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Apple Watch Ultra – pros and cons of Apple’s “extreme” watch

Is bigger always better? We dig into what’s good – and not so good – about Apple’s priciest wearable

It’s all-change with Apple Watch this year. The Series 3 is history, long after it should have been. The Apple Watch SE is now the entry level model, and the Series 8’s above it. But at the top of the line is the Apple Watch Ultra.

Apple says this newcomer is “inspired by the most extreme activities,” resulting in a “revolutionary new design and breakthrough capabilities.” But is every change Apple made a success, or does the Ultra fall short? Let’s find out.

Pro: A big, flat screen

The 49mm display is bigger than any other Apple Watch’s – and flat, so it’s easier to use, whatever you’re doing. It’s much brighter than the Series 8’s too – great in sunlight, and also in the dark, given that it can double as a flashlight.

Con: It’s big and bulky

If you’ve a thing for large watches, the Ultra’s relative heft might not matter. Otherwise, you might not be keen on the prominent titanium guard – and the Ultra weighing 60% more than an aluminum Series 8.

Pro: Designed for the great outdoors

Beyond the guard (to stop accidental Digital Crown presses while wearing gloves), there’s a screen lip to protect the display, enhanced GPS, 100m water resistance, night mode, extra mics and speakers for superior audio, and an emergency siren. Ideal for sport, hiking, and not getting lost in a forest.

Con: It’s still linked to a iPhone

This watch wants you to get away from everything, but it can’t get away from the iPhone – at least, not for long. With GPS, the Ultra can work independently for a time, but it remains reliant on an iPhone for set-up, data sync and back-up, which seems absurd.

Pro: There’s a new button

The Ultra has the Digital Crown and side button. And there’s a second button on the left. This Action button, colored orange, is configurable. We’d love that to come to other Apple Watches – and, come to think of it, iPhones and iPads.

Con: The price

Ultra watch. Ultra price. If you want Apple’s high-end wearable, it’ll set you back $799/£849. You could get two Series 8 GPS watches for that – or a single cellular model for $300/£320 less.

Pro: The battery is better…

Apple claims the Ultra’s battery life is double that of the Series 8’s – 36 hours. But many people have been getting longer durations between charges – sometimes up to three days. That’s a big deal for typical day-to-day use.

Con: … But not enough for some

That said, lots of cellular data or heavy exercise can more rapidly drain the battery, leading to the question of – ironically – whether the Ultra could suit a 100km ultra marathon. It certainly can’t match some Garmin watches, which go for 100+ hours between charges.

Should you get an Apple Watch Ultra?

For most, an Apple Watch Ultra is overkill and unnecessary. But that’s killjoy thinking. Even if you’re not big into extreme sport or hiking, decide whether you want to spend this much on an Apple Watch and if you like how it looks. Should those thoughts nag, it’s probably not for you.

But if you’ve always fancied a bigger Apple Watch screen, a more durable Apple Watch case, or a longer-lasting Apple Watch battery, it could be a good buy. And if you’re an extreme sport type, the Ultra might lack a Garmin’s battery clout, but it still has an awful lot else to make it worthy of consideration.