Apple Watch Ultra Review Crackberry HeroSource: Nirave Gondhia

The Apple Watch has been the leader in the smartwatch industry for as long as I can remember, but there's always been a series of compromises and pitfalls that meant it wasn't quite perfect.

Whether it was the battery life not living up to Apple's full claims, the workout tracking or just the overall ruggedness, the stainless steel Apple Watch (the more expensive of the two latest gen models until this year) usually felt like it wasn't quite the flagship that the Apple Watch needed. Yes, there was the ludicrously priced Apple Watch Edition or Hermes Edition – albeit only ludicrously priced if you valued form over function – which added fancy materials without improving the actual substance of the Apple Watch itself.

Fast forward to two weeks ago and Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Ultra. After two weeks, Kevin and I both say that this is an absolute smash hit. It's the best smartwatch that exists on the market right now, it's very reasonably priced and it ticks every box. The funniest thing about our feelings? Neither of us is an Ultra marathon runner, or Tough Mudder enthusiast. Instead, the Apple Watch Ultra has proven to be perfect for us despite us not being Apple's target customer, and that's why this is perfect for everyone, not just those who are Ultra in their fitness.

If you value 2-3 day battery life with full usage – and considerably more if you limit some of the notifications etc – great durability, easy access to your workouts and all the health features you could want, look no further than the Apple Watch Ultra. At a price of $799, it's only $50 more than the stainless steel Apple Watch Series 8 for what is, objectively, a much better smartwatch. I should know – I bought both of them and stopped using the Series 8 as soon as my Apple Watch Ultra arrived a week later.

Tita Orange Alpine Loop S Hero Zoom

Apple Watch Ultra

4.5

Bottom line: Whether you are an ultra-marathoner, outdoor adventurer, busy executive who needs excellent battery life and constant access to notifications, someone with health concerns or just someone who wants the best wearable right now, look no further than the Apple Watch Ultra.

The Good

  • Fantastic battery life
  • Excellent health features
  • Customizable action button
  • Super bright display
  • Incredible health features

The Bad

  • Large size
  • Expensive for many people
  • Alpine Band is not great

Apple Watch Ultra: Price and availability

Apple Watch Ultra Review CrackberrySource: Nirave Gondhia

The Apple Watch Ultra costs $799 including one of three different band choices – spoiler alert, I personally hate them and have already gone back to my metal links band – which may seem expensive, but isn't much more than the stainless steel model, which costs $699 plus the band (or $799 including the milanese loop band).

For effectively the same price, you get a titanium enclosure, better fitness tracking, a much larger battery, an action button, a better design – at least in my opinion – and an overall better product. The net result – there's little reason to buy the Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 8 when the Apple Watch Ultra exists.

Apple Watch Ultra: Why we LOVE it

Apple Watch Ultra Review Crackberry Apple Watch Ultra Review Crackberry Apple Watch Ultra Review CrackberrySource: Nirave Gondhia

Kevin and I both agree that the Apple Watch Ultra is the perfect Apple Watch, but differ on the reasons we love the product. Aside from the basic health aspects – which we both love – I am heavily focused on the deeper health aspects of the Apple Watch – a byproduct of a heart attack and spinal surgery in the 12 months before I turned 35 – while Kevin is a mechanical watch lover who has finally found a smartwatch that can cut it on his wrist.

The net result is that the Apple Watch Ultra will appeal to different people for different reasons, but the key thing is that it can appeal to different people. As Kevin puts it:

The Apple Watch Ultra may have been designed for ultra-marathoners and outdoor adventurers, but the group of people who will appreciate this watch just as much (or even more) are those of us who love wearing a proper mechanical watch.

That's the crux of why we both love the Apple Watch Ultra: it has different appeal for different people, but the crucial part is that it can appeal to many people. As Kevin continued:

Over the past 15 years, my left wrist has typically been occupied by heftier watches like a Panerai Luminor, Omega Planet Ocean or Bell & Ross BR-01-97. I also own a few smaller mechanical watches, including a Rolex Daytona, but I don't find myself wearing them that often even though some of these are the priciest of the bunch. When I look down at my wrist, it's not about the price tag of the watch sitting there, but the feeling I get while wearing it and seeing it when I look down at my wrist. It's tough to explain, but having the right watch on your wrist evokes an emotional response. There's some sort of magic combination of weight, materials and overall look combined that makes it work or not.

