Should You Buy the Apple Watch Ultra 2?
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is Apple's top-of-the-line Apple Watch, priced at $799. It is designed for outdoor enthusiasts who need more durability and a wider range of features than those who wear the standard Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch Ultra was just refreshed in September 2023, so now is the time to buy. The new model includes a much faster S9 chip and a new Double Tap feature that lets you control the Apple Watch with one hand using a tap of the fingers. Compared to the Series 9, it has improved water resistance and can be used for diving, and it has a more rugged enclosure, a bigger screen size, and longer battery life.
Note that the Apple Watch Ultra is Apple's largest Apple Watch at 49mm, and it might not fit some people with smaller wrists. Those who do not need the feature set of the Ultra or who need a smaller watch should check out the Apple Watch Series 9.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2
Apple in September 2023 introduced the second-generation Apple Watch Ultra, a follow-up to the original Apple Watch Ultra that came out in September 2022. Designed to compete with more expensive fitness-focused smart watches from companies like Garmin, the Apple Watch Ultra is aimed at sports enthusiasts and athletes who need more battery life and more sport-specific performance from their devices.
Apple says the Apple Watch Ultra was built for endurance, exploration, and adventure, and continues to be the largest Apple Watch to date at 49mm, which is 4mm larger than the 45mm Apple Watch Series 9 that it's being sold alongside.
The biggest new feature in the Ultra 2 is the new S9 chip, which is much faster than the S8 in the prior model and enables new functionality. The S9 chip has a 4-core Neural Engine that processes machine learning tasks up to twice as fast, and it is more efficient for the same all-day battery life despite new capabilities.
Double Tap is the major new feature enabled by the S9 chip. The gesture allows users to tap the index finger and thumb together in order to interact with the Apple Watch one-handed. Double Tap can be used to stop a timer, play/pause music, answer or end a call, snooze an alarm, and more.
With the S9 chip, Siri commands that do not require information from the internet are processed on device for faster response times and more privacy, plus dictation is 25 percent more accurate. Users can also ask Siri questions about data from the Health app, getting information on Activity progress, heart rate, sleep, and medications.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 did not receive any design updates, and it features a lightweight aerospace-grade titanium body, flat sapphire crystal face, a larger diameter and deeper grooved Digital Crown, a housing for the side button and an extra physical button on the left side called the Action button.
At up to 3000 nits, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the brightest Apple Watch to date, and it is brighter than the prior version, so it is easy to see in sunlight. It can also go down to 1 nit for use in dark rooms like movie theaters.
The Action button on the Apple Watch Ultra is designed in international orange to make it noticeable in the dark and under water, and it's customizable so it can activate Workouts, mark segments, set Compass Waypoints, and more.
There are three built-in microphones to improve sound quality, and a beamforming algorithm captures voice while reducing ambient background sounds even when it's noisy outdoors. There is an 86-decibel siren available for drawing help if needed, with two SOS patterns.
With the larger 49mm casing, Apple was able to include a larger battery. The Apple Watch Ultra lasts for up to 36 hours on a single charge, and with a new low-power setting, battery life can last for up to 60 hours for multi-day adventuring. The battery lasts long enough for users to complete a long-course triathlon that includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a full 26.2-mile marathon.
The Apple Watch Ultra features dual-frequency GPS, integrating both the L1 and L5 frequencies, plus it has new positioning algorithms. It provides the most accurate GPS of any Apple Watch, which means it also offers precise distance, pace, and route data for training and competing.
To accommodate more extreme environments, the Apple Watch Ultra can withstand a wider temperature range. It works in conditions as cold as -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20° C) to as hot as 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55° C). The watch is certified to MIL-STD-810H, a metric used for military equipment and by rugged equipment manufacturers.
For water sports, the Apple Watch Ultra can hold up to kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and recreational scuba diving, activities not recommended for the standard Apple Watch models. The Apple Watch Ultra is certified to WR100 and EN 13319, an internationally recognized standard for diving accessories. When used for diving, the Apple Watch Ultra has a depth gauge and a dedicated Depth app that displays current depth, water temperature (using the new temperature sensor), duration under water, and max depth reached.
Apple designed a special Wayfinder watch face for the Apple Watch Ultra, with a built-in compass and space for up to eight complications. The watch face can be customized for the mountain, ocean, or trail, and it turns red automatically at night for better visibility. This year, there's also a new Modular Ultra Face that provides the most complications of any watch face. The Apple Watch Ultra supports Compass Waypoints for marking a location or point of interest, and a Backtrack feature uses GPS to create a path showing where the user has been, helpful for retracing steps when lost.
