In yesterday’s YouTube video, I revealed that I will not be reviewing the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

There aren’t enough meaningful updates to warrant investing a not-insignificant chunk of my silly season review unit budget into Apple’s latest flagship wearable.


Actually, I’m not sorry – this doesn’t make the Apple Watch Ultra 2 a bad device – it remains one of the most exciting, silly, and utterly desirable products Apple makes.

The launch of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 also raises a very important question which, I suspect, many people are now asking.

What’s right for you out of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra 1?

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra 1: Price

There’s some very good news about the Apple Watch Ultra 2 if you live in the UK. It’s cheaper than the previous version at launch!

This doesn’t happen very often, but it appears the UK has been dealt a slightly kinder hand with the exchange rates this time around. Apple has chosen a direct conversion from USD to GBP, which makes the Apple Watch Ultra 2 $799 and £799, respectively. Last year, UK shoppers were asked to pay £849.

So, It’s £50 cheaper over here. Nice.

But there’s even better news. Prices for the Apple Watch Ultra 1 are already tumbling. At the time of writing, although I can’t find any Apple Watch Ultras on the official Apple refurb store, it can be had for £669 at retailers such as Amazon and John Lewis.

Due to the marginal differences between these two models, the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra is quickly feeling like an absolute bargain.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra 1: Design

There are no design differences between these two watches. They both feature the same ultra-light (and it is surprisingly light) titanium case and sapphire crystal display.

Both have the international orange action button and an encased digital crown. They’re IP6X dust resistant and can plunge to a 100m depth underwater. They also accept the same watch bands, including Apple’s new line of carbon-neutral straps.

I’ve always said that the Apple Watch Ultra is a devilishly handsome device. It’s too large for some tastes (the Apple Watch Ultra 2 retains the single 49mm size) but it’s hard not to be impressed by its presence.

I just wish Apple had introduced another colour option this time around!

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra 1: Chip

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is powered by the all-new S9 SiP (system in a chip). This replaces the S8 chip that was found in the first generation.

The S9 comes with 5.6 billion transistors, which is 60% more than the previous generation and a new four-core neural engine which makes the machine learning capabilities of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 twice as fast.

Will the Apple Watch Ultra 2 feel faster than the Apple Watch Ultra 1? No. It can’t; the first generation is already super smooth and lag-free – even 12 months after release. What the S9 does introduce, however, is on-device Siri responses and Precision Finding for your iPhone.

This means your Apple Watch Ultra 2 won’t need access to the cloud to process certain Siri commands, and you’ll be able to find your iPhone more easily if you misplace it nearby.

Then, we have ‘double tap’ which is, according to Apple, a “magical new way to control your Apple Watch using a simple double tap gesture”. This is instigated by tapping your forefinger and thumb together, twice. There is some confusion about how ‘new’ this feature actually is, due to the fact it appears to have existed in the watchOS accessibility settings for some time, but one must assume that the S9 chip at least makes it more reliable or accurate. Who knows?

Are these updates worth it? Not for me. But if any of them catch your eye, you at least have the option now.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra 1: Display

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 features Apple’s brightest display ever. It peaks at a frankly ridiculous 3,000 nits when in direct sunlight. For reference, the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra tops out at 2,000 nits. Which is still very bright.

The new Ultra is just as capable in the other direction, too. It dims to just 1 nit for low-light situations. I can’t find a reference to what the first generation’s lowest brightness is, but we can assume it’s not quite as low as that.

The display size is the same on both smartwatches at 49mm, as is the 410×502 resolution. Beyond the brightness, the only other difference between these two is the fact that ‘Knight Rider Mode’, as I’ve coined it, can be set to come on automatically in low light situations on the Apple Watch Ultra 2. This turns the entire display a deep shade of red and it is painfully cool. Automating this is a smart idea.

The big question is: does the new Modular Ultra watch face work on the Apple Watch Ultra 1? As confirmed by several Reddit threads – yes, it does! Thank you, Apple. That means we can all experience more glanceable information on our wrist than ever before.

If you need extreme brightness and 2,000 nits just isn’t enough, the relatively significant step-up between the Apple Watch Ultra 1 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 will be very welcome indeed.

For everyone else, there’s just not enough on offer here, display-wise, to make the additional expense worth it.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra 1: Battery life

As much as I enjoy Apple’s product launch presentations, I do wish they were a little clearer with their messaging at times.

At this year’s ‘Wonderlust’ event, confusion reigned over what felt like touted new features that were, in fact, anything but. However, there was also at least one instance where Apple didn’t shout loud enough about a genuinely new update.

One such upgrade appears to lie within the Apple Watch Ultra 2. It possesses the same 36 hours of battery life as its predecessor, but the stamina on offer in low-power mode has increased by 12 hours to a total of 72 hours. I missed this in my reaction video – apologies.

Is this enough to make me renege on my decision not to review the Apple Watch Ultra 2? I’m afraid not. That regular battery duration needs to improve if I’m to invest time testing it out in the wild; the low power mode option is too vague in terms of how many features and metrics it disables to make it interesting (it’s the ‘last ditch’ power setting I’d rather avoid when hiking).

So, when it comes to battery, it remains a dead heat in my book.


This was never going to be a big update for the Apple Watch Ultra – this is an Apple device which is barely a year old, after all.

Apple has, therefore – and entirely understandably – been very cautious with the tweaks undertaken beneath the hood of the Apple Watch Ultra 2. I’m disappointed by the lack of meaningful improvements to battery life, and a black version would genuinely have tempted me to buy one to review. But there’s good news if you’re looking to buy an Apple Watch Ultra.

You now have a choice.

If the additional display brightness (and dimming ability), on-device Siri processing, and presence of the latest Apple Watch chip excites you, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 will be one of your favourite purchases this year.

If none of those things matters, just save yourself some money and pick up a first-generation Apple Watch Ultra!

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