Apple Watch Series 9 Review: Why the Watch Isn’t as Useful as It Could Be
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Apple Watch Series 9 Review: Why the Watch Isn’t as Useful as It Could Be

It has a new double-tap feature and brighter screen, but latest model has same battery life the watches have had since 2015: 18 hours

By NICOLE NGUYEN
Thu, Sep 21, 2023 11:35amGrey Clock 4 min

If you asked me, “Should I upgrade my Apple Watch to the Series 9 this year?” I’d probably say no.

It’s a fine watch. It’s just not much better than the Series 8, which you can get cheaper, even refurbished right from Apple.

I have been testing the $399-and-up Series 9 for nearly a week. Available on Sept. 22, it includes a few upgrades, including a one-handed, double-tap gesture and a brighter screen. Apple says one version of it—the aluminum case with Sport Loop band—is carbon neutral.

Many things, though, remain unchanged from last year’s, including the health sensors and design. I’m most grumpy about the battery life. Back in 2015, Apple promised 18 hours. Today, Apple promises…18 hours. Eight years and a dozen models later, we still need to charge these watches daily.

The Apple Watch is the bestselling smartwatch in the world, but battery life is where competitors such as Garmin still have an edge. It’s what holds the Apple Watch back from true all-day/all-night/all-weekend usefulness.

Double tap and new features

The improvements to the Series 9 are internal, enabling new features that are nice-to-haves. There are no game-changers.

Double tap: The new watch senses when you pinch your thumb and index finger twice, in quick succession. The gesture triggers an action that varies depending on what you’re doing. If you’re playing a song, you can double-tap to pause or skip. For incoming texts, it starts a reply with voice dictation. For calls, it picks up the phone. For timers, it dismisses the alert.

Double tap will come in an update rolling out next month. It’s useful for one-handed operation, while you’re holding on to a subway pole or cup of coffee. It also works while you’re wearing gloves.

A similar accessibility feature called AssistiveTouch is available on Series 4 models and newer. You can even double-pinch to dismiss notifications. In my tests, AssistiveTouch wasn’t always as responsive as double-tapping on the Series 9, but if you already have an Apple Watch, it’s worth enabling.

Offline Siri: Apple’s voice assistant can now process some queries faster and more accurately, because it doesn’t need to send the request to the server over Wi-Fi or cellular. You can set timers—even multiple timers in the WatchOS 10—almost instantaneously.

Brighter screen: The display goes up to 2,000 nits, up from 1,000 nits last year. If you don’t speak nits, that translates to a screen that’s easier to see outdoors on a sunny day. Its dimmest setting is also lower, way down to one nit. The Apple Watch adjusts screen brightness automatically based on ambient light, so the brighter screen isn’t noticeable in most settings.

Precision iPhone finding: I use my Apple Watch’s Find My iPhone ping basically every day, so I thought I’d like precision finding. When you’re within about 30 feet of the iPhone, you can see its distance and direction—similar to an AirTag. It’s nice for those who might be unable to hear the audible ping triggered by older models, but that never failed me. And this trick only works with an iPhone 15 model.

Stalled battery life

In its quest to make the smartwatch a jack-of-all-trades wearable with a high-resolution, multitouch screen, Apple has sacrificed battery life. The new S9 processor is 25% more power efficient than last year’s model. But over the years, the company has added more sensors, brighter screens and other energy-sucking elements.

During the watch’s recent unveiling, Deidre Caldbeck, the director of Apple Watch product marketing, highlighted the company priority: “This powerful custom silicon is what allows us to maintain all-day 18-hour battery life while adding new features and systemwide improvements.”

Garmin wearables, meanwhile, have lower-resolution displays that can last days. Some models have solar panels embedded in their watch faces, and can last weeks. It’s something I’m painfully reminded of every time I forget my Apple Watch charger on a weekend trip. Cue the gloating by my Garmin-wearing husband, who never brings his charger.

Apple often touts the watch’s health-tracking capabilities in marketing materials. For this to work, though, it has to be on your wrist—even at night, while you sleep. That’s tough when it needs to be charged once a day.