In addition to features designed for exploring and adventuring, the Apple Watch Ultra has all of the functionality available in the Apple Watch Series 9. It monitors heart rate, tracks sleep, can take ECG readings, monitors blood oxygen, tracks body temperature, and offers all of the same fitness tracking options. All Apple Watch Ultra models feature cellular connectivity, with a cellular plan needed to access all functions.
Apple added a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip to the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The UWB chip enables Precision Finding for locating a misplaced iPhone with visual, haptic, and audio guidance. There's also improved integration with HomePod and when an Apple Watch gets within four meters of a HomePod playing audio, the Ultra 2 can show the Now Playing interface for controlling media.
There are motion sensors in the Apple Watch Ultra that enable Crash Detection, alerting emergency services if you are in a severe car crash. When a crash is detected, the Apple Watch checks in with the user and then dials emergency services automatically if there's no response after a 10 second countdown.
There are three sport-focused bands available for the Apple Watch Ultra, including the Trail Loop, Alpine Loop, and Ocean Band, plus older bands designed for 44 and 45mm Apple Watches fit the new model. The Trail Loop band is the thinnest Apple Watch band to date, while the Alpine Loop features high-strength yarn and a woven design made for durability. The Ocean Band is for extreme water sports and features a flexible fluoroelastomer that can stretch to fit over a wetsuit.
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How to Buy
There is just one Apple Watch Ultra model, and it is priced at $799 from Apple. Third-party retailers sometimes have discounts, and prices can be tracked with our Apple Deals roundup.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has the same design as the original Apple Watch Ultra. It has the rounded rectangular shape, of the Series 9, but with a more rugged build. The case edges extend to the flat front crystal display, and the Digital Crown and side button are a raised area on the case.
Compared to the Series 9, the the Digital Crown on the Ultra has larger and coarser grooves for easier access even when using gloves, and the side button is also able to be used with gloves on.
At 49mm, the Apple Watch Ultra is the biggest Apple Watch that Apple offers, and it is 4mm larger than the 45mm Apple Watch Series 9, the second largest Apple Watch available for purchase. The Apple Watch Ultra measures in at 49mm by 44mm by 14.4mm, and it weighs 61.3 grams, making it heavier than even the 45mm stainless steel Apple Watch Series 9.
The Apple Watch Ultra includes an "Action" button on the left side of the device that can be customized by the user. The Action button is a bright orange color to make it easy to see, and it can do things like launch Workouts and apps.
Colors and Materials
The Apple Watch Ultra is made from an aerospace-grade titanium, which is a lightweight and durable material that also offers corrosion resistance for use in the water. The back of the Apple Watch Ultra is made from ceramic and sapphire crystal, like the Series 9.
There are no color options for the Apple Watch Ultra, and it is available only in a silver titanium shade. With prior versions of the Apple Watch Edition, Apple offered titanium in black as well, but that is not available for the Apple Watch Ultra. Apple did, however, test a darker color that did not make it to release.
Exclusive Watch Face
The Apple Watch Ultra has an exclusive "Wayfinder" face that incorporates a time dial that can be transformed into a compass, plus it has room for up to eight complications. The Wayfinder face has a built-in night mode that turns it red for better visibility in the dark. Night mode can be activated by turning the Digital Crown, but it also comes on automatically when it gets dark.
With the Ultra 2, Apple added a second exclusive face, the Modular Ultra. The Modular Ultra uses the outermost edge of the display to present real-time data, including seconds, altitude, or depth. It offers the most complications of any Apple Watch digital face.
Because it is meant to be used for exploring and adventuring, the Apple Watch Ultra is able to withstand more extreme temperatures than standard Apple Watch models. It works in temperatures as cold as -4° F (-20° C) to to as warm as 131° F (55° C).
It is certified to MIL-STD-810H, a standard that is used for military equipment and employed by rugged equipment manufacturers. Apple says this testing includes Low Pressure (Altitude), High Temperature, Low Temperature, Temperature Shock, Contamination by Fluids, Rain, Humidity, Immersion, Sand and Dust, Freeze/Thaw, Ice/Freezing Rain, Shock, Vibration, and more.
The Apple Watch Ultra's display is made from a flat sapphire front crystal that is more durable than the Ion-X front glass used for the Apple Watch SE and aluminum Apple Watch Series 9 models. The flat design paired with the raised edges of the case is meant to protect the display from edge impacts.
