We’ve been using the Apple Watch Ultra for a while: 100 kilometers of running, a trail outing, a Gravel outing, some exercise, and regular daily use. And now, we can share everything about our user experience and ideas with you to help you know more about this “watch that pushes the limits.” The Watch Ultra was undoubtedly the most talked-about announcement during Keynote 2022. This connected watch marks a significant departure from the Apple Watch lineup, both in terms of design and price. The Watch Ultra is marketed as a watch for ultra-athletes. Without many comparisons, we’ll try to explain the Apple Watch’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison to watches designed for athletes, such as Garmin, Coros, and Suntoo, to name a few. Our verdict is set after more than 10 days of rigorous athletic testing. Let’s begin our thorough examination of the Apple Watch Ultra.
Check its Technical Specifications First – Apple Watch Ultra 2022
|Model||Apple Watch Ultra (2022)|
|Screen protection||Sapphire Crystal|
|Internal memory||32 Go|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 4 (n)|
|heart rate sensor||Yes|
|Ambient light sensor||Yes|
Design and AppearanceThe Apple Watch Ultra is different from the previous Apple Watch designs. This model is all about adventure. Apple team had to commemorate the occasion by going over the aesthetics of its new feature. Therefore, there are two noticeable visual differences between the Apple Watch SE and Series: size and physical buttons.
1. Size of Apple Watch UltraThe flat screen distinguishes the Watch Ultra from other Apple Watches, but the signature Apple Watch design remains a square smartwatch. Apple Watch Ultra comes with a 49mm case, which does not fit all wrists. Size 49mm isn’t an abnormal size for sports watches. This can affect the quality of heart rate measurements. However, Watch Series 8 and Watch SE have 41 mm or 45 mm and 40 mm or 44 mm cases.This is the first obvious difference. What’s more, its thickness will befuddle those accustomed to classic connected watches. The Watch Ultra is 1.44cm thick, while the Watch Series 4 is 1.07cm thick. The Watch Ultra’s massive appearance is undoubted because of its square shape, maybe we can call it Apple Watch style. Most of its competitors are using the more traditional round shape. The square shape watch makes it can not go unnoticed on the small wrist. Apple Watch Ultra is only available in one size and case color.
Weight of Apple Watch UltraThe watch weighs just 63 grams on the scale without the strap – 74 grams with the Alpine buckle that we are testing. That’s more than other Apple Watches, but not surprising for a product of this caliber. For comparison, the bracelet of the two watches is 4 grams heavier than that of a Garmin Epix 2 (Sapphire) – the case of the latter is also 16 grams lighter than that of the Watch Ultra.
Button Design of Apple Watch UltraAbout the buttons. On its right, we see the famous rotating crown and side button, both of which are immured in a sort of growth. The goal is to be able to use the crown in any situation, such as with gloves in the mountains. It’s fine. What’s less is that when the bracelet becomes too tight, the crown frequently gets stuck in the skin of the wrist. A new button has appeared on the left. The latter is orange and, for the time being, is integrated into the case. Because Apple is Apple, this button has a name: the Action Button. It is up to the user to select which action will be triggered from the few options available. This button, like the contours of the crown, is orange. The box also has two speakers and three microphones, a dual-frequency GPS antenna, and an 86-decibel siren. For the first time, this is not a feature found on a sports watch. Others, such as the Garmin Fenix 7X, include LED flashlights. We are served in terms of materials and resistance. The case is made of titanium, and the glass is made of sapphire. Strangely, my superiors did not want me to test the Apple Watch Ultra’s resistance to rocks but keep in mind that titanium and sapphire are two materials that have proven themselves for this type of product. Apple goes on to say that its watch is dust resistant (IP6X standard) and has been tested in accordance with the American military standard MILSTD 810H, which is supposed to determine whether a product can withstand harsh environmental conditions. In reality, the Watch Ultra failed to pass all of the standard tests. We will return to ballistic shocks, for example, but I believe that altitude, high and low temperatures, shocks and vibrations, freeze/thaw, thermal shock, and immersion will suffice. In terms of immersion, the watch is technically water resistant to 100 meters (ISO 22810), but it is also “suitable for recreational swimming and diving up to 40m.” It’s a fantastic feature that isn’t found on many multisport watches. Even better, the Watch Ultra is certified to EN13319, the international standard for depth gauges and dive computers. Apple has emphasized the Watch’s diving capabilities, but we’ll get to that later.
Apple Watch Ultra BraceletWhen purchasing an Apple Watch Ultra, three types of bracelets are available:
- Alpine Buckle: With a difficult G-hook to attach.
