Apple has entered the adventure chat. In addition to releasing the updated Apple Watch Series 8 this month, the tech giant is also launching a new watch that’s pushing boundaries. It’s not just any fitness tracker: the Apple Watch Ultra is a tool that can handle extreme environments, elevations, and temperatures — and it’s calling to anyone whose lifestyle is just as intense.
When I reached out to Apple to test one, it gently guided me back to the original Apple Watch series. The Ultra isn’t something you wear with the goal of “closing your rings.” It’s for the scuba divers, the triathletes, the mountain climbers, and the back-country skiers. It’s for the niche group of performance-driven, endurance-loving sports enthusiasts who act as modern-day explorers in their fitness pursuits.
For those who are ready to level up, the Ultra looks tough as hell and ready for any adventure you throw at it. The Apple Watch Ultra ($799) is available to preorder today; it will begin shipping and appear for sale in stores starting Friday, Sept. 23. Read more about the unique features ahead.
More Detailed Workout Stats
The Ultra offers up more advanced workout data on a larger display that lets you see up to six metrics at once, offering a ton of insights on your wrist even as you work out.
- Heart-Rate Zones: training zones are automatically calculated and personalized using your health data, or you can create them manually, so you can quickly see your intensity level.
- Running Form: add stride length, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation to your views to understand how efficiently you run.
- Track Detection: Ultra will know when you arrive at a track by utilizing Apple Maps and GPS and can provide more accurate pace, distance, and route data.
- Logging Segments and Intervals: customize a workout, mark a segment, or move to your next interval with the action button.
Better Navigation and Safety Features
Traditional GPS, which is used in the regular Apple Watch series, may have trouble with blocked satellites from tall buildings or dense foliage. Ultra’s GPS, with a more advanced antenna, works to give a more consistent signal with greater range, no matter the environment.
- Wayfinder: a redesigned compass that now includes elevation, incline, longitude, and latitude, and you can easily mark your spot.
- Backtrack: now you can retrace your steps with GPS data that will automatically create a path of where you’ve been (even when you’re off the grid).
- Siren: press and hold the action button to activate the siren, which emits an 86-decibel sound pattern to attract help that can be heard up to 600 feet away.
- Customizable Action Button: you can program this button to mark a Compass Waypoint, start Backtrack, control a workout, begin a dive, and more.
- Side Button: press and hold to access safety features like making an emergency call or retrieving your Medical ID.
- Depth Gauge: provides real-time measurement of underwater depth down to 40 meters.
Tougher Against the Elements
In an effort to balance weight and corrosion resistance, Apple opted to surround the face of the watch with a titanium case to protect it from scratches. The “Digital Crown,” as Apple calls it, is larger with a side button raised from the case, so you can access it even while wearing gloves. It’s water resistant up to 100 meters deep and dust resistant, and it can endure extreme temperatures from -4°F to 131°F.
The Apple Watch Ultra is being sold with one of three new bands, each of which is designed for a specific purpose:
- Alpine Loop: Designed for outdoor activities, this band is light and durable and made from two textile layers seamlessly woven together. The corrosion‑resistant titanium G‑hook slips smoothly into the reinforced loops for a secure fit.
- Trail Loop: Aimed at endurance athletes, this band is designed to be light, thin, and flexible. It features a fuss-free loop closure for quick adjustments during workouts.
- Ocean Band: Molded from fluoroelastomer rubber, this band — designed for water activities — is lightweight and flexible. It has a titanium buckle and a spring‑loaded titanium adjustable loop that secures through the tubes for a secure fit, even during high‑speed water sports. An attachable band extension allows you to wear it over a thick wet suit while diving or surfing.
Longer-Lasting, Brighter, and Louder
With the biggest and brightest display of any Apple Watch yet, there’s more room for metrics. Also, the always-on retina display means direct sunlight is no longer an issue, which makes it easier to view at any time of day. In the dark, the screen also has a special night mode for the compass.
And because the outdoors are rarely quiet, the Ultra gets a souped-up microphone and audio system that keeps the environment in mind. For example, in windy environments, an adaptive algorithm picks the best of three microphones for audio. Machine learning also filters noise for optimal voice clarity. A second speaker also improves audio volume for calls and Siri.
Ultra also has a longer battery life — 36 hours of normal use, compared to the regular Apple Watch’s 18 hours, and 60 hours on the low-power setting — so you don’t need to worry about being stuck with a dead watch. Apple says this feature is for the second day of a backpacking trip, the final leg of a triathlon, or diving along a coral reef — all activities in which both you and your watch need to have energy but charging is just not an option.