Apple in September 2022 introduced the Apple Watch Ultra, a high-end version of the Apple Watch that’s been in development for years now. 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 that need more battery life and more sport-specific performance from of their devices.
Apple says the Apple Watch Ultra was built for endurance, exploration, and adventure, and it is the largest Apple Watch to date at 49mm, which is 4mm larger than the 45mm Apple Watch Series 8 that it’s being sold alongside.
The Apple Watch Ultra features the first redesign we’ve seen in years with 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 2000 nits, the Apple Watch Ultra is the brightest Apple Watch to date, so it is easy to see in sunlight. The Action button 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 at night for better visibility. 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 8. It monitors heart rate, tracks sleep, can take ECG readings, monitors blood oxygen, 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.
The Apple Watch Ultra has the same temperature sensor that’s in the Series 8, which measures water temperature but is also used for fertility planning for women. It improves cycle tracking and can give retrospective ovulation estimates.
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 new 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.
Preorders for the Apple Watch Ultra began on Wednesday, September 7, and a launch followed on Friday, September 23. The Apple Watch Ultra is priced at $799.
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There is just one Apple Watch Ultra model, and it is priced at $799. It launched on Friday, September 23, 2022. Track pricing from third-party retailers in our Apple Deals roundup.
Initial reviews of the Apple Watch Ultra were very positive, highlighting the device’s 49mm titanium case, larger display with a flat sapphire crystal cover, new bands designed for the outdoors, water resistance up to a depth of 100 meters, customizable bright orange “Action” button, up to 60 hours of battery life with an upcoming low power setting, and more. The Verge‘s Victoria Song shared her overall impressions:
Song said in a week of testing the Apple Watch Ultra, she was “regularly blowing past” the device’s advertised 36-hour battery life in standard mode:
CNET‘s Lexy Savvides on pricing vs. the Series 8 and Garmin smartwatches:
Savvides pointed out the Apple Watch Ultra’s inability to download offline maps:
CNBC‘s Sofia Pitt said the Apple Watch Ultra’s larger speaker is noticeable:
TechRadar‘s Gareth Beavis appreciates the new “Action” button on the Apple Watch Ultra, but wishes it was even more customizable:
Men’s Journal‘s Michael Frank said the Apple Watch Ultra’s brighter display with up to 2,000 nits of brightness makes info easier to read:
Men’s Health‘s Brett Williams on wearing the Apple Watch Ultra:
The Apple Watch Ultra features the first notable design update to the Apple Watch that we’ve seen since its 2015 launch. It still uses the same rounded rectangular shape, but the casing design has been overhauled. The case has been extended to the edges of a new flat front crystal display to offer additional protection, and the Digital Crown and side button are now in a raised area on the case.
Apple redesigned the Digital Crown to give it a larger diameter 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 to date, and it is 4mm larger than the 45mm Apple Watch Series 8, 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 8.
The right side of the Apple Watch has long featured a Digital Crown and accompanying side button, but on the Apple Watch Ultra, there’s an additional “Action” button on the left side 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.
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 8.
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.
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.
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 8 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 it offers up to 2000 nits of brightness, making it twice as bright as any prior Apple Watch display. It has an 1164 sq mm display area, larger than the 1143 sq mm display area of the 45mm Apple Watch Series 8.
It features 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.
According to Apple, the Apple Watch Ultra features an S8 chip with a 64-bit dual-core processor. Little has been said about the S8 because it is functionally identical to both the S6 and S7 chips that preceded it. The Apple Watch chip has not received a meaningful update since the Apple Watch Series 6.
The Apple Watch Ultra has 32GB of storage like other Apple Watch models.
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.
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 is using a third-generation optical heart rate sensor like the Series 8.
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.
Apple added two temperature sensors to 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.
Apple redesigned the Compass app in watchOS 9 specifically for the Apple Watch Ultra. The redesigned 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 new “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.
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 is equipped with a 542 mAh battery, which is 76 percent larger than the 308 mAh battery that’s in the 45mm Apple Watch Series 8.
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 60 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.
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.
Apple with watchOS 9 introduced international roaming for cellular Apple Watch models, allowing the Apple Watch to connect to cellular networks even outside of the country.
Along with LTE, the Apple Watch Ultra features a W3 Apple wireless chip and a U1 Ultra Wideband chip for interfacing with other devices equipped with a U1 such as the modern iPhone models. It also supports Bluetooth 5.3, and is the only Apple Watch model with Bluetooth 5.3.
The U1 chip enables highly accurate short-range wireless that Apple says supports experiences like Car Keys, the feature that allows an Apple Watch (or iPhone) to be used in lieu of a physical car key, plus it allows the watch to be used to track AirTags.
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.
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.
The Apple Watch Ultra is being sold alongside the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch SE. Priced starting at $399, the Apple Watch Series 8 is available in aluminum or stainless steel, and it is close to identical to the Series 7 but with support for temperature sensing and crash detection. The Series 8 comes in 41 and 45mm sizes.
Compared to the Apple Watch Ultra, the Apple Watch Series 8 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 the same processor as the Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra, but it lacks some health sensors such as the blood oxygen sensor and the ECG app.
The Apple Watch Ultra runs watchOS 9, the latest version of the Apple Watch operating system. watchOS 9 introduced new watch faces, enhancements to the Workout app and many types of workouts, a feature for tracking medications, updates to notifications, an AFib History option for those who have irregular heart rhythms, and more. Full details on watchOS 9 can be found in our watchOS 9 roundup.
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