Charging wouldn’t be as problematic if the Apple Watch didn’t need its own proprietary puck to power up. (Garmin’s new Vivomove Trend is one of the first to work with standard Qi wireless charging.)

I’m not saying Apple Watches are useless without default multi day battery life. I wear mine so often that I have a squircle-shaped tan on my wrist. But a battery-life quantum leap is needed.

That could be coming next year. The Apple Watch was announced 10 years ago next fall, and that anniversary could mean a big redesign. According to a Bloomberg report, a new band system could make room in the watch’s case for more sensors—or, I hope, a bigger battery—and a switch to a more energy-efficient microLED display could lead to power gains.

How to get longer battery life

If you want the longest battery life right now, there’s the $799 Apple Watch Ultra. It lasts a day and a half by default. But even the new, modestly upgraded model is a bulky chunkster, especially on smaller wrists. Anyone else looking for a big Apple Watch change should wait until 2024.

Meanwhile, you can temporarily double the battery life by taking away power-draining features.

• Enable low-power mode: You can quickly enable low-power mode for set periods. Press the side button to open the Control Center, then tap on the battery percentage and scroll down.

Just beware: It does disable some of the lifesaving heart-rate notifications and the power-hungry always-on display. When double tap is available, low-power mode will also disable that gesture.

• Reduce workout sensor readings: Go to Settings > Workout, then tap Fewer GPS and Heart Rate Readings to enable. When in low-power mode, the watch won’t capture GPS or heart-rate data as frequently during outdoor workouts, further extending battery life.

You can also disable some functions. I managed to squeeze 48 hours out of the Series 9 by turning off the most battery-intensive ones, but it’s a trade-off:

• Double tap: When the feature rolls out to Series 9 models next month, you can turn it off. Go to Settings > Gestures > Double Tap to disable.

• Always-on display: Go to Settings > Display & Brightness. Tap Always On to disable.

• Background app refresh: Go to Settings > General. Scroll down to Background App Refresh to disable entirely or turn off for certain apps.

• Reduce display brightness: In Settings > Display & Brightness, you can adjust the default setting.



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Going warm and fuzzy for the 2024 Pantone Colour of the Year

Prepare yourself for the year of the peach

By KANEBRIDGE NEWS
Fri, Dec 8, 2023 2 min

Pantone has released its 2024 Colour of the Year — and it’s warm and fuzzy.

Peach Fuzz has been named as the colour to sum up the year ahead, chosen to imbue a sense of “kindness and tenderness, communicating a message of caring and sharing, community and collaboration” said vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, Laurie Pressman.

“A warm and cosy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates, PANTONE 13-1023 Peach Fuzz presents a fresh approach to a new softness,” she said.

Pantone Colour of the Year is often a reflection of world mood and events

The choice of a soft pastel will come as little surprise to those who follow the Pantone releases, which are often a reflection of world affairs and community mood. Typically, when economies are buoyant and international security is assured, colours tend to the bolder spectrum. Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Israeli-Gaza conflict and talk of recession in many countries, the choice of a softer, more reassuring colour is predictable. 

“At a time of turmoil in many aspects of our lives, our need for nurturing, empathy and compassion grows ever stronger as does our imaginings of a more peaceful future,” she said. “We are reminded that a vital part of living a full life is having the good health, stamina, and strength to enjoy it.”

The colour also reflects a desire to turn inward and exercise self care in an increasingly frenetic world.

“As we navigate the present and build toward a new world, we are reevaluating what is important,” she said. “Reframing how we want to live, we are expressing ourselves with greater intentionality and consideration. 

“Recalibrating our priorities to align with our internal values, we are focusing on health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, and cherishing what’s special — the warmth and comfort of spending time with friends and family, or simply taking a moment of time to ourselves.”

Each year since 2000, Pantone has released a colour of the year as a trendsetting tool for marketers and branding agents. It is widely taken up in the fashion and interior design industries, influencing collections across the spectrum. 

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