Last year, the Apple Watch Ultra chiseled a new category of lifestyle products. While a segment of adventure-centered smartwatches already existed, the Apple Watch Ultra merged the gap between bulky, sometimes distastefully designed outdoorsy smartwatches and ones fitting every occasion.
Apple announced the Apple Watch Ultra 2, with some notable improvements over the first generation, at its big September 2023 event, alongside the iPhone 15 and the Apple Watch Series 9. It’s not a particularly flashy or eye-catching upgrade, but it should be important nonetheless.
A faster (and smarter) S9 chip
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Like the Apple Watch Series 9, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 gets an updated S9 chip based on the iPhone 13’s A15 Bionic processor. The GPU is 30% faster than the Apple S8 chip, while a new four-core neural processing unit (NPU) allows all your Siri data to be processed on the device instead of relying on your iPhone. Apple also claims the new chip allows for 25% better dictation than the previous model.
The new chip also facilitates the new tap gesture, where you can tap your thumb and index finger together to trigger actions like taking or ending a call, starting a timer, playing or pausing media, snoozing alarms, taking photos or videos, etc. The gesture uses a combination of data from the gyroscope, accelerometer, and heart rate sensor — fine-tuned by machine learning — to avoid accidental detection.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 also receives Apple’s new U2 chip for ultra-wideband (UWB) communications. This allows you to locate AirTags, AirPods, and your iPhone more precisely and across a three times wider range than the earlier U1 chip.
The brightest Apple Watch display ever
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 gets a new and brighter display with a peak brightness of up to 3,000 nits, which makes the display legible even in the brightest of surroundings. There aren’t any visible changes compared to the first-gen Apple Watch Ultra.
Like the Apple Watch Series 9, Apple is offering eco-friendly “Trail Loop,” “Alpine Loop,” and “Ocean” band options for the Watch Ultra 2, while the shell is made from 99% recycled aluminum, which is why Apple is calling it a carbon-neutral product.
If you were expecting longer battery life, you’ll be disappointed. Apple still claims 36 hours of battery on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 — the same as the previous generation. However, the claimed battery in low-power mode has increased from 60 to 72 hours.
For fitness and outdoor activities, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 gets a dual-frequency GPS, which is presumably carried over from the first-generation model. The new altimeter can now detect elevations ranging from 500 meters below sea level to 9,000 meters above sea level. Apple is also bringing an improved cycling mode, allowing greater control for bicyclists while riding. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 can connect with speed and cadence sensors on advanced bikes, combining it with the data it detected itself.
New features in watchOS 10
Besides better hardware, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 also benefits from improvements that are part of watchOS 10. Foremost, the watchOS 10 update brings new informational widgets through a “Smart Stack” that you can either scroll vertically using the touchscreen or with the crown button. Apple’s new smartwatch interface also brings a host of new animated watch faces, including those with Snoopy and Woodstock from the Peanuts comic strip series.
The update also includes new automatic controls based on your proximity to other devices. For instance, if you’re closer to a HomePod, controls will automatically pop up on your Watch’s screen.
Exclusive features on the Apple Watch Ultra 2
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 receives a new “Modular Ultra” watch face, with information spread along the edges, smaller complications along each corner, and a large complication in the middle of the display.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 also gets new topographic apps within the Apple Maps app, displaying information such as predefined trails, elevation, contours, hillside, etc. The interface will also include information about cellular connectivity, along with SOS points along the route.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 price and availability
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is priced at $799 with cellular connectivity. It will be available starting September 22 alongside the Watch Series 9 and the Watch SE (the latter did not receive an update).
If you don’t feel like waiting and know this is the next smartwatch for you, preorders for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 are live now.