.7 mm (45mm)||49 x 44 x 14.4mm|
|Weight||32.9g (GPS), 33g (Cellular)||31.9g (Aluminum, GPS (41mm)), 32.1g (Aluminum, Cellular (41mm)), 38.7g (Aluminum, GPS (45mm)), 39g (Aluminum, Cellular (45mm))||61.3g|
|Strap material||Silicone||Silicone, Stainless steel, Textile||Silicone|
|Bezel material||Aluminum, Bezeless||Aluminum||Titanium|
|Strap size||24mm||22mm (41mm), 24mm (45mm)||24mm|
|Interchangeable strap||24mm, Yes||Yes||24mm, Yes|
|Screen protection||Ion-X glass||Ion-X glass||Sapphire glass|
|Water resistance||Yes, 5ATM||Yes, 5ATM||10 ATM, IPX7 (dust resistance)|
|Color||Midnight, Silver, Starlight||Midnight, Pink, Red, Silver, Starlight||Metallic-white|
|Display size||1.78 inch||1.69 inches, 1.9 inches||1.92 inches|
|Display type||1000nit, LTPO OLED||2000nits, LTPO OLED||LTPO OLED, 3000 nits|
|Display resolution||448 x 368 pixels||396 x 484 pixels||410 x 502 pixels|
|Pixel density||326 ppi||326 ppi||338 PPI|
|Custom watch face||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Input type||1 Physical button, Digital crown, Touchscreen||1 Physical button, Digital crown, Touchscreen||1 Action button, 1 Physical button, Digital crown, Touchscreen|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth v5.3||Bluetooth v5.3||Bluetooth v5.3|
|GPS||BEIDOU, Galileo, GLONASS, GPS, QZSS||BEIDOU, Galileo, GLONASS, GPS, QZSS||BEIDOU, Galileo, GLONASS, GPS, QZSS|
|Memory card slot||No||No||No|
|CELLULAR CONNECTIVITY||CELLULAR CONNECTIVITY||CELLULAR CONNECTIVITY||CELLULAR CONNECTIVITY|
|Technology||(Cellular model), GSM / HSPA / LTE||(Cellular model), GSM / HSPA / LTE||GSM / HSPA / LTE|
|SIM type||(Cellular model), e-SIM||(Cellular model), e-SIM||e-SIM|
|Third-party apps alert||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Reply to Notifications||-||Yes||Yes|
|Sensor(s)||—||Accelerometer, Barometric altimeter, Compass, Gyroscope, Skin temperature sensor, Third-generation optical heart sensor, Water temperature sensor||Accelerometer, Barometric altimeter, Compass, Gyroscope, Skin temperature sensor, Third-generation optical heart sensor, Water temperature sensor|
|ACTIVITY TRACKING||ACTIVITY TRACKING||ACTIVITY TRACKING||ACTIVITY TRACKING|
|Heart rate monitoring||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Underwater heart rate tracking||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Battery type||Non-removable Li-ion battery||Non-removable Li-ion battery||Non-removable Li-ion battery|
|Battery capacity||296mAh||308mAh||542 mAh|
|Battery life||Regular: up to 18hrs||Battery saver mode: Up to 36 hours, Regular: Up to 18 hours||Regular: 36hrs, Battery save mode: 72 hours|
|Charging type||Charging dock||(Fast charging), Charging dock||(Fast charging), Charging dock|
|Chipset||Apple S8 (64bit)||Apple S9 Chip (64bit) (A15 Bionic)||Apple S9 Chip (64bit) (A15 Bionic)|
|CPU||Dual core||Dual core||Dual core|
|Operating system||WatchOS 9||WatchOS 10||WatchOS 10|
|Companion app||Apple Watch App||Apple Watch App||Apple Watch App|
|Compatibility||iPhone 8+ with iOS 16+||iPhone XS+ with iOS 17+||iPhone XS+ with iOS 17+|
|Payment system||Apple Pay||Apple Pay||Apple Pay|
|Voice command||Yes, Siri||Yes, Siri||Yes, Siri|
|Find my phone||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Box content||Apple Watch SE 2, Charger, Manual, Straps||Charger, Manual, Straps, Apple Watch Series 9 Aluminum (45mm)||Charger, Manual, Straps, Apple Watch Ultra 2|
Apple Watch Ultra vs Ultra 2
The Ultra series is Apple’s attempt at the outdoor watch market which currently has major players such as Garmin, Coros and Polar. So when the Ultra dropped in 2022, it was met with lots of enthusiasm and it certainly was a huge success. I think that must have fueled the sequel which we now have as Ultra 2.
The Ultra 2 has the same footprint as the Ultra. It has the same titanium frame and sapphire glass screen. Moreover, like its predecessor, it is only available in 49mm size and cellular model. And with WatchOS 10 on both watches, you have similar features. So basically, the Ultra is the same as the Ultra 2.
