At Wednesday’s Far Out event, Apple made the most drastic change to its Apple Watch lineup in its history. The company revealed the new Apple Watch Ultra, a third model to go along with the Series 8 and SE, and it brings a completely new design language and capabilities.
Apple Watch Ultra: Larger, more rugged case
The Apple Watch Ultra features a 49mm case that puts its size on par with large military and sports wristwatches. The thicker case also allows it to carry a larger battery. In the presentation, the Apple Watch Ultra looked quite big, even on models who had a larger physical build.
Since Apple sees the Apple Watch Ultra as being popular with highly active people, the company used “aerospace-grade” titanium instead of aluminum for a watch that is better at handling physical abuse. It still has a general Apple Watch aesthetic, but the shape is different and the Digital Crown and Side button have a new protruding protective layer. Also, the Ultra has sapphire front crystals, the most crack-resistant material Apple uses.
The Apple Watch Ultra can be worn during water sports and scuba diving, with WR100 (water resistance to 100 meters) certification, and EN 13319 certification, which is an internationally recognized standard for diving accessories. There’s also a depth gauge and a new Oceanic+ app that works with the Bühlmann decompression algorithm to let you plan dives and safely decompress and ascend from your dive.
Water sports not your thing? No worries, the Apple Watch Ultra includes new features for hiking and exploring unknown territory. It has multiple views with the new Compass app in watchOS 9, and Compass Waypoints for marking points of interest. A new Backtrack feature records your path, and if you get lost, the Ultra can play an 86-decibel siren to catch the attention of anyone nearby,
The larger size means that the Ultra uses new watch bands. The three bands Apple introduced are:
Trail Loop, a thin band with a quick-pull tag to readjust the band’s fit.
Alpine Loop, a band that uses a titanium latch.
Ocean Band, a band designed to maintain its fit while wearing a wetsuit.
Apple Watch Ultra: Larger screen, new sensors
One of the main reasons for the larger overall size of the Apple Watch Ultra is that it can has a 2-inch display. The display is raised over the watch and flattened for protection from dings and scrapes. And with its 2000 nits of brightness–which is twice that of the other Apple Watches–you’ll be able to see the Ultra in almost any environment.
Inside the Ultra are two new gyroscope and accelerometer sensors that are used in the new Crash Detection feature that can sense when you are in a severe car crash. When a crash is detected, an alert appears and if the user does not respond in 10 seconds, emergency services will be contacted with the crash location.
The Ultra also has dual-frequency GPS, using both the L1 and L5 frequencies. This makes the watch able to precisely record your location for route planning.
The Ultra, like the new Apple Watch Series 8, has the ability to track the wearer’s body temperature, mainly to track a woman’s ovulation cycle. The watch can keep a record of the cycle and notify the user when there’s a deviation from the recorded history.
Apple Watch Ultra: New Action button
The Apple Watch Ultra comes with a new programmable orange Action button on the left side of the watch. It works with many of Ultra’s apps–for example, you can tap the Action button to drop a waypoint to mark a location, or hold it to activate the siren.
The right side still has a Side button and the Digital Crown, which is now surrounded by a platform that houses a microphone and speaker, and also protects the Crown.
Apple Watch Ultra: Battery and processor
The larger size of the Apple Watch Ultra allows for a larger battery than that in the Series 8. That larger battery provides the Ultra with 36 hours of battery life. There’s also an upcoming ability to extend the battery to up to 60 hours by using the new watchOS 9 Low Power mode and a low-power setting in the Ultra that reduces the frequency of GPS and heart rate readings.
The Ultra, like the Series 8, uses a new S8 processor, which appears to be the same as the S7. Apple says the new S8 chip is 20 percent faster than the S5, which was also 20 percent slower than the S7.
Apple Watch Ultra: Price and ship date
The Apple Watch Ultra is Apple’s most expensive watch, but with a $799 starting price, it’s less expensive than some older models outfitted for durability. For comparison, an Apple Watch Series 7 Edition with a Titanium Case and Solo Loop band was $849.
Apple is now taking orders on the Apple Watch Ultra, with the initial ship date set for September 23. Some models have already slipped to October.