Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Doppelgängers

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Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra

Intro


in 2022, Apple shook up the smartwatch market by announcing a whole new Apple Watch flavor, one that tastes like titanium, sapphire, and mud –– the Apple Watch Ultra. The $899 Apple Watch Ultra was Cupertino's shot at coming up with a rugged smartwatch that elevates the wearable experience for Apple Watch users further.

Back in 2023, we got our first very minor refresh of the Apple Watch Ultra. Announced alongside the iPhone 15 series, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 comes along with some minor yet noteworthy improvements that aim to ameliorate the overall experience with the rugged wearable, but doesn't stray too much from the already established formula. 

A new chipset, a brighter display, and a new exclusive gesture to interact with the smartwatch that's not yet available are mostly all the essential new features the new Apple Watch Ultra 2 from its still relevant predecessor. 

Should you upgrade from the first Apple Watch Ultra to the second one? Of course not, no reason to do that. Still, if you're coming from an older Apple Watch and want to treat yourself, then the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the perfect entryway to the super-premium Apple Watch niche.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: differences

  • Display with up to 3,000 nits of brightness
  • Faster new Apple S9 chipset
  • Siri on-device processing
  • New activity features
  • New band colors
  • New Double Tap gesture
  • Same $799 price

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Table of Contents:

Design & Sizes

Apples to apples


We didn't really expect any major changes between the Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Ultra 2, and then again, we didn't get any. Even the rumored new black titanium color option didn't materialize, sadly, so we are left with the same looking smartwatch. If it weren't for the new watch bands, it is actually particularly hard to tell the first and second Apple Watch Ultra versions apart from one another. 

Signature Apple Watch Ultra features like the oversized digital crown and the additional customizable Action button are making a return. The watch will certainly retain the same titanium case with sapphire glass to protect the display up top. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 will be IP68-rated, just like the first Apple Watch Ultra, and capable of surviving pressure of up to 5ATM, making it perfect for recreational diving.


A very big difference between the first and the second versions of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the much brighter 3,000-nit display, a significant increase over the 2,000-nit display of the first Apple Watch Ultra. The new display is certainly way easier to read under the bright sunlight, even more so than last year's Apple Watch Ultra, which is avery important quality-of-life improvement especially for those, who use the device out and about. 

Of course, both devices can only hit these maximum values in some extreme conditions, so don't expect either device to blast you with the force of a thousand suns at every wrist raise.


Bands

New colors incoming


With the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple revealed three bespoke new watch bands, namely the Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, and Ocean Band. Each was introduced with a certain type of activity in mind. With the Apple Watch Ultra 2, we get new paintjobs for each of those, which boosts the available customizatioн options for all potential buyers. 

The ultra-light Trail Loop is now available in orange/beige, green/gray, and blue/black color schemes that will undoubtedly look as sophisticated as it gets, while the robust Alpine Loop is now also offered in blue, indigo, and olive colours. The ocean band, the final addition to the Apple Watch Ultra 2 watch band update, is currently obtainable in blue and orange.

Of course, as long as the watch band is advertised as being compatible with Apple's 44mm, 45mm, and 49mm smartwatches, you are free to use it with the Apple Watch. The new Apple Watch Ultra 2 is incompatible with watch bands made for the smaller 38mm, 40mm, and 41mm Apple Watches.

Performance & Features

A brand new chipset


The Apple Watch Ultra 2 now has the new Apple S9 SiP, which not only improves overall system performance but also enables additional features and functionalities. The new chipset is based on the Apple A15 Bionic chip, which powers the iPhone 13 series as well as the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 Plus, and should deliver a decent performance gains as well as improved battery life. 

WatchOS 10, which comes preinstalled on the Apple Watch Ultra 2, is a drastic revamp of the Apple Watch software that changes how you interact with the device considerably. There is now a Smart Stack of widgets that extend the information available at a look.

There's a new app library layout that makes more sense than the previous crazy grid. There are also several new watch faces. WatchOS 10 is fairly new, including widget support, a new interface style, and a slew of additional goodies.

In terms of watch faces, Apple has a new and rather useful watchface for the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Called Modular Ultra, as the name suggests, makes excellent use of the huge display by displaying real-time data such as seconds, altitude, or depth, as well as up to 6tg configurable complications, the most of any Apple Watch Ultra watch face.

Other minor changes include a revamped topographic map that displays useful trail points of interest such ast trailheads, elevation, and contour lines. The indispensable Compass app has also received some well-deserved attention, and it will now display your current elevation in real time, as well as a realistic 3D depiction of the waypoints and your custom orientation points. Finally, after you attach a compatible Bluetooth accessory, an upgrade to the cycling capability will be able to measure your cadence, speed, and power.

You now have yet another method to engage with your watch thanks to the new Double Tap function on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Watch Series 9 models. One casual tap of your index finger on your thumb twice will activate the primary feature of any app on your Apple Watch Ultra. 

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With just a double tap, you can do a lot of things, like take pictures with the Camera Remote app, answer calls, access the Smart Stack widget, and do a lot more. This is especially helpful if you're using only a single hand, and honestly, works quite well in real life. 

Battery and Charging

Slight improvements!


Apple has successfully crammed in a slightly larger 564mAh battery inside the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in comparison with the 542mAh one on the first Apple Watch Ultra. This minor improvement is certainly welcome, though it isn't enough to deliver vastly better battery life. 

And yet, certainly in concert with the faster and therefore more efficient new chipset on board, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 delivers slightly better battery life than its predecessor. While Apple cites the same battery life expectations for the Apple Watch Ultra as it did for the first Apple Watch Ultra (31 hours of mixed use). 

However, my anecdotal experience is that the new wearable has slightly better battery life, as I had to rarely put it down on the USB Type-C charging puck in comparison with its predecessor. Although I never let the smartwatch fully deplete itself and usually make it a habit to keep my device juiced up between 20 and 80%, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 can definitely last you a good two days and a half or even three days on a single charge. Of course, more intensive use, especially under the bright sun and with lots of GPS navigation and app usage surely brings the overall battery longevity down. 

In terms of charging, we haven't had any notable improvements in terms of charging times. You can count on a full charge taking around about 90 minutes, which is a lot, but you can also get the wearable from 0% to 80% in around an hour, which should suffice for up to two days and change. 

Models and Prices


There is only one Apple Watch Ultra 2 version, a 49mm one. Thankfully, it still starts at $799, just as much as its predecessor, which is great to see. 

Summary



If you've got the first Apple Watch Ultra, save your money and spend them elsewhere. No single feature warrants upgrading to the newer version of the smartwatch. Even though the new display and slightly better battery life are very decent improvements, it's not worth it to upgrade for them only. 

However, if in late 2023 you're looking to upgrade from an older Apple Watch, then the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a perfect entry way into the super-premium Apple Watch segment.
 
On the other hand, carefully consider whether you even need an Apple Watch Ultra 2 at all. However nice all the exclusive features might be, an Apple Watch Series 9, Series 8, or even a Series 7 would probably do you just fine. With watchOS 10, even an Apple Watch SE (2022) is worth considering. 

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