However, the Watch Ultra 2 has a brighter display, the storage is bigger and it houses a more advanced chipset.
Let’s take a look at the differences between the Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2.
- Ultra 2 has a brighter display than Ultra
- Ultra 2 has a bigger storage than Ultra
The Ultra 2 has the same 1.9 inches LTPO OLED display that’s very colorful and easy to read. And for an outdoor watch, a bright display means you can read complications clearly even on very sunny days. On that note, the Ultra at 2000 nits is one of the brightest watches. Only a few watches have up to 2k nits brightness.
But then Apple took it even further with the Ultra 2 which boasts a whooping 3000nits. It’s the watch with the brightest screen! So while the Ultra is very bright, the Ultra 2 is even brighter.
Interestingly, the Ultra 2 can also be deemed to be as low as 1 nit. You shouldn’t have any problem reading complications on the screen when indoors.
Furthermore, while the Ultra boasts a massive 32GB storage that allows you to take as much music as possible, the Ultra 2 has a whopping 64GB storage capacity. So you have more space for more of your favorite tracks and podcasts. It’s the highest storage I have seen on a watch so far.
The Apple watch series 6, 7 and 8 used different chip names; S6, S7 and S8 respectively. However, these chips had one thing in common which is they were based on the same architecture that utilized a dual-core CPU with a T8301 identifier that was based on Apple’s A13 bionic chip.
Now for the first time, the Ultra 2 and Watch 9 are powered by a more powerful and faster S9 chip that’s based on Apple’s A15 bionic chip. The S9 chip is also accompanied by a 4-core neural engine that brings Siri onboard the watch, thus making it more accurate and faster. The neural engine also enables double tap gestures.
With the neural engine, Siri will now process requests directly on the device which makes it faster, more secure and accurate. Because Siri is now onboard and more secure, the neural engine also enables Siri to be able to access and answer requests relating to your health data.
Additionally, the new chip enhances the already existing assistive touch with the introduction of double tap gestures that let you perform more actions when your hands are occupied.
Furthermore, the Ultra 2 has the ultra-wideband 2 chip that enables precision finding for your iPhone and Homepod integration that allows you to remotely control media playing on the Homepod when the Apple Watch is not more than 4 meters away.
Essentially, the Precision Finding function will only work when both Apple Watch and iPhone have the ultra-wideband 2 chip. So these will only work on iPhone 15 and above paired with Ultra 2 or Watch 9 and above.
While some have argued that the upgrade on the Ultra 2 is not significant enough, I think a brighter display, bigger storage and more powerful chipset is a big leap forward.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Watch 9
The difference between the Apple Watch Ultra and Watch 8 is also the difference between the Ultra 2 and Watch 9. The Ultra 2 being Apple’s most advanced watch yet, has a more durable build, more features and longer battery life than the Watch 9. As a result, the Ultra 2 cost a little more. Let’s take a look at how these two differ.
- Color and Sizes
- Ultra 2 has a new modular ultra watch face
- Build quality – Ultra 2 is more durable than Watch 9
- Ultra 2 has a higher waterproof rating than Watch 9
- Ultra 2 has a bigger and brighter display than Watch 9
- Ultra 2 has an extra action button
- Ultra 2 has a bigger speaker
- Ultra 2 uses L1 and L5 signals for more accurate mapping
- Ultra 2 is a dive watch, Watch 9 is not
- Ultra 2 has a longer battery life than Watch 9
- Ultra 2 has a higher price tag
Just like the Ultra, the Ultra 2 is only available in one 49mm size but in contrast, the Watch 9 like its predecessor and Series 7 is available in 41mm and 45mm sizes. Moreover, while the Ultra 2 is only available in cellular model, the Watch 9 is available in GPS and cellular models.
In terms of available colors, while the Ultra 2 like its predecessor comes in only neutral color, the Watch 9 is available in Midnight, starlight, silver, pink(NEW) and red colors.
With the Ultra 2, Apple introduced a new Modular Ultra watch face that features up to 8 complications in a very elegant and astute design. The Modular Ultra watch face is only available on the Ultra and Ultra 2.
Of course, as the most advanced Apple watch, the Ultra 2 like its predecessor has a titanium frame while the screen is sapphire glass. Moreover, unlike Watch 9, the Ultra 2 is rated MIL-STD-810H which certifies it is ready to withstand harsh weather conditions. Additionally, unlike the Watch 9 with bare curved edges, the Ultra 2 like its predecessor, has a finely raised bezel that tends to provide some significant level of protection for the already scratch-resistant sapphire glass. The digital crown on the Ultra 2 is also protected – it’s clearly a more durable device.
Meanwhile, the Watch 9 is still a very durable device. It spots some of the most durable materials. It comes in two materials aluminum and stainless steel. While the aluminum unit has an ion-x glass, the stainless steel unit has the same sapphire glass as Ultra 2.
