Current testing methodology is v1.2
September 23, 2022
1.93 x 1.73 x 0.57 in
WR100 | EN13319
I’ve finally given in and bought the Apple Watch Ultra.
You may have seen my recent post about me trying to live without my Apple Watch after letting my wife try it when her Samsung Galaxy Sport Watch finally gave up.
I had the Apple Watch Series 6, which I reviewed when I purchased it and it has been a faithful companion for a couple of years. I didn’t realize how much I relied on the convenience of having the watch.
I’ve covered in my previous article about living without an Apple Watch, after living with it for so long, so I figured it should be pretty easy to give you my review of the Apple Watch Ultra as what I would consider a relatively seasoned Apple Watch owner.
Apple Watch Ultra (GPS + Cellular)
Finally the Apple Watch Ultra makes the Apple Watch something cool enough to wear
When I first purchased the apple watch I feel it was a compromise in style and comfort.
With the Apple Watch Ultra, all my complaints are (somewhat) sidelined. It’s a great watch for people who embrace life, if only that battery lasts even longer.
- Build: Sapphire crystal front | Ceramic/sapphire crystal back | Titanium frame
- Display : Retina LTPO OLED (502 x 410 pixels)
- Internal Memory: 32GB
- Loudspeaker: Yes, with dual speakers
- Connectivity: LTE and UMTS | Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5Ghz | Bluetooth 5.3
- Battery Type: Li-Ion 542 mAh, non-removable
- Battery Life: Up to 36 hours of battery life
What’s in the Box?
- Apple Watch Ultra
- Fast Charging USB‑C Cable (1 m)
Stuff I like
- Looks awesome
- Nice big display
- Battery life 2+ days
- Off the grid GPS features with waypoints give real comfort if you’re worried about being lost
- Automatically comes with Cellular on all models
- Dive feature is cool when it tells you the water temp, even if you don’t dive (I only made it to 4.8 meters freediving)
Stuff I like less
- Price as always with these things
- Battery is so much better than other Apple Watch models but still at this price it needs to get better. Garmin still own this space even though they don’t have all the bells and whistles.
- Button on left side is too easy to press when using the crown
- Small straps can be hard to get off
I’ve had a couple of smartwatches now, including the Huawei, which I also enjoyed. But clearly, if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, it makes too much sense to go for an Apple Watch.
The reason that you might decide to go for a Garmin would be the battery life and just the focused usage of it for a sportsperson or athlete.
I can’t say I’m much of an uber-athlete, but I do love tracking my health. I do spend quite a lot of time swimming in the ocean, a fair amount of time in the gym, usually head out for a walk every day from the office, and often do a good forest path walk on the weekend with the family.
So while I may not be climbing the highest mountains, and diving to the deepest depths, there’s a lot about the Apple Watch Ultra that was attractive to me.
Why I Chose The Apple Watch Ultra Over The Apple Watch Series 8
Fundamentally, it’s all about looks.
The Apple Watch for me has always seemed too soft in its design. There’s nothing hard or rugged about it.
It’s just a very bland, well-rounded watch that I’d expect to see on the wrist of any corporate or any business person or any stay-at-home parent who doesn’t do much in life but exist to work, eat, sleep, and maybe do some light exercise.
Of course, there’s no shame in any of that. But there’s no statement in the Apple Watch either as it has become possibly the most boring-looking smartwatch on the market, in my opinion.
When I bought the Apple Watch Series 6, I bought it because of its functionality, which I’ve covered in other posts before.
Before getting an Apple Watch, I originally went for a Huawei Watch because I wanted something that still looked really good. Watches for me, if I’m honest, are about form and function but also about style and statement.
So when I first saw the Apple Watch Ultra, I thought, “Yeah, that’s a little bit too hardcore for me and it’s jolly big.”
But after living without my Apple Watch for a couple of months while my wife was using it, visiting the store and trying on the Apple Watch Ultra just made me realize how good it actually looks, how tough it actually is, and how fundamentally the Apple Watch Ultra is the Apple Watch that I wished they had released when they first released the Apple Watch.
This isn’t to say that the Apple Watch Ultra is perfect. I definitely have a few complaints about this unit, which I’ll go into detail soon.
Purpose of This Review
The purpose of this review isn’t to hold up the specs between the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra because, for about 95% of users, they’ll do exactly the same thing for your purpose and need.
The purpose of this review is really just to give you feedback on what it’s like to change from an Apple Watch to an Apple Watch Ultra, plus the improvements I’ve found with the Apple Watch Ultra, as well as my frustrations with it.
