Saphire glass screen
36 hour battery life
GSM in all watches
Three-microphone array with beamforming and wind noise mitigation
The Apple Watch Ultra is a ruggedised watch aimed at extreme sports and adventure use but its biggest benefit is the way it fits into the Apple ecosystem of hardware and software. With its impressive battery life and large screen it extends that ecosystem of health, entertainment, and productivity more fully to your wrist than ever before.
There's plenty of competition around in terms of rugged sports watches among the best smartwatches, but while I haven't managed to dangle off any Scottish mountains in my first week with the watch, I have used it for dictating some of this review using Just Press Record, managing my to-do list with Reminders, navigating on walks with Outdoor Active, and listening to lots of music and podcasts – all from my wrist.
Apple Watch Ultra: Design
The watch looks great on my admittedly large wrist and has already attracted a lot of positive attention. The titanium case manages to look elegant and rugged at the same time and weighs a lot less than you would expect. The slightly recessed Sapphire glass gives me more confidence about the durability of the screen and the flat surface makes more of the screen useable and feels more responsive. I bought the Alpine strap in green and, though I love the look and feel of it, putting it on and off can feel a bit fiddly. Maybe I'll get used to it in time.
Apple Watch Ultra: Features
The improved gyroscope in the Apple Watch Ultra from its predecessors makes the "raise to speak" function more reliable. Likewise, the extra microphones and improved speaker make phone calls without headphones easier and make using Siri more reliable too. In addition to the improved microphones which make dictation easier, the larger screen makes the use of the on-screen keyboard much more practical for text input.
Having a phone chip in the watch (you don't have to use it but I am only paying an extra £5 a month to O2 to use the watch without my phone) makes it even more ubiquitous and useful. The screen, as rugged as it claims to be, can of course be scratched, so I'm not sure I'd be happy dragging the watch across quartzite rocks up mountains. I may end up putting a screen protector on it despite the claims it's not needed.
Being able to use the siren need not be just for emergencies on hills as it could be useful for people feeling vulnerable in cities as well, lending it an important safety element.
As to diving-related functions, I have enough trouble being on top of the water, never mind underneath it, so I'm afraid any professional divers among you will have to take a look at other reviews.
Apple Watch Ultra: Battery life
I never really got into the habit of using my Apple Watch Series 5 for sleep tracking, mostly because to do so would have meant being careful about making sure it was charged enough for the next day. Not so the Apple Watch Ultra. With everything turned on I can get nearly two days between charges. But I have also taken to using it with the always-on screen turned off, because I like the look of the black screen, and with this setting, my watch can last through two nights of sleep tracking before needing a charge.
Apple Watch Ultra: Price
When anticipating buying the Apple Watch Ultra I was bracing myself for anything over £1,000 and considering the watch's features, I would have expected anything to £1,200 (the price of many competitive watches on the market), so when Apple priced it at £839 here in the UK it almost (almost) felt cheap!
Should you buy the Apple Watch Ultra?
Over the years my use of Apple products has moved down the technology stack. First I used my laptop more than my desktop. Then I used my iPad more than my laptop. Then it was the iPhone that became my most used device. Now it is the Apple Watch Ultra that has assumed that position and there are now few things that I can't use my watch for.
I have seen some reviewers saying that the watch is aspirational, the watch equivalent of a Chelsea tractor, but that’s unfair. It’s a fantastic bit of kit either on the hill or in the middle of a city and yes, it looks good too.
Whatever your anticipated use of this watch it will meet your expectations and then exceed them. Highly recommended.