The Ultra 2 also has a higher waterproof rating than the Watch 9. It is certified 10ATM just like its predecessor while the Watch 9 has a 5ATM rating. The higher waterproof rating means that the Ultra 2 has higher water resistance capabilities and can withstand higher water pressure than the Watch 9.
At 1.92 inches, the Ultra 2 like Ultra has a slightly bigger display than the 1.9 inches of the 45mm unit of Watch 9. Meanwhile, the 41mm unit of Watch 9 spots a 1.69 inches display.
Both watches have very colorful displays powered by LTPO OLED that are easy to read in any light condition. However, with brightness up to 3000nits, the Ultra 2 has a brighter display than the 2000nits of Watch 9. Nonetheless, at 2000nits, the Watch 9 just like the Galaxy Watch 6 has one of the brightest displays.
Just like the Ultra, the Ultra 2 also has an extra button called the Action button. This button no doubt certainly makes navigation easier. With the action button, you can start a workout, stopwatch, waypoint and backtrack. You can also use the action button to start the flashlight and dive app. Nonetheless, with a touch-sensitive display, digital crown and flat button, the Watch 9 is still very easy to interact with.
While the Watch 9 has a microphone and speaker, the Ultra 2 has a stronger speaker that supports the device’s siren function and can produce sounds as loud as 89db. While this might not be so loud, it can attract attention which can help you get needed help in cases of emergency – it’s one of the functions that makes the Ultra series outstanding outdoor watches.
While the Watch 9 is equipped with a GNSS chip that relies on only the L1 signal and supports up to 5 satellite systems, the Ultra 2 like its predecessor utilizes the L1 and L5 signals to produce more accurate and precise route mapping. This means that in difficult terrains like areas with very tall buildings or trees, the Ultra 2 will map your routes more accurately than Watch 9.
With a 10ATM rating, the Ultra 2 is a dive watch, but the Watch 9 is not. Like the Ultra, the Ultra 2 is certified EN13319 which makes it dive-ready. It features a dive app that can show the water temperature (thanks to the water temperature sensor), water depth up to 130ft and your duration underwater. For a more exclusive experience, you can download the Oceanic+ app which offers more features than the default dive app.
If there’s one downside to Apple watches it is the abysmal battery life. Nonetheless, it was a welcomed development when the Ultra launched with up to 36 hours of battery life. It’s the same 36hrs for the Ultra 2. Meanwhile, the Watch 9 is stocked at the Apple-trademarked 18hrs battery life. Meanwhile, both watches feature a battery saver mode that when activated can get you up to 36hrs and 72hrs for the Watch 9 and Ultra 2 respectively.
As a result of the more durable build, more features and longer battery life, the Ultra 2 is priced higher than the Watch 9. While the Ultra 2 retails for $799, it’s $529 and $749 for the aluminum and stainless steel models of the Watch 9 respectively.
So clearly, if you have the budget, the Ultra 2 is a better-equipped watch than the Watch 9. It offers more.
Apple Watch Series 8 vs 9
The Watch 9 is very similar to the Watch 8. Nothing much has changed. It’s the same build quality, same footprint, same display, same features and battery life. However, the Watch 9 welcomes a few additions that I believe makes it a better watch than its predecessor.
The same additions that differentiate the Ultra 2 from its predecessor are also what differentiates the Watch 9 from the Watch 8.
- Watch 9 has a brighter display than Watch 8
- Watch 9 has a bigger storage than Watch 8
- Watch 9 is powered by a more advanced chip
Like the Ultra 2, the Watch 9 also welcomes a brighter display. While the Watch 8 has a 1000nits bright display, the Watch 9 has up to 2000nits brightness, and it can dim to as low as 1nits when indoors.
Similarly, like Ultra 2 the Watch 9 also welcomes a boost in storage capacity. While its predecessor has a 32GB storage capacity, the Watch 9 has twice of that – a massive 64GB storage that lets you take more onboard.
Furthermore, just like Ultra 2, the Watch 9 ships with the S9 chipset which is superior to the S8 chip in Watch 8. The S9 chipset alongside a 4-core neural engine enables a faster and more accurate Siri as well as enables double tap gestures that enhance the assistive touch features. And with the ultra-wideband 2 chip, the Watch 9 can precisely find the iPhone 15 and beyond.
While you might disagree, I strongly believe that the aforementioned additions makes the Watch 9 a better watch than the Watch 8. Interestingly, the Watch 9 retails for the same price as its predecessor.
Apple Watch Series 9 vs Ultra
The difference between the Watch 8 and Ultra is also the difference between the Watch 9 and Ultra 2 except that now the Watch 9 has a bigger storage, a more advanced chip and the brightness is the same as Ultra.
So it’s kinda of tricky deciding between these two.
