Apple Watch Ultra review: An enormous, exciting, overwhelming success

Apple Watch Ultra

MSRP $799.00

“The Apple Watch Ultra’s expertly made special features give it surprisingly wide appeal, with the long battery life and characterful, luxurious design making it a implausible selection even for those not planning any daring adventures.”


  • Highly durable construct
  • Luxury materials
  • Three-day battery life
  • Expertly judged special features
  • Characterful design
  • Does all the things the Series 8 does
  • LTE as standard


  • Twice the value of the Series 8

Apple makes amazing products almost anyone can pick up, use, and revel in. If you first hear concerning the Apple Watch Ultra, nevertheless, it doesn’t sound prefer it’s for everybody. It’s for those few with $800 to spend on a smartwatch that’s seemingly only imagined to be utilized in the ocean, up a mountain, or covered in mud in a bathroom. Or is it?

I’ve not been anywhere like that in my time with the Apple Watch Ultra, and I believe it’s probably the most exciting, most technically impressive, and most characterful products Apple has ever made. You’re skeptical, aren’t you? Allow me to elucidate.

Apple Watch Ultra design

The Apple Watch Ultra is kind of big. The 49mm x 44mm x 14mm case is larger than the Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch SE 2, nevertheless it’s not all that different from the 45mm x 45mm x 10mm Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, or seriously sporty smartwatches just like the 46mm x 46mm x 14mm Garmin Forerunner 955. When you’ve got slim wrists, it’s going to look gigantic, but not since it’s badly proportioned — no, it’s since the watch is so large. I’ve compared the scale with other large watches to offer you an idea of whether it’s going to fit your wrist or not.

The Apple Watch Ultra with Wayfinder watch face.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Nonetheless, the Apple Watch Ultra is recognizably an Apple Watch, just chunkier. It’s as if the Series 8 has been reimagined by Tonka. Retaining the now-classic Apple Watch shape is the appropriate decision, as — despite the scale and 61-gram (95-gram with the band) weight — it’s very comfortable to wear. The sharpness of the bezel isn’t repeated anywhere the watch touches your skin, where that familiar curved case ensures it never prods or pokes uncomfortably.

The button and Digital Crown guard don’t dig into your wrist either, which is even difficult for some large traditional watches to avoid. My watch has the Ocean Band, and I actually have found it perfectly wearable day-after-day. I selected it because I wear dive watches rather a lot, and I particularly like Seiko’s supplied rubber straps. This has the identical degree of flexibility, doesn’t get hot, and allows for masses of adjustments to make it suitable for all wrists and to wear over a wetsuit.

The Apple Watch Ultra's heart rate sensor active.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

On the alternative side of the case from the Digital Crown is the brand new, vivid orange Motion Button. By default, it prompts the Workout mode, nevertheless it’s surprisingly customizable, with the stopwatch, torch, and dive modes other options, along with adding a waypoint when using GPS. When you keep the default setting, you may as well set the button to start out a selected workout, bypassing the same old countdown.

Also activated with the orange Motion Button is the emergency siren, which Apple says will be heard as much as 180 meters away. It’s a shrill, escalating, unpleasant sound somewhat than a replica of Apple’s Radar or Alarm ringtones. A friend who heard it said it’s such a hateful noise that it might make him head in the other way simply to get away from it, so it’ll definitely get some attention in the event you set it off in Starbucks. Set it off within the wilderness, and nobody will think it’s being activated for fun, and that’s exactly what you would like.

The Apple Watch Ultra's Digital Crown and button.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra's Action button.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra's raised bezel and Digital Crown guard.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The finely grained titanium case, sapphire crystal, and ceramic case back give the Apple Watch Ultra luxury credentials in addition to toughness, which is enhanced further by the IP6X dust resistance and 100-meter water resistance. It has also been tested to MIL-STD 810H standards. It appears like it’s built to last, and appears prefer it’ll take a substantial beating.

If you turn off the Water Lock after the watch has been within the water, it fizzes and whirs because it spits out any unwanted droplets, giving it a surprisingly mechanical feel — prefer it’s almost alive. It’s still a smartwatch, but this, together with the purposeful looks and go-anywhere attitude, gives the Apple Watch Ultra a surprising amount of character. That character (and the scale) made me wear it with my sleeve tucked behind it, showing it off, something I didn’t really do with the Apple Watch Series 7.

All this led to the conclusion you can actually bond with the Apple Watch Ultra, especially in the event you find yourself sharing adventures with it over time. I actually never expected to think that a couple of smartwatch, and it speaks volumes about what Apple has created here.

