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Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 8: Which should you buy?

Is one Apple Watch Ultra really worth two Series 8 watches? Find out below.
By

Published onAugust 29, 2023

Apple Watch Ultra
MSRP: $799.00
Check price
Positives
Bigger, brighter (yet still comfortable) display
Added Action button with tons of potential
Durable build and increased water resistance
Negatives
Only available in one (very large) size
Underbaked navigation/mapping features
Fitness metrics still not as comprehensive as competitors
Apple Watch Series 8 (Wi-Fi)
MSRP: $399.00
Check price
Positives
Excellent Retina display
Premium design and build
Crash detection
Improved sleep tracking
Plenty of watchOS 9 upgrades
Negatives
Battery life still has not improved
No third-party watch faces

Apple’s wearable lineup saw a considerable shake-up in late 2022. The Apple Watch series now includes the flagship Apple Watch Ultra model alongside the Apple Watch Series 8. But if you’re in the market for a new Apple Watch, which should you consider buying? Below, we look at the pros and cons of both models and which you should pick.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 8: Design

As noted in our Apple Watch Series 8 review, you’ll need a fine-toothed comb to find the differences between it and its direct predecessor, the Series 7. Effectively, the two watches share the same chassis shape, screen, and case sizes. This means you’re still getting the digital crown mounted on the top right corner, a rounded-off face housing an OLED display, and aluminum or stainless steel construction. Dial sizes include 41mm for smaller wrists and 45mm for slightly larger arms. The Apple Watch Series 8 is effectively a Series 7 with some marked differences beneath its exterior.

The same can’t be said for the Apple Watch Ultra. This model features an all-new titanium design that’s now the most distinct in the Apple Watch range. The most noticeable difference is the massive 49mm sapphire lens that houses a flat screen. This reportedly makes it easier for active users to select and glance at items on display. The other large differentiator is the hump the digital crown is housed in. This protrusion protects the crown from knocks and makes the power button a little easier to feel out, even while wearing gloves.

The Apple Watch Ultra immediately has the most distinct look in the Apple Watch range to date.

Keeping with buttons for a moment, the Apple Watch Ultra also brings a third orange pusher. The action button lets users switch between workout modes or mark segments during those workouts. We found it surprisingly useful during our Apple Watch Ultra review. The Series 8 does not feature this programmable pusher.

Some will love these aesthetic changes and the more rugged look it gives the Ultra. Others will hate it for ruining the Apple Watch’s otherwise sleek design. In terms of practicality, the much larger dial makes the Ultra less attractive to those who want a smaller, compact wearable. For these users, the Series 8 is a more sensible bet.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 8: Features

apple watch series 8 sensor
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Apple Watch Series 8 may look similar to its predecessor, but brings some notable changes under the hood. This mainly includes the new Apple S8 chipset and a new body temperature sensor, which allows for more accurate cycle tracking for those who menstruate. In the past, we’ve seen body temperature tracking debut on Fitbit and Samsung watches, so it’s great that Apple is finally joining the party. This sensor will also record temperature fluctuations of users during sleep, which may provide insight into the general well-being of the wearer. The Series 8 also brings car crash detection — a first for the Apple Watch. After a brief countdown, this will dial emergency services and send the user’s location.

Other features brought over from the Series 7 include the ECG, the SpO2 monitor, a heart rate sensor, fall detection, and sleep tracking.

A user checks their dive stats at the surface on their Apple Watch Ultra.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

If you buy the Apple Watch Ultra, you get all these new features and a little more. For starters, LTE cellular data support is standard across all Ultra models. The Ultra also has a bigger battery for an estimated 36 hours of juice per charge — more than any Apple Watch before. We found this pretty conservative in our review, so expect the Ultra to go slightly longer if you’re a conservative user. Low power mode can stretch this out for 24 additional hours, making this model the best option for those who want a longer-lasting wearable. Notably, both features are meant to entice hardcore athletes, rock climbers, hikers, and others of this ilk but should appeal to everyone.

