Apple Watch Ultra: The Beard Blog Review

The ultraist Apple Watch of them all.

Watching the recent Apple event where the Apple Watch Ultra was announced, I was elated at the feature set, but at the same time dreading the price reveal. When Jeff Williams revealed the $799 price tag, my jaw dropped. This is not the normal Apple pricing we usually see. I was throwing around $999 or $1099 in my head trying to figure out how I could justify spending that much. Compared to a normal Apple Watch with cellular, sapphire screen, and titanium body, $799 isn’t that far off, but the Ultra does so much more!

I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch every day since buying the first-generation in April of 2015. It was a big change for me as I was an every day traditional watch wearer. I even had a small watch collection growing. Since the first time I put on an Apple Watch, I had wished for a bigger screen for my large wrists. Over the years we’ve seen the (biggest) Apple Watch go from 42mm to 44mm, and then last year to 45mm. The Ultra watch is a generous 49mm.

What’s New on Apple Watch Ultra?

Compared to the Series 7 of last year and the Series 8 introduced with the Ultra, it has a lot more adventurous features than your standard watch. While on the surface it may seem like a whole new watch from the ground up, it’s not. More of a case redesign, it still has the same trusty Apple Watch features we’ve grown to love over the years. What sets the Ultra watch apart from the other Apple Watches is the addition of a 86db siren, 2000 nit display, dual-frequency GPS, customizable action button, and water depth and temperature gauge. If you’re only interested in the health sensors, it has the same exact sensors as the Series 8. Some other improvements to existing features that the Ultra watch has are sure to come to the lower watches like louder speakers, bigger battery, and three mic array.

What Makes This Watch Ultra?

Apple tells us this watch isn’t for everyone, it’s for the most extreme, athletic, and adventurous people out there. We all know that the majority of customers for the Apple Watch Ultra will likely not fit into any of those categories, myself included. This isn’t the first time Apple has offered a titanium case watch with sapphire glass. Last year’s Series 7 was available in that configuration for $699. What truly makes this watch special is the size as it’s Apple’s largest watch to date. Additionally it can withstand the elements more, dive deeper, and possibly not get damaged as easily. My main reasons for buying the Apple Watch Ultra were the large screen size and long battery life, everything else is just a bonus.

Sensor Watch

The new sensor this year on both the Series 8 and Ultra is wrist temperature sensing. This takes a reading of the ambient under-screen temperature and your wrist temperature and forms an opinion on what your body may be like over the course of your sleep. This was presented as a benefit to Cycle Tracking, but for those who do not menstruate, this was left as an unknown. After wearing the Apple Watch to sleep, it does in fact record temperature readings in the Health app. If these will be accurate or useful in the long term remains to be seen.

Water temperature sensing only works when the watch is fully submerged. I was unable to get this to function whilst running my watch under a water faucet.

The Alpine Loop band looks and feels good, but it’s much harder to adjust and remove than any of the traditional Apple Watch bands.

Bigger Watch, Bigger Battery

After setting up my watch, updating the software, and strapping it to my wrist for the first time, the battery was at 90%. Two days later, I let the battery run out until the watch turned off. The watch lasted 52 hours and 12 minutes. This is a huge improvement over my Series 7 which would typically last about 18 hours. During a normal period where I’m messing with the watch less and start from 100%, I’m confident I could easily get 56 hours out of it.

The Good

Apple Watch Wayfinder Night Mode
Wayfinder face Night Mode
  • Bigger and brighter screen
  • All new flat-screen design
  • Seemingly good value
  • Action button is a great addition to the feature set
  • Battery life is about 3x longer than my Series 7

Missed Opportunities

  • watchOS doesn’t utilize the new giant screen
  • There should be no change to the watch face when waking out of ”wrist down mode”
  • No case color options other than natural titanium
  • Bands feel cheap for being $100
  • Only Wayfinder face has new Night Mode

The Bad

  • The watch screen continues to grow, but watchOS doesn’t adapt to utilize the added screen space
  • Not much change in watch face and complication design in four years
  • Temperature sensors not useful if not using Cycle Tracking
9 out of 10 score

How can the Apple Watch Ultra get to 10/10?
– Better software to utilize the screen size.
– Allow Night Mode on any watch face
– Custom watch faces
– Minimal transition from ”wrist-down mode” to normal mode

Who is the Apple Watch Ultra For?

Earlier I sad this watch is marketed to the adventurous and extreme of humans, but in reality it can be for everyone. Much like the type of people that buy trucks and Jeeps and never use them for what they were designed, the Apple Watch Ultra is overkill for most people, and that’s okay! If you’re worried about wearing this watch and it looking too big, don’t fear. It fits everyone different and if that is your style, wear it with confidence. N

The redesigned watch we expected last year may have come in the form of the Apple Watch Ultra. Like when the iPhone X and iPhone 8 were introduced, we may see next year’s watches only be available in the Ultra form factor and feature set.
So far I love the Apple Watch Ultra, it’s (almost) everything I want out of an Apple Watch and this is definitely the spark need to reinvigorate the watch line.

Last year’s Apple Watch Series 7 review