The Apple Watch Ultra released earlier this year to fanfare and furore in equal measure.
The premise was simple: take the Apple Watch formula – which outsold the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019 – and boost everything. More rugged, bigger screen, better integration for extreme environments.
And it's worked. Online orders are experiencing quite a backlog, so if you want an Apple Watch Ultra, you might have to visit an Apple Store. But general impressions, so far, seem to be good.
As I look at my personal Apple Watch SE, which has navigated everything from the rigors of Monday night 5-a-side to swimming in the Atlantic, one question comes to mind: what would it take for me to justify paying almost four times more for the Ultra?
Apple Watch Ultra is undeniably brilliant
The Apple Watch Ultra takes everything you know about the Apple Watch and makes it bigger, better and more indestructible. That's a great proposition if you spend a lot of your time underwater, or in the wilderness.
The 49mm display is certainly on the large side, but that should help to see all of the available data when you're mid-workout.
The Action button helps to speed up your favourite processes, whether that's starting a workout, opening the depth app for diving or marking a waypoint on your hike. Holding it down emits an 86-decibel siren, which can be used to signal to those nearby that you are in distress. That's a great feature if you like to workout alone, but could also be a fantastic deterrent for unsavoury situations in the real world.
Ultimately, the upgrades make a lot more sense if you are involved in extreme sports, but durability and added screen real estate is never a bad thing.
But one thing needs to change
My one gripe with the Apple Watch Ultra is the same one I have with every iteration of the Apple Watch: battery life. It gets a boost here too; the giant battery allows 36 hours of use versus the 18 hours on the SE and Series 8 models.
Now neither of those figures are especially bad, until you look at the battery life for some of the best smartwatch options outside of Apple. Samsung models notch up 40 hours or more, but competitors from Garmin, Fitibit and more see over a week of use.
Apple have made substantial leaps in battery life for phones and laptops over the last few years, and now their watch collection is crying out for the same treatment.
The official announcement does note a 60 hour option via a low power mode, which will come in a later update. It remains to be seen just how much functionality will be disabled to enable this, but it's a step in the right direction.
If the Apple Watch Ultra was the first to offer a week-long battery life, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. Granted, the 49mm case might look ridiculous on my smaller wrists, and the hiking and diving features may as well be preparing me for a moon landing, for all the use they'd get. But ridding myself of charge anxiety would trump those points.