Next-gen Apple Watch will reportedly get its first major CPU upgrade in years

Next-gen Apple Watch will reportedly get its first major CPU upgrade in years
May 2023

Technically, each year's Apple Watch includes a processor upgrade. The Apple Watch Series 8 comes with an Apple S8 processor, which is a larger number than the S7 SoC that came with the Series 7 or the S6 that came with the Series 6.

However, none of those processors has actually provided much by way of a performance upgrade; they all seem to use an identical processor with a CPU architecture based on the Apple 13 (presumably the small, energy-efficient cores) and a 7 nm manufacturing process from TSMC.

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Bloomberg's Mark Gurman (via MacRumors) says this year will be different. He says the next-generation chip (presumably the Apple S9) will be a more substantial upgrade than the last few, with a new processor based on the same architecture used in Apple's newer A15 chip. And if the CPU is changing, Apple could also take the opportunity to upgrade the manufacturing process, potentially providing a boost in battery life (and other features) along with an increase in speed.

A new chip would likely be the most interesting thing about the next-generation Apple Watch's hardware; Gurman doesn't expect major design changes for the watch this year, and we can probably expect it to look about the same as every Apple Watch introduced since 2018's Series 4 design increased the screen sizes. Gurman expects a fairly substantial overhaul for the watchOS software this year, though, with a revamped user interface centered on iOS-style widgets.

The benefit of keeping the processor relatively unchanged for so many years is that a newer watchOS should run equally well on several generations' worth of watch hardware rather than requiring the latest and greatest chip to shine. It's too early to tell whether the watchOS 10 update will drop any older models; watchOS 9 put the Apple Watch Series 3 out of its misery, though not before updating its software became a major pain.