The Apple Watch Ultra is clearly designed for (extreme) athletes who want a smartwatch with fewer compromises. After all, the swanky watch offers a few features. With a suitable subscription, the gadget can even be converted into a dive computer.
I was able to try out the watch as part of the Outdoor Tech Week and can identify three important functions that I would not want to do without in the future.
However, the price makes it difficult for me. After all, a proud 1000 euros are due for the smart wristwatch. But take it easy. What features did I like so much? And are these features alone enough to get me to buy?
1. The display brightness is second to none
Huh what? Display brightness?! Correct, because with 2000 nits (peak brightness), hardly any other smartwatch can match the display brightness of the Apple Watch Ultra. On a sunny day, the stark difference to the Series 7 or Samsung’s Watch 5 Pro immediately caught my eye.
No wonder: the Ultra is twice as bright as my Series 7 (1000 nits) from Apple. In this example, the sun hits the two clocks directly:
Why is high display brightness so important? Mainly for convenience purposes for those who want to read information on the watch in very bright daylight and direct sunlight.
I mainly use the watch for navigation on unknown hiking routes. But I also like to take a closer look at my pulse and information such as altitude measurements on the watch on the go.
No matter what type of content – the brightness ensures good readability, also in combination with the large 49 mm display.
In bad weather such as rain or dense fog, you can use the right wheel (Digital Crown) to darken the display and switch the dial to a concise red – almost in no time at all.
2. The Apple Watch Ultra has super accurate GPS
To be more precise, Apple uses a dual frequency band GPS (L1 and L5 GPS) for the Watch Ultra for precise location determination. L5 GPS ensures a particularly high level of accuracy, especially under dense leaves in the forest or under high-rise buildings in the big city.
The Apple Watch Ultra works with advanced algorithms to process the satellite signals particularly well. Compared to my previous smartwatches, I am thrilled with the result:
You can use Apple Maps or Google Maps as navigation apps. So you can easily enter locations and start navigating; the clock shows you the way.
lack: The smart watch does not support offline maps, such as high-end Garmin sports watches. Alternatively, there are third-party apps such as Komoot, which can be easily installed.
Apart from that, the expensive smartwatch supports a backtrack functionwhich records my GPS route using the compass app on the watch and navigates me back to the starting point with a tap.
At this point I would like a detailed map navigation, as I am used to from the Watch 5 from Samsung, but the function of the Watch Ultra is no less bad, on the contrary. In practice, this function turns out to be very easy to use.
Thanks to the GPS signal, the route recording and the repatriation work perfectly and extremely precisely.
Also worth mentioning is the waypoints function within the compass app. Although I rarely used this function to record a special place on my hike, it is always a nice bonus and rounds off the overall navigation package in a positive way.
3. The action button is a useful addition to Apple smartwatches
The action button on the side of the Apple Watch Ultra can be customized. Although the scope is still limited, it is no less helpful in everyday life.
I use the additional button to start a workout, which is more than helpful, especially in winter with gloves.
Otherwise you can provide the button with the stopwatch, flashlight, diving or trackback function mentioned above – to name a few examples. Shortcuts are also possible.
Apple can continue at this point with the next watchOS 10 update and provide additional optional functions. Personally, I would use the flashlight time-controlled (in the evening) for the action button.
In any case, the additional button is a big plus, precisely because every other smartwatch in the Apple cosmos does not offer such a button.
Apart from comfort functions, the action button offers a really useful feature: a siren. It can be activated with a long press on the button.
If I am in danger on the way, I can at least draw attention to myself with an 86-decibel siren to at least increase the chance of being found.
It is doubtful whether the shrill tone encourages someone to rush to help.
Other features of the Apple Watch Ultra
The three functions mentioned above are of course aimed at outdoors – after all, the watch is built for exactly that.
Aside from the adventure features, the expensive wristwatch offers other important key data that should not be forgotten:
- Weight: At 49 millimeters, the watch looks bulky at first, but it is actually light on the wrist (around 61 grams).
- battery life: In the test, the watch proves to be an endurance runner, at least in relation to other smartwatches such as the Pixel Watch, the Series 7 and the Series 8. I can usually manage up to 3 days with the watch before I connect it to the power supply again. However, other outdoor watches like the Garmin Fenix 7 last longer.
- dive: With the watch on your wrist, you can theoretically dive up to 40 meters deep, at least according to Apple. If you want to unlock all functions with the Oceanic+ app, a paid subscription is required.
- design and processing: The watch feels premium and is really scratch resistant. Due to the unusual height, I got stuck several times on doors, tables and other obstacles. So far there has not been a single scratch on the watch.
The Apple Watch Series 7: Still very good and a lot cheaper.
The Apple Watch Ultra is far from perfect
As positive as I am about the overall look of the watch, there is bad news too. Let’s start with the elephant in the room, namely the price.
At just under 1000 euros, the Apple Watch Ultra is anything but a cheap purchase.
That being said, there are still weak points that bother me about the watch, or rather the software. At least I had the slight hope that Apple would deviate a little from the rather conservative operating system with the Watch Ultra.
All in all, it remains an Apple watch, despite the great and sometimes useful functions. The dials on the Watch Ultra – also called Watchfaces – are basically just a larger version of the previous digital pointers and not really optimized for the large wristwatch.
After using it for a long time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the 49 millimeters on the display weren’t being used to their full potential.
Apple offers its own Explorer watch faces exclusively for the expensive wristwatch, but in my opinion they offer little that is innovative and simply fits seamlessly into the rest of the selection.
Why can’t the Apple Watch Ultra update the complications (optional) more frequently? Finally, the battery capacity is higher than that of the usual models.
Yes, it’s complaining on a high level. But at 1000 euros it’s just such little things that make me ponder why I should upgrade from the Series 7 to the Watch Ultra?
I love to go hiking and I (actually) don’t want to do without the 3 functions mentioned above – at least if I carry an iPhone with me. However, the great features are not worth the extra cost to me.
You can find out how hiking can become a highlight even without a 1000-euro watch in the following experience report:
The Apple Watch Ultra convinced me to go hiking, but didn’t make me buy it – although it offers me added value. But how about you? Do you own an Apple Watch Ultra and are you completely satisfied or do you also see room for improvement? Which outdoor watch do you use? Feel free to write it below in the comments!