Apple designed the Apple Watch Ultra for extreme water sports. Unlike standard Apple Watch models, it can be used for kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and recreational scuba diving to 40 meters deep. It is water resistant to a total of 100m, making it more water resistant than other Apple Watch models.
The Apple Watch Ultra is also certified to WR100 and EN13319, a standard for dive accessories such as depth gauges.
The Apple Watch Ultra features an updated Retina display with a resolution of 410 by 502, and the second-generation version offers up to 3000 nits of brightness, 50 percent brighter than the first generation. It has an 1164 sq mm display area, larger than the 1143 sq mm display area of the 45mm Apple Watch Series 9.
The Apple Watch Ultra has an always-on display technology enabled by an OLED ultra low power temperature poly-silicon and oxide display (LTPO). With always-on, the watch face and complications remain continually visible and the screen does not dim and go black when the Apple Watch is not in use. The display dims when the wrist is down in order to preserve battery life, but key features like watch hands remain illuminated all the time. With the Ultra 2, the display can dim to 1 nit to avoid disturbing people in dark rooms.
Apple designed a new S9 System-in-Package (SiP) for the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, and it is the most powerful watch chip yet. The dual-core CPU has 5.6 billion transistors, 60 percent more than the S8 chip, plus it includes a four-core Neural Engine that is able to process machine learning tasks up to twice as fast.
Double Tap Gesture
The S9 chip enables a Double Tap gesture that you can use to control the Apple Watch. When you double tap your index finger and thumb, the sensors in the Apple Watch detect the motion and can activate what's on the display, allowing you to do things like answer a call, end a call, open a notification, play or pause music, start or stop a timer, check your Smart Stack, and more.
- Everything You Can Do With the Double Tap Gesture on Apple Watch
- Apple Watch Double Tap Feature: What It Does and How to Get It
Double Tap was added to the Apple Watch Series 9 in watchOS 10.1.
Siri requests processed on-device are faster and more secure with the S9 chip, and Siri dictation is up to 25 percent more accurate.
Later this year, Siri will be able to answer questions about health data, such as how well you slept or what your heart rate was during a workout. Siri will also be able to log information such as weight, water consumed, and other metrics you might want to track.
The second-generation Apple Watch Ultra has 64GB of storage, up from 32GB in the prior-generation model.
Sensors at the back of the Apple Watch Ultra support blood oxygen monitoring. Blood oxygen saturation in a healthy individual is around 95 to 100 percent, and when the percentage of oxygen in the blood drops below that, it can be indicative of a serious health issue that needs immediate attention.
Green, red, and infrared LEDs shine light onto the blood vessels in the wrist, with photodiodes measuring the amount of light reflected back. Apple's algorithms then calculate the color of the blood, which is an indication of how much oxygen is present. The Apple Watch Ultra can measure blood oxygen between 70 and 100 percent.
Blood oxygen measurements can be taken on-demand using the Blood Oxygen app, and blood oxygen measurements are also taken in the background when the wrist is not moving and when the watch is used for sleep tracking.
The ECG app uses sensors on the bottom of the Apple Watch and the Digital Crown to take a one-lead electrocardiogram. It detects heartbeat and rhythm, and can let users know if atrial fibrillation is detected or if the heart is in a normal sinus rhythm.
A single-lead ECG like the Apple Watch means there are two points of contact measuring the electrical sensations of your heart. Clinical electrocardiograms done by your doctor can have six to 12 leads for greater accuracy, but the Apple Watch offers the convenience of being able to take an ECG anytime anywhere in approximately 30 seconds.
Heart Rate Tracking
Like all Apple Watch models, the Apple Watch Ultra has a set of optical sensors for measuring heart rate. It is able to provide irregular heart rate notifications should atrial fibrillation be detected, plus it can inform users when their heart rate is too high at resting or too low.
The Apple Watch Ultra can be worn at night to keep track of your sleep. It monitors when you're awake and when you're asleep, letting you know how much time you spent in the REM, Core, and Deep sleep stages. It also lets you know how often you've woken up in the night and for how long.
The sensors in the Apple Watch are able to determine if you've taken a hard fall, alerting emergency services if there is no response. Fall detection is enabled by default for older adults, but anyone is able to turn it on in the Apple Watch settings.
There are two temperature sensors in the Apple Watch Ultra, including one that measures the temperature at the wrist and one that measures the ambient temperature in the air to cut down on outside bias.