For swimmers and divers, the Apple Watch Ultra is the better pick. It packs a depth gauge that can provide real-time water pressure measurements up to 40 meters. The device is water resistant to depths of up to 100 meters and IP6X dust resistant. Several apps are onboard to take advantage of the Ultra’s love for deep water, too, including a dedicated diving app that displays water temperature, underwater time, and more. The Series 8 settles for a 50-meter rating, so it doesn’t mind the occasional mild splash in the pool or run through driving rain.

The Ultra proves itself as a better hiking and trekking watch, too. If you get lost, the Ultra also features a dual speaker that doubles as an alert siren. According to Apple, others can hear from 180 meters away. And yes, we can confirm that it’s loud, especially indoors. Interestingly, we did find that it’s easily drowned out by ambient noise, like ocean waves or rustling trees, when outdoors. A new dual-band GPS utilizing L1 and L5 frequency bands ensures you don’t get lost too easily. This gives the Apple Watch Ultra GPS accuracy akin to Garmin’s sports watches. Like the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, the Ultra also includes Back Track functionality that helps users return to a previous waypoint.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 8: Price and colors

apple watch ultra kept sideways on a table
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
  • Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS): Starts at $399 / £419
  • Apple Watch Series 8 (LTE): Starts at $499 / £529
  • Apple Watch Ultra (LTE): Starts at $799 / £849

The Apple Watch Series 8 is an iterative upgrade, so there’s no premium over the Series 7. The new model starts at $399 — the same as its predecessor. Of course, this price will vary wildly based on dial size, your choice of case material and band, and whether you opt for LTE connectivity.

Apple Watch Series 8 (Wi-Fi)
Apple Watch Series 8 (Wi-Fi)
See price at Amazon
Save $470.00
Apple Watch Series 8 (LTE 45mm)
See review
See review

Apple Watch Series 8 colors vary between the aluminum and stainless steel chassis. The former can be had in Starlight, Midnight, Silver, and Product Red, while the stainless steel version comes in Silver, Graphite, and Gold.

The Apple Watch Ultra, as you’ve probably guessed by its name, is the much pricier option. It comes in a selection of bands, but all models feature a titanium chassis with LTE support. Pricing starts at $799. The bands on offer include the Ocean Loop, Trail Loop, and Alpine Loop for swimmers/divers, runners, and hikers.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 8: Specs

Apple Watch UltraApple Watch Series 8
Display
Apple Watch Ultra
LTPO OLED Retina
410 x 502 pixels (49mm)
Always-on display
Apple Watch Series 8
LTPO OLED Retina
396 x 484 pixels (45mm)

352 x 430 pixels (41 mm)
Always-on display
Dimensions and weight
Apple Watch Ultra
49mm:
49 x 44 x 14.4mm
Titanium: 63.1g
Apple Watch Series 8
45mm:
45 x 38 x 10.7mm
Aluminum: 38.8g
Stainless steel: 51.5g

41mm:
41 x 35 x 10.7mm
Aluminum: 32g
Stainless steel: 42.3g
Durability
Apple Watch Ultra
WR100
IP6X-certified
Apple Watch Series 8
WR50
IP6X-certified
SoC
Apple Watch Ultra
Apple S8 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Apple W3
Apple U1 chip (Ultra-wideband)
Apple Watch Series 8
Apple S8 with 64-bit dual-core processor
Apple W3
Apple U1 chip (Ultra-wideband)
RAM
Apple Watch Ultra
1GB
Apple Watch Series 8
1GB
Storage
Apple Watch Ultra
32GB
Apple Watch Series 8
32GB
Battery
Apple Watch Ultra
36 hours
45 min to 80% charge

USB-C magnetic fast charging cable
Apple Watch Series 8
18 hours
45 min to 80% charge

USB-C magnetic fast charging cable
Software
Apple Watch Ultra
WatchOS 9
Apple Watch Series 8
WatchOS 9
Case materials and colors
Apple Watch Ultra
GPS + Cellular
Titanium