If you go with the Ultra rather than the Watch 9, you get a titanium frame and sapphire glass, a higher waterproof rating, longer battery life, more accurate mapping, a siren function and diving capabilities that makes it a dive watch.
On the flip side, the Watch 9 has a bigger storage and a more advanced chipset than the Ultra. The S9 chip in combination with the 4-core neural engine enables faster Siri and enhanced double tap gestures, and with the U2 chip, you can precisely find your iPhone 15. Moreover, if you choose the Watch 9 stainless steel unit, you get a sapphire glass just like the Ultra.
Like I said, it’s a knotty decision between the Ultra and Watch 9.
Apple Watch Series 8 vs SE 2
The Apple Watch SE 2 was the second edition of the SE series but surprisingly, there is no sequel to the SE 2. However, Apple still makes and sells the Watch SE 2. It’s a far cheaper alternative to the Watch 8 and other higher-end Apple watches. Though it lacks many fine features.
The Apple Watch SE 2 is a fine watch with an outstanding design and many interesting functionalities. It comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes, and each of these sizes is available in GPS and Cellular models. It can track your heart rate, sleep, calories and stress. Moreover, it has the same battery life as the Watch 8.
However, unlike the Watch 8, the Watch SE 2 lacks always-on display. It also lacks the ability to track blood oxygen, ECG and skin temperature. The Watch SE 2 also lacks fast charging and is only available in aluminum build.
In contrast, Watch 8 comes in aluminum or stainless steel and can track spo2, ECG and skin temperature. It also has fast charging and a better heart rate sensor.
If you are really on a tight budget, the Watch SE 2 is no doubt a fine choice. However, I honestly think the Watch 8 is a better bargain.
Cellular vs GPS
Apple makes two types of watches; a non-cellular model that has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as means of connectivity and a cellular model that relies on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular connection for connectivity. So the only difference here is that the cellular model has cellular capabilities just like a phone. Note that both models have inbuilt GPS.
So with the cellular model, you can make and receive calls without connecting to your iPhone. In contrast, the non-cellular model needs to connect to your iPhone before a call can be made or received.
Even more, the cellular connectivity on the cellular model means you can send and receive messages as well as stream music without an iPhone.
This is why the cellular model is priced a little higher than the non-cellular model.
Note that the Apple Watch Ultra, Ultra 2 and Watch 8 and 9 stainless steel models are only available in cellular. If you want the non-cellular Apple watch, you have the Watch 8 and 9 aluminum models as well as the Watch SE 2.
Watch 9 Stainless Steel vs Aluminum
The Apple Watch 7 was the last to have titanium, aluminum and stainless steel models. However, from the Watch 8 and now Watch 9, you only have the option to choose between the stainless steel and aluminum builds. Obviously, Apple decided to reserve titanium for the Ultra series.
So what’s the difference between the stainless steel and aluminum units?
The difference is just the build quality and of course prices and available colors. The aluminum build has an ion-x glass screen that’s prone to scratches while the stainless steel build has scratch-resistant sapphire glass.
Moreover, while the aluminum build is available in cellular and non-cellular models, the stainless steel build is only available in cellular model. Beyond this, the stainless steel has the same features and battery life as the aluminum build.
If you have the budget the stainless steel build is more durable. Nonetheless, the aluminum build is also a very durable and popular choice. Personally, I have a tight budget so I settled with the Watch 9 aluminum model.
One surprising thing about the newly released Apple watches is that they retained the same prices as their respective predecessors. So the Ultra 2 and Watch 9 are not more expensive than the older models. Since the Watch 8 and Ultra are ageing, you might get some discounts in some stores, otherwise, it’s the the same price as the new watches.
In this case, the newly released Ultra 2 and Watch 9 are better bargains.
Which Apple Watch is Best For You?
Clearly, the Ultra 2 is the best Apple watch. A follow-up to that in my opinion is the Ultra which is closely followed by the the Watch 9. And if you have a tight budget, the Watch 8 would suffice. For entry-level, the Apple Watch SE 2 is a decent choice.
Moreover, considering that Apple makes the new watches from recycled materials that result in over 70% reduction in carbon emission, thus helping make the earth safer. You would be supporting that cause if you buy the Ultra 2, Watch 9 or Watch SE 2.
Apple has a culture of discontinuing older watches when a new one is released. So right now, Apple makes and sells only the Apple Watch Ultra 2, Watch 9 and Watch SE 2. The rest including the Ultra, Watch 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 and Watch SE have all been discontinued. Of course, you can still find and purchase any of these from stores around the world but Apple doesn’t make nor sell them anymore.
So from all indications, the average Apple watch offers so much more, and the recently released Apple watches offer even more and are clearly some of the very best out there. If you need an Apple watch, the Ultra 2, Ultra or Watch 9 is your best bet.