Home Apple Explained Apple Watch Ultra Impressions: Polished Overkill!

Apple Watch Ultra Impressions: Polished Overkill!

by Dewi Safitri


What’s up? So, like clockwork, Apple just unveiled a bunch of new stuff at their September event, iPhone and iPhone accessories. So first we got the new AirPods Pro, still $249 like the last ones and still basically the same design, but a lot of internal improvements add up to a potentially much better experience. So there are new drivers, the new H2 chip inside, there’s two times stronger noise cancellation, a new longer six-hour battery life on a single charge, and touch volume controls on the stalks where the force touch sensors are. And there’s even a new adaptive transparency mode. Just building on Apple’s gigantic lead with their already God-like transparency mode by detecting extra loud noises and trimming them. So if you walk past a construction zone, the mics aren’t gonna pump in the super loud jackhammer noises. 

But the best thing, honestly, is probably the new case. I think Apple just realized how often people lose the case, including myself. So it’s a lot easier now to not lose it or to find it. So there’s a hook on the side for the lanyard now, plus they added a speaker on the bottom so you can find it when it’s lost by emitting a sound. And it’s all now in a fully MagSafe compatible case that can also now charge with an Apple watch charger. The earbud wars are spicy right now! There are a lot of good options out. These are obviously on the pricier end, but given how good their sound quality is, how good the transparency mode is, and how well it works with the iPhone, these will probably do pretty well, but I’m gonna review them. I’m gonna check ’em out!

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But what you’re here for is the new Apple Watch lineup but that’s also the most interesting stuff. So that is the new Apple Watch SE, a new Apple Watch Series Eight, and a new Apple Watch Ultra. So the Apple Watch SE slots in at the bottom of the lineup at $250 to replace the old Watch Series Three that they were still selling. And it’s better in pretty much every way. It’s got a redesigned color-matching back case, a 30% larger screen than that old watch, and the S8 SiP that makes a lot of sense. Then the Apple Watch Series Eight is in the middle.

It’s a very minor but very reasonable upgrade to the Series Seven. So it’s in the same design, it gives it a new temperature sensor, which is useful for advanced cycle tracking and retrospective ovulation estimates for women. It gives it some new G-Force sensors for crash detection. So it can automatically tell when you’ve been in a car crash and it can call for help if you don’t respond to the prompt on the screen. No idea how I’m gonna test that, but I believe you. And it gives it a new low-power mode that can help extend battery life when you’re in a pinch. Boom! same price, $399 for GPS only, $499 for cellular. Cool. But then there’s a new watch at the high end, the Apple Watch Ultra, it looks like they took a regular Apple Watch and sent it to the gym. So the result is a beefed-up 49-millimeter watch.

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It’s the biggest, brightest display ever in an Apple Watch, which can get up to 2000 nits. The display up top is flat and has just a tiny bit of a lip on the edge to protect the sapphire crystal cover. And the digital crown on the side is bigger and thicker with this added crown guard, and a button that sticks out further than normal so it’s easier to hit with gloves on. Then on the other side, there’s a second speaker and additional microphones added for additional volume and better mic quality in windy environments. There’s a new button, a big bright orange action button. This is a customizable button that you can set to do any number of different things like starting a workout or lighting up the whole screen white to be a flashlight. And then while you’re in an app, it can serve different functions inside that app. And by the way, this is the only spec, there’s only one Apple Watch Ultra, just this titanium, and ceramic. They all have cellular and they all have this bright orange action button. So, aesthetically, it feels like, when we first saw these rumors of a Pro watch may be coming, they really could only go two ways. They could start with a super ruggedized military grade garment level watch and then try to bring it down and like Appleify it. Or they could start with a regular Apple Watch and ruggedize that.

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And they went with option two! which makes for this chunky-looking Apple Watch, but still a pretty familiar-looking watch. What’s notable though, is doesn’t feel heavy. The titanium made it feel much lighter on the wrist than I expected. So yeah, while it’s easier to call this one a chunker, it’s thick with maybe three or even four Cs. Just know it could have been bigger. Now, there are a bunch of features. Do you know how I think they made this watch? I think they took a bunch of extremely high-performance athletes and asked them all “How many of you use an Apple Watch?” And the ones that raised their hand and said, “I don’t use the watch. It just can’t hang with me.”They took those people, brought them to Apple Park, and interrogated them to figure out what they needed to change about the Apple Watch to make it keep up with what they do. So they, for sure, talked to some divers who were definitely like, “Yeah, this thing, it’s waterproof but it’s not waterproof enough to go down way as low as I go and be a dive computer.” And then Apple went and made this watch, WR100, water-resistant.

So you can dive down, theoretically, to a hundred meters with it and through extra sensors in there to make it a real proper dive computer for a lot of people. I think they talk to mountaineers who hike in whiteout conditions. And then from that, you get extreme temperature ruggedness, and you get the ability to add waypoints in the compass app. So if you ever need to find your way back someplace that you can’t visually see, you can always use the watch for it. And they tossed in an 86 decibel siren from the new larger speaker, which is extremely loud and can sort of sending out an SOS signal to people nearby. And also a dual-band GPS. This is a feature you don’t see as often in smart watches but can massively improve accuracy and also help out if you’re going through some GPS dead zones.

