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Apple Watch Ultra buyer's guide: Everything you need to know

Apple's new flagship smartwatch has a lengthy feature kit. We detail everything you need to know and more.
October 13, 2022
An Apple Watch Ultra on a user's wrist displays the device's app library.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The Apple Watch Ultra is a landmark device for the smartwatch series. As a new pinnacle of Apple’s wearable lineup, the Ultra now wears a more durable shell with advanced fitness tracking features in a bid to attract more athletes. But is that all the Apple Watch Ultra is good for? We detail everything you need to know about the flagship Apple Watch below.

See also: Apple Watch Series 8 buyer’s guide

Apple Watch Ultra at a glance

Apple Watch Ultra 13 Ft
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The Apple Watch Ultra made its debut alongside the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch SE (2022) on September 7. While the latter two went on sale on September 16, buyers had to wait an additional week before the Ultra was made available.

While the Series 8 should appeal to general smartwatch buyers with the budget-minded Watch SE (2022) playing support, the Ultra is Apple’s most expensive and feature-packed smartwatch to date. As a result, it courts a wealthier audience either looking for the appeal of Apple’s best smartwatch or avid sportspeople or outdoor enthusiasts requiring a more serious activity tracking wearable.

The Ultra gains several new external, internal, and software features, including a much larger watch face with a titanium body, a more accurate location system, a programmable Action button, and a depth gauge for divers. This is only just scratching the surface, though. As far as its feature list goes, the Ultra truly lives up to its name.

Despite this length feature set, buyers only have a single configuration to choose from. The Apple Watch Ultra wears a 49mm face, and that’s it. It’s also only available with LTE support — no Bluetooth-only models are available.

Apple Watch Ultra
Apple Watch Ultra
Louder speaker • Large battery • Extensive features
An advanced health tracking watch and a top-in-class GPS performance.
The Apple Watch Ultra has a large sapphire glass display, which is nominally bigger than the one in the regular Series 8. It also has an additional button on the side (the Action Button), a larger and louder speaker, and LTE connectivity comes with every model, plus a larger battery than any Apple Watch ever. The Ultra comes with a host of features for athletes. Rock climbers, SCUBA divers, hikers, and other folks who are looking for a smartwatch that can help them track intense workouts and also keep them safe will find a lot to love about the Ultra.

Is the Apple Watch Ultra worth buying?

apple watch ultra on top of a book
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Yes, the Apple Watch Ultra is definitely worth buying, provided you have the cash and iPhone needed to own one. It’s by no means cheap at $799, but it comes loaded with features you’ll only find in top-end Garmin watches of a similar price range.

For those who will use its health tracking and sports features to the fullest, buying the Ultra is a no-brainer. However, it’s important to understand that as far as smartwatch features go, you’ll have a similar experience on the Series 8 or the much cheaper Watch SE (2022). Don’t buy the Ultra if you aren’t planning to push it to its limits.

See a further breakdown below.

You’ll love the Apple Watch Ultra if…

  • You’re looking for an Apple Watch with the best battery life and the largest display.
  • You’re specifically interested in its stellar GPS accuracy or other more specific sports features, like the depth sensor.
  • You require a rugged, durable watch that’ll stand up to physical abuse.

You don’t need the Apple Watch Ultra if…

  • You want an Apple Watch purely for its smart features and synergy with other Apple devices.
  • Your budget is well below the $800 demanded by Apple to own one.
  • You find larger watches bulky and uncomfortable.

What reviewers are saying about the Apple Watch Ultra

A user highlights the Action button on their Apple Watch Ultra.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Our Kaitlyn Cimino spent a week with the Apple Watch Ultra during her review which saw plenty of hiking, swimming, and DIY. She called the Apple Watch Ultra “a great compromise for anyone who wants something rugged on their wrist but is wholly committed to the iOS ecosystem,” However, buyers who demand a more serious focus on specific features should look elsewhere. The watch “won’t replace dedicated dive watches and isn’t quite feature-packed enough for extreme adventuring.”

The Ultra has a laundry list of positives, including its better-than-claimed battery endurance when compared to other Apple Watches and on-wrist comfort despite its large size. However, the lack of multiple size options and the weaker fitness metrics versus competitors were among the Ultra’s glaring weaknesses.

What other reviewers from around the web think

  • Engadget‘s Cherlynn Low called the Ultra a “monster truck of a watch” but applauded the variety of specialized features Apple crammed into the Ultra and the improved battery life versus Apple’s other smartwatches. However, Low called into question the large size of the wearable, which made it uncomfortable to wear to bed, and the large buttons that also “get in the way of some workouts.”
  • CNET‘s Lexy Savvides called the Apple Watch Ultra “the most exciting watch in years.” Savvides liked the new programmable Action button and the dual-band GPS, but called into question the lack of offline mapping features and lack of recovery data. “The Ultra might not match the sports and mapping features on a higher-end Garmin, Coros or Polar watch, but the tight integration with iPhone might be worth more to you,” writes Savvides.
  • Finally, Jane McGuire of Tom’s Guide called the Ultra a “seriously good sports and adventure watch.” Per McGuire, the device “doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but Apple has made its best sports watch yet”. Praise is also given for the emergency siren and Action button, but points are subtracted for the large size and lacking battery life.

