Is there anything the best Apple Watches can’t do? With the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra and its Depth app, the Cupertino-based tech giant once again shifted the baseline upwards of what people should expect from an outdoor watch. And it’s not only an excellent mountaineering companion, but given its extensive diving capabilities, the Apple Watch Ultra is also your best bet for shallow-water activities, such as swimming in a pool or open waters.
However, other Apple Watch models can also be used for swimming, albeit they aren’t quite as capable as a diving watch as the Apple Watch Ultra. Apple Watch Series 2 and newer models can be used for swimming in the pool and open water; it’s only the Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch (1st generation) that aren't suitable for swimming (should anyone still have those).
How to swim with your Apple Watch
There are two swimming workout modes on all waterproof Apple Watches: Pool Swim and Open Water Swim. The main difference between these two is that in Pool Swim mode, GPS is turned off, and the watch measures distance using the accelerometer and the information you have given it about the length of the pool. During Open Water Swim, GPS will only provide distance when you do a freestyle stroke.
It’s worth noting that as renowned as the Apple Watch’s optical heart rate sensor is, water between the sensor and skin may prevent accurate heart rate measurements. This is the same issue optical heart rate sensors face when you sweat – light shone through liquids changes frequency, making it harder for watches to read your pulse. Calories will be tracked using the built-in accelerometer during swims, though.
For more information about swimming with your Apple Watch, visit Apple’s guide: Swim with your Apple Watch.
What’s the IP rating of the Apple Watch Ultra?
Using the Apple Watch Ultra for water-based activities will turn heads not just because it has the biggest screen on any Apple Watch to date but also because it can be used for recreational scuba diving up to 40 metres (130 feet) and other activities such as swimming, showering and even water skiing.
Although Apple doesn’t disclose information about the IP rating of the Apple Watch Ultra, we can make an educated guess about it using the information available on its website. What is certain is that the Apple Watch Ultra has a water-resistance rating of 100 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010 and is EN13319-compliant.
As for IP rating, even the two Apple Watch models not recommended for swimming (Apple XX) are IPX7 rated, and any subsequent models have a water-resistance rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010. Also, Apple Watch Series 7 and newer are rated IP6X dust resistant. Considering the case of the Apple Watch Ultra is sealed better than all of these models, we can safely assume that it’s at least IP67 rated.
Swim (and dive) the extra mile with the Apple Watch Ultra
You might have noticed that Apple recommends the Apple Watch Ultra to be used for recreational scuba diving up to 40 metres, despite the watch being water resistant up to 100 meters. That’s because the onboard sensors only have gauges that measure depths down to a maximum of 131 feet (40 meters), which also happens to be the max depth to which recreational divers are certified to descend, according to divein.com.
For snorkelling, underwater pool swims, and shallow free-diving, you’ll have to familiarise yourself with the Depth app on your Apple Watch Ultra – it shows the current time, your current depth, the session's maximum depth while you've been underwater and the water temperature.
As Apple explains, the Depth app can open automatically when your Apple Watch Ultra is submerged, or you can start a session manually by opening the app or pressing the Action button if you have customised it for the dive session. You can choose whether the Depth app opens automatically when you set up your Apple Watch Ultra.
Better be safe than sorry
As capable as the Apple Watch Ultra is as a swimming and diving companion, it won’t change the fact that underwater activities are risky. Even the Depth app isn't a dive computer and doesn't provide decompression stop information, gas analysis or other recreational scuba diving functionality; wearing the watch won’t turn you into a diver, and proper training/supervision is essential for less experienced divers.
That said, in (or more like, on) the hands of experienced water aficionados, the Apple Watch Ultra can be a formidable diving and swimming partner. As a matter of fact, it’s probably one of the best swimming watches on the market right now. The 36-hour battery life might not rival the likes of Garmin Descent Mk2i, but it’s more than capable of providing information about time spent in water.
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Matt is a prolific fitness writer who covers everything from running shoes and watches to home weights and multi-gyms, You can often find him eating some sort of rice dish straight out of a plastic container, staring at an empty word document. When he isn’t writing fitness news, reviews and features for T3, TechRadar or Fit&Well, he’s probably out testing running shoes (wearing four fitness trackers simultaneously) or doing home workouts in his tiny flat.