I know I said that I wasn’t going to make this all about tech specs and comparisons, but it’s worth noting that the 2000 nits peak OLED screen on this thing is pretty awesome.
It’s really bright in any situation.
If you’re using the Wayfinder watch face, the ability to roll up into a red light display looks amazing at nighttime. The sapphire crystal glass is tough and shiny, and it’s so large that it certainly catches the eye of anybody that casually glances past your wrist.
Internally, it’s meant to have 32 gigabytes of storage, which is more than you’ll need for your daily activities, even if you download a whole bunch of Spotify or Apple Music to the watch.
The external speaker sounds pretty good, and the built-in alarm function is quite loud. It slowly escalates to its peak decibel output of about 86, which is more than you’ll need in most situations to get people’s attention without hurting anyone’s ears.
Its widest dimension is 42 mil, which is quite large.
I do have very skinny wrists, but I feel like it doesn’t look too bad on me. I’m not sure if that’s just what the guy in the shop told me to make me feel better, but it certainly is quite big.
Someone at the office joked when they saw it and asked if I had the strength to raise my arm because it’s so large on my wrist. Ha ha.
The rest of the tech specs to me are a little bit unnecessary to go through. And I say that because most people aren’t really going to need to know what degree of extremes they can put this watch through.
I know it’s designed for ultra sportsmen and the pioneers of the outdoors and underwater.
So, if you’re using this in any regular circumstances, you’re just gonna expect it to work and that’s what it will do.
Will it be waterproof enough for swimming and any water activities you undertake? Yes.
Will the battery life last long enough for a couple of days? Yes.
Will it function as a phone, a wallet, and a music player on the go where I can download my music? Yes.
Will it help me track my heart rate accurately? Yes.
Does it have the EKG feature that other Apple Watches have? Yes.
Will it be able to tell my altitude and my GPS location? Yes.
Does it support offline GPS, enabling me to set Wayfinder points and find my way back if I get lost and I’m off-grid? Yes.
Will it easily pair with Bluetooth headphones? Yes.
This summary of everyday tech spec needs means that the Apple Watch, in my opinion, is still the most functional, well-rounded smartwatch on the market today.
It has the ability to do everything you need to do from sports to paying for your beer when you go to a restaurant on Friday.
Its Siri integration is flawless.
Plus the general wear and feel of the watch, in my opinion, is even more comfortable than my Apple Watch Series 6, and therefore, also the Apple Watch Series 7 and 8.
The touch display on the Apple Watch Ultra is larger than its previous models in the Apple Watch Series which makes it a little bit easier to navigate and work with.
Though In saying that, it’s not really a huge difference. Plus I do find myself using voice commands more often to get stuff done.
The brightness of the screen means that in any light, it works really well but I don’t think you need to leave it on all the time.
There’s the option to turn the always-on display off. This would give you even more battery power over time.
Watch Screens and Display Options
I was a little surprised to find that there aren’t more watch faces available specifically for the Apple Watch Ultra.
The main one that comes with the watch is the Wayfinder, which offers a really nicely integrated compass, the ability to set Wayfinder points and find your way back, a nice altimeter display so that you know how high you might be, and a couple of other complications that are editable.
I’ve already changed mine because I actually like to be able to see if I have any new messages. I’ve left access to Spotify, so I can quickly switch to music at any time. I’ve also left the altimeter, compass, Wayfinder points, and my free fitness rings on the screen.
The other watch faces that are available are similar to the Apple Watch 8, so there isn’t a lot of excitement in terms of new faces doing new things.
However, these new features on the Wayfinder also highlight the new features of the Apple Watch Ultra.
One of those is the dual GPS built-in which will ensure that even when you’re off the grid, you have pinpoint accuracy of your location.
When you lose any cell signal, you can set Wayfinder points and the GPS will help you track back or forward through any trail to ensure that you can find your way home. This is assuming that your battery lasts that long.
The watch gives you some guided motion on display to help you do this more effectively. Wrist-based orienteering will never be the same again.
The design of the Ultra is really cool.
Apple has done a good job of toughening up the blandness of the typical Apple Watch with a tougher edge, and while it still has rounded sides, those are balanced with the hard edge face at the top of the watch.
The GPS, inputs, microphones, and speaker all give it a rather complicated look around the outside that gives the watch the feel that it does a lot more than what it says on the tin.
The straps that come with it are really attractive. I went with a white band and I think it looks really nice.
