Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Should you upgrade?

Apple Watch Ultra 2 double tap gesture

Apple has unveiled its new generation of Smart watches, and as expected the whole range is receiving an update. Alongside the Apple Watch Series 9, the tech giant showcased a sequel to its premium adventure-focused smartwatch, the Apple Watch Ultra.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 builds on the solid foundation its predecessor laid down, and brings a host of useful new features to the party. There are areas where the watch has received a noticeable upgrade, such as with screen brightness and offline capability, and it comes with everything the original Apple Watch Ultra has on top of that. Underpinning everything is a powerful piece of Apple Silicon. The S9 chip adds a host of new sensory capabilities, and a staggering 30% performance boost when compared with Series 8 watches and the original Ultra.

But is the upgrade worth the $800 price tag? Or are you better off saving your funds until a newer generation brings even more to the table? Let’s break down the differences and see if the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is right for you.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 running
Apple / Apple

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is more suited to adventure

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is better at the sort of thing the original “Ultra” was designed for, and that’s traveling, hiking, diving, and all round adventures. The improvement goes beyond the fact that the watch will allegedly function both on top of Earth’s highest mountain, and below the deepest depth a human diver has ever hit. Those extremes are essentially useless to every human being who is going to strap on an Apple Watch Ultra 2.

If you live a bit closer to reality, and engage in recreational climbing or diving, the Apple Watch 2’s features are very useful. The original Ultra is incapable of tracking dives, but the Ultra 2 will log them just as easily as it does runs. Then there are the hand gestures, which may be helpful if you’re clinging to a cliff face and need to navigate your watch, answer a call, or shuffle a song.

In terms of battery life, things are pretty much the same where it counts. You’ll get 36 hours with average use, and this alone may be enough to sway less adventurous people to one of Apple’s premium, outdoors-focused watches. The battery has improved in one department, and the improvement may benefit outdoors types. On low power mode, you’ll now have up to 72 hours of juice in the tank. While most of the useful features will be disabled in low power mode, it will help you nurse the watch through a camping trip or through hike.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Night Mode
Apple / Apple

A difference you can see

Screen brightness has received a significant boost, and now stands at 3,000 nits. This will really help out hikers and other lovers of the outdoors who struggle to see the display on particularly sunny days. When compared to the original Ultra, the new display is an impressive 50% brighter when you crank it all the way up. A night mode kicks in when things get dark, and that also enhances visibility.

The display is also larger, although its size has only increased by 1mm overall, which is almost unnoticeable. What is noticeable is the fact Apple is using more of the display, with many widgets and apps pushing right to the edge on the new watch.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2
Many of the updates are generational, not Ultra specific

Siri is now available offline, thanks to the improved chip powering the Apple Watch Ultra 2. So even if you’re wandering through the woods, with no signal, you can still benefit from some version of the voice assistant. The added security that comes with going offline means Siri can now be trusted with your health data, so expect a huge boost in functionality and usability there. The S9 chip’s processing capabilities have improved voice commands too, so Siri will get confused noticeably less. Around 25% less if Apple’s predictions are correct.

It is worth noting that the new gestures, health features, and offline version of Siri are available on the significantly cheaper Apple Watch 9 — but if you own an Ultra there is a reason you bought that instead of the Apple Watch Series 8. Those reasons still apply.

Apple has held the price point for its new premium watch at $799, so if you don’t already have an Ultra it’s an obvious choice. When it comes to upgrading, you should probably look at how you’ve used your current Apple Watch Ultra and see if the new version will really improve anything for you.

If you’re a diver, there’s an obvious benefit. If you often find yourself struggling to see the watch’s display in sunlight, there’s a solid reason to upgrade. But if your current watch doesn’t seem to be lacking, you’re probably better off hanging onto it and spending the $800 elsewhere.

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