(Pocket-lint) — Apple has announced three new smartwatches, and while two of them have been updated to devices we’ve seen before, the third is the new kid on the block.
The Apple Watch Ultra is a smartwatch for the extreme sports enthusiast, and its durable case and tougher housing transports it to Garmin territory.
Does it contain minerals to rival it, and what does it actually look like? Here are our first impressions.
The Apple Watch Ultra is the Apple Watch Series 8 on steroids, plus a lot more. It’s assembled to offer a rougher, ready-made device with not only a tougher casing, but a larger device as well, along with a larger screen, more tactile buttons and extra buttons too.
Its size and bulk mean it won’t suit everyone’s tastes, and for some, it’s going to be overkill for what they need in terms of features, but for others, it might be the Apple Watch they’ve been waiting a long time for, especially with all the extra features.
It remains to be seen if it can compete with Garmin Fenix’s models of extreme sports wearables right now, but if the battery claims are accurate and the Watch Ultra performs with the precision that its previous siblings were known for, it might be the Apple Watch to watch. It was totally intended.
- Bold and chunky design
- Lots of features
- Lightweight and comfortable
- nice offer
- Promising battery life compared to other Apple Watch models
- The price
- The big and sturdy design won’t suit everyone’s taste
- He has strong competition
- 49mm titanium body
- IP6X, MIL-STD-810H, EN13319, WR100
- Customizable action buttons
- One color option: natural titanium
The Apple Watch Ultra borrows from the tried-and-tested Apple Watch design that hasn’t changed much since its initial launch in 2015. Sure, the screen space has expanded within the available space and new sensors have been added, but the rectangular shape with curved edges and rounded corners.
This design is oversized on the Apple Watch Ultra. It’s harder and bigger and bigger. The aluminum and stainless steel casing—both of which the Series 8 advances—moves out to titanium like the older Apple Watch version. Titanium is said to be more resistant to scratches and drops, which in theory makes the Apple Watch Ultra better suited to the rugged terrain environments you’re heading towards.
The larger 49mm casing has rounded edges with an extra section at the top that leads into the screen, and it’s completely flat, rather than as round as the Series 8. The Ultra casing wasn’t intentionally designed like the Series 8, with more about he-she . The Digital Crown has an extra layer, with more ridges for a more tactile approach and the ability to use it with gloves.
There’s also an added customizable button on the left edge, which is bright orange and can be used to start a new workout, dive, or clip, for example. If you press and hold it, the built-in 86 dB siren designed to be heard 180 meters away will also activate. Besides the orange action button – as Apple calls it – there are dual speakers as well, as well as a GPS antenna.
The button on the right edge below the Digital Crown remains a functional button but is larger and more prominent on the Watch Ultra than on previous Watch models. There are also lugs on the top and bottom of the Watch Ultra, connecting the specially designed straps – which are still interchangeable. There are three new options – Alpine Loop, Trail Loop and Ocean Band.
The Watch Ultra’s large size means it won’t fit your nice wrists quite like the smaller Watch Series 8, but it all depends on the look you’re going for, as well as what you want out of your smartwatch. It’s very comfortable to wear, surprisingly in fact, and the large shape doesn’t look horrible on our small wrists either. It’s definitely a statement and this is a watch that won’t go unnoticed – but we really loved the flat screen and the abundance of this device.
The Apple Watch Ultra is water-resistant to 100 meters, is also IP6X rated, offers a MIL-STD-810H rating, and is rated EN13319, the diving computer standard. All this means that Watch Ultra is suitable for most conditions.
Bigger, Flatter Screen
- Retina always-on display, 410 x 502 pixels
- 2000nits . brightness
- flat sapphire crystal
The Apple Watch Ultra has the largest display of any Apple Watch model on offer and is also the brightest at 2,000 nits – like the iPhone 14 Pro. Protected by Sapphire Crystal – and as flat as we mentioned – the Ultra display is designed to be able to withstand scratches and edge impacts. How good that would be would need our full review to make a decision though.
It’s an always-on display too, like the Series 8, which means you’ll always be able to see information on the screen, like the time or your activity loops for example. There’s also a Night Mode function when you spin the Digital Crown up when you’re on the Wayfinder tech face, and it turns facial details a bright red. The Wayfinder face offers up to eight complications and features a time dial that can be converted into a live compass.
