Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Smart Phones

Apple Watch Ultra 2nd Gen preview: Cut from the same cloth

Let’s tear the bandaid right from the get-go: if you’ve purchased the Apple Watch Ultra, then you surely would find little reason to splurge on the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The differences are minimal and most likely wouldn’t warrant an upgrade to the newer model of the rugged smartwatch. 

Okay, you might accuse us of simply copying and pasting the Apple Watch Ultra specs in the specs table for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 right below, but in our defense, the two will most certainly be 95% identical. Aside from the faster Apple S9 chipset as well as the new darker color option, don’t expect the Apple Watch Ultra 2 to be anything radically different than its predecessor, which is still a mighty fine smartwatch.

Just like the first Apple Watch Ultra, the second generation is available in a single 49mm size. That’s larger than your regular Apple Watch and only fits larger wrists; it certainly looks out of place on thinner wrists. 

An important new feature is the new and improved screen of the device. Yes, the display of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is now much, much brighter than before. While the Apple Watch Ultra had a display capable of 2,000 nits of maximum brightness, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 can seemingly hit 3,000 nits of brightness, which should make it perfectly legible in just about any environment, even under the bright noon sun.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Bands

New colorways

The three Apple Watch Ultra-specific watch bands are getting some new colors, spicing up things in the design department. 

In particular, the durable Alpine Loop is now available in blue, indigo, and olive hues, while the ultra-light Trail Loop comes in orange/beige, green/gray, and blue/black color combinations that will surely look as classy as it gets. Meanwhile, the ocean band is now available in blue and orange, completing the Apple Watch Ultra 2 watch band refresh.

Of course, you’re free to use whatever watch band with the Apple Watch, as long as it’s listed as compatible with Apple’s 44mm, 45mm, and 49mm smartwatches. Watch bands intended for the smaller 38mm, 40mm, and 41mm Apple Watches aren’t compatible with the new Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Hardware, Software & Features

Apple WatchOS 10 is the largest change looming on the horizon

New on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the new Apple S9 SiP, which not only delivers a system-wide performance boost across the board, but also allows for new features and functionalities.  

WatchOS 10, which comes preloaded on the Apple Watch Ultra 2, is a radical redesign of the Apple Watch software and significantly alters how you interact with the device. There’s now a so-called Smart Stack of widgets that expand the information you can access at a glance. 

There’s a new app library arrangement that makes a bit more sense than the chaotic grid of old. There’s also a host of new watch faces. With widget support, new interface layout, and tons of other features, watchOS 10 finally shakes up the existing status quo and brings excitement to the Apple Watch.

Recreational scuba diving is supported up to 40 meters, which is already well beyond the capabilities of most people. Speaking of diving, the unique dive computer functionality is making a comeback, and it will now keep your dive logs.

Speaking of watch faces, Apple has come up with a new and rather functional watchface for the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Dubbed Modular Ultra, it makes good use оf the large display by displaying real-time data, like seconds, altitude, or depth, as well as up to 6tg customizable complications, the most of any Apple Watch Ultra watch face.

Other minor new features include a redesigned topographic that shows specific trail details like points of interest, trailheads, elevation and contour lines. The essential Compass app has also gotten some well-deserved love and will be displaying your current elevation in real time as well as a virtual 3D view of the waypoints and your custom orientation points. Finally, an update to the cycling functionality will be able to measure up your cadence, speed, and power once you pair a compatible Bluetooth accessory.

You can now employ precision finding to locate your iPhone with the Apple Watch Ultra 2 thanks to the new ultra wideband chip on board. The smartwatch will be providing visual, haptic, and audio guidance to your “misplaced iPhone”, as Apple puts it. Overall, a decent quality-of-life improvement.

The new Double Tap feature of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Watch Series 9 series gives you yet another way of interacting with your watch. You can control the main feature of any app on your Apple Watch Ultra with a single improvised tap of your index finger against your thumb twice. Answering calls, accessing the widget Smart Stack, taking photos with the Camera Remote app, and many others are just a double tap away, which might come as especially useful when your other hand is busy. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Battery and Charging

No changes 

Due to the zero inter-generational changes between the Apple Watch Ultra and the Apple Watch Ultra 2, the latter will still come with a 542mAh battery on board, which will most probably deliver slightly better battery life in comparison with the previous model thanks to the more efficient new chip. Still, we don’t expect a drastic improvement in battery endurance.

Now, when it comes to charging, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is unlikely to charge up much faster than the previous generation, so expect a full top-up to take around 90 minutes. While that’s long, a perfectly usable 80% charge can be achieved in roughly an hour, which is more manageable. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Models and Prices

Similarly to the first device,  the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is only available in a single 49mm version that starts at $799. The Apple Watch Series 9, on the other hand, offers some additional models that you might be tempted to pick from. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Competitors

Truthfully, the biggest rival of the 2 Apple Watch Ultra ironically came from the same ZIP code: the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple Watch Series 9, and Apple Watch Series 8, and even most previous Apple wearables are all more than adept alternatives that can run watchOS 10 and share most health-centric and other functionalities. 
Samsung’s line of Galaxy Watch 6 devices, like the newly released Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic are also more than excellent alternatives, although it goes without saying that they only run well on Galaxy devices and don’t play well with iPhones. In fact, they don’t play at all, but the same applies to the Apple Watch Ultra lineup, which can’t be paired up with an Android device. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Summary and Final Verdict

To be honest, the Apple Watch Ultra didn’t feel stale or outdated, so the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is likely aimed at those who decided to skip the first generation due to one reason or another.

It doesn’t seem like people who got the first Apple Watch Ultra will be in any way tempted to get the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Quite the contrary: it’s still one of the better wearables you might consider. Frankly, Apple could have waited a year or two and come up with a follow-up to the wearable that boasts more upgrades, both on the software and the hardware level, but it seems the Apple Watch Ultra is now a yearly refresh.

Still, we get a very incremental update in the face of the Apple Watch Ultra 2. It’s still the excellent rugged wearable that’s capable of withstanding some serious wear and tear, but now potentially faster and with slightly better battery life. The most significant change is the new color option, which honestly doesn’t feel like a big enough feature to warrant a whole generational update.


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