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Why you shouldn’t buy these 5 Apple Watch Series 9 alternatives

The Nike Globe watch face on the Apple Watch Series 9.
The Nike Globe watch face on the Apple Watch Series 9.

Not only are there a lot of smartwatches and fitness bands to choose from these days, but the Apple Watch range itself is surprisingly extensive — especially considering it began life with only a single model available. Simply put, it remains the best smartwatch to get if you own an iPhone.

If you’re about to buy a new Apple Watch, I want to explain why it should be the Apple Watch Series 9 over any of these other available models.

Why not the Apple Watch Ultra 2?

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 laying on the ground, showing the Modular Ultra watch face.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 laying on the ground, showing the Modular Ultra watch face.

We love the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The design is unique, yet it is still clearly an Apple Watch. It’s nowhere near as big on your wrist as you may think due to the expert design, and it’s tough enough to survive some harsh treatment thanks to the titanium case and sapphire crystal over the screen. However, for most people it will be overkill.

The important thing to remember is it uses the same processor, sensors, and software as the Apple Watch Series 9, so the overall user experience is identical. There are a few feature differences, but none that will benefit everyone all the time. Think hard about whether you want the extra screen brightness, additional hiking features, the scuba mode, or the Action button.

If you don’t, the Apple Watch Series 9 does everything else. It’s more comfortable to wear on a daily basis and less noticeable overnight if you want to track your sleep. Spend less on the Series 9 itself, then buy yourself a few watch bands to increase its versatility and comfort.

Why not the Apple Watch SE 2?

The app grid view on the Apple Watch SE 2.
The app grid view on the Apple Watch SE 2.

The Apple Watch SE 2 is very tempting due to the price, and while it’s an excellent starter Apple Watch, it’s worth spending the extra cash on the Apple Watch Series 9. It’s going to last you longer due to the additional features and has an always-on screen. The SE 2’s screen goes dark when it’s not in use, while the Series 9 always shows the time. It makes it look more like a watch and not a piece of technology.

That’s just the beginning. The Apple Watch Series 9 has the latest processor and heart rate sensor technology, and it will also take an ECG should you require one. The Apple Watch SE 2’s design is almost the same as the Series 9’s, but there are small differences. The most notable is the nylon case back, which is slightly less upmarket than the Series 9’s ceramic case back. Both use the same software, which is great.

If you only want the essentials, the Apple Watch SE 2 is perfect, but the Series 9 gives you the full Apple Watch experience together with the latest hardware. Unlike your phone, you won’t feel the need to update the Apple Watch every year, so it’s worth getting the very best when you first buy it.

Why not the Apple Watch Series 8?

An Apple Watch Series 8 with the screen on.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

This is perhaps the toughest call on our list. The Apple Watch Series 8 has been replaced by the Apple Watch Series 9 in the range, but there aren’t all that many differences between them. And if you shop around, you can find the Series 8 at a lower price — either new or refurbished. Choosing between the two will be difficult, but if you’re buying for the first time, the Apple Watch Series 9 makes more sense.

The Series 9 has the latest processor, a brighter screen, the precision finding feature, and Double Tap. While these aren’t really enough to upgrade from the Series 8 to the Series 9, they’re enough to say it’s worth buying the newer Apple Watch if you’re a newcomer. Double Tap is surprisingly fun, and it really does work very well, so it would be a shame not to enjoy the feature if you buy an Apple Watch.

In a way, choosing the Apple Watch Series 9 over the Series 8 is the same decision as choosing it over the SE 2. Yes, you’ll save some money, but you won’t be getting the full, current Apple Watch experience. If you’re going to take the plunge, get the best one available today.

Why not a Fitbit Charge 6?

ECG app on the Fitbit Charge 6.
ECG app on the Fitbit Charge 6.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is the best Apple Watch for most people, but what happens when we compare it to other wearables made by different manufacturers? The Fitbit Charge 6 is a great example, as it’s much cheaper than the Apple Watch Series 9, yet does many of the same things. So, why shouldn’t you buy it?

Leaving aside design, as that’s relatively subjective, there are two major reasons to buy the Apple Watch Series 9 instead. The Apple Watch pairs and syncs perfectly with your iPhone, while non-Apple devices don’t. It’s a huge deal, as with other wearables, you will miss out on rich, interactive notifications, features like precision finding, and Apple Health and Apple Fitness. While Apple’s own apps aren’t perfect, they’re entirely free to use. Meanwhile, to unlock all of the Fitbit Charge 6’s potential, you have to pay the $10-per-month subscription fee.

This applies to other non-Apple, non-Fitbit devices, too, such as the Withings ScanWatch 2 and various Garmin wearables. Garmin and Polar’s smartwatches don’t require a subscription, but they are even more fitness-focused than the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Unless you’re a serious runner, marathoner, or cyclist, there will be a lot of features and data that aren’t relevant to you. Remember, Apple’s smartwatch only works with an iPhone, and we heartily recommend you keep it in the family.

Why not an Oura Ring?

A person holding the Oura Ring 3rd generation Horizon model.
A person holding the Oura Ring 3rd generation Horizon model.

What if you’re not sure about a touchscreen wearable, and have been looking at smart rings to avoid the distraction? The Oura Ring is the best smart ring you can get at the moment, but it’s a very different type of wearable compared to the Apple Watch Series 9. There’s no screen at all, you won’t receive notifications, and it won’t tell you the time. The workout tracking is fairly basic, but it is fine for walking or running, and it excels at sleep tracking.

Because it’s so different from the Apple Watch, you shouldn’t buy the Oura Ring instead of the Series 9. But it does work really well in conjunction with it. Sleep tracking is not the Apple Watch’s strength, so if it’s very important to you, it’s well worth considering the Oura Ring. The battery lasts about a week, too, so it’s far lower maintenance, and it’s also inconspicuous on your finger.

Admittedly, it’s a considerable financial investment to buy both the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Oura Ring, but they complement each other well. Together, they form a far more rounded picture of your health without missing out on all the expected connected features and alerts. Buy and wear them together, but don’t buy the Oura Ring thinking it can entirely replace the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is the one to get

A person wearing the Apple Watch Series 9, showing the Snoopy watch face
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

For most people, the Apple Watch Series 9 is the ideal blend of reasonable cost, the latest features, strong performance, unrivaled convenience, and unbeatable style. You can buy it and be safe in the knowledge that it does all the important stuff you need and works perfectly with your iPhone, so it will last you for years.

Are there lots of alternatives out there? Absolutely! And for some people, those alternatives may serve them just fine. But for most folks, we think the Apple Watch Series 9 is still the wearable to get.

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