Apple Watch Ultra Hands-On: everything you need to know!

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Today Apple announced the biggest change to its Apple Watch product line since launch, announcing the new Apple Watch Ultra, which is aimed at endurance athletes. This new watch has increased battery life, an additional button, a larger digital crown, dual-frequency GPS, a redesigned compass, night mode, dive computer mode and much more. It’s the first time Apple has competed with companies like Garmin and others in the endurance sports watch space.

However, it’s not the only watch announced by Apple today. They also announced a revamped Apple Watch Series 8, which adds a temperature sensor for better cycle/ovulation tracking. Plus, additional collision detection for vehicle driving (it already has sports-focused collision detection). In addition, this watch has a new low power mode that doubles the battery life.

And finally, there’s a slightly updated Apple Watch SE (now 2nd Gen), which updates the internal chipsets and adds crash detection, while cutting the price.

With that, let’s dive into the Ultra model first in this article, with the Apple Watch Series 8 and SE coming momentarily in two other articles.

Apple Watch Ultra specs:

This is the newest line of Apple products, which bears the name Apple Watch Ultra, and is specially designed for endurance athletes and adventurers. I’ll run through the watch below, but first, a quick list of the main differences:

– Increased display size to 49mm
– New titanium case with sapphire crystal display
– Added a new button, called Action button, designed for using gloves
– Increased size of rotating digital crown for use with gloves
– Increased water resistance to WR100 (100m) for diving use
– Added extra speaker for louder outside volume
– Now has three microphones for wind cancellation audio
– Added 80 dB alarm siren, for emergency use/attention
– The cell phone is integrated into each Apple Watch Ultra
– Increased standby battery life to 36 hours, or up to 60 hours in low power mode
– Added low power training mode, which Apple says can handle an Ironman race (with GPS).
– Increased display brightness to 2000 nits
– Added temperature sensor for better cycle tracking (also on Watch 8)
– Added revamped compass app with backtrack option
– Added a new dive computer mode, as well as a partnership for a dedicated dive computer app
– Added vehicle crash detection (also on Watch 8 / Watch SE 2nd Gen)
– Price is 799 USD, shipping on September 23rd

This is all on top of all the existing features related to Apple Watch.

Getting started with Apple Watch Ultra:

So, let’s dive into all of these things individually. First up is this titanium case, with a sapphire crystal front (similar to most high-end watches), with a new, larger 49mm screen – the biggest Apple Watch yet. Here it’s compared to an Apple Watch Series 8 (45mm).

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New button added, the so-called action button, while the digital crown has been increased, both designed to be used with gloves. You can use the action button to precisely start the race (versus the 3-second countdown), as well as change sports in a triathlon, or score laps.

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Later in 2022, Apple will add Track Running mode, to ensure that laps are recorded accurately. It’s similar to what we’ve seen from COROS/Garmin/Wahoo in recent years.

Then they added an additional speaker for louder volume, while having three simultaneous mics for better audio quality (mic quality) using these mics to cancel the wind. This is similar to what most action cameras on the market do.

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Also, as part of this new speaker arrangement, there’s a new 80dB emergency siren in case you need to alert people nearby (like falling off the trail).

The cellphone is built into every Apple Watch Ultra, with 36 hours of battery life on a single charge, or up to 60 hours of battery life with a new battery setting launching later this fall. There’s also a new low-power training mode, which they claim will (specifically) be able to run an Ironman event on a single Apple Watch charge. However, there are no details yet on exactly what is reduced in this low-power training mode (in other words, what sacrifices you have to make), more on that soon.

Apple Watch Ultra includes a new multi-band/dual-frequency GPS chipset, both on L1 and L5. Multiband is potentially useful in deep urban environments, as well as cliffs and other satellite-blocking scenarios. In doing so, they have joined the COROS/Garmin/Huawei camp when it comes to higher GPS tracking accuracy. Of course, this is something I look forward to putting to the test in the coming weeks. As we’ve seen with other multiband implementations, accuracy can range from amazing to meh.

There is a new dial called “Way Finder”, which has a built-in compass.

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However, the biggest problem here is actually the revamped compass app. This app does more than just be a compass, it also includes the ability to save waypoints, backtrack with a backtrack, and keep track of where you’ve used GPS as you go. a hike or a walk outside. I can tap to save any stitch I want, give it a name and label color, then refer to/come back to it later.

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For divers, they’ve added a WR100 rating, including a new depth gauge app showing water temperature, underwater weather, and current depth. It has been EN13319 certified for dive computers. However, they have also partnered with Huish Outdoors to create a dive computer app, called the Ocean+ Dive App, for recreational diving, to depths of 120ft:

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This includes a comprehensive scuba app that covers the most common scuba features you’ll find on most recreational oriented scuba apps. It includes decompression limits, ascent/descent rates and a safety stop. The app is designed to use the new button and digital crown while wearing gloves, so you won’t have to worry about all the touchscreen clutter underwater. This application will come later this fall.

Finally, each of the three Apple Watch Ultra editions comes with one of three different Loop watch bands. These are Ocean Loop (left), Trail Loop (middle), and Alpine Loop (right). I show them in detail in the video above, along with the different colors they have for each.

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Trying these watches quite intensively for almost 2 hours, my favorite is the Trail Loop. The Ocean Band is good too. I’m not a fan of the Alpine Loop. Specifically, I’m not a fan of putting it on and taking it off. I think it looks brilliant on its own, or once on my wrist, but it’s a solid PITA to put on/take off. Maybe it improves over a longer period of use.

Apple Watch Ultra is priced at $799 (one model, but different bands) and available from September 23 (order today).

Wrap:

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Apple Watch Ultra makes it clear that Apple is getting into this outdoor/ultra/adventure realm. The hardware features they’ve added around ease of use in harsh conditions, such as snow/rain/underwater, will put them on the right path to clearly start making gains in this area.

Keep in mind that the outdoor/ultra/adventure field is huge, not only in the market, but more specifically, in the application. That means there are countless use cases here, and Apple seems to dive lightly into many of them. Take for example the scenarios of triathlon or ultra running. Here they provide the basics of these sports and allow you to use Apple Watch Ultra to carry out these activities. However, Apple stops at the depth of sports analytics and more in-depth fitness software features that you’ll find in watches focused on endurance sports.

The assumption being of course that the ecosystem of Apple applications can create part of it, which is absolutely true. Yet in other areas, Apple seems keen on doing it itself, even for ostensibly niche things like running power and running efficiency metrics. Clearly, this is just the start of Apple’s interest in deeper outdoor-focused sporting adventures, so they have to start somewhere on this massive list, and Apple Watch Ultra seems well placed to start. this trip.

Stay tuned for a full in-depth review down the road!

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