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Apple Watch Ultra Takes Lineup to New Heights—and Depths

"The essential tool for essentially everything"

Apple has finally unveiled one of its most anticipated and widely rumored products in recent memory, a newly designed Apple Watch model geared toward rugged, outdoor adventures.

As the name suggests, the Apple Watch Ultra is bigger and better than every Apple Watch before it. Apple calls the new watch an “essential tool for essentially everything,” and has built the device to military specifications with a new titanium case, sapphire front crystal, longer-lasting battery, and new bands designed for specific sports and activities.

How much does the Apple Watch Ultra cost?

The Apple Watch Ultra comes in one model: a 49mm titanium case. There are no color options apart from the band you choose to equip it with. All models also include cellular capability in addition to WiFi and GPS.

The Apple Watch Ultra starts at $799 and is available to order now. It will hit stores September 23.

Does the Apple Watch Ultra have better battery life than Apple Watch Series 8?

Maybe the biggest question on the minds of current Apple Watch owners is “does the Ultra get better battery life?” The answer is a resounding yes.

Because of the larger size of the Ultra, Apple has placed its largest watch battery yet inside of the new device. Apple says the Watch Ultra gets up to 36 hours of battery life from a single charge—double that of even the improved 18-hour battery life found on the new Series 8 models.

But if you’re planning on taking a multi-day trip with the Ultra and won’t have access to charging along the way, you can extend battery life even further. With the new watchOS 9 Low Power mode along with an additional low-power setting in Apple Watch Ultra that reduces GPS and heart rate readings, you can extend battery life of the Ultra all the way up to 60 hours.

How big is the Apple Watch Ultra?

With a 49mm titanium case, this is the largest Apple Watch you can get. At the center of Apple Watch Ultra is the largest and brightest display on any Apple Watch to date. The Apple Watch Ultra’s Retina display features a flat design, as opposed to the curved displays found on previous Apple Watches and on the new Apple Watch Series 8 models.

The Apple Watch Ultra display is rated at 2,000 nits, making it twice as bright as any Apple Watch display yet.

The new display also features a new Night mode. By turning the Digital Crown, you can have the display shift the interface to red light, making visibility in the dark easier when using the new Wayfinder face.

Does the Apple Watch Ultra have exclusive watch faces?

Designed exclusively for Apple Watch Ultra, the new Wayfinder face represents everything purpose-built about Apple’s latest watch. The watch face features a real-time compass built into the dial of the face itself and it can be customized for use on the mountains or trail, or in the ocean.

The Night Mode feature mentioned above, can be activated only within the new Wayfinder face.

Does Apple Watch Ultra have special watch bands?

Because this watch is designed for athletes and explorers, Apple developed three new watch bands for the Apple Watch Ultra. We’ve got a quick rundown of each new band below.

The Trail Loop, Alpine Loop and Ocean Band. Image: Apple

Trail Loop

The thinnest Apple Watch band yet, this band is built with endurance athletes and runners in mind. It’s made of a lightweight woven textile that is soft and flexible allowing you to quickly cinch it to your preferred fit—even when working out thanks to a new external pull tab.

Alpine Loop

Built for explorers, hikers, and climbers, the Alpine loop integrates two layers through a continuous weaving process that eliminates the need for stitching. The band is fastened with a titanium G-hook fastener.

Ocean Band

Made from a flexible fluoroelastomer (like the material the original Sport Bands are made of), the Ocean Band is designed for diving and extreme water sports. The band features a unique tubular geometry design that allows it to stretch over wetsuits and is fastened with a titanium buckle.

Does Apple Watch Ultra support older and non-ultra bands?

Despite the larger 49mm case design, Apple has maintained backwards compatibility with the Ultra’s band lug design. Because of this all of your current Apple Watch bands—for cases from 42mm all the way up to 49mm—will work with the Apple Watch Ultra.

What rugged features does Apple Watch Ultra have?

The case of the watch is sculpted from aerospace-grade titanium and measures 49mm diagonally—just about 10% larger than the previous largest case design of 45mm. The case is extremely rugged, allowing for uninterrupted operation in temperatures ranging from -4° F (-20° C) to 131° F (55° C).

Apple Watch Ultra is certified to military spec. It boasts a MIL-STD-810H rating that includes testing in “Low Pressure (Altitude), High Temperature, Low Temperature, Temperature Shock, Contamination by Fluids, Rain, Humidity, Immersion, Sand and Dust, Freeze/Thaw, Ice/Freezing Rain, Shock, Vibration, and more.

The rugged titanium case surrounds a durable sapphire front crystal sitting atop the largest and brightest Apple Watch screen to date. The display features a new flat design and the case features ridges that rise up around the edges of the display to provide further protection to the crystal.

What does the Action Button do on Apple Watch Ultra?

On the right side of the case is a larger Digital Crown, designed with deeper grooves for easier use with gloves while hiking or skiing. Just as it is positioned on the non-Ultra lineup, the power/sleep button sits below the below the Digital Crown, but is buffeted out a bit more to ensure easy access while wearing gloves or in movement.