The orange band was also kind of appealing to me, but the Alpine white just seemed to be a nice change from the red color of the Apple Watch 6 that I had for so long.
So, my initial summary for this review is that the Apple Watch Ultra is a great-looking, highly functional, well-made, and good-looking piece of kit that toughens up the existing Apple Watch Series.
And if you don’t mind how big it is, it will add everything you need for the day to your wrist.
Here are the negatives of the Apple Watch Ultra for me.
The Apple Watch Ultra only has a couple of negatives in my opinion. It works really well, but there are a few things that bother me.
The first is the strap size and the way it’s fitted. Having smaller wrists, but relatively normal man-size hands, when I take the strap off, I can’t completely release it from the watch.
This is probably a good thing if you’re climbing a mountain or diving in the depths and the watch is ripped away from you, it would merely sit on your wrist like a bracelet.
But to get the small strap off and over my hand is a bit of a chore and it makes me reluctant to even take it off, but of course, I have to do that to charge it.
So, it’s a slightly uncomfortable process, which isn’t a blocker for me buying it, but I wish I had known it in advance so maybe I could have tried the medium watch strap size instead.
There was a return unit in the store and it was from a guy who had the same problem and had it replaced with a larger strap.
My second complaint about the Apple Watch Ultra is the location of the new additional functional button on the left side. This really attractive-looking, big, orange button can be programmed to do all sorts of things.
I have it programmed to activate the flashlight because, often at night, I find myself walking around in the dark and need to be able to quickly activate the light to see what I’m doing.
The problem is if you’re used to using the regular Apple Watch, it’s quite common to put your thumb on one side and a finger on the other side to brace the watch while you press the crown, dollar crown, or push the crown in.
The drawback for me is that every time I put my thumb on one side of the watch to press the crown, I end up pushing on the new functional button on the side.
So instead of deactivating whatever screen I’m looking at by pressing the crown, I activate the flashlight.
This is a use scenario that I’ve started to work around by finding somewhere else to put my thumb on the side of the watch before I press the crown, but it’s still a little bit frustrating.
The third thing that I’ve struggled with a little bit with the Apple Watch Ultra is the crown and its ability to be dialed easily up and down.
It’s something that I’m getting used to, but as you know, the Apple Watch has the ability to create tension on the crown.
In different circumstances, sometimes I find it a little bit difficult to get a good turn on the crown because sometimes it’s rubbing against my skin. Because the grooves and indents on the crown are so large, it can kind of catch on my skin a bit. That’s a micro complaint compared to the first two.
Are these complaints enough for me to feel frustrated with the watch and consider other options? Not really.
This is the watch that I have wanted for so long.
It would be perfect if you could give me a seven-day battery life with it. I can go off-grid and navigate my way anywhere.
I can play music, pay for things, take it swimming and snorkeling, get messages from my kids, text anyone I need to, make phone calls as necessary, step out of the house with just this on my wrist, and feel absolutely confident that I can deal with anything I face, except for stores and locations that still don’t accept tap-to-pay where I need a credit card.
The sooner card payments are gone and everything is tap-to-pay, the sooner this will then become my ultimate go-to.
Its ability to track my fitness is a bonus.
In a nutshell, I’m not gonna go on about this one but the fitness tracking is pretty much exactly the same as the Apple Watch 6 and the Apple Watch 8.
The new software does have the ability to swipe up and see how I’m training in my zones which I really like. But that’s more of a software update and less about the Apple Watch.
Any other outdoor and sports activities that I’m tracking are pretty much exactly the same as before so that’s not really new on the Apple Watch Ultra.
Summing It Up
So, I’ve talked a lot about different parts of this watch but ultimately, this is the watch that Apple should have come out with a lot sooner.
It’s a little bit larger and it looks a little bit tougher. But I guarantee that within the next six months, more and more people who want a slightly tougher watch look will be upgrading to this unit.
At the moment, I’m a little bit unique in the crowd but it won’t be long before this is widely adopted.
One reason to go for this watch, rather than the Apple Watch 8, is that the Apple Watch Ultra automatically comes with cellular built-in, so there’s no need to choose an upgraded model and get cellular at a higher price.
By the time you add cellular to an Apple Watch 8, you’re not that far off the Apple Watch Ultra, so why not pay the small extra amount and get it? Those are my thoughts anyway.
In some ways, I wished I’d waited another year or two because I think there’ll be some really nice iterations on this. But then I can always upgrade, right?
Any questions, fire them in the comments below.
Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.
Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.
This post was last updated on 2024-02-29 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.