Suffice it to say, the Apple Watch has never worked for me. I've attempted converting to the Apple Watch several times over the years, but it's never lasted more than a few weeks before I end up going back to a traditional watch on my left wrist and a Fitbit on my right wrist for fitness tracking. The closest Apple has come to winning over my watch wrist was the Apple Watch Edition Ceramic - but it looked much better on my wife's wrist so I gave it to her.

Apple Watch Ultra Review CrackberrySource: Nirave Gondhia

Enter the Apple Watch Ultra. Finally. It took them eight years, but this is first Apple Watch that actually deserves to be called a Watch. I'm actually a bit smitten by it. It's properly thickkk. It's just heavy enough to feel substantial (I wouldn't mind a tad more weight to it), and the overall look of it between the size, shape, button guard and various strap options pull together an object that I can't help but catch myself glancing at through the day.

It feels good on the wrist. It's comfortable enough that I can still wear it at the computer while typing away - which is a benefit over some of my heavier watches where I find I do tend to take them off while typing. While I typically don't like wearing fitness trackers while I sleep, I have worn the Ultra to bed a handful of times now and had no issues sleeping through the night with it on my wrist.

Overall, this is an Apple Watch I actually want to wear and keep on my wrist. That's a MASSIVE pivot from every other Apple Watch I've tried where it felt alien and like it just didn't belong.

The Apple Watch Ultra is the perfect health companion for me, and I won't live without one on my wrist.

The Apple Watch Ultra is my ideal smartwatch because of its health features, but most of these aren't unique to the Ultra. What makes this particular model special is that it solves the biggest issue with the Apple Watch for me: the battery life.

The other Apple Watch models lack the physical battery capacity to do everything that Apple promises and still deliver two day battery life, which is the bare minimum in my opinion that a smartwatch should offer. The extra heft on the Apple Watch Ultra is accompanied by a much larger battery, which results in excellent battery life. Yes, it's not 7 day battery like some other lesser smartwatches, but 2-3 day battery life is perfect for me.

Why do I care so much about this?

Since my heart attack in late 2020 – which was exacerbated by several months of stress when I lost my father and moved across the ocean back to the UK – I've been wearing my Apple Watch religiously. Incidentally, during those few months of stress, I switched away from the Apple Watch to my regular watch and wasn't actively monitoring my heart rate, despite several tell-tale signs.

I digress; I've been wearing my Apple Watch regliously. In fact, so religiously that I bought two Apple Watches because one wasn't enough. The health anxiety of the heart attack meant that I was always worried about a follow-up event, and having two Apple Watches actually saved me on one occasion where it prompted that I had an elevated heart rate and I rushed to the ER.

Apple Watch Ultra Review CrackberrySource: Nirave Gondhia

The biggest issue with the regular Apple Watch is that the battery life just wouldn't last a little more than a day. This always left me with the conundrum of when do I charge it, especially as it would take a while to charge. Do I charge it overnight, the time I always wanted my heart rate tracking? Or late in the evening when my heart rate was often elevated? Or in the morning where I ran the risk of forgetting it for a day? This was why I ultimately bought the fancy Stainless Steel model, as well as cheaper aluminum one.

The Apple Watch Ultra solves all of this for me. The battery lasts 2-3 days, it takes less than an hour to charge to full and a quick 30 minute charge each day is generally all it takes to ensure I never need to actually "charge" it to full. All of this to say that I actually only need a single Apple Watch now, and the Apple Watch Ultra is the one for me.

The Apple Watch Ultra literally has something for everyone, and this is why it's the perfect smartwatch for most people.

