If you’d told me 12 months ago that my Apple product of the year for 2022 was going to be an Apple Watch, I’d have laughed you out of the door.
That’s exactly what happened, though – and in the most unexpected of ways.
Somehow, during a year when we only received one new Mac (the brilliant-yet-flawed M2 MacBook Air), an utterly weird bunch of iPad releases, and a typically ‘meh’ new iPhone, the Apple Watch Ultra took us all by surprise.
Suddenly, we had this adventure-focused, balls-out Apple wearable that introduced most of the population to the hereto unknown ‘International’ shade of orange.
I’ve been wearing one since it first hit the shelves (given a week or two when I tested the Pixel Watch). Today, I’m going to reveal the truth about the Apple Watch Ultra – something only those who have spent considerable time with it will understand.
It’s refreshingly well-priced
If you max out the spec of an iPhone 14 Pro Max, you’ll pay £1,749 for it.
The Apple Watch Ultra costs £849. Apart from AppleCare+ (or the addition of an extra band), you can’t make it any more expensive.
These are vastly different devices and, I know – the Apple Watch Ultra needs an iPhone to work properly. But that isn’t the point. Apple could easily have priced the Apple Watch Ultra way beyond the reach of most conscientious people.
When I first heard the rumours of an ‘Apple Watch Pro’ (as it was referred to on the rumour mill) I immediately assumed this new device would cost north of £1,000. Apple has, after all, shown form here.
Remember the first Apple Watch Edition? In the UK, you could spend as much as £13,500 on that thing ($17,000 in the US). Thankfully, that ludicrously stupid version of Apple’s wearable didn’t last long, but there were Edition models that followed which could still set you back far beyond £1,000 if you picked the right (wrong?!) strap.
The Apple Watch Ultra is still expensive and requires lots of justification before buying one (no one on this planet needs an Apple Watch Ultra) but it is well priced for what you get, and that’s something you realise as soon as you lift it from its box.
I’ve got used to the battery
I’ve mentioned previously that the battery is the most important aspect of the Apple Watch Ultra, and I maintain that belief.
In fact, it’s the most important element of every Apple Watch.
This is a wrist-based computer which people rely on for communication, fitness tracking, notifications, and all sorts of life automation. Since day one, the Apple Watch has had no choice but to make it through an entire day without needing to be charged.
While it has always achieved that feat, it has never really been a two-day device. Every Apple Watch I’ve owned, until now, has needed a full charge each night to remove any form of battery anxiety the next day.
The Apple Watch Ultra removes that anxiety – bit it isn’t revolutionary when it comes to battery performance.
If you know me, you’ll know that I have zero interest in conducting comprehensive battery tests – I’d much rather go on feel, which I think results in far more realistic feedback on the stamina provided by these devices.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the Apple Watch Ultra is, comfortably, a two-day device. You’ll get more out of it if needed, sure, but don’t expect three days of battery life on a regular basis – particularly if you’re partial to the odd workout session.
What has impressed me is the fast-charging. This isn’t the only Apple Watch with that feature, but it makes a huge difference to the ownership experience – particularly when combined with the extended battery life offered by the Ultra.
I no longer charge my Apple Watch overnight – I simply top it up whenever it dips below 20%. That can be done while I’m taking a shower, sat at the desk writing, or chilling out on the sofa at night. It has become the norm for me and doesn’t feel like a burden at all.
Suddenly, Apple Watch battery management makes sense – and I can track my sleep every single night.
A word of warning for anyone looking to use this watch for ultra adventure, though – it still isn’t capable of delivering Garmin-like battery performance. There’s a new low-power battery mode, which I’ll be testing soon, but I have a feeling that turns off far too many features to make it worthwhile.
I’ll report back!
I’ve worked out who it’s for
This has always been the biggest conundrum for the Apple Watch Ultra.
Who on earth is it for?
After all, the best-in-class Apple Watch Series 8 and the brilliantly-priced Apple Watch SE fulfil the needs of most users.
Apple tells us that the “most rugged and capable Apple Watch ever” is for “athletes and adventurers of all kinds”.
There’s just one big problem with that – the aforementioned battery performance. This watch is still outpaced by virtually every other well-established fitness device on the market. Garmin, Casio, and Suunto (I had to look them up) have all been in this game this far longer and don’t burden their watches with quite as many features as the Apple Watch Ultra has to contend with.
So, I firmly maintain that if you see yourself in any of the ultra impressive people Apple proudly shows off in its Apple Watch Ultra marketing material, I’d buy a proper adventurer watch.
If, however, you’re a huge Apple fan and you love it when they go all-out on a product, the Apple Watch Ultra is absolutely for you. Providing you undertake the all-important wrist-compatibility test (please go and try one on in store before committing), it is impossible to be disappointed with the Apple Watch Ultra.
It’s as simple as that. Love Apple? Got £849 to easily spend on something that’s just ‘cool’? The Apple Watch Ultra is for you.
It’s one of Apple’s golden products (for us reviewers)
Reach, views, and engagement are never guaranteed in this reviews game, but there are some products that come mightily close to being sure-fire hits whenever you publish content related to them.
The MacBook Air is one such product, as is its desktop counterpart, the M1 Mac mini. So too are the AirPods Max. The iPhone, for as brilliantly dull and functional as it is, still draws in a big crowd.
The Apple Watch Ultra sits proudly among those Apple products. There’s something about it that creates intrigue among a huge audience. I doubt that many people within that audience will ever own one, but that’s the magic of Apple products like this – they’re aspirational and, above everything else, just fun to look and talk about.
As a full-time tech reviewer, I hope Apple has more products like this up its sleeve – particularly for 2023. If we need anything this year, it’s more outlandish devices that don’t need justification.
Wouldn’t you agree?
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Spot on. Got mine for Christmas. What to do with the old apple Watch? Trade it in for an iPad? I will never live up to it’s capabilities but I am encouraged. Actually the orange band is lower profile and better for working on my MacBook Pro.