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Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review: Impressive Iteration

After spending a few hours exploring the Apple Watch Ultra 2, it becomes evident that it represents an enhancement over its outstanding predecessor. While the improvements are mostly incremental in terms of specifications, they collectively contribute to making it potentially the finest Apple Watch to date. Notably, its display stands out as truly remarkable.

Here’s a summarized breakdown of the pros and cons:

NewForTech Opinion:

Pros:

  1. Incorporation of the new S9 chipset.
  2. Introduction of the convenient Double Tap gestures.
  3. Showcasing Apple’s brightest display ever.

Cons:

  1. The introduction of very few innovative features.
  2. A lack of extension in battery life.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review: Impressive Iteration

In essence, the Apple Watch Ultra 2’s incremental enhancements, such as the new chipset and innovative gestures, elevate it above its predecessor, despite the limited introduction of new features and no extension in battery life. Its standout feature remains its exceptional display.

Apple Watch Ultra 2: A Quick Review

The original Apple Watch Ultra marked a revolutionary shift in Apple’s watch design—an innovation that left us in awe. The sequel, the Apple Watch Ultra 2, maintains its excellence with key similarities.

The notable enhancements come primarily through Apple’s new S9 SiP chip and the watchOS 10 operating system. The S9 chip, previously featured in the Apple Watch Series 9, introduces game-changing features like the hands-free Double Tap control. This ingenious gesture empowers users to initiate workouts, dismiss timers, answer calls, and more, all without lifting a finger.

In addition to these improvements, Siri no longer relies on cloud connectivity and the Depth app has seen a few adjustments. The watch has also embraced sustainability by incorporating recycled materials both inside and out, complemented by eco-friendly bands that embody innovative design.

Apple Watch Ultra 2: A Quick Review

Yet, when considering the core purpose of the Apple Watch Ultra 2—to accompany adventurers into the wilderness and underwater—minimal changes are apparent. Battery life remains unchanged, workout functionalities see no significant upgrades, and navigation innovations parallel those of the original Ultra, courtesy of watchOS 10. While it remains an outstanding Apple Watch, boasting impressive specifications, it appears to follow the pattern of incremental annual updates, much like the standard Apple Watch models.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review: Detailed Specifications

ComponentApple Watch Ultra 2
Price$799 / £799 / AU$1,399
Dimensions49 x 41 x 14 (mm)
Weight61g
Case/BezelTitanium
Display502 x 410 px poly-silicon always-on OLED Retina Display
GPSYes (unspecified)
Battery Life36 hours
ConnectionBluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, LTE
Water ResistantYes, WR100 (diveproof)

Pricing and Availability

  • Price: $799 / £799 / AU$1,399
  • Model: Only one available
  • Availability: Currently in stock

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is readily available for purchase. Unlike the Apple Watch Series 9, which offers a multitude of choices (colors, sizes, bands, GPS, or cellular), the Ultra 2 offers simplicity. It comes in a single size, 49mm, and one standard Titanium color. Despite rumors of additional variants, only the LTE cellular version is offered. The primary decision lies in selecting the accompanying band, as elaborated in the Design section below.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review: Detailed Specifications

For those finding the $799 / £799 / AU$1,399 price tag steep or not requiring adventure-oriented features, the Apple Watch 9 series presents an alternative, detailed in our hands-on Apple Watch 9 review.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review: Plan Overview

  • Recycled Titanium Casing
  • 3,000 nit Retina Display
  • Substantial Similarities

Upon initial inspection, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor, mirroring its robust titanium body, prominent casing housing the digital crown and side button, and the distinctive orange Action button. The placement of the microphone and speaker also remains consistent with the original model.

Notable distinctions revolve around the screen and bands. Firstly, the display is a marvel, boasting an astounding brightness of 3,000 nits at maximum intensity. It stands as Apple’s brightest screen to date, characterized by a seamless refresh rate and peak performance. From a technical perspective, it might be the finest smartwatch screen I’ve ever witnessed.

