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Apple Watch Series 9 vs Ultra 2: Which smartwatch should you buy?

Each of Apple's latest watch models delivers significant technical upgrades. They also have plenty of differences. Here's what you should know before buying one.
Written by Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Apple has dropped the details on its high-anticipated line of new watches, and while the latest entries – the Series 9 and the Ultra 2 – aren't changing a whole lot stylistically from their predecessors, there are actually a fair amount of technical upgrades. 

Both watches have Apple's new "double tap" feature to answer calls or other actions by tapping your index finger and thumb twice, both have a new ultra-wideband chip inside, and both have the new S9 SiP (System in Package) that brings 5.6 billion transistors and a 30% faster GPU. 

Review: Apple Watch Series 9: Don't settle for the less expensive models this year. Here's why

Still, the two watches do have plenty of differences. How do you decide which one is best for your needs? Here's a breakdown of the Apple Watch Series 9 versus the Apple Watch Ultra 2.


Apple Watch Series 9

Apple Watch Ultra 2


41 and 45mm


Weight31 to 51 grams depending on model61 grams




Battery18 hours with typical use / 36 hours on low power mode36 hours with typical use / 72 hours on low power mode  
CaseAluminum or stainless steelTitanium
Water resistance50 meters100 meters
Customizable action buttonNoYes

You should buy the Apple Watch Series 9 if...

Apple Watch Series 9 hands-on
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You're looking to save a little money

Given that both watches deliver a fair number of upgrades from their previous generations, you're doing well to upgrade to either one of these either from an older Apple Watch -- or if you're a brand-new wearer. But if price is a concern, look to the Series 9. You're not "settling" by any means if you choose this watch, as the Ultra 2 carries a few features that only appeal to certain people. But at a cost difference of $400, you're going to have to really need those features. Don't feel like you're going cheap by choosing the Series 9 over the Ultra 2. 

Also: Best smartwatches: Expert tested and reviewed

2. You want more options

Both watches have a plethora of bands available in materials and colors, but the Series 9 has options for the watch itself, including size and material. The S9 has an aluminum finish with Ion-X strengthened glass display and a stainless steel finish with a sapphire crystal display option plus a choice of sizes: 41mm or 45mm. Counting all finishes and colors available, the S9 offers a total of eight options. When it comes to the Ultra, there's one finish and color. You're just choosing a band. If you want a watch where you have a little flexibility in the device itself, go with the S9. 

3. You're buying your first smartwatch and you want the latest tech 

If you're new to the world of smartwatches and you want something that does basic smartwatch things that's in the Apple ecosystem, stick with the Series 9. Both the S9 and the Ultra 2 are high-end smartwatches, but the former will do the job just fine if you're looking for a traditional smartwatch. And if you're the type of person who always wants the latest tech, the S9 does have some "inside" improvements over the S8 and you'll still get that buzz of having the newest thing on the market. The price of the Series 8 will most likely drop more once the Series 9 is officially released, but right now there's only a difference of about $50. 

You should buy the Apple Watch Ultra 2 if...

The Apple Watch Ultra 2
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You'll be using it outdoors

The Ultra 2 packs some features that are especially appealing to people who enjoy outdoor/extreme sports. For starters, it has an exclusive new watch face called "Modular Ultra," which displays details like altitude, depth, and seconds. There are special features for hiking and scuba diving, a built-in siren, plus a deep dive into cycling metrics. Additionally, the Ultra 2 has a slightly stronger frame than the Series 9, making it a bit more durable and rugged. 

Also: I spent a week with the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and here's what stood out the most

This is also Apple's brightest watch ever at 3,000 nits (both the original Ultra and the new Series 9 max out at 2,000 nits), making it easier to see outdoors in bright sunlight. The Ultra 2, like the original Ultra, also has a customizable action button that the S9 lacks. You can assign a task to this button, such as starting/stopping a workout, timing with a stopwatch, turning on the flashlight, etc. The "outdoor-friendly" features are easily the single biggest selling point of the Ultra 2 compared to the Series 9. 

2. You like a bigger watch face

If you're looking for a big, bold watch, consider the Ultra 2. The Series 9 comes in 41mm and 45mm options while the Ultra 2 looms large at 49mm. Anything around the 45 mm mark or more is considered a large men's watch by most fashion standards, so the size of the Ultra 2 is definitely eye-catching. This is the same size as the current Ultra watch.

3. You need a longer battery life

While technically one of the "outdoors" features, this difference applies to most users. The Ultra 2 has a 36-hour battery life with typical use and 72 hours on low power mode compared to the Series 9's 18-hour battery life. Surpassing the 24-hour battery life mark is a rarity in the world of smartwatches, so if you absolutely need a watch that claims to carry its battery into the next day, the Ultra 2 should be your choice.

Alternatives to consider

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