Our Take on the Apple Watch Ultra After 6+ Months of Testing

apple watch ultra
A Long-Term Review of the Apple Watch UltraStefan Vazharov

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The Apple Watch Ultra — the tech giant's first timepiece to rock such a moniker — is the most important addition to the tech giant's wearable lineup since, well, the original from almost a decade ago. Unveiled alongside the iPhone 14 family and the Apple Watch Series 8, the Ultra has an all-new design with the biggest case of any Apple Watch, the most durable build, and the most feature-packed spec sheet.

The toughest Apple Watch yet is geared toward workout addicts and outdoor enthusiasts looking for an extra layer of ruggedness from their smartwatch. Its features place it in a product category dominated by Garmin, Polar, and Suunto offerings.

At $799, the Apple Watch Ultra costs on par with a 45-millimeter Apple Watch Series 8 with stainless steel case and cellular connectivity. Cellular connectivity is standard on the Ultra, so there's no need to spend extra for the option to take breaks from your iPhone.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDJK4G9C?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2089.a.43879212%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Watch Ultra (GPS + Cellular 49mm)</p><p>$779.99</p><p>amazon.com</p>

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Watch Ultra (GPS + Cellular 49mm)



Having extensively tested every Apple Watch iteration since the Series 2, I spent months putting the Ultra through its paces, anticipating nothing but excellence from our long-term relationship. The product's distinctive looks, durability, and unique Apple Watch-first features made me rethink how to compare it to its iterative siblings and premium rivals.

apple watch ultra
Stefan Vazharov

After more than half a year as my primary timepiece, the Ultra exceeded my expectations, setting a new gold standard for a product category dominated by the Apple Watch for years. Here's what sets the wearable gadget apart from its Apple Watch siblings and high-priced competitors.

Unmatched Battery Life (for Apple Watches)

The need to charge almost daily is the closest to Achilles' heel I've seen an Apple Watch exhibit before the Ultra. When Apple announced that the latter offers up to twice the battery life of the Series 8 (36 versus 18 hours), I couldn't wait to find out how this claim translates in real-life use.

During months of testing, the Ultra continuously wowed me by delivering 3 days of use between charges. I put the device on my wrist every morning around 6 a.m. and removed it around 10 p.m. My setup included having the Ultra's bright display always on and, especially during weekdays, receiving countless email and Slack notifications. Regarding activities, I tracked at least one long outdoor walk with the timepiece.

Adding sleep tracking to the above usage pattern still got me two days of use between power-ups. On the other hand, activating low-power mode for an old-school Apple Watch setup without an always-on display easily got me through 4 days of use.

The Series 8 and older Apple Watch generations have lasted a maximum of 2 days of battery life for the same usage patterns. Getting double the endurance and more charger independence from the Ultra was eye-opening. For the first time, I could go on a weekend getaway without worrying about packing an Apple Watch charger.

Speaking of charging, the Apple Watch Ultra charges faster than any rival. Its bundled charger takes around an hour to get its battery from 0 to 80% — enough for days of use. Plus, unlike rivals that use clunky proprietary chargers, the Apple Watch Ultra is backed by a vast selection of original and third-party chargers and battery packs.

Uncompromising Durability

The Ultra is the toughest Apple Watch yet. Its massive titanium case has a crown guard and slim bezels that shield the flat sapphire crystal. The design and the materials make the device incredibly damage-resistant and compatible with military-grade durability standards.

apple watch ultra
Stefan Vazharov

While testing the Ultra, a left wrist injury that required me to wear a splint gave me an unexpected opportunity to give it a proper real-life durability test by wearing it on my dominant right hand. The new range of movements exposed the Ultra to multiple knocks and clashes with kitchen cabinet edges, door frames, and other edges.

I frequently bumped the Apple Watch into hard surfaces by simply reaching for things because I have spent my entire life wearing a watch on my left wrist. I lacked the habit and the muscle memory to wear any watch on my other hand.

