How Good Is the Apple Watch Ultra? Lifestyle Features Up Close – Bands™

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How Good Is the Apple Watch Ultra? Lifestyle Features Up Close

Posted by Elizabeth Sullivan on

From new fitness technology to life saving tools for adventurous types, there are a lot of ways the Apple Watch Ultra and iPhone 14 might change the way you have fun. Apple Inc.’s newest devices are designed to help you be more adventurous outdoors, become a better content creator, and—according to the company—keep yourself alive.

That’s the vibe I got after testing the new iPhone 14 lineups, Apple Watch Ultra, and AirPods Pro 2—Apple’s latest top-of-the-line products. They’re expensive, yes, but many will feel the new offerings make them worth the money.

Apple is releasing three new watch models (Apple Watch SE, Series 8, and Ultra), two iPhone models (the 14 and 14 Pro, each in two sizes), and the second-generation AirPods Pro. As a Bloomberg Pursuits journalist who focuses on lifestyle products, I’m going to home in on those packed with the most features and therefore the priciest ones—the Apple Watch Ultra (from $799) and iPhone 14 Pro (from $999).

Apple Watch Ultra

With a 49mm titanium case and a rugged appearance, the Apple Watch Ultra is not your ordinary smartwatch. Yes, it has all the features other Apple Watches have, but it’s able to handle extreme outdoor conditions.

The customizable “action button,” available only on the Apple Watch Ultra, is on the left side of the device and coated in a color called “international orange.” It’s a new hardware addition to make the watch easier to navigate. By pressing the physical button, you can track workout intervals, start up a built-in diving computer (the Oceanic+ app by Huish Outdoors LLC, available this fall, which automatically launches after you submerge, and calculates and monitors dive parameters), set up a stopwatch, or drop waypoints—geographical pinpoints—along your route.

Coupled with dual-frequency GPS, the waypoints feature allows anyone from hikers to people living in dense urban areas to accurately document the locations they’ve been to and retrace the route they took in case they get lost. Although I didn’t go into the woods to test the GPS system, the working of the function felt intuitive. One push on the action button will drop a pin on the location you’re at, and a simple scroll of the crown on the watch’s right side can take you to the previous point you dropped. Selecting the “Backtrack” function within the Action Button app will map the route you’ve taken.

The regular Apple Watch Series 8 also has the upgraded compass that allows waypoint dropping and backtracking, but it requires more manual maneuvering without the action button—which is probably fine for many folks who don’t worry about getting lost in the wilderness on a regular basis.

In a noisy environment—say, because of the harsh wind on a mountaintop or the hustle and bustle of a big city—the Apple Watch Ultra has an upgraded microphone system to pick up your voice for clear phone calls, as well as a new speaker that can blast a loud emergency siren that Apple says can be heard up to 600 feet, or 180 meters, away. (The demonstrator at the presentation said it was too loud to test there.) Another lifesaving function, also available for the Series 8, is a new sensor to detect a car crash and notify emergency services.

Along with older features for tracking sleep, ECG, heart rate, and blood oxygen, both watch models added two sensors, one on the back of the device and the other inside and behind the display, to discern changes in body temperature. Apple pitches the feature as a family planning tool: By wearing the watch all the time, women can track their ovulation cycles (after it analyzes at least two months of temperature readings) and decide on the best time to get pregnant. The idea seemed cool, but I have reservations about wearing a chunky device on my wrist to bed. And to voluntarily relinquish so much data and control to a piece of technology gave me a bit of Black Mirror flashbacks.

The Apple Watch Ultra, priced at $799, can also sustain 36 hours of battery life, or 60 hours on a low power setting, endure temperatures from -4F to 131F, and remain water-resistant to a depth of 100 meters.