Apple Watch Ultra Review: Apple Lied About the Best Feature

Hands On with the Apple Watch Ultra: is it the Ultimate Apple Watch or just an ultra waste of money?

What to Know

  • Pros: Long battery life, a brighter screen, and additional health and safety features.
  • Cons: Larger, more expensive, and lacks a GPS-only option.

What has 60 hours of battery life, a built-in dive computer, emits an 86-decibel emergency alarm, and costs a whopping $799? The new Apple Watch Ultra! Rumors of a more rugged Apple Watch have been circulating for years, yet the dramatic announcement last fall (complete with life and death rescue scenes) still managed to shock fans worldwide. As a die-hard Apple Watch fan, I bought this top-of-the-line smartwatch without a second thought. Though I may not be the target demographic for this extreme watch, I have no regrets about my extravagant purchase.

Larger than Life

The Ultra is the biggest Apple Watch to date, not only in size but also in technological scope. With a display just under two inches diagonally, the Ultra is thicker and heavier than any other Apple Watch ever made. I was originally disappointed that the Ultra was only available in a 49mm case because it is a big jump from my 41mm Series 7—it is almost as tall as my wrist is wide. However, it didn’t take long for me to adjust, and the large, bright display makes navigate apps so much easier and even type messages thanks to the full keyboard.

Plus, if you already had the larger version of one of the previous Apple Watch models, your old bands will still fit this watch! Although I wouldn’t call the Ultra ugly, it is clear that Apple prioritized functionality over aesthetics, offering this wearable only in aerospace-grade titanium for durability and resistance to corrosion. In addition to being hard to scratch, the matte silver color is perfect for camouflaging imperfections, while the orange accents give the watch a unique look.

All-New Action Button

The two orange accents are on the Digital Crown and the new Action Button. The Apple Watch Ultra is only available with cellular capabilities, which is another reason it is so expensive. Generally, the GPS only models are $100 cheaper, and it is a shame that Apple didn’t give us the option this time. Not only does the hardware cost more, you also need to get a cellular plan through your provider. This is usually only $5-10 per month but it is still an extra expense that many might not need. All other Apple Watch models that are GPS + Cellular have a red circle on their Digital Crowns. The Ultra’s is orange, presumably to match the Action Button.

The Action Button is new to the Apple Watch Ultra and can be customized to help you quickly access your favorite feature. If you are a hiker, you may want to set it to Waypoint, which will mark your current location in the Compass app or Backtrack, which will help you find your way back the way you came. The other options include Workout, Stopwatch, Dive, Flashlight, or Shortcut.

Shortcut takes you to a list of shortcuts for a specific task or a series of complex tasks. I picked Shortcut because I have many smart appliances controlled by my Home app and I love that I can use the Action Button to automate my bedtime routine. This includes turning off lights, setting an alarm, and even turning on my Sleep Recorder app that I would otherwise forget about: all with a click of a button! Of course, you can also turn it off if you are prone to accidentally tapping it, which is a nice touch.

Unprecedented Battery Life

Although I only needed to charge my Apple Watch Series 7 once every 22-24 hours, the promised 60 hours of battery life on the Ultra was hard to believe. I decided to test it and go as long as I could without charging right out of the box. While I wasn’t particularly active during this period, it was still hard to believe that I didn’t have to charge the watch for almost 75 hours!

This game-changing battery life alone justifies the steep price tag for me. However, with the luxury of charging only twice a week, I have noticed that I am more likely to end up forgetting to charge until I get a low battery warning. While this isn’t a legitimate complaint, it can get me into a pickle if I’m relying on my watch for directions or communication.

I also haven’t gotten a chance to test the battery life while doing more battery-intensive activities such as diving or using the Backtrack feature or the emergency siren while lost on a hike. While I hope I never need to use one of the many life-saving features of the Apple Watch Ultra, having them on hand brings peace of mind to me and my loved ones.

Pros:

  • 60+ Hour Battery Life
  • Premium Features Including a Built-in Dive Computer and 86 Decibel Emergency Siren
  • Fits Watch Bands Compatible with Larger Versions of Older Apple Watch Models
  • New Customizable Button
  • Cycle Tracking Via Temperature Sensor
  • Brighter and Larger Screen
  • Crash Detection
  • Rugged and Resistant to Scratches or Damage

Cons:

  • High Cost
  • Large Size and Weight Make the Watch Bulky
  • Only One Color and Material Option
  • No Option for GPS Only
  • Cycle Tracking can be Intrusive

Final Verdict

As an Apple Watch enthusiast, this is definitely the watch that I’ve been waiting for. I am impressed with the unbelievable battery life that rivals competing wearables, the new customizable Action Button, and the safety features such as Crash Detection that alerts authorities and your emergency contact in case of a car accident. However, the size and price of the Ultra will not necessarily appeal to the everyday Apple Watch user.

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Author Details

Olena Kagui's picture

Author Details

Olena Kagui

Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life who lives in Hawaii. With a BA in International Relations from Anglo American University, Olena traveled the world. She has lived in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, China, and the USA. Olena won an excellence award for a controversial article, got a grant to blog from a war-zone, and published a short fictional story. She hopes to publish a full-length novel and continue writing up a storm on her blog The Travel Bug Bite! When she’s not typing or flying, she is loving on animals, crafting bizarre creations, and devouring all-you-can-eat sushi.