Is the Apple Watch Ultra 2 worth the upgrade?

Sep 16, 2023, 3:15 PM UTC
7 mins read
Is the Apple Watch Ultra 2 worth the upgrade?
Apple Watch Ultra 2 (Image: Apple)

Apple has just unveiled its latest creation in the world of smartwatches—the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Hot on the heels of its predecessor, the original Apple Watch Ultra, this new model promises to bring a slew of exciting features to the table. But is it worth the hype, and more importantly, the hefty price tag? Let’s dive into the details and help you decide whether upgrading to the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a move you should make.

Design: Evolution with a Twist

When it comes to design, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 doesn’t stray far from its predecessor’s blueprint. Its natural titanium case retains that sleek, premium look we’ve come to associate with Apple’s Watches. The real change, however, lies in the bands that come with it. These fresh bands not only complement the Ultra 2 but are also compatible with the original Ultra, giving you some flexibility.

The new Apple Watch Ultra is now available for Pre-order at $799 in over 40 countries
The original Apple Watch Ultra. (Image: Apple)

But what truly sets the Apple Watch Ultra 2 apart is its unique watch face—the Modular Ultra. This innovative watch face utilizes the device’s outer edge to display real-time data like seconds, altitude, and depth. What’s exciting is its high level of customization, offering more options than any other Apple digital face. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, an outdoor adventurer, or a water sports lover, you can personalize it to suit your lifestyle.

Is the Apple Watch Ultra 2 worth the upgrade?
Modular Ultra watch face, day mode (left) and night mode (right). (Image: Apple)

And here’s some good news for the original Apple Watch Ultra owners: the new watch face is likely to make its way to your device too, so you won’t need to shell out another $799 just for this feature.

Display: Brighter and Better

Both the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and its predecessor sport a 49mm titanium case with a Retina display that never sleeps. The display dimensions remain similar, but the Ultra 2 brings a significant improvement—an astonishing 3,000 nits of brightness compared to the previous 2,000 nits. This 50% increase in brightness means you can comfortably read your screen even under the blazing sun, making it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.

In dimly lit environments, the Ultra 2’s screen can dim down to just one nit, ensuring you don’t disturb others around you early in the morning. Plus, the Digital Crown’s rotation can temporarily double the brightness—an impressive touch for users who appreciate the attention to detail.

Internal Hardware: A Powerhouse Unleashed

Under the hood, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 boasts the advanced S9 SiP, akin to the Apple Watch Series 9, offering significant system improvements. The star of the show is Apple’s 4-core Neural Engine, unlocking a host of new features. You can now use Siri on the device itself, providing secure and private access to your health data without relying on an internet connection.

The Neural Engine also boosts speech recognition accuracy by 25%, and a watchOS 10 update introduces a double-tap gesture. This nifty feature enables you to execute various actions with just one hand using your index finger and thumb, all without touching the watch’s display. It even allows seamless access to the Smart Stack and widget scrolling.

But that’s not all; the Ultra 2 introduces Precision Finding, a feature working in tandem with the watch’s second-gen Ultra Wideband chip. It revolutionizes the Find My app, making it a breeze to locate your lost iPhone or other devices. Visual, haptic, and audio cues, along with distance and direction indicators, leave no room for frustration.

Additionally, the Ultra 2 doubles the storage compared to its predecessor, boasting a generous 64GB.

Battery: A Leap in Efficiency

Battery life has been a selling point for Apple’s smartwatches, and the original Apple Watch Ultra impressed with its 36 hours between charges. The Ultra 2 maintains this impressive duration, but it raises the bar for the low-power mode, extending it to a remarkable 72 hours from the previous 60. While normal usage doesn’t see an increase in battery life, this extended low-power mode is a valuable addition.

Both Apple Watch Ultra models support fast charging, ensuring you spend less time tethered to a charger and more time enjoying your device.

Health and Fitness

The original Apple Watch Ultra was a versatile companion for outdoor workouts, and the Ultra 2 takes it up a notch. It’s perfect for kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and recreational scuba diving, with a water resistance rating of up to 40 meters. The updated Oceanic app even adds freediving to its list of capabilities.

The Depth app lets you log your sessions and review them later, complete with GPS coordinates accessible through your iPhone’s Fitness app. The watchOS 10 update brings a host of health and fitness features to both Ultra models, including enhanced cycling workouts, an updated Compass app with elevation and 3D waypoint views, topographic maps, and mental health support tools.

Environmental Impact: Apple’s Green Commitment

Apple’s commitment to sustainability is evident in the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The company has already achieved carbon neutrality for certain case and band combinations. It incorporates 95% recycled materials in the titanium case, and various components, from the Taptic Engine to the battery, are crafted from recycled materials or use environmentally responsible materials.

To ensure your Ultra 2 purchase contributes to a greener future, opt for one with Apple’s new Alpine Loop or Trail Loop bands.

Pricing: What Will It Cost You?

You can preorder the Apple Watch Ultra 2 from Apple’s website, with the first orders set to arrive on September 22. Regrettably, the original Apple Watch Ultra is no longer available through Apple. However, you may still find it at discounted prices from retailers like Best Buy and Amazon.

Both Apple Watch Ultra models come with a price tag of $799.

The Verdict: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade?

With the Apple Watch Ultra 2, Apple has managed to pack in several upgrades compared to its predecessor. While most of these changes are under the hood, the 50% brighter display, new gestures, and increased storage are welcome additions.

But the ultimate question is, should you upgrade from the original Apple Watch Ultra to the Ultra 2? For most existing Ultra owners, the answer may be no. The improvements, although impressive, may not justify the expense of another $799 in the same year. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 shines for those entering the Apple Watch world for the first time. However, if you’re already rocking the original model, it might be wise to hold off and see what Apple has in store for the next year.

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