Apple Watch Ultra fitness tracking

Open the Workout app either with the same old icon or through the use of the Motion button to see a cool flash of orange on the screen to suggest it’s transporting you directly there. You’ll find the identical workout modes and system WatchOS 9 offers on other Apple Watch models.

Workout tracking on the Apple Watch Ultra.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

When you track a run, it displays heart rate zones (based by itself algorithm, or you may manually set them yourself), while the overall overview will be modified to point out stride length, vertical oscillation, and ground contact time. While this information just isn’t exclusive to the Watch Ultra, the larger smartwatch helps you to see six different data sets on the screen at one time, making it more informative at a look.

Operation of the watch’s workout features can be similar to the Series 8 and Watch SE 2. The workout modes are varied and straightforward to access, and all of the relevant data is shown on the massive, vivid screen. I can see the time, check my heart rate, and quickly jump between it, the compass, and other apps with none slowdown. If you open the Dock using the side button, the compass app even starts working within the helicopter view. It’s all so slick and easy.

The Apple Watch Ultra uses each L1 and L5 GPS antennas to raised lock onto satellites and supply more accurate location data. I compared the performance of the Watch Ultra (connected to an iPhone 14 Pro) against that of the Apple Watch Series 8 (connected to an iPhone SE (2022) to see if there have been any obvious differences. The Apple Watch Ultra recorded a more linear and logical route, whereas the Series 8 showed me wandering more, which I didn’t really do. It’s not much of a difference, but I believe it’s there, so in my anecdotal tests, the Watch Ultra’s GPS does look like more accurate.

The maps produced in Apple’s Fitness app are detailed, with helpful colours along the route to point out your pace, and you may zoom right in to see almost exactly where you walked, ran, or cycled. Compare it to the mapping within the Samsung Health app, and there’s definitely more detail within the Fitness app, but whether it’s truly helpful may rely on your needs.

GPS map data from an Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Series 8 shown on an iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone SE 2022.

iPhone SE 2022 showing Apple Watch Series 8 data (left), iPhone 14 Pro showing Apple Watch Ultra data Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

GPS map data from an Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Series 8 shown on an iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone SE 2022.

iPhone SE 2022 showing Apple Watch Series 8 data (left), iPhone 14 Pro showing Apple Watch Ultra data Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

GPS map data from an Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Series 8 shown on an iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone SE 2022.

iPhone SE 2022 showing Apple Watch Series 8 data (left), iPhone 14 Pro showing Apple Watch Ultra data Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I still find the split between Apple’s Health app and Fitness app confusing, and would really prefer a single app to handle all the things, plus the knowledge presented isn’t as detailed as apps from Garmin and even Samsung. While the Apple Watch Ultra could also be more hardcore, the apps and data presented in them aren’t any different from the Series 8 or Watch SE 2, so in the event you’re just going to trace easy workouts. there’s no software advantage to owning the Watch Ultra. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, just don’t expect it to supply far more for the casual exerciser.

Apple Watch Ultra Wayfinder face and compass app

It could appear strange to dedicate a complete section to a watch face and compass, but these two features display how beautifully integrated all the things is in WatchOS 9, and where the Apple Watch Ultra stands out against the opposite Apple Watch models.

The compass on the Apple Watch Ultra.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Wayfinder watch face is exclusive to the Watch Ultra and is hugely customizable. The bezel can show elevation and incline or latitude and longitude, plus there are eight complications to set, meaning you might have tons of data ready at a look. While the finished face is busy, it’s not confusing because of the very clever, readable, watch-like design and option to vary various colours. It also really suits the Watch Ultra. Plus, the Night mode — activated using the Digital Crown — looks amazing when it turns the complete face red. I’ve left it on that mode rather a lot only for its cool sci-fi looks.

The beautifully designed compass is a separate app and a part of the Wayfinder face, plus it will possibly be added as a complication for quick access. It updates always as you alter direction, there are buttons to mark a waypoint and activate the Backtrack feature, and a tab that gives a greater level of detail. Twist the Digital Crown, and you may not only change what’s shown on the screen, but additionally see a bigger map view in the middle of the compass.

Night mode on the Apple Watch Ultra's Wayfinder watch face.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I desired to single these out because I’ve not modified the Wayfinder watch face yet. I haven’t felt the necessity to, and it’s the primary time I’ve ever wanted to make use of a compass app. After which once I did, I used to be actually impressed by it. I believe they each sum up Apple’s minute attention to detail here. The deep integration is what makes WatchOS 9 such a pleasure.

