Apple Watch Ultra review: the Apple Watch we’ve been waiting for
The new Apple Watch Ultra is, as the name implies, a super-powerful Apple Watch for users who crave more of what the vanilla Apple Watch couldn’t.
Longer battery life? checked. A bigger screen? You’ve got it. Improved durability for sports use? The housing is now made of titanium, which was last used in the older Apple Watch edition. In fact, from now on, the Ultra will be the only Apple Watch model with the light and sturdy metal, theoretically making it more suited to the rugged terrain environments it’s aimed at.
For Garmin users who are also part of the Apple ecosystem, the Ultra is the Apple Watch many have been waiting for. With a price of €1,199The Apple Watch Ultra isn’t cheap, but if you’re looking for all the benefits of a watch that can actually interact with your iPhone — become an extension of it — and help you reach your fitness goals, the Ultra is the one to go for. to go.
However, brands like Garmin, Suunto, and Polar, to name a few, have been dominating the “extreme sports smartwatch” market for a while now, where their fitness and other health monitoring features are so much more sophisticated. Can Apple catch up and how does it feel to wear and use the Ultra?
Same, same but very different
The first time I saw the Apple Watch Ultra in person, I was pleasantly surprised by not only how it looked, but also how it felt on the wrist. The metal mold around the outside of the watch and the large bulge on the right side are not ugly at all. The photos you see online and from Apple’s marketing videos don’t do it justice. Overall, the watch’s design borrows from the tried-and-true Apple Watch design that hasn’t really changed much since the first model launched in 2015.
But guess what? I think the Ultra is the design refresh Apple Watch fans crave. Albeit with a design built for specific fitness and sports purposes. the more extensive 49mm case has rounded edges with a slightly raised edge to better protect the screen. The aforementioned bulge on the right side helps the newly designed Digital Crown so that it cannot be turned down. It also has more ribbing for a more tactile approach, and the side button is also raised so it can be easily activated even when wearing gloves.
There’s even a new customizable one Action button on the left that allows you to quickly start workouts or leave a waypoint on the redesigned Compass app.
During my road cycling I discovered that pressing all these buttons is a very smooth and tactile experienceallowing me to quickly start and stop activities on the go without having to fumble with double-pressing anything (like you do on the regular Apple Watch series) to confirm I’m done cycling.
Then there’s the always-on OLED screen, and the Ultra sports the largest screen: of the offered Apple Watch models. It’s also the brightest, at 2000 nits — the same as the iPhone 14 Pros. The display is protected by: sapphire crystal, and Apple says it’s designed to withstand scratches and bumps from edges. How true that actually works is hard to say for sure until I get to try out the Apple Watch Ultra on some good old-fashioned outback adventures — hopefully soon.
As a sports watch built for use in rugged environments, these are great practical features. But I also suspect that some Apple users, like me, will also see these as high quality of life upgrades, even for normal to wear. For example, the larger screen and brightness of 2000 nits is: great for readability.
Like the new Series 8, the Apple Watch Ultra is powered by an S8 processor, has new temperature sensors and an improved gyroscope for crash detection. But it also comes with a water temperature sensor: for swimmers and divers, a array with three microphones (for better call quality) and a second speaker which can sound a very loud emergency siren and increase the volume of phone calls – all of which the Series 8 lacks.
The Ultra also has: WR100 water resistance and EN13319 certification for diving enthusiasts, although it’s not going to replace a diving watch for serious divers – the watch has a water depth limit of 40 meters. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to test out the swimming and diving aspects of the Ultra in time for this article, but it’s worth noting that Ultra isn’t quite the finished dive watch yet, as Apple is working with Huish Outdoors on a new one. Oceanic+ app to be released later this year, which will allow users to see all sorts of dive stats.
For walkers there is BackTrack on board where you can set your own waypoints and then use the compass to retrace your steps but it looks a bit clunky at the moment as this requires an eSIM connection or the Ultra attached to your iPhone. It’s a bit odd considering you’d assume (and rightly so) that BackTrack is a safety feature, so I don’t understand why Apple hasn’t added offline mapping (and with its own map apps?) to this watch, with automatic – walking routes or something like that.
Speaking of running. Well, aside from the new hardware design, the Ultra isn’t exactly appealing to runners. But that’s not exactly a fair statement, because it has the new statistics in the form of running power, interval training, heart rate zones and so on, but these all came with watchOS 9, so are available on the Series 8 and some of the older Apple Watch models.
And bad luck for cyclists and triathletes, Apple still hasn’t allowed third-party cadence readers and power meters with watchOS 9 — let alone the Ultra, which is a shame.
What about battery life? Here are a few of my experiences with the Ultra without power saving mode enabled:
- Started using the Ultra at 100 percent on Friday, 10pm. Went to bed at 11pm, tracked my sleep and woke up at 5am in preparation for my Friday social bike ride. Engaged bike training mode twice, each for 60 minutes. Spent the rest of the day with the usual phone calls and other notifications on the watch. Slept at 10pm, tracked my sleep, and woke up at 8am on Saturday with 48 percent battery left.
- On Sunday I used the Ultra with 100 percent charged at 9am. Was about doing my usual activities without any training. I took a 5 minute call on the watch and ended my day at 11pm with 82 percent battery left.
If my experience were anything, the Apple Watch Ultra should easily last two full days with standard use. Turning on workouts will inexplicably drain the battery faster.
Looking forward to the Ultra 2
When it comes to fitness, the Apple Watch Ultra seems more focused on ruggedness than its the watch out for all kinds of sports tracking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great first attempt at a rugged sports watch. But for those demanding a “pro” version of the Apple Watch — a proper fitness-tracking smartwatch — from the Cupertino-based company, the Ultra is definitely what we’ve got.
So the watch is far from being able to compete with the powerful and more dedicated fitness watches on the market, and I suspect that’s not what Apple is looking for in the first place. The Apple Watch Ultra felt like it was designed to extend the appeal of its timepieces (for example, I really appreciate the larger 49mm dial) to a wider audience, those who take their fitness seriously, but not the ultra-hardcore who live. and breathe their mornings and weekends on stone sessions.
The weekend walker? Yes. The leisure diver? Absolute. A runner who just wants a bigger Apple Watch? Hands up.
And I know a few friends like that who have already pre-ordered the Apple Watch Ultra.