Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Which is right for you?

The Apple Watch Ultra is the company's most expensive smartwatch ever, but it's not designed for everyone.

Apple Watch Series 8
Apple Watch Series 8
Starts at
$629
  • pro
    41 or 45mm
  • pro
    1,000 nits display brightness
  • pro
    Temperature sensor
Apple Watch Ultra
Apple Watch Ultra
Starts at
$1299
  • pro
    49mm
  • pro
    2,000 nits display brightness
  • pro
    86db emergency siren
Georgia Dixon
Digital Content Editor
Read More
September 15, 2022
2 min read

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Apple has pulled back the curtain on its 2022 smartwatch lineup, unveiling an updated Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 8, and an all-new addition, the Apple Watch Ultra.

If you're after one of the two flagships, you might be wondering which is the right choice for you. Let's break down some of the key differences in specs, features and price.

Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch Ultra

Price and release date

The Apple Watch Series 8 doesn't come with any major surprises in terms of price. Starting at $629, it's $30 more than the RRP of last year's model (thanks inflation), but nothing too out of the ordinary.

The Apple Watch Ultra, on the other hand, is a real budget-buster at $1,299. That's more than double the cost of the Series 8, but if we compare it to the closest match stainless steel version of the Series 8 (which retails for $1,099), it's only a $200 difference for the 41mm model and a $120 difference for the 44mm model.

Both the Apple Watch Series 8 is available now, while the Ultra is shipping out from September 23.

Design

Easily the most striking visual difference between the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra is size.

As our Reviews Editor Alex Choros put it in his hands-on first look, the Apple Watch Ultra is an absolute unit. It only comes in one size (49mm), which is significantly bigger than the 41mm and 44mm Series 8 models. The display is also twice as bright as the Series 8.

Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra side by side

The changes don't stop there. The Apple Watch Ultra introduces a new customisable "Action button" designed for fast interaction during workouts. It also sports a new titanium case and more rugged digital crown.

Both watches are IP6X dust resistant, but in terms of water resistance, the Series 8 can only manage 50m. The Ultra, on the other hand, is rated 100m water resistant and supports recreational diving up to 40m with an onboard water depth gauge. It can also withstand temperatures as low as -22°C and as high as 55°C.

When it comes to watch bands, it's pretty much business as usual for the Series 8. The Ultra, however, introduces three new bands - the Trail Loop (designed for runners and marathoners), Alpine Loop (designed for snow sports aficionados) and Ocean Loop (designed for divers, surfers and other water activities).

Apple Watch Ultra Bands

Features

As has been the case for a couple of years now, this year's updates to the standard Apple Watch are mostly iterative. The Series 8 introduces temperature sensing and improved women's health insights, along with Apple's new Crash Detection feature. Other than that, you're looking at a pretty similar package to the Series 7 before it.

The Apple Watch Ultra, as you might expect, offers all of the Series 8's features and then some. In addition to temperature sensing and Crash Detection, the Ultra boasts an upgraded dual-frequency GPS, an 86db siren to attract attention in an emergency, and 36 hours of battery life (compared to the Series 8's 24 hours). It also comes with cellular connectivity as standard.

Apple Watch Series 8 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Our verdict

The Apple Watch Ultra is clearly designed for a very specific type of person. The type of person who, until now, believed no Apple Watch that could rival their sports-focused Garmin or Suunto. We reckon it's probably overkill for everyday folk, but for the ultramarathoners and deep-sea divers among us, it'll no doubt prove a tempting proposition.

For most people, the Apple Watch Series 8 will do you just fine (and save you up to $670 in the process).

Georgia Dixon
Written by
Georgia Dixon
Georgia Dixon has over seven years' experience writing about all things tech, entertainment and lifestyle, with bylines in TechLife magazine, 7NEWS and Stuff.co.nz. In her spare time, you'll find her playing games and daydreaming about good food, wine, and dogs.

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