- Trail buckle: with a “convenient tab that allows you to quickly adjust it,” also known as the not-so-sexy ” scratch.
- Ocean bracelet: a “tubular structure” bracelet for wearing over a diving suit.
SCREENThe Watch’s screen is a success. Flat and thin edges, a wide range of brightness, and, most importantly, size. Everything is present. Yes, we complain much less in use if the watch is imposing on the wrist. The LTPO OLED screen measures 1.92 inches diagonally and has a display surface area of 11.64 cm2, compared to 11.43 cm2 for the Watch Series 8 (45 mm) and 9.77 cm2 for the Watch SE 2022. It has a resolution of 502410 pixels and a density of 338 pixels per inch, compared to 326 dpi for other Apple Watches. In short, the screen is genuinely enjoyable to use on a daily basis. This is no longer useful, but we were blown away by the quality of the photos displayed on the watch. For the first time, we have the impression of wearing a small phone on our wrist. It is even possible to send a message using the keyboard’s swipe option. The Watch Ultra’s flat edges also aid in tactile navigation, preventing accidental presses and other missteps. The brightness is perfectly fine. With a possible peak of 2,000 cd/m2, the screen of the Watch Ultra, like those of the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, will always be readable. We left the brightness at two-thirds of its maximum intensity for the duration of our test, and it was more than enough, even too much in some cases. The game includes an Always On mode, but be wary of autonomy. More information can be found in the dedicated section of this test. In contrast, depending on the situation, it is possible to disable the automatic activation of the screen in response to a wrist gesture via Sleep mode or Theater mode. Special mention should be made of the dial designed specifically for the Watch Ultra, which can be seen in all of the advertisements. The latter is subjectively attractive and has a total of seven complications, all of which can be customized. With a single turn of the rotating crown, the dial even switches to night mode to improve readability and avoid dazzling you. Unfortunately, this version of the dial does not activate when the iPhone enters sleep mode. The plethora of other dials available will meet the majority of needs and desires. We were pleasantly surprised by the customization options, particularly in terms of complications.
Use and ApplicationThe Watch Ultra incorporates the new S8 chip, which is also found in the Watch Series 8 and the Watch SE (2022). All three watches have the same 32 GB of internal storage. Apple obliges by limiting the Watch Ultra to use with an iPhone.
UsageI won’t go into too much detail about how an Apple Watch can be used on a daily basis, but I had a lot of fun discovering and using the Watch Ultra during my two weeks of testing. Quickly respond to a message, show the controller your train ticket, pay with Apple Pay, turn up the volume on your music, make a quick phone call, go for a run without your iPhone and listen to music with your AirPods Pro 2 or Beats Fit Pro… These are not (all) exclusive to Apple Watch, but the fluidity with which everything runs is impressive. This is clearly not true of competitors, at least not on the same level. If all of these arguments do not persuade me to purchase an Apple Watch, it is clear that Apple controls its subject. It’s worth noting the Watch Ultra’s excellent haptic feedback. Because of the strength of the Apple Store, several of its applications that were originally installed on the iPhone can be found on the watch. Checking your bank balance, turning off your lights, and reading your emails are not all necessary. Other applications persuaded us even more: start a playlist, start a route, take a photo… We were surprised to discover that the Apple Music app is not the only one capable of downloading songs to the watch. The osmosis between the watch and the iPhone (as well as the Apple headphones) is also significant. Two good examples are automatic device unlocking and replicating focus modes. The only issue is that iMessage notifications occasionally arrive several minutes late. The watch may even display the message after I have already responded to it on my phone. Even an Apple Watch novice can quickly grasp navigation. We were initially perplexed by the absence of menus or maps after swiping left or right on the dial. We are simply more accustomed to the interfaces of other connected watches, such as Wear OS and Harmony OS, to name a few. If we ignore the illegibility of the grid view of applications, watchOS 9 is actually well thought out. We quickly become accustomed to using the side button and rotating crown to navigate the interface. The double button press that brings up the bank cards saved in Apple Pay is well thought out. With such a large screen, touch is not an issue. Finally… while we’re on the subject of everyday use. The Apple Watch Ultra’s omnipresence of touch is a blatant heresy in sports. This point alone, in our opinion, would disqualify Apple’s ” Adventure ” and ” Ultra ” speeches for its watch. When it rains, the touchscreen is inconvenient, long, and simply unusable during a sports session such as running or cycling. Even in ideal conditions, I twice unintentionally paused an activity and only realized it after several minutes. After getting lost in the gestures trying to get rid of the notification “Activity circle filled,” I even ended a trail session trying to return to the main activity view. If the rotating crown didn’t lock into our skin or slip on its own when the watch got wet, we’d be less critical. All sports watches have multiple physical buttons. Some of them have recently welcomed touch, such as the Garmin Forerunner 955, but it is still possible to use them solely with the buttons. Far be it from us to anticipate three additional physical buttons on the next Apple Watch Ultra, but a happy medium is unavoidable.