Apple Watch Ultra Backtrack

What concerning the Backtrack feature? It’s activated from the Compass app, where all it takes is a single tap on the little icon shaped like two feet. When you use the Wayfinder watch face, there’s fast access to the compass using one in every of the complications. To operate, it does require an extra location setting, called Significant Location, to be switched on (it’s hidden away under Settings > Location > System Services). With this done, Backtrack works away within the background.

Activating Back Track on the Apple Watch Ultra.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

You don’t notice it until you wish it. Tap the footsteps icon again, and Backtrack will lead you back to where you began within the event you wander away. Except don’t expect it to directly lead you back. Backtrack uses the compass app, where a small arrow points you in the appropriate direction, somewhat than retracing your steps exactly. It’s because the crow flies, which does mean you continue to should make decisions along the best way.

For instance, at a junction, Backtrack showed I should go in a distinct direction than the best way I got here, which I knew would still absolutely return me to my place to begin, but not in the best way I arrived at the purpose originally. You’ll should bear this in mind and trust each your instincts and the Watch Ultra’s compass. Depending on the terrain, this might mean encountering situations where you will have to backtrack on Backtrack.

The feature could be very easy to make use of. I didn’t notice any additional battery drain when using it in comparison with once I’m not. And since it really works through the Compass app, it’s available whatever the fitness-tracking app used, so it’s very versatile. That is a distinct approach to Samsung’s similar feature, where you might have to make use of a GPX map as a way to use the Route Back feature on the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.

If Backtrack appears like something you’d use or would really like to have in reserve, remember it’s a WatchOS 9 feature and in addition available on the Series 8 and the Watch SE 2. Testing it back-to-back with the Series 8 revealed that the Watch Ultra’s stronger GPS gave more precise directions. While the Series 8 would still have gotten you back, the Watch Ultra was clearly the more accurate of the 2. In some situations, those few degrees may make plenty of difference. You possibly can see the variations within the gallery above, just search for the white marker on the inner bezel.

Apple Watch Ultra screen, software, and performance

Just like the iPhone 14 Pro, the Apple Watch Ultra’s Retina LTPO OLED screen can suddenly boost the brightness to 2,000 nits in sunlight — and it’s highly effective. It’s so noticeable that it’s such as you flicked on a light-weight switch. The flat sapphire crystal doesn’t affect viewing angles as I feared, nevertheless it is vulnerable to reflection.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s sharp and colourful too, but with a 1,164 square-millimeter viewing area, it’s not all that much larger than the 45mm Series 8’s 1,143 square-millimeter display. The dimensions of the case is more about housing the battery and increasing durability than it’s about making the screen larger. Nonetheless, clever use of the software signifies that in some situations, you do see more on the screen at one time in comparison with the Series 8.

Apple’s WatchOS 9 is installed similar to it’s on the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Watch SE 2. The software is fluid, logical, and reliable. I prefer to not overload it with apps (which helps minimize distractions) and depend on the usual apps and few selection additions more often than not. Apps of all kinds load and operate quickly, and the App Store is a joy to browse because of sensibly sized icons and clearly organized sections.

The Apple Watch Ultra does all the things the Series 8 can do and so far more.

The powerful S8 processor can be the identical one contained in the Series 8 and Watch SE 2, the haptics are wonderful — especially whenever you twist the Digital Crown or when an alarm sounds — and the speakers are seriously loud too. Apple Pay works seamlessly and is de facto easy to establish. I don’t have any plans to try the crash detection or fall detection, but I’m pleased they’re there. I feel similarly about warnings about my health from the electrocardiogram, heart rate sensor, and blood oxygen monitoring features.

I haven’t been in a position to try all of the features on the Watch Ultra. I don’t dive, so probably the most I’ve done is submerge the watch within the sink, where it mechanically activated the easy-to-read dive gauge with water temperature readout. A special version of the Oceanic+ app is on the market for the Watch Ultra, and it permits you to plan dives, use the compass, and get more in-depth safety and experience features. Apple says the Watch Ultra is geared toward Skilled Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)-qualified divers to a depth of 40 meters.

Using the Depth Gauge on the Apple Watch Ultra.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra does all the things the Series 8 can do and so far more, adding a wealth of area of interest features and sturdiness. Then, to be certain that you may enjoy every little bit of the smartwatch for longer, it pushes one key aspect further ahead — which we’ll come to next.

Apple Watch Ultra battery

The Apple Watch Ultra’s battery has a 76% larger capability than those within the Series 8 and Watch SE 2, and Apple claims the battery will last for 36 hours on a single charge with out a cellular connection — twice what it’s best to expect from the opposite models. The excellent news is it’s not bluster; the Apple Watch Ultra’s battery life is superb.