The Ultra passed this trial without picking up marks or damage on its case or screen. Over the years, I noticed that stainless steel Apple Watch versions — or any other timepiece crafted from the same material — are more prone to faint-but-pesky hairline scratches. Not worrying about them while wearing the Ultra was quite a relief.

The 100-meter water resistance of the Ultra — the highest on an Apple Watch — is as consequential as its tough exterior, making it suitable for diving. To top things off, the watch has an elaborate suite of tools for planning, tracking, and logging recreational diving adventures. It has an official dive computer certification for depths of up to 40 meters.

The Action Button

The Ultra's customizable action button is a debut Apple Watch feature that takes its utility and everyday convenience to another level. Depending on your specific preferences, you can begin a workout, start a timer, turn on a flashlight, or access a Siri shortcut, to name a few activities.

apple watch ultra
Stefan Vazharov

I particularly enjoyed transforming the Apple Watch Ultra into a reliable wrist flashlight with the press of a button, saving time and screen swipes. I also found the action button's orange color and textured finish very cool.

Safety Tech

The Apple Watch Series 8 brought potentially life-saving tech such as crash detection and a compass with backtrack. Unsurprisingly, the Ultra offers the same functionality and more. The unique features of the Ultra include an 86-decibel siren (comparable in noise level to a blender or lawn mower), whose high-pitched sound can help first responders locate you in an outdoor emergency.

I haven't had a chance to use the Ultra's siren in an emergency, and I hope I never do. Still, I feel better knowing it's there for me if needed. Activating the siren is easy — you can long-press either of the Ultra's side buttons. Enabling the option for the action button takes seconds in the Apple Watch app.


Apple's wearable platform has been one of the many reasons I recommend its watches. The platform offers flawless iPhone integration, allowing you to access commonly used apps, crank out message replies, interact with Siri, and control connected home devices from your wrist, among many other tasks.

Of course, combined with the speedy chip and the super bright Retina display, watchOS makes tapping into the Ultra's vast array of health- and activity-tracking features effortless. The same goes for opening and switching between apps, making calls, or activating its safety features.

apple watch ultra
Stefan Vazharov

When it comes to ease of use and approachability, the Ultra — like any other Apple Watch — is many miles ahead of its rivals.


I'd choose the Apple Watch Ultra over a similarly priced Series 8 for its tougher build, longer battery life, and longer spec sheet. The Ultra's dual GPS chip, more capable speaker and microphone setup, built-in siren, and onboard diving computer make it an even more powerful tool for outdoor activities.

The novel design of the Ultra is another reason to splurge on it over other Apple Watch models. Unlike its regular siblings, the range-topping Apple Watch looks fresher and more utilitarian, yet undeniably premium. Its exclusive Wayfinder watch face with an integrated compass and a host of customizable complications is another standout feature you should know about. The watch face also has a badass night mode that changes it from colorful to all-red by rotating the Ultra's crown.

The 49-millimeter case of the Ultra, despite being slightly bigger than a 45-millimeter Series 8, is surprisingly lightweight and comfy. That said, if luxury design and opulent details are what you are after, remember that nothing beats a stainless steel Apple Watch Series 8 with a matching band or, better yet, a handcrafted Hermès strap.

With the Apple Watch Ultra, you'll get one of three unique bands: Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, and Ocean Band, with the last one tailor-made for diving. Excellent third-party bands and bracelets from leading accessory makers are also available.

Metaphorically speaking, comparing the Apple Watch Ultra to Garmin, Polar, and Suunto smartwatches in the same price range and beyond is akin to stacking up a Tamagotchi to a modern smartphone. While top-shelf products from these storied makers are undeniably rugged and capable tools for health-, fitness-, and activity-tracking, their platforms, user interface, smartphone integration, and connectivity features are nowhere near Apple's. If you own an iPhone, don't bother looking at alternatives.

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