Earlier this month in Cupertino, California, Apple unveiled some of its biggest and most significant product updates to date. The new lineup of tech-heavy smart goods includes the all-new Apple Watch Series 8, the iPhone 14 (Pro and Pro Max included), iOS 16, and the long-awaited AirPods Pro 2.

But arguably the most groundbreaking product release of the collection was the all-new Apple Watch Ultra; the digital smartwatch many, many people have been waiting years for Apple to release.

Let us start by saying this is not your typical lifestyle Apple Watch that you might have become accustomed to with previous Apple Watch iterations. The Apple Watch Ultra is, first and foremost, a tool-specific watch with impressive capabilities and features…

And it means business!

Apple Watch Ultra

What is the Apple Watch Ultra all about?

The Apple Watch Ultra is a beast (for a watch, it’s overly big, coming in at a whopping 49mm). It’s inspired by the most extreme activities you can participate in – think hiking, marathon running, rock climbing, and diving – and it caters for those who participate in them. With the Apple Watch Ultra in tow, individuals will be able to perform at their highest abilities knowing they have a watch with breakthrough capabilities on their wrist to assist them every step of the way.

And that statement is by no means hyperbole; the Apple Watch Ultra really has the features to boot. The Ultra brings to the table a new bold design with a wide array of features built for endurance, exploration, and adventure.

“The Apple Watch Ultra is inspired by explorers and athletes from around the world, we created an entirely new category of Apple Watch designed for new and extreme environments — it’s the most rugged and capable Apple Watch yet,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, via a company press release.

“Apple Watch Ultra is a versatile tool that empowers users to push their boundaries with adventure, endurance and exploration.”

So, what’s new?

Well, this isn’t like any Apple Watch you’ve owned. Sure, it has similar basic functions and layouts to previous apple watch models, but the Ultra is on a whole new level.

For starters, it’s big… very big. The Ultra introduces a 49mm aerospace-grade titanium case that is surprisingly incredibly light. Naturally, the bigger the screen, the brighter the display will be, and the Ultra boasts a sapphire front crystal that reveals its biggest and brightest Apple Watch display yet, which really is noticeable from the moment you strap it on.

One of the newest features of the Ultra is located on its side and that is the Action Button; a function that grants you instant access to a wide range of useful features that is totally customisable. For example, if you would like the Action button to jump straight into a workout, you can. It’s a handy feature for those that don’t have time to fumble around with settings (i.e pre-race).

You asked, Apple listened. The Apple Watch Ultra also boasts the greatest battery life of any Apple Watch, reaching up to a staggering 36 hours during normal use. Additionally, in the new low-power setting, you’ll find that you can extend the battery life to reach up to 60 hours. This is particularly useful for marathon athletes, those who enjoy long multi-day hikes, etc.

Another neat feature is the three built-in microphones that drastically improves sound quality in voice calls during any conditions. While this will benefit someone like myself who often takes Apple Watch calls whilst washing the dishes, it’ll marginally benefit those who might find themselves stuck in a sticky situation where conditions are less than favourable. An adaptive beamforming algorithm uses microphones to capture voice while reducing ambient background sounds resulting in remarkable clarity.

The new lineup of sports-dedicated bands is also a welcomed update. Designed for the great outdoors, the Ultra introduces three new bands — Trail Loop, Alpine Loop, and Ocean Band — offering unique design features that provide a secure and comfortable fit for every day and every adventure.

Apple Watch Ultra

Apple Watch Ultra is also powered by the new watchOS 9, which greatly improves on running metrics to measure performance, like Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, Vertical Oscillation and Running Power. There are new ways to view your workouts, too, with options such as Segments, Splits and Elevation, providing important metrics at just a glance. For triathlons, duathlons or activities with any sequence of swimming, biking or running, the new Multisport workout includes autodetection to easily switch between workouts, which is a super handy feature unlike anything else on the market. Naturally, with the improved battery life, the Ultra is essentially made for users completing a long-course triathlon (3.8-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike ride and 42.2 km marathon).

As aforementioned, the Ultra has the tech to help out users who might find themselves in difficult conditions or situations. One of the smartest new features is ‘Backtrack’, which essentially uses GPS data to create a path showing where you have come from, which is useful should you get lost or disoriented out in the wild. For emergency purposes, the Ultra is also equipped with an 86-decibel siren designed to draw attention to a location should you become lost or injured.

Apple Watch Ultra

First Impressions 

To be honest, I neither fall into the ‘athlete’ or ‘explorer’ categories, but being an avid Apple Watch wearer, I was keen to put the new functionalities of the Apple Watch Ultra to the test. And hell, it’s one impressive watch. But in saying that, you’d hope it would be given its $1299 price tag.

Look, the 49mm dial does take some getting used to and to be honest, it’s probably the least favourite thing I enjoy about this watch. Because, for the purposes of wearing it in a lifestyle capacity, going on a couple of weekly runs or a gym workout, it’s just a little too cumbersome and in your face. But its purpose in conditions far more extreme than a simple ‘run at The Tan’ undoubtedly makes sense.

The dedicated watch bands for the Ultra are also incredibly comfortable and somewhat take away from the largeness of the screen. The ocean band is a personal favourite, which not only looks sleek but wears incredibly well on wrist. This band is designed specifically for extreme water sports and recreational diving and boasts a super-handy titanium buckle and corresponding spring-loaded loop.

For the everyday person who enjoys the casual run, gym workout or swim, you’re probably better off sticking with the new Apple Watch Series 8. For those who are serious athletes, regular compete in competitions or are avid explorers, if I were you, I wouldn’t leave the house without the Ultra on wrist. Apple has really capitalised on the smartwatch market by meeting the demands of athletes who probably would wear an Apple Watch but haven’t been confident in its features prior to the release of the Ultra. The new battery life, larger screen and improved GPS – not to mention all the other features it boasts – are well worth the consideration.

Who is the Apple Watch Ultra for?

  • Endurance sports and elite athletes – those who aspire to push beyond their limits.
  • Explorers – this is the perfect technical tool for adventurers and explorers in a range of environments.
  • Ocean and water sports enthusiasts – this watch is made for water sports, including activities like surfing, kitesurfing and wakeboarding. Not to mention those who partake in recreational scuba diving.

The Apple Watch Ultra is now available for purchase and retails at $1299.