This year's Apple event is over, and the tech giant has finally lifted the lid on some of its most exciting products. Between revamped AirPods Pro 2, the iPhone 14, and the “Dynamic Island” of the iPhone 14 Pro that does away with the notch, there has been no shortage of talking points.
This powerful new fitness tracker is aimed at the hardest of hardcore athletes and explorers, with features that are aimed at those trekking across deserts, climbing mountains, and diving deep into the Earth’s oceans.
Yes, it cribbed some of Garmin’s best features (notably the GPS “breadcrumb” trail to help users find their way back to the start of a new route), but it certainly appears to be another win for Apple who had already opened the presentation speaking about how the Apple Watch has been the most popular fitness tracker in the world for seven years in a row.
And yet, it feels like there’s a missed opportunity here. The Apple Watch Ultra looks to be so impressive that it almost makes me, a regular gymgoer and casual cardio fan, wish I was an extreme ultramarathon runner who partakes in deep-sea diving. Why? Because it packs so much of what many (myself included) have wanted in the mainline Apple Watch Series models.
Make no mistake, Apple Watch is the most capable fitness tracker around and packs an incredible amount of functionality. Its Achilles heel, though, has been in its battery, which can make it tough to be prepared for sleep tracking.
Being able to enter a low power mode in watchOS 9 is a great start, but the Apple Watch Ultra does offer a much larger battery, boosted from a meagre 18 hours to a hefty-in-comparison 36. Given that much smaller (and admittedly less powerful) fitness trackers like the Huawei Band 7 offers a two-week battery life, the Apple Watch Ultra’s 36 hours at least feels closer to catching up, and can be extended to 60 hours.
Given the significant price jump from the Series 8 to the Apple Watch Ultra, you can likely expect to keep carrying your charging puck with you for the foreseeable.
Another big new addition is a second button, the Action button that’s programmable on the Apple Watch Ultra. Does the Apple Watch Series 8 need one? Probably not, but being able to make the existing side button more useful would be a result. the Action button is also designed for athletes to use on the fly, to pause or switch between workout modes.
At present, the Apple Watch side button opens the ‘dock’ which shows recent apps, but if you’re anything like me, you have the complications you use regularly on your watch face and flick through on the screen. That negates the need for a side button unless it was user-customizable. We’d love to be able to instantly pause music with it, or open a new note, or, well, anything.
So, while the new Series 8 looks great, it’d be fair to say that the Apple Watch Ultra is poised to take the limelight for a little longer. It'll all depend on how the devices review, and whether the impressive claims of the Apple Watch Ultra can live up to adventuring rivals like the Garmin Fenix 7.
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Lloyd Coombes is a freelance tech and fitness writer for TechRadar. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as Computer and Gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, and Live Science. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games at Dexerto.