The borders around the display on the Watch Ultra are also quite thin, saving a lot of screen real estate within the footprint. It’s a Retina display with a resolution of 502 x 410 pixels and based on our experience so far, it’s a bright, dramatic display with vibrant colors and deep blacks.
There also appears to be ample brightness, although this is something we will need to test in outdoor conditions when the sun is shining bright to make sure you’ll still be able to see everything you need no matter what you’re doing, whether mountaineering or surfing.
Hardware and Features
- S8 Dual Core 64-bit Processor
- W3, U1 . wireless chip
- LTE and UMTS
- Bluetooth 5.3
The Apple Watch Ultra runs on the S8 chip, which is a 64-bit dual-core processor, and there’s a W3 wireless chip and a broadband U1 chip on board as well, like the Apple Watch Series 8. It also features the same number of sensors as the Series 8, including the usual ones Such as optical heart rate sensor, blood oxygen sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope and altimeter.
The accelerometer has been upgraded since Series 7, delivering up to 256g of forces instead of 32g, and there is also a body temperature sensor. The Watch Ultra Body Temperature Sensor – Series 8 – will help detect when a woman is ovulating. This feature would probably be more useful on the Watch Series 8 although the Watch Ultra might not be a device you want to sleep with, just like the Garmin Fenix 6.
Besides being able to take an EKG, track blood oxygen, track various sports, receive smartphone notifications and use different apps, Watch Ultra will also detect if you’ve been in a car accident, call and send your location to emergency services and notify your contacts In emergency cases. It also has international roaming.
There’s also a compass on the board — as you’d expect, a dual-frequency GPS depth and accuracy meter that uses L1 and L5 GOS for more accurate gauges and there’s a built-in siren as well, as mentioned. It’s also LTE, with only the GPS model available, as with the Series 8 and it has an operating temperature of -20°C to 55°C.
Of course, as we were in the Steve Jobs theater when we got our hands on the Watch Ultra and not on top of Mount Everest, we couldn’t test most of the features. We’ll put it through the most difficult steps we could find during our review.
Longer battery life
- up to 36 hours
- Up to 18 hours LTE
- Up to 60 hours in private mode
The Apple Watch Ultra has a larger battery than the Series 8 — or any other previous Apple Watch, with claims to have a lifespan of 36 hours compared to the 18 hours offered by the standard model. This is still a far cry from the Garmin Fenix in the world of rugged smartwatches, but it’s a lot better than the Apple Watch that has been offered in the past.
There’s also a 60-hour promise when used in a certain mode, although that’s coming later this year.
Of course, we haven’t been able to test the battery claims in our short time with the Watch Ultra, and this is an area we’ll focus on a lot when we come to review it but we’re looking forward to not having to charge our Watch every night, and it will be especially useful when doing long-distance running or hiking and using the GPS Global positioning (GPS) and other features.
The Apple Watch Ultra runs on watchOS 9, which offers a host of features, including more advanced sleep tracking with sleep stages. Like iOS 16, there’s been a public beta for watchOS 9 available since July, so if you already have an Apple Watch, you might have already downloaded and tried it out, which means Watch Ultra will offer a similar user experience.
There are a few extras with the Watch Ultra, including the ability to program the orange Action button. This means that you can choose to have this button to start a workout for example, which prevents you from having to swipe the screen — even easier when your hands are wet or it’s raining. There are also plenty of other uses, as mentioned.
The watchOS 9 build of course isn’t exclusive to the Watch Ultra either, nor to the standard Watch Series 8, so you don’t necessarily need the new hardware to try out the new features but there are some that are exclusive to the Watch Ultra, like the programmable button and some extreme sports apps and features. You can read all about watchOS 9 in our separate feature.
The Apple Watch Ultra is the Apple Watch Series 8 on steroids, plus a lot more. It’s assembled to provide a rugged, ready-made device with not only a tougher casing, but a larger device as well, along with a larger screen, more tactile buttons and extra buttons too. It remains to be seen if it can compete with Garmin Fenix’s models of extreme sports wearables right now, but if the battery claims are accurate and the Watch Ultra performs with the precision that its previous siblings were known for, it might be the Apple Watch to watch. It was totally intended.
Written by Britta O’Boyle.