Apple has created the Apple Watch Ultra, a tougher smartwatch with outdoor-focused features, but can it replace your sports watch, sleep tracking ring, and *checks notes* dive computer?


iPhones are pretty tough nowadays, but there was a time where they definitely weren’t and your tragic mate (definitely not you) always had a smashed screen.

Apple Watches though haven’t quite caught up. They’re still paired with activewear at best and aren’t even on the radar for tougher multi day adventures.

Well, until now.


Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger?

We can only assume Tim Cook has been blasting Daft Punk in the labs at Apple because the Apple Watch Ultra does most of the above.

The body is made from lightweight aerospace-grade titanium and the watch face is made from sapphire, known for being super hard to scratch or break. High end sports watches use similar tech and my Suunto 9 screen is about to clock up its fifth year of scratchless joy.

The little spinny wheel on the side (known as a digital crown) is a bit bigger with deeper grooves, which Apple claims means you can use it with gloves. But I’m going to be the first to speculate that it still looks super hard to spin with mitts on.

However the addition of an extra button is a win as touch screens are a disaster when they get wet. Apple has added the ‘Action Button’, a customisable button that can be used for whatever you want to do most, and painted it bright orange so it’s easy to see (if you need that).

Importantly, the watch is designed to work down to -20°C and up to 55°C, numbers you can easily get close to with wind chill or harsh sunlight.


Battery for Hours!

How long’s it last? It’s the sole question on everyone’s mind with the Apple Watch Ultra and fair play, there’s nothing more useless than tech with a dead battery.

Thanks to the 49mm case (the largest Apple Watch ever) the Ultra lasts for 36 hours, which is about double that of the Apple Watch Series 8. There’s a possibility of a low power mode getting you to 60 hours, which is important to look at as every other watch manufacturer quotes their low power time.

However, despite Apple claiming that the watch would track you through an Ironman distance event (3.8km swim, 180km bike ride, 42km run), there are definitely questions about whether it could realistically track some of the longer ‘Ultra’ distance running events, which can take well over 24 hours.

It’s safe to say that while you might be able to get some overnight hikes in with the watch, it’s no match for watches like Garmin’s Enduro 2, which reckons it can last 46 days.



But it Doesn’t Need to Win Every Stat

While other watch manufacturers will be quick to point out the Apple Watch Ultra’s failings, its features list is extensive and different to its competitors. Some of the highlights include:

  • Tri-microphone array for calls in windy conditions
  • 86-decibel siren for emergencies (couldn’t build a whistle into the watch?)
  • Crash detection and SOS feature
  • Multi-frequency GPS optimised for being next to tall trees and buildings
  • A compass optimised for wrist use
  • Cellular connectivity
  • Ability to use Compass Waypoints and Backtrack to start point
  • Super bright screen that turns red at night for better visibility
  • Depth app for divers (it’s unclear if there’s enough info to replace your dive computer completely)
  • Anything else an Apple Watch can do (a lot if you’re in the Apple ecosystem)

I particularly like the different watch bands available. There’s a trail, alpine, and ocean version which prioritise lightness, toughness or flexibility, depending on the environment you’re most partial to.

While the Ultra doesn’t seem to be doing anything specific in terms of environmental protection, a link to Apple’s environmental plan says that their products will all be carbon neutral by 2030. Not quite soon enough, but it’s something.

When is the Apple Watch Ultra out in Australia?

The Apple Watch Ultra is out in Australia on the 23rd of September 2022, the same date as in the US. You can scroll through their pleasing product page to learn more or pre-order yours now.

The Ultra will be $1299, which is way up there at the premium end, but still less than other GPS sports watches like the Garmin Fenix 7X Sapphire Solar (lol) or on par with Coros Vertix 2.

If anything, it’s great for the GPS sportswatch sector to have another player in the game, we’ll be keen to hear how it goes in the field and (hopefully) get our hands on one ourselves!