Beyond the battery life improvements, the display is also fantastic. The brightest display on an Apple Watch yet means it's great in all lighting conditions and I've never struggled to see it. I've also found that the heart rate monitoring is more precise than the Series 8 or other Apple Watch models, which is likely a side benefit of the precision fitness tracking the Apple Watch Ultra claims to offer and the key target market desires.

The actual Ultra specific fitness features are pointless for me; I don't scuba dive, I never run marathons (the spinal surgery means I can pretty much never run) but I do love the activity button which makes it easy to start or end a workout, or record a new lap/segment.

For me, the best thing about the Apple Watch Ultra is the knock on benefits to the core health offerings and the battery life. Yet, for someone else, the Apple Watch Ultra will appeal for entirely different reasons. This is the magic; there's literally something for everyone, and this is why it's the perfect smartwatch for most people.

Apple Watch Ultra: Where it could be improved

Apple Watch Ultra Review CrackberrySource: Nirave Gondhia

Like any product, there is room for improvement. First, the Alpine band is likely perfect for the intended fitness target market, but I personally found it to be clunky and kinda irritating, especially when you need to loosen the band, or take the watch off entirely. It's difficult to hook the latch into the band; not impossible, just hard enough to be frustrating. You can't buy it with any other band, but thankfully it uses the same bands that fit 44mm or 45mm Apple Watch models.

Support for customizing the Action Button is somewhat limited as well right now. By default, it opens the Workout or Dive app and there is the ability for third party developers to add support but it'll be a while until we see further additions to this. Right now, big fitness apps like Strava and Under Armour's Map My Run/Ride are yet to release Action Button support. Most importantly, I want to see the ability to customize this to open any app, run any Siri shortcut or essentially do anything I want it to do. If this eventually happens, the Action Button could be one of the best additions to the Apple Watch ever.

It's telling that our complaints and gripes are few and far between, and basically non-existent. The Apple Watch Ultra is so good that it's hard to find reasons to complain about it.

For Kevin, the limitations are mostly around design. Post-workout, he finds that he accidentally pushes the side button, but far less than on the non-Ultra Apple Watch models which don't feature the raised surround. In his ideal world, Apple would launch a small accessory that could completely cover the buttons and require the intentional decision to raise the cover in order to access them.

In the early Apple Watch days, the Apple Watch Edition and Apple Watch Hermes were the gold-bearing standards of the best Apple Watch on the market. The Apple Watch Ultra definitely takes on that mantel, but it's missing that luxury version. Where's the $16,000 Vertu-esque Apple Watch that contains everything that makes the Apple Watch Ultra special, while also offering all the luxurious materials? Granted this won't appeal to many people, but it would appeal to Kevin who said he'd pay an additional premium for the uber-luxurious Apple Watch Ultra, if Apple was to ever make one. Having lived in Dubai where flaunting your wealth is common, I have to agree that there is likely a market for such a product.

Yet, it's very telling that our complaints and gripes are few and far between, and – aside from the watch band which is a personal preference – basically non-existent. The Apple Watch Ultra is so good that it's hard to find reasons to complain about it.

Apple Watch Ultra: Should you buy it?

Apple Watch Ultra Review CrackberrySource: Nirave Gondhia

You should buy the Apple Watch Ultra if ...

  • You want an Apple Watch with excellent battery life
  • You need fantastic health and fitness tracking
  • You want the most durable Apple Watch

You shouldn't buy the Apple Watch Ultra if...

  • You are happy with current Apple Watch battery life
  • You have small wrists – this is a big watch
  • The price scares you – there are no deals and this is fairly expensive

4.5 5

Ultimately, the Apple Watch Ultra is the perfect smartwatch for so many people. A lot of people may be put off by its size, market positioning or price, but if you look past these, you'll find a smartwatch that's unrivaled right now.

Tita Orange Alpine Loop S Hero Zoom

Apple Watch Ultra

4.5

Bottom line: Whether you are an ultra-marathoner, outdoor adventurer, busy executive who needs excellent battery life and constant access to notifications, someone with health concerns or just someone who wants the best wearable right now, look no further than the Apple Watch Ultra.

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