The temperature sensor is used for the Depth app, but its main purpose is for women's health. It is able to take temperature readings every five seconds when the wearer is asleep, aggregating the data in the Health app. Temperature fluctuations can provide data on overall health, but it is also useful for fertility planning.
The Apple Watch Ultra is able to deliver retrospective ovulation estimates, letting them know when they might have ovulated for better cycle tracking. Apple says temperature sensing will also improve period predictions for those who menstruate.
The Apple Watch Ultra tracks movement throughout the day like other Apple Watch models, keeping track of steps taken, calories burned, and workouts. It provides exercise, movement, and stand rings in the Activity app, and offers up reminders to help people get out and move more often.
Apple created a Depth app for the Apple Watch Ultra that uses a depth gauge when under water. The Depth app can display the time, current depth, water temperature (using the Apple Watch temperature sensor), the duration spent under the water, and the max depth reached.
Apple has also partnered with Huish Outdoors for the Oceanic+ app that is able to turn the Apple Watch Ultra into a dive computer. It offers dive planning, dive metrics, visual and haptic alerts, a no-decompression limit, ascent rate, and safety stop guidance. It runs using the Bühlmann decompression algorithm.
The Apple Watch Ultra Compass app features an analog compass that displays a digital view of the current bearing and direction. A scroll of the Digital Crown brings up a view that shows bearing, elevation, incline, latitude, and longitude.
With the Action button or the Compass Waypoint option, a waypoint can be dropped that appears on the Compass face to mark a point of interest. Waypoints update dynamically in real time relative to the Apple Watch's position, providing an idea of the direction of the waypoint and its distance.
There's also a "Backtrack" feature that uses GPS to record a path of where the user has been, so if they get lost or disoriented, it is easy to find the way back to the starting point.
Battery and Charging
As it has a larger case size, the Apple Watch Ultra can accommodate a larger battery that lasts for up to 36 hours. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is equipped with a 564 mAh battery, which is slightly larger than the 542 mAh battery that was in the original model.
With Low Power Mode and an additional battery savings option that cuts down on heart rate measurements during workouts, the Apple Watch Ultra's battery can last for up to 72 hours for multi-day adventures.
The Apple Watch Ultra supports fast charging technology and comes with an Apple Watch charging puck that allows for quicker charging speeds. The charging puck has an exclusive upgraded braided cable that is not available with other Apple Watch models.
Microphone and Speakers
There are three built-in microphones in the Apple Watch Ultra, and Apple says the microphones are meant to provide improved sound quality during calls even when conditions outside aren't ideal.
There's an adaptive beamforming microphone that captures the user's voice while cutting down on background sounds, and in windy environments, the Apple Watch Ultra takes advantage of advanced wind noise-reduction algorithms to ensure clear audio during calls.
The Apple Watch Ultra is also equipped with dual speakers for improved audio volume for calls and Siri interactions.
All Apple Watch Ultra models feature cellular connectivity, but an additional service plan from a carrier is required to use the feature. The Apple Watch connects over LTE, and does not support 5G like the iPhone.
The Apple Watch does not require an iPhone for an internet connection and it can connect to LTE networks on its own. LTE through a carrier does, however, require an iPhone as Apple Watch and iPhone cellular plans are linked.
Along with LTE, the Apple Watch Ultra features a W3 Apple wireless chip and a second-generation Ultra Wideband (UWB) chip for interfacing with other devices equipped with UWB chips such as the modern iPhone models. It also supports Bluetooth 5.3.
The new second-generation Ultra Wideband chip enables highly accurate short-range wireless that Apple says supports new experiences like Car Keys, the feature that allows an Apple Watch (or iPhone) to be used in lieu of a physical car key.
The UWB chip also allows the Apple Watch to track AirTags, and it allows an Apple Watch to use Precision Finding to track down a misplaced iPhone, even if it is in the same room. With the HomePod, when an Apple Watch gets within four meters of a HomePod that is playing audio, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 will show a Now Playing interface for media control. If nothing is playing on the HomePod, the Apple Watch will show media suggestions at the top of the Smart Stack.
All Apple Watch models support Emergency SOS, a feature that contacts the local emergency services when the side button is pressed and held. Emergency SOS also notifies emergency contacts and it lets them see the Apple Watch wearer's location.
There is an 86-decibel emergency siren available on the Apple Watch Ultra that can be used in emergency situations to draw attention to a location. The sound uses two alternating patterns, including a distress pattern and a second that matches the universally recognized SOS pattern.
