The Apple Watch Ultra from a casual buyer's perspective: Why it (may) be worth it

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The Apple Watch Ultra from a casual buyer's perspective: Why it (may) be worth it
The Apple Watch Ultra is the most advanced wearable that Apple has produced to date. It is a hardcore device meant for equally hardcore athletes and adventurers. Everything from its look, though its packaging and to its marketing serves as a testament to that fact.

Let me start by saying this… I am no athlete. Nor am I going on an adventure to destroy the One Ring (or the Ultra, which could well be equally difficult to tear apart). But I still ended up using the Apple Watch Ultra for quite some time. I even tried to replace my smartphone with it.

And I cannot help but say that this is the first wearable that I do not hate. For the record, I have never been particularly fond of the concept as a whole. Nevertheless, the nerd inside me cannot deny the fact that the Ultra is a wildly impressive piece of technology. Thus, I have been looking for ways to justify owning one, despite not being a particularly good fit (and not being particularly fit, for that matter).

This article will try to do just that. Essentially, I will be looking at the reasons why a casual user might want to buy an Apple Watch Ultra. Spoiler alert - it is not because of the sensors that allow you to go diving.

An Apple Watch that is not made to simply look pretty

Internally, the Apple Watch Ultra has a lot in common with the Apple Watch Series 8. It is powered by the same chip and features many of the same sensors. But this is where the similarities end.

There is one thing that cannot be understated when it comes to the Apple Watch Ultra - it is very visually different from all the wearables Apple has produced before it. Many still recall the days when the Cupertino company believed that the Apple Watch would be the ultimate digital accessory. In time, Apple conceded, discontinued the ridiculously expensive $10,000 golden Apple Watch and accepted that the purpose of the device would be more geared towards digital health and fitness.

Nevertheless, the design of the Apple Watch hardly ever moved past that initial conception. Until now, that is. The Apple Watch Ultra makes a clean break with the design philosophy from the past, for better or worse. I have heard mixed opinions, but, regardless of whether you are a fan of the new design, it cannot be denied that the Ultra looks and feels different. Granted, the traditional Apple Watch (especially the stainless steel version) is much sleeker. But the added bulk of the Ultra is both a blessing, and a curse.

If you fancy big watches in general, you are bound to fall in love with this device. If you are like me and have small hands, and even smaller wrists - the Ultra will look a little out of place on you. Still, the new look could be a major selling point for many users.

What will be appreciated by everyone, however, is the fact that the Ultra is made from titanium, which feels inherently premium and comes with a number of additional benefits which I will cover later. Above all, the case of the Apple Watch Ultra embodies the main premise of the chunky wearable. Namely, that it prioritizes function over form.

A wearable that emphasises durability and functionality

The bigger case allows for a bigger 49mm display, and the added screen real estate is really felt throughout the UI. In comparison, the interface of a traditional Apple Watch almost feels cluttered. Furthermore, the fact that the Ultra features a peak brightness level of 2000 nits, means that there will be no problems with visibility, regardless of how unfavorable the outdoor conditions might be. I had no problems interacting with the display even under direct light, on a particularly sunny day.

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Once again placing an emphasis on functionality, the Apple Watch Ultra is the first to feature an additional programmable button. Apple might be looking for ways to remove all buttons from their iPhones, but, when it comes to wearables, the more things you can click on, the better. You do not need to be fighting polar bears in the Arctic in order to appreciate the difference that the two buttons, in addition to the Digital Crown, make.

Speaking of potential hazards, the main benefit of the aforementioned titanium is the fact that under normal usage, the Apple Watch Ultra is practically indestructible. This thing is made to survive some serious punishment. If you are like me and the only danger to your technology is your own clumsiness, you will have nothing to worry about.

The real game changer - a three-day battery life

In a nutshell, even if you refrain from strenuous (or any, for that matter) physical activity and the biggest adventures you pursue are the occasional trips to the supermarket, there are plenty of reasons to buy an Ultra over a normal Apple Watch. You are getting a new aesthetic, a sturdier design, a bigger and brighter screen and an additional button.

None of the aforementioned benefits warrant splurging more on an Ultra by themselves. But when taken together, the extra investment is worth considering. Especially in light of the biggest game changer when it comes to the Apple Watch Ultra - the greatly improved battery life.

The Apple Watch Ultra features a battery that is more than 75% bigger than the one on the regular Apple Watch Series 8. This translates to about twice as much battery life, under normal circumstances. I was consistently able to squeeze out more than 48 hours out of the Ultra.

This means two full days and nights, with sleep monitoring, and a little bit to spare. If I wanted to, I could easily go a full 3 days on a single charge, if I decided to use Low Power Mode and this makes a world of a difference.

It should be noted that if you are one of the athletes that fall within the scope of the primary target group of this device, the numbers could be very different. But if you are a couch potato like myself and do not need to monitor your exercise frequently, you will simply have no reason to worry about the Apple Watch Ultra dying on you.

Why the pricing of the Apple Watch Ultra makes it worth considering

Now, you might be quick to point out - all of this is great, but the Apple Watch Ultra costs as much as an entry-level iPhone 14 (i.e. $799). And you would be correct - the Ultra is a very expensive device. But there is one thing you should know - so is the Apple Watch Series 8.

Sure, the Apple Watch 8 starts at $399, but have you wondered where it tops out? The base model is made out of aluminum, and lacks cellular connectivity. As soon as you factor in the detail that the Ultra comes with cellular by default and is made of a material that is superior even to the more-premium stainless steel option, the picture changes dramatically.

For reference, a stainless steel, 45mm Apple Watch 8, with cellular, will run you $749, even with the most basic band. For $50 more, you could be getting a vastly superior device that will likely last you longer, not only because it is nearly indestructible. In truth, one the biggest benefits of the Ultra, in my view, is the fact that by virtue of its bigger battery it is, to a certain extent, more future proof.

Final Verdict

Admittedly, if you have to choose between an entry-level Apple Watch and an Ultra, the $400+ price gap is difficult to stomach. But this article is not meant for those that are facing such a dilemma.

The sole point of my argument is that, if you have already decided to splurge on an Apple Watch, the decision to buy an Ultra does not solely come down to whether you are an athlete or not. If you are already bent on paying for a specced out Apple Watch 8, perhaps taking a look at the Ultra is not entirely unreasonable.

That is, if you can live with the imposter syndrome that comes along with owning a device marketed to adventurers, even though you struggle to take the stairs in a single go. But maybe that is just me.

Apple Watch Ultra

49mm, Titanium Case, GPS + Cellular

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