Apple Watch Ultra specs

Find a full list of Apple Watch Ultra specs below.

Apple Watch Ultra
410 x 502 pixels (49mm)
Always-on display
Dimensions and weight
49 x 44 x 14.4mm
Titanium: 63.1g
Apple S8 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Apple W3
Apple U1 chip (Ultra-wideband)
36 hours
45 min to 80% charge

USB-C magnetic fast charging cable
WatchOS 9
Case materials and colors
GPS + Cellular

Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Bluetooth 5.0

LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 39, 40, 41, 66
Always-on altimeter
Blood oxygen sensor
Third-generation optical heart sensor
Temperature sensor
Ambient light sensor
Depth sensor
iOS 15 or later

Design and hardware

An Apple Watch Ultra rests face down on a wet rock, highlighting the device's sensors.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The Apple Watch Ultra is the first major deviation from Apple’s tried and trusted design in a good while. It may still use a rectangular screen, but it’s now only available with a 49mm sapphire crystal lens. Beneath it sits a 502 x 410 resolution LTPO OLED screen that can hit 2,000 nits of brightness. The massive display’s protected by a MIL-STD-810H spec titanium body that’s certified with a WR100 water resistance rating and an EN13319 rating for diving.

You’ll still find the digital crown on the watch’s right-hand flank, but it’s now homed in a bulge that protects it from knocks and misclicks. The Ultra’s the only new Apple Watch to include this divisive design addition. You’ll either love it or hate it, but we can assure you it’s a lot less noticeable in the flesh.

The other big new addition can be found on the watch’s left-hand edge. It’s pretty tough to miss, too. Dubbed the Action button, the bright orange pusher can be programmed by the user to perform a bevy of tasks, from starting an exercise to opening an app or recording a waypoint. Excitingly, third-party developers can take advantage of this button, too, so expect even more utility with a host of apps as the Ultra ages.

Beyond these big design departures, you’re effectively getting the same pure hardware experience as the Series 8 and Watch SE (2022). The Ultra makes use of Apple’s S8 chipset, 32GB of onboard storage, dual-band Wi-Fi smarts, ultra-wideband, and Bluetooth 5.3.

Power comes from the largest battery ever fitted to an Apple Watch. The company claims you’ll get 36 hours per charge, but Kaitlyn regularly crossed that figure during her review. If that’s still not enough juice, Apple promises a low-power mode that can eke out 60 hours per charge when required. Notably, this isn’t an Ultra-specific feature and will come to a host of Apple Watch models, including the Ultra, this fall.

On top of these touches, the Apple Watch Ultra also gains an 86dB emergency siren, a more accurate dual-band GPS, a depth gauge for water babies, and a temperature sensor.

We’ll talk about the Apple Watch Ultra’s fitness features at length below.

Apple Watch Ultra: Fitness and health features

An Apple Watch Ultra displays the multisport workout screen.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Apple rolled out plenty of new health features to the latest Apple Watch series, but few are exclusive to the Apple Watch Ultra. Like the Series 8, the big new feature is a body temperature sensor that informs the watch’s menstrual cycle and sleep tracking systems. In terms of the former, the Apple Watch Ultra will also alert wearers of changes in basal temperature and estimate fertility windows.

On top of this, you’re also getting the usual fitness fare you should expect. This includes an ECG and a heart rate sensor, an SpO2 monitor, and fall detection smarts. Crash detection, which activates and contacts emergency personnel in the event of a car crash, isn’t yet available but will roll out to the Ultra and other new Apple devices in due course.

So, what’s unique to the Apple Watch Ultra? First off, water lovers get Depth app that allows full use of that depth gauge. It can read water pressure up to 40 meters below the surface, and there’s also a water temperature readout. For more serious divers, you may not appreciate the lack of details, but it’s just perfect for a casual snorkel on the weekend. Notably, Apple is set to roll out the Oceanic Plus app to the watch this fall, which should bring more complex dive data for those craving details.

Hikers also get a Compass Backtrack feature that allows lost wearers to retrace their steps. This, combined with the Action button, lets you plot waypoints and find those specific locations at a later date. However, the Apple Watch Ultra lacks offline mapping support, a feature that would’ve made it infinitely useful for hikers and adventurers. watchOS 9 does, at least, bring a revised compass app that massively bolsters its usefulness.

Speaking of watchOS 9, the latest software package from Apple brings a host of fitness features. This includes more granular running metrics, from stride length to ground contact time. That’s pretty huge for runners keen on improving their performance. For those who enjoy all sports, there’s now also a multisport mode with triathlon support. Apple’s clearly gunning for the likes of Coros and Garmin.