The case houses a new third button as well—exclusive to Apple Watch Ultra. The new Action button is on the left side of the case and is set apart from the rest of the case by a coating of International Orange.

The Action button is customizable for quick control access to features in the Workouts app, creating multiple waypoints within the Compass app, accessing the new Backtrack feature and more. The Action Button can also be used to start workouts, start and stop workout intervals, mark segments, and more.

Apple improves GPS performance on Apple Watch Ultra

Because Apple Watch Ultra is designed for use in extreme environments, Apple wanted the watch to boast improved GPS capabilities over its current offering. So, Apple Watch Ultra is the first Apple Watch to feature a dual-frequency GPS system.

This integrates both the L1 GPS frequency and the latest frequency, L5. Apple has also implemented new positioning algorithms in the Ultra to make it, “the most accurate GPS of any Apple Watch to date.”

Does Apple Watch Ultra have improved speakers and microphones?

Making use of the larger design of the Ultra, Apple has built three microphones and two speakers into the watch’s case. Apple says the three microphones not only improve how you sound while on the phone with someone else, but also make it possible for you to be heard in extreme conditions, such as a windy mountain trail, or a rapidly moving ocean.

To do this, Apple says it developed a new beamforming algorithm that can adapt to your environment. Using the three microphones on the Ultra, wind-noise reduction algorithms, and machine learning, the Watch Ultra is able to capture voice while reducing the sounds around you.

Meanwhile, the addition of a second speaker to the Ultra means you’ll be able to hear the person you’re speaking with better than ever. The new speaker also makes possible a new siren feature that can be activated. This siren can reach volumes up to 86 decibels in the event of an emergency. Apple says the unique sound of the siren makes it audible from up to 600 feet away.

What exploration and mountain features does Apple Watch Ultra have?

Those pushing out into rugged territory will benefit from the redesigned Compass app within watchOS 9. The new app brings a dual compass view to the large screen of Apple Watch Ultra, allowing you to view both an analog compass and a digital compass simultaneously. A twist of the Digital Crown shows another view that gives you at-a-glance updates on latitude, longitude, elevation, and incline.

Compass Waypoints are show on the Compass complication of the Apple Watch Ultra. Image: Apple

The new Compass app also includes a new feature called Waypoints. Using the Apple Watch Ultra’s Action button, you can drop a waypoint instantly. The app and the Compass Waypoint complication update both the direction of set waypoints and their approximate distance in real time.

Another new Compass feature is Backtrack, which uses GPS to create a path showing where you’ve been. The idea is that you’ll be able to quickly retrace your steps using Apple Watch Ultra. You can also have this feature turn on automatically whenever you venture off the grid.

If you do become lost or injured, you can activate the 86 db siren feature detailed above.

What running and trail features does Apple Watch Ultra have?

The Apple Watch Ultra may be the first Apple Watch that truly makes sense for endurance runners and other elite athletes. Because of the dual-frequency GPS detailed above, this is the Apple Watch to get if extremely accurate GPS logging is important to your workout regimen or training schedule.

Plus, the new design of Apple Watch Ultra is bound to be more runner-friendly thanks to the larger crown and power button, and the new Action button.

Image: Apple

With a press of the Action button you can start a new workout or quickly move to your next interval, or the next leg of a Multisport workout. And because of the larger display on the Ultra, it’s the only Apple Watch that lets you track six metrics at once.

Plus watchOS 9 brings the following advanced running metrics to Apple Watch Ultra:

  • Stride Length
  • Ground Contact Time
  • Vertical Oscillation
  • Running Power

watchOS 9 also brings new features in Heart Rate Zones, Custom Workouts, Pacer, and—coming later in 2022—Race Route. All of these features plus the longer battery life of Apple Watch Ultra will make it a compelling option for long-distance runners and triathletes. Apple says the Ultra has the battery life to last for a complete long-course triathlon, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a full 26.2-mile marathon.

What swimming, diving, and ocean faring features does Apple Watch Ultra have?

Thanks to the new more rugged design of Apple Watch Ultra the device has twice the water resistance of all other Apple Watch models. It’s now rated at WR100 and carries a EN13319 dive rating. The ratings ensure that the Ultra can stand up to extreme water sports like kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and recreational scuba diving up to 40 meters.

The new Depth app. Image: Apple

For divers, Apple has implemented a new depth gauge in Apple Watch Ultra and developed a new app called Depth that displays your current dive depth, how long you’ve been underwater, and the current water temperature. Divers can also program the Action button to immediately open the Depth app with a press.

Apple is also co-developing a new dive computer in partnership with Huish Outdoor called Oceanic+.

OWC Wayne G
the authorOWC Wayne G
Tech lover, multimedia creator, and marketing manager for OWC's Rocket Yard and Mission Control blogs.
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  • The Apple Watch Series 7 battery life can last up to two days, but that’s if you pass on popular features. Instead, the 18-hour battery life checked out with daily activity tracking, and always on display and a couple of phone calls answered from my wrist.

  • Bring standalone Apple Watch with NO dependency on iPhone. Add camera and Safari to read QR codes. Then I am sold.