Apple says the siren can be heard up to 600 feet or 180 meters away. The siren can be activated by pressing and holding on the Action button or the Side button.
Updated motion sensors and an advanced sensor-fusion algorithm allow the Apple Watch Ultra to detect a severe car crash and alert emergency services. After a crash is detected, the Apple Watch will check in with the user and then dial emergency services after a 10-second period with no response. It will also alert emergency contacts.
The Apple Watch Ultra includes dual-frequency GPS that integrates the L1 frequency and the L5 frequency for better GPS accuracy, plus it has new positioning algorithms.
According to Apple, the Apple Watch Ultra provides the most accurate GPS of any Apple Watch to date for more precise distance, pace, and route data for training and competing purposes.
The L5 frequency is able to work better in urban environments where there are a lot of trees and other obstacles to deal with. Apple uses the GPS function with Apple Maps for more accurate road, bike, and trail routes.
Depth Gauge and Seal Check
Apple Watch Ultra owners can contact Apple to have Depth and Water Seal Tests conducted to make sure the depth gauge and seals are working. This can be done to assure those who use the watch for diving that it is in operational condition, and it can also be done if there is any damage done to the watch that might impact the seal.
Apple introduced three bands alongside the Apple Watch Ultra, including the Trail Loop, Alpine Loop, and Ocean Band.
The Alpine Loop is two integrated layers constructed from a continuous weaving process that does not require stitching to ensure longtime durability. The top loops provide adjustability and an attachment point for the titanium fastener.
The Trail Loop is Apple's thinnest band to date, modeled after the Sport Loop. It uses a lightweight woven textile material that is soft and flexible, and it has a pull tab to make size adjustments quick and easy.
The Ocean Band is made for extreme water sports and recreational diving. It is crafted from a flexible fluoroelastomer that is designed to stretch, and it has an added long tail that can allow it to fit over a wetsuit. The band is equipped with a titanium buckle and it has a spring-loaded loop.
Though Apple designed these bands for the Apple Watch Ultra, it is also compatible with older bands that are designed for the 44 and 45mm Apple Watch models, so existing larger-sized Sport Bands, Sport Loops, Braided Loops, Solo Loops, and other bands should fit the Apple Watch Ultra.
Apple Watch Ultra How Tos
Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch SE
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is being sold alongside the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch SE. Priced starting at $399, the Apple Watch Series 9 is available in aluminum or stainless steel. The Series 9 comes in 41 and 45mm sizes.
Compared to the Apple Watch Ultra, the Apple Watch Series 9 is less water resistant, smaller, cannot be used for diving and high-speed water sports, does not feature a siren, has a shorter battery life, and a display that's not as bright.
The Apple Watch SE is Apple's low-cost Apple Watch and it is priced starting at $249. It has a slower processor than the Series 9 and the Ultra 2, and it lacks some health sensors such as the blood oxygen sensor and the ECG app.
What's Next for the Apple Watch Ultra
Though Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that the 2024 Apple Watch is "unlikely" to offer "significant innovative experiences," Bloomberg's Mark Gurman disagrees.
Gurman believes that the 2024 Apple Watch will include both blood pressure monitoring and sleep apnea detection, which would be in line with rumors of a significant update for the device's 10th anniversary.
The blood pressure monitoring featuring will let users know if their blood pressure is trending upward, and will provide an option for users to note what they were doing when hypertension occurred. Specific blood pressure numbers will not be provided.
Sleep apnea detection will use sleep history and breathing patterns to estimate whether someone suffers from sleep apnea, with the watch suggesting that users contact a doctor if so.
According to analyst Jeff Pu, DigiTimes, and display analyst Ross Young, Apple is working on a new high-end watch that will feature a 2.1-inch (diagonal) microLED display, perhaps manufactured by LG. The new Apple Watch with microLED could launch in the second half of 2025, but some rumors say it won't come until 2026.
Future Health Features
Apple is working on noninvasive blood glucose monitoring technology for a future version of the Apple Watch. The feature is still a few years away, but in early 2023, Apple hit a milestone in development, creating a proof-of-concept model that is viable, but needs to be sized down to fit into a wearable.
Blood glucose monitoring is still three to seven years away from launching.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 Changelog
- November 17 - Added info about a darker color that was tested but not released.
- November 1 - Added new information about rumored health features for 2024 Apple Watch.
- October 25 - watchOS 10.1 launched, Double Tap is live.
- September 22 - Apple Watch launch info added.
- September 14 - Roundup overhauled for Ultra 2 launch.