In our tests, this section is commonly referred to as ” Application ” — in the singular. We were surprised that Apple required us to use three different applications to interact with the Watch Ultra:
The Watch Ultra lasts a little over 2 days without Always On Display mode or energy saving, but with 2 h 13 min of GNSS. These are not the same usage, but keep in mind that the Garmin fnix 7 achieved 13 days of autonomy in our test – all with GNSS at 7:34 a.m. The Apple Watch here is not as high-end as that.
The watch will only last three days with 3 hours and 30 minutes of GNSS with the energy conservation option turned on. Because energy conservation is required, the monitoring of the heart rate during activity, as well as the measurement of the SpO2 and the Always On Display, is deactivated. Connections to Wi-Fi and cellular networks are also limited.
- Watch: for managing watch settings.
- Health: for tracking all of your health data (not limited to Apple Watch).
- Fitness entails taking a close look at your activities and exercises.
Health Features:The Apple Watch Ultra is equipped with a slew of sensors, including:
- blood oxygen level sensor (SpO2)
- electrical heart rate sensor
- 3rd generation optical heart rate sensor (like the Watch Series 8)
- temperature sensor
- High-precision dual frequency GNSS (L1 and L5)
- depth gauge and water temperature sensor
What About Other Sports Then?Aside from running, cycling, and swimming, the Apple Watch Ultra can monitor a wide range of sports. Furthermore, the triathlon mode introduced with watchOS 9 appears to have persuaded critics, particularly in terms of the automatic change of sport. Take note of Apple’s communication regarding diving. During apneas and dives up to 40 meters, the Watch Ultra and its depth gauge would provide useful data such as water temperature, current and maximum depth reached, and time spent underwater. In fact, beyond the watch’s resistance at these levels, Apple relies on the company Huish Outdoors to convert its Watch Ultra into a dive computer via a dedicated app. It’s a significant setback because competitors typically separate their ranges: watches dedicated to trail running, others to diving. The issue is that this dive computer feature appears to require a subscription, in addition to being unavailable as of this writing in early October 2022. If we get a chance to test this feature once it’s available, we’ll update this review — who knows?
What is Missing to Claim to be Ultra?As you can see, watchOS 9 adds some welcome features to a watch that is designed for adventure. However, the Watch Ultra falls short in several key areas for a watch designed to be ultra-sporty, or even sporty in general.
No, it is not normal for a watch that costs 999 dollars and is supposed to be built for adventure to lack these basic functions.Aside from the omnipresence of touch and the limited autonomy for ultra-trails or multi-day hikes, the watch lacks integrated mapping. The launch video was well worth showing us explorers deep in Alaska. Understand that cartography is a gimmick for a sports watch that costs hundreds of dollars. It’s easier said than done, but Apple could have relied on its Maps data. Above all, the watch does not provide any analysis of the data collected during your workouts or rest periods. For example, while the Health app displays heart rate variability and estimated VO2 max, there is no tracking or feedback. Also, don’t rely on your watch to tell you when it’s time to rest or to comment on your training status and load. Yes, these issues can be avoided by using third-party (sometimes paid) apps such as WorkOutDoors for navigation and Athlytic for workout analytics. No, it is not normal for a watch that costs 999 dollars and is supposed to be built for adventure to lack these basic functions. Furthermore, due to incompatibility with the ANT+ protocol, the Watch Ultra does not work with all external sensors. We will be satisfied (or not) with Bluetooth 5.2 to connect, say, a heart rate monitor.
Autonomy of Apple Watch UltraApple Watches are not known for their independence. While the latest Watch Series 8 and Watch SE (2022) models appear to have improved in this area, the bigger battery on the Watch Ultra provides the best battery life on an Apple Watch to yet. The brand boasts a battery life of up to 36 hours, with features such as a 60-minute workout – we envisage using GNSS. We ran four tests to ensure that we covered as many use scenarios as feasible. We alternated between battery saving mode and Always On Display mode for the first three, but always with a few hours of GNSS – understand running.
|Trial 1||Test 2||Test 3||Test 4|
|Always On Display||Yes||Non||Non||Non|
|Energy saving mode||Non||Non||Yes||Non|
|GNSS||4 h 05 mins||2 h 13 mins||3 h 29 mins||None|
|Autonomy||1 day and 16 hours||2 days and 8 hours||3 days||3 days and 11 hours|