The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a fantastic smartwatch for the adventurous, but there’s little reason for owners of the Ultra 1 to upgrade.
As Apple notes, this second gen Ultra offers all the features of its predecessor, plus the new S9 SiP, a new double tap gesture, Apple’s brightest display ever, expanded altitude range, on-device Siri, Precision Finding for iPhone, and advanced capabilities for water adventures.
Read my September 30, 2022 review of the first gen Ultra to see what I liked about it. Everything I said still applies.
One of the touted new features is the new double tap gesture that allows you to control Apple Watch Ultra 2 using just one hand and without touching the display. For example, you can tap the index finger and thumb of your watch hand together twice to quickly perform many of the most common actions on Apple Watch Ultra 2. Double tap will also open the Smart Stack from the watch face, and another double tap will scroll through widgets in the stack.
Double tap controls the primary button in an app so it can be used to stop a timer, play and pause music, or snooze an alarm. The gesture can be used to answer and end a phone call, take a photo with the Camera Remote on Apple Watch, or even switch to the new Elevation view in the Compass app to see the relative elevation of saved waypoints.
All this is very cool. However, you can enable double tap on just about any Apple Watch by following these instructions at 9to5Mac.
Apple says the new double tap gesture is enabled by the faster Neural Engine in Apple Watch Ultra 2, which processes data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart sensor with a new machine learning algorithm. The algorithm detects the unique signature of tiny wrist movements and changes in blood flow when the index finger and thumb perform a double tap.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 also has a new 4-core Neural Engine that can process machine learning tasks up to twice as fast as the original Apple Watch Ultra. And the smartwatch upgrade is powered by the new S9 SiP, which, according to Apple, has 5.6 billion transistors — 60% more than the previous generation. These hardware upgrades power the double tap feature and the new brighter display.
Speaking of the display it offers 3000 nits at its peak compared to 2000 nits in the Apple Watch Ultra 1. This is designed to make ite easier to read in bright sunlight. In low or no light situations, it dims to 1 nit. And Night Mode now automatically turns on the dark.
I didn’t find TOO much difference in sunlight or low light situations. However, the increase in nits adds some extra oomp to the Ultra 2’s flashlight. The app can now illuminate a small dark room.
A nice new feature is that the S9 SiP includes a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip that enables Precision Finding for the iPhone 15 family, which has the same chip. Precision Finding provides distance and direction, as well as visual, haptic, and audio guidance to a misplaced iPhone, even if it’s in a different room or a user doesn’t remember where it’s been stowed after a dive, for example.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 runs watchOS 10, which delivers redesigned apps, the new Smart Stack, new cycling experiences, features to help explore the outdoors, and a new watch face — Modular Ultra.
I really like the new watch face, which takes advantage of the large display, using the outermost edge to present real-time data, including seconds, altitude, or depth. It offers the most complications of any Apple digital watch face to customize for sports, outdoor adventures, and ocean and water activities.
Alas, there’s no improvement in battery life. Apple Watch Ultra 2 has the same 36-hour battery life with regular use and up to 72 hours in Low Power Mode. On the plus side, for the first time, customers can choose a carbon neutral option of any Apple Watch.
Now I’ll list the features that Apple touts though I haven’t had the chance to verify them:
° Apple Watch Ultra 2 is designed for extremes and has been tested for use across the largest range of altitudes for any Apple product, from 500 meters below sea level to explore the lowest valleys, and up to 9,000 meters to ascend the world’s tallest peaks.
° Apple Watch Ultra is perfect for water sports, including extreme activities like kitesurfing and wakeboarding, along with recreational scuba diving to 40 meters — and now freediving — with the updated Oceanic+ app from Huish Outdoors.
Another plus: for the first time on Apple Watch, Siri requests can be processed on device. For requests that don’t require information from the Internet, like starting a workout or setting a timer, Siri doesn’t rely on Wi-Fi or cellular networks, resulting in quicker and more reliable responses.
The personal digital assistant can now be used to access data from the Health app for health- and fitness-related queries. For example, you can ask how many hours of sleep you got the previous night. You can also make Siri requests on Apple Watch Ultra 2 to log health data such as their weight, body temperature, period, or medications taken.
The Apple Watch Ultra is highly recommended for adventurous folks that don’t own the first generation. If you do, there’s nothing ground-breaking enough to warrant the upgrade unless you have money to burn. However, if you do want to upgrade, you can trade in a first generation of the Apple Watch Ultra for US$380.
Pricing and Availability
Customers in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, the UAE, the U.K., the U.S., and more than 40 other countries and regions can order the Apple Watch Ultra 2 for US$799. Three months of Apple Fitness+ are included with the purchase.
Apple World Today rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★