See also: As a runner, the Apple Watch Ultra makes no sense to me

What are some good Apple Watch Ultra alternatives?

A Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro displays its App Library including Google and Samsung native apps.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The Apple Watch Ultra might be the company’s first foray into the multisport watch world, but it’s by no means the only multisport watch available. Find some more serious rugged and multisport watches from other companies below.

  • Garmin Fenix 7: Garmin’s premier outdoor watch also includes multi-band GNSS, the company’s excellent fitness and health tracking suite, and a solar-boosted battery that just goes and goes. However, you may be put off by its chunkier build, less impressive screen, and unreliable heart rate sensor.
  • Garmin Epix (Gen 2): The Epix (Gen 2) is everything the Fenix 7 is but loses the MIP display in favor of a bright AMOLED ticker. Despite this change, it lacks pure smartwatch features like voice assistant or on-wrist call support. You may want to consider the Garmin Venu 2 Plus if you’re seeking a watch with more smart features.
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Samsung’s take on the premium rugged smartwatch includes a massive 590mAh battery, a titanium shell, and a bright AMOLED screen. Running Wear OS, it’s incompatible with iPhones but will work just fine for Android smartphone users. Some features are exclusive to Samsung phones, though.
  • Suunto 9 Peak: The Peak uses the same sapphire glass/titanium shell found on most of the watches above. It’s also water resistant to 100 meters, packs an SpO2 sensor, and can last up to 25 hours in its highest accuracy GPS mode. Thanks to its minimal size and weight, it’s an excellent hiking watch, but lacks the app support of the Apple Watch Ultra.
  • Coros Vertix 2: The Vertix 2’s big feature is its two-month-long battery life. Buyers also get basic offline mapping support and accurate dual-band GNSS. It’s a great watch for adventurers, but its large size and weight might put off those with smaller wrists.
  • Amazfit T-Rex Pro: Most multisport watches are incredibly expensive, but the T-Rex Pro brings 100-meter water resistance, a rugged body, and five-day battery life. It’s a great budget option, but be prepared to live with its unreliable GPS performance and lack of third-party service support.

See also: The best multisport watches you can buy

Where to buy the Apple Watch Ultra

apple watch ultra kept sideways on a table
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
  • Apple Watch Ultra: $799 / £849 / €999

The Apple Watch Ultra is available in a single configuration — a 49mm lens with a natural titanium chassis and LTE connectivity. You can’t have the Action button in any color other than orange, either. Pricing starts at $799 and you can grab it from the likes of Best Buy and the Apple Store.

Of course, you’ll need to pay extra if you’re purchasing a data plan with the watch. Of course, you can also forego LTE connectivity altogether if so inclined.

Apple Watch Ultra
Apple Watch Ultra
Louder speaker • Large battery • Extensive features
An advanced health tracking watch and a top-in-class GPS performance.
The Apple Watch Ultra has a large sapphire glass display, which is nominally bigger than the one in the regular Series 8. It also has an additional button on the side (the Action Button), a larger and louder speaker, and LTE connectivity comes with every model, plus a larger battery than any Apple Watch ever. The Ultra comes with a host of features for athletes. Rock climbers, SCUBA divers, hikers, and other folks who are looking for a smartwatch that can help them track intense workouts and also keep them safe will find a lot to love about the Ultra.

While the watch body may not be available in many colors and finishes, there are plenty of official Apple watch bands to choose from. The Alpine Loop comes in orange, green, or Starlight, the Ocean Loop is available in Midnight, white or yellow, and the Trail Loop can be had in yellow/beige, blue/gray, or black/gray. Different sizes are available too. The Alpine Loop lands in small, medium, and large. The Trail Loop is offered in small/medium or medium/large. The Ocean Loop is a one-size-fits-all affair.

If you’re not happy with these strap options, the Apple Watch Ultra is backwards compatible with older Apple Watch bands, this includes bands made for 45mm and 44mm models.

See also: The best stylish Apple Watch bands | The best Apple Watch sports bands

Top Apple Watch Ultra questions and answers

apple watch ultra side profile
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Apple Watch Ultra features a WR100 rating which means it’s safe to use at depths of 100 meters. It also features a EN13319 rating for diving. As you’d expect, it’s Apple’s most durable watch ever.

The major differences with the Ultra includes a larger, more durable body, bigger display, the addition of the Action button, and more specialized sports features. Read more about these differences in our Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 8 comparison.

No, you cannot pair the Apple Watch Ultra to an Android phone. You’ll need an iPhone.

If you want the best of Apple’s smartwatch features rolled into a more durable device with specialized sports features, the Apple Watch Ultra is well worth the investment.

You can purchase several bands for the Ultra, including the Alpine, Trail, and Ocean bands, but you can also use bands designed for 45mm and 44mm models.

While the Apple Watch Ultra features specialized sports, health tracking, and design features, isn’t unique in its smart feature offering. If you want an Apple Watch with similar smart features, you can purchase the Apple Watch SE (2022).

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