Complementing this exceptional screen is an exclusive, customizable watch face for the Ultra series. It elegantly showcases seconds revolving around the screen, while allowing you to mix and match favorite complications like movement rings, weather widgets, temperature, and a compass setting. It’s a clever alternative to last year’s Wayfinder face, particularly striking in Night Mode.

On the software design front, most innovations stem from watchOS 10, applicable to other Apple Watches as well. Regrettably, there are no fresh or distinctive features associated with watchOS 10 and the Ultra 2’s Action button. While programmable and customizable, it doesn’t introduce any groundbreaking functions this time.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review: Plan Overview

The bands align with Apple’s environmentally-conscious initiative. Three options are available for the Ultra 2: Alpine with a g-hook fastening, a recycled wool-infused nylon Trail strap, and a fluoroelastomer Ocean band designed for underwater use.

The Trail strap displays subtle design refinements, sporting a more rounded, polished end. Emphasizing sustainability, the Alpine and Trail bands feature a green leaf motif on their packaging, signifying their participation in Apple’s carbon-neutral program. Online, this eco-friendly commitment is clearly articulated. Additionally, the watch’s titanium casing is constructed from an impressive 95% recycled titanium, a noteworthy achievement in itself.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review: Features Unveiled

  • Continuing last year’s remarkable adventure suite
  • New Double Tap gesture for enhanced usability
  • Automatic Night Mode activation for added convenience

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 retains the impressive adventure features of its predecessor, including advanced GPS tracking, the capability to emit a warning siren via the Action button for assistance, extreme temperature durability, and the Oceanic+ app, which transforms the watch into a functional dive computer. If you’re curious about its diving capabilities, we enlisted a certified diving instructor to put the Apple Watch Ultra to the test.

Distinct from the Oceanic+, the in-house Dive app simplifies access to previous dive logs on the watch. It also introduces support for free diving, although a comprehensive review of this feature will follow. Notably, the sleek Night Mode, reminiscent of infrared vision, now activates automatically thanks to ambient light sensors beneath the screen.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review: Features Unveiled

Moving beyond adventure gear, the standout addition is the Double Tap gesture. Although it’s slated for release in October and wasn’t available for testing on the Apple Watch Ultra 2, I had the opportunity to experience it on the Apple Watch Series 9, which shares the same chipset and sensor array.

For those unfamiliar, this feature allows you to activate any open widget or app by raising your wrist as if checking the time and performing a quick double-finger pinch. Whether you’re initiating a workout, answering a call, dismissing a timer, or navigating the new watchOS 10 widget stack, this gesture proves remarkably efficient and user-friendly.

Innovations extend to the S9’s utilization of Ultra Wideband technology, enhancing the Find Devices functionality. When paired with an iPhone 15, equipped with Ultra Wideband as well, you gain the ability to not only determine the direction of your phone but also gauge its proximity in feet. While the live demonstration showcased its potential, it relies on owning both new devices. Ultra Wideband also serves as a means to control music on your Apple HomePod when in close proximity, although this feature seems less central to the watch’s outdoor-focused ethos, leaving room for more groundbreaking innovations in this domain.

Early Assessment

Although I haven’t conducted a full evaluation of the Apple Watch Ultra 2, initial impressions suggest it remains the pinnacle of Apple Watches and one of the finest smartwatches available. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that this update is primarily iterative, lacking the groundbreaking impact of its predecessor.

Early Assessment

The introduction of the S9 chip certainly enhances the watch’s capabilities, but it doesn’t deliver the same category-defying innovation as the original. Apple has already established an impressive range of fitness features, and the improved cycling metrics in watchOS 10 could make it indispensable for triathletes.

However, it may not meet the needs of all adventure enthusiasts. A larger battery would have solidified its position as the top choice for wilderness expeditions. With a 36-hour battery life, it falls short of competing with Garmin devices for extended outings.

I eagerly anticipate rigorous testing to determine the impact of the 3,000-nit screen on battery performance. For now, it’s worth noting that the Apple Watch Ultra 2, while technically the best in the Apple Watch lineup, represents a modest update. Consequently, it’s most suitable for those who don’t already own the original model.

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