Here’s an example. I recharged the battery on its second cycle at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, then used it normally every day. I left it switched on overnight and tracked two indoor workouts, plus a one-hour walk and a 30-minute walk with GPS and Backtrack engaged, over the course of the following few days. At 6 p.m. Thursday, there was still 10% remaining — so I turned on the Low Power mode, and it still had 5% left at 11:30 p.m. On my first days of use, the battery lasted for 3 full days without as much GPS use.

The side of the Apple Watch Ultra on a man's wrist.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Series 7 often returned two days of use on a single charge, but that was only with turning it off overnight. To rise up to 3 full days of use from the Watch Ultra with its brighter screen, plus all its extra ability, is great — and a real reason to purchase.

How does this compare with the competition? Samsung’s rival smartwatch, the $450 Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, also lasted for 3 days with out a recharge, nevertheless it did so only in the event you didn’t track sleep. Nonetheless, just like the Watch Ultra, it’s a giant, heavy watch and probably not suitable for wearing overnight anyway.

The longer battery life really sets the Apple Watch Ultra aside from its sibling smartwatches.

Nonetheless, while the Watch Ultra’s battery is sweet, it will possibly’t beat the marathon battery life provided by dedicated running or activity smartwatches. The $600 Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar’s battery is sweet for 2 weeks, and even the smaller, more design-led $180 Vivomove Sport’s battery will last for five days. The Apple Watch Ultra’s battery is powerful for an Apple smartwatch, but in the broader world of high-performance activity smartwatches, it still falls behind.

Should this be a priority? How much this can impact your on a regular basis life is determined by what you do in your on a regular basis life. When you often run lots of of miles, hike each weekend, and don’t all the time have access to power (or intend to make use of the GPS and Cellular connection day-after-day), then the Apple Watch Ultra will still need charging every couple of days. But in the event you do these activities occasionally, then you definitely’ll spend rather a lot less time visiting the charger than you’d with a Series 8, and three days of use between charges is entirely achievable. The longer battery life really sets the Apple Watch Ultra aside from its sibling smartwatches, and it’s a robust reason to purchase this model over another.

Apple Watch Ultra price and availability

The Apple Watch Ultra costs $799, or 849 British kilos. There is simply one version of the Watch Ultra, and it comes with LTE connectivity as standard. The one decision to make is about which strap to decide on. It’s the Ocean Band you see in our photos, which is generally designed to appeal to divers. Alternatively, there’s the Alpine Loop for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, and the Trail Loop for runners and endurance athletes. You possibly can buy the Apple Watch Ultra now through Apple’s online and retail stores.

That is an expensive watch, but there’s unquestionable value here. Titanium, ceramic, and sapphire crystal all add to the value, plus there’s an enormous amount of research and development involved in getting the extra features in place and dealing accurately. It’s costlier than a Series 8, which has plenty of the identical core functionality, but not vastly more so than many competing high-performance activity smartwatches from Garmin, Suunto, Polar, or Coros. It’s not even that different from the fee of a midlevel traditional diver or field watch from brands like Seiko, Citizen, Casio, or Hamilton.

That is the Apple Watch Ultra Series 1

While I’ve been using and writing concerning the Apple Watch Ultra, I’ve called it simply the Apple Watch on greater than a number of occasions. Once I began to offer this some thought, it seemed appropriate. The Apple Watch Ultra is clearly the start of something recent for the corporate, somewhat than a one-off or the product of a lazy marketing campaign. What Apple has done with the Watch Ultra is to make it genuinely different from the Series 8 in almost every respect. Not higher or worse, but something that stands by itself.

The Apple Watch Ultra worn on a man's wrist.Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

That is the best way you have to be fascinated about it before you purchase it. It’s probably not a substitute for the Series 8 or Watch SE 2 despite being closely related. It serves different purposes, has its own strengths and weaknesses, and has a series of unique features that wouldn’t fit on a Series 8. You’ll buy this as an alternative of the Series 8.

The surprising thing is, the Apple Watch Ultra is kind of easy to justify. The long battery life is a large selling point that everybody will appreciate, as is absolutely the bulletproof nature of the construct and materials. Plus, in the event you do anything remotely adventurous, it’ll easily sustain all day long. However the thing I didn’t expect was to attach with it personally. It has a personality all of its own, and that’s something only a few smartwatches accomplish. What’s more, the brand new features and the simplicity of use is somewhat inspirational and encourages you to exit and provides them a try.

Against the percentages, Apple has made a rugged smartwatch that non-rugged people will need to own — they usually’ll be more than happy with it after they do. It’s a implausible start of something really exciting and really different for Apple’s superb smartwatch range.

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