6 weeks with Apple Watch Ultra: What’s great and what needs work

Inspired by the most extreme activities, Apple Watch Ultra brings a new bold design and a wide range of features built for endurance, exploration, and adventure. A 49mm titanium case and flat sapphire front crystal reveal the biggest and brightest Apple Watch display yet, and a customizable Action button offers instant access to a wide range of useful features.

Apple Watch Ultra features an aerospace-grade titanium case and a flat sapphire front crystal to protect the up to 2000 nit display, which is 2x brighter than any Apple Watch yet.
Apple Watch Ultra features an aerospace-grade titanium case and a flat sapphire front crystal to protect the up to 2000 nit display, which is 2x brighter than any Apple Watch yet.

Apple Watch Ultra has the best battery life of any Apple Watch, reaching up to 36 hours during normal use. Additionally, a new low-power setting, ideal for multi-day experiences, can extend battery life to reach up to 60 hours.2 The new Wayfinder watch face is designed specifically for the larger Apple Watch Ultra display and includes a compass built into the dial, with space for up to eight complications. Apple Watch 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 adventure.

Jakob Schiller for Outside:

As with all of their products, Apple designers first made the Ultra a joy to use every single day, easy to figure out, and beautiful to look at. They then found a way to add in features that those of us in the adventure world would appreciate and use regularly.

From this perspective, comparing the Ultra to a Garmin, Coros, or Suunto might actually be a misleading way of looking at the watch, like trying to compare offroad vehicles that are built for different uses. You could say the Ultra is a Subaru Outback that’s great for everyday driving, and pretty good in the snow and off road. The Garmin, Coros, and Suunto watches are like overland Toyota Tacomas designed to go farther and tackle more difficult terrain, but which lack some of the everyday features and comforts.

I’m not an adventure athlete, but I do spend a lot of time hiking, hunting, and skiing, and after more than a month of testing the Ultra up in the mountains and at home, I see the advantages of having a really robust Apple Watch. During the week, it stores my music, delivers my alerts on a big and bright screen, and works seamlessly with my iPhone and AirPods. And during the weekend and on adventures it can help me find my car if I get lost on a hike via the new GPS-enabled Backtrack feature, send out a siren alert if I get hurt, and function as an intro dive watch when I need one. Testers on the Outside team who are adventure athletes agree that the Ultra moves Apple into a whole new territory of functionality.

MacDailyNews Take: Schiller’s main issue with Apple Watch Ultra is battery life. The Apple Watch Ultra does a lot, and that requires power – more power than a Garmin or Coros watch. For those looking to go a long time on a camping, hiking, etc. trip with an any Apple Watch, we recommend taking along some portable backup power like the $26.99 5000mAh lifeegrn Magnetic Wireless Portable Apple Watch Charger. Throw one in your backpack – it only weighs 4 ounces – and it’ll give you 8 full Apple Watch charges.

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