Hands-on with the Apple Watch Ultra

An absolute unit. 

Apple Watch Ultra
Apple Watch Ultra
Starts at
Swimproof, IP6X, MIL-STD 810H
Alex Choros
Group Reviews Editor
Read More
September 07, 2022
2 min read

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Apple Watch Ultra

The Apple Watch is incredibly mature as a product category, where it almost feels like annual updates don’t make much sense anymore. The Series 8 is a pretty minor update, for example, with a temperature sensor as the key new feature. The new Apple Watch Ultra is a completely different beast, however. 

It's redesigned as a rugged beast of a smartwatch made for anything from deep sea diving to marathon running to frosty hikes. It almost feels like Apple is daring you to try and break it, given the sheer durability credentials. Here are some initial thoughts based on some quick hands on time after the launch.

Initial pros

Surprisingly light. Despite how large the Apple Watch Ultra is - it has a 49mm screen, making it significantly bigger than the current 45mm model - it's very light on the wrist. It felt lighter than the stainless steel 45mm variant that I use as my day-to-day wearable. I guess that's what military spec titanium for you. 

Buttons. The Apple Watch Ultra has an extra button on the device's left side, which can customised. I'd love to see this filter down to the standard Apple Watch line, as it seems really useful. The digital crown and side button are now housed in a protruding enclosure. This means it takes a little more effort to spin the crown; this should help prevent accidental touches, but makes it far less satisfying to fidget with.

Some older bands still work. If you've got an older 42mm, 44mm, or 45mm Apple Watch, your bands will work with the Ultra if you decided to upgrade. 

Neat hiking features. While I obviously didn't get to test these on the show floor, the Apple Watch Ultra has a few features that speak to the hiker in me. Extended battery life is obviously nice, and the siren could come in handy in a pinch, but I'm most interested in Backtrack. Backtrack is designed to help you retrace your steps if you get lost on a hike, which Fergus and I incidentally did the other weekend, thanks to a poorly marked trail. 

Initial cons

An absolute unit. There's no way about it, the Apple Watch Ultra is massive. A veritable chonker. In addition to the bigger screen, you've got the side enclosure for the digital crown. While some may love bigger watches, the Ultra is a little too large for my tastes. 

Pricey. The Apple Watch Ultra will set you back $1,299, which is a big step up from the aluminum Series 8 or the SE. But if you were considering a stainless steel Series 8, you're only looking at spending around $200 more depending on the size and band.  

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First thoughts

The Apple Watch Ultra doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s made for people who already have an Apple Watch. The Ultra would be overkill for me, even as a gym junkie. Instead, it’s a play to convert those who aren’t currently catered to by an existing Apple Watch, for those using dedicated running, hiking, or diving watches, like Garmins or Suuntos. And on the face of it, the Ultra has some impressive credentials. It could be the best of both worlds for someone who wants a great smartwatch experience, but doesn't feel like their fitness needs are met by the current Apple Watch options. 

I'd also love to see some of the new features filter down to the standard Apple Watch. They'd certainly help make year-on-year updates a little more exciting. I want that extra button, Tim. 

Disclaimer: This author owns shares in Apple

Hands-on photos

How much does the Apple Watch Ultra cost?

The Apple Watch Ultra will set you back $1,299. You can pre-order it now. 

Alex Choros
Written by
Alex Choros
Alex Choros is the Group Reviews Editor for Clearlink Australia's local websites - Reviews.org, Safewise, and WhistleOut - and the Managing Editor for WhistleOut Australia. He's been writing about consumer technology for over eight years and is an expert on the Australian telco sector, to the point where he knows far too many phone and internet plans by heart. He also contributes to Gizmodo and Lifehacker, and makes regular appearances on 2GB. Outside of tech, Alex loves long hikes, red wine, and death metal.

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