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I think they talked to marathoners who probably all just said, “Yeah, the watch dies before the end of a normal marathon. So I can’t use it.” And then, of course, the Ultra now with its new thicker case has room for much more battery. How much more exactly? Well, on stage, Apple said 36 hours and they also said 18 hours above the normal Apple Watch. So I’m just doing the mental math of how long this normally lasts me, which is about a day and a half. And so the Ultra is double, so it feels like, with normal use, it can be about a three-day battery. And then they also said it could get up to 60 hours with the new battery optimization feature that’s not coming till later this year. 

I don’t know exactly what that means or what it will entail, but if I just do the math again, that could net out to about five days of regular use with that mode on. But that’s purely theoretical at this point. I have to use it. But either way, they claim that a marathoner can now not only finish a marathon, but can do an entire Ironman, which is a two-and-a-half-mile swim, a hundred-mile bike ride, and a 27-mile marathon back to back and track the whole thing with heart rate and GPS with battery to spare. That is impressive. So this is living up to the Ultra name. No question about that. And I know when we all see these features, we start to think about pricing a little bit. So again, there were some rumors, there were some talks that this might end up being like a thousand dollars watch to start, which seemed crazy at first to me, but then I had flashbacks of the $10,000 Gold Apple Watch edition.

So it wasn’t entirely out of the realms of possibility. But it turns out this one is priced entirely reasonably. It starts that, actually there’s only one price, one spec, but it’s $799. That’s still pricey obviously, but just for context, the Garmin Fenix, a very competitive, popular smartwatch is $900. $800, I think, for the smallest one. But Apple’s not usually the one doing the undercut. But then on top of that, there are also some new faces and bands specifically for this Ultra watch. The Wayfinder faces are pretty sweet and give just a lot of relevant information to someone who might be in the middle of something like hiking. There’s a compass, elevation, et cetera. And then there are three special new watch bands, a trail loop for endurance athletes, the Alpine loop, and the ocean band for high-speed water sports. All of these are pretty unique and very impressive both durability-wise and comfort-wise. These are really good bands. And so, fun fact, I was just kind of wondering and I had to check, I did take the bands off of the Ultra and put them on the smaller watches and they seem to work just fine. So just from this experience, I’m gonna say that it seems like backward compatibility with the bands is a green light. So the number one question I’ve been getting since this announcement is, am I gonna get one?

Okay, it’s for explorers, adventurers, and endurance athletes. A lot of you guys know I play Ultimate Frisbee and I do wear my watch while playing and practicing most of the time. So am I in the target demographic for this? Yes and no. They showed a couple of obvious examples: Mountaineering, biking, Ironmans, and things like that. For me, I would love the extra battery life. And for certain workouts and things like that, having better GPS and being able to do more workouts before the thing dies would be nice. But for me, it’s still an everyday watch. It’s an Apple Watch. You still have to wear it all the rest of the time too. And for me, it is approaching the sort of too big to be able to pull off normally on the wrist. It’s not huge. I couldn’t wear a garment every day either, I don’t think, with my skinny wrists.

But fun fact, I wore this black Apple Watch to the Met Gala and I think it was okay. It turned out fine. You can dress it up, and hide it under a cuff. But I don’t think you can do all that with the Ultra. Here’s what I think of it. On the Waveform podcast this week, Andrew, my co-host said, I think he explained it kind of perfectly with the summary which is, the Apple Watch Ultra is like the GoPro of Apple Watches. You see a cool commercial and you think, “Oh, that is sick. This super durable camera is gonna capture my amazing adventures. I’m gonna have the sickest footage ever.” And then you get one and then you use it maybe once or twice and the footage is all right.

And then it kind of sits in a drawer gathering dust. And this watch, most people don’t need, but it would be sick. The commercials are sick. And I think if you are one of those athletes whom I was just talking about previously, you’re gonna be able to take advantage of the watch. But for most people also, the regular Apple Watch will be fine. And for me, it probably will. My biggest annoyance with all the watches is something that Casey Neistat just brought up on Twitter, which is just that if you’re sweating a lot or if it’s raining, or if you’ve got long sleeves during a workout, it tends to mess with the screen.

It touches the screen, even if you have theater mode on, it just lights up the screen and messes with the workout data tracking. I want them to just fix that and I’d be cool with probably any of the watches. But for the extreme, for the adventurers, and those with deep pockets, this is gonna be a pretty sick watch. It’s competitive with a lot of the other ruggedized smartwatches out there, but its key advantage being it’s also an Apple Watch. You can also wear it every day and it’s also gonna work well with that iPhone that you probably already have. Let me know what you think too. If the Ultra is right for you if you have a certain situation that you use it in. All right, catch your guys later. Peace!

Source: Apple Watch Ultra Impressions: Polished Overkill!

Dewi Safitri

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