Apple Watch Series 8
GPS-only, GPS + Cellular
Aluminum: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, Product Red

GPS + Cellular
Stainless steel: Graphite, Silver, Gold
Connectivity
Apple Watch Ultra
L1 & L5 GPS/GNSS
GLONASS
Galileo
QZSS
BeiDou
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
Apple Watch Series 8
GPS/GNSS
GLONASS
Galileo
QZSS
BeiDou
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Bluetooth 5.0

Model A2475 (41mm)
Model A2477 (45mm)
LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 39, 40, 41, 66
Sensors
Apple Watch Ultra
Always-on altimeter
Blood oxygen sensor
ECG
Third-generation optical heart sensor
Temperature sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
Depth sensor
Apple Watch Series 8
Always-on altimeter
Blood oxygen sensor
ECG
Third-generation optical heart sensor
Temperature sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Ambient light sensor
Compatibility
Apple Watch Ultra
iOS 15 or later
Apple Watch Series 8
iOS 15 or later

Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 8: Which should you buy?

apple watch series 8 in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

So, which Apple Watch should you buy this time around? The answer depends on what you demand from your watch (and how much you have to spend!).

The Apple Watch Series 8 should suit most iOS users looking for a great smartwatch with broad app support, a reliable health tracking kit, and compatibility with Apple’s ecosystem of products and services. The new temperature sensor makes the Apple Watch Series 8 a great choice for those keen on more accurate menstrual cycle monitoring. If you’re an athlete wanting more, a more extreme user requiring a rugged build, or are still not impressed by the Series 8’s standard 18 hours of battery life, the Ultra may appeal to you a bit more.

The Apple Watch Series 8 is best for iOS users looking for a reliable smartwatch, the Ultra is for adventurers happy to lug around a larger, pricier upgrade.

Of course, for double the price of the base Series 8, the Ultra may not make financial sense if you’re just after a solid everyday smartwatch. But more adventurous users will find more value, while runners may appreciate the more accurate positioning tech. You get a much larger device, a battery rated for 36 hours of use, and features that should better appease more serious outdoor people. However, the Ultra’s bulk will dissuade users with smaller wrists.

We’d recommend iPhone users buy the Apple Watch Series 8 if they’re seeking a no-fuss smartwatch for health tracking and daily wear. Those who want to take their smartwatch on trips or are desperate for more battery life and are willing to pay a premium should consider the Ultra. If you don’t require any health tracking features at all, the Apple Watch SE 2 is a great option. You can see how it compares vs the Apple Watch Series 8 at the link.

Sadly, both are still incompatible with Android phones, but thankfully there are plenty of capable Apple Watch alternatives out there. There’s no need to feel left out.

See price at Amazon
Apple Watch Series 8 (Wi-Fi)
Apple Watch Series 8 (Wi-Fi)
Excellent Retina display
Premium design and build
Advanced health tracking sensors
See price at Amazon
Save $470.00
Apple Watch Series 8 (LTE 45mm)
See price at Amazon
Apple Watch Ultra
Apple Watch Ultra
Louder speaker
Large battery
Extensive features

Are you picking up the Ultra or Watch Series 8? Let us know in the poll below.

Which Apple Watch model are you upgrading to?

339 votes

FAQs

The Apple Watch Ultra was designed with adventurous users in mind who require a tougher, larger watch. The device also includes more specialized equipment, like an emergency siren, a programmable button, more accurate positioning tech, and a depth sensor for diving.

Yes, the Apple Watch Ultra features a 49mm lens as standard, while the Apple Watch Series 8 can be had in 41mm and 45mm sizes.

Whether the Apple Watch Ultra is better than the Series 8 depends on what you want from your smartwatch. If you don’t require the specialized features, larger screen, or bigger battery the Ultra provides, the Series 8 will suit you just fine. On paper, the UIlra is the most feature-packed Apple Watch ever, but it’s also double the price of the Series 8.

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