Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra

The key differences between Apple Watch Ultra 2 and first gen Ultra
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As anticipated, Apple officially unveiled the Apple Watch Ultra 2 alongside the Apple Watch Series 9, giving us the latest generation of its smartwatch built for divers, endurance sport lovers and anyone who just loves being outside.

For the new Watch Ultra 2, Apple it seems has focused mainly on making improvements on the performance and display front, all while harnessing the new software features announced in watchOS 10.

If you’re looking to get up to speed with what’s different from the Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Ultra 2, we’ve picked out the key details you need to know to help you do that. You're welcome.


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The Ultra 2 shares pretty much the same design language as the original Ultra. It still has a 49mm-sized case body and that extra customizable Action button you don’t get on the Apple Watch. So it's still the biggest Apple Watch you can slap on your wrist.

Apple has made some changes in the screen department the Ultra 2 includes an LTPO Retina display like the Ultra but crucially now offers 3,000 nits of brightness compared to the 2,000 nits offered on the display on the Apple Watch Ultra. 

So ultimately you'll gain something a little easier to read in brightly lit conditions and also in darker ones. It also gives the Ultra 2’s flashlight mode a bit of a boost, so if you liked that feature on the Ultra, it’s going to get brighter on the 2.

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Modular Ultra watch face

That improved screen also brings a new Modular Ultra watch face, which can display additional data around the edges of the display, like diving depth or altitude for those who like to cram their screen with stats.

The Ultra was built to be Apple’s most durable Watch and there’s no change in terms of how deep you can take the Ultra 2 or the elevation range it can operate at. Like the original, it’s dive-friendly up to 40 meters and can handle an elevation range of -500 to 9000 meters.

Apple also made plenty of noise about making its Watches carbon neutral, so when you pair it up with one of the new official Apple Watch Ultra Trail Loop or Alpine Loop straps, which now come in the same designs as the first Ultra bands (but now in different colors), it does make the Apple Watch Ultra 2 carbon neutral.

Software and performance

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The Watch Ultra 2 like all Apple Watches runs on watchOS and will run on watchOS 10 when it ships. That means it benefits from new features like glanceable widgets, new watch faces, Topo maps, new compass smarts, and more features for cyclists.

That Ultra 2 software will be powered by Apple’s new S9 SiP chipset, compared to the S8 one packed into the Watch Ultra. It’s 30% faster than the original Ultra’s chip and can offer a boost for features like Siri requests and does enable new features like being able to ask Siri about your fitness and health progress.

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Gesture control

With the new chip in place, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 also gains a new double-tap gesture feature where you can tap your index finger and thumb, which uses the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart rate sensors to detect the gesture to do things like handle calls or switch views in the Compass app if you don’t have a spare hand to reach for the screen while you’re climbing up a mountain. 

Alongside that new S9 setup, Apple’s added a new version of its Ultra wideband chip to improve the way you can ping your iPhone if you’ve forgotten where you put it down. 

Sports tracking

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Everything that was on the Ultra in terms of tracking your outdoor time, whether that's trail runs, dives, or hikes, is once again covered on the Ultra 2.

It still has the precision dual-frequency GPS mode that impressed us in our testing, and it is still suitable for diving, now with the added ability to save details of your dive data on the dedicated Watch app.

Thanks to watchOS 10, you can now connect Bluetooth-enabled cycling sensors for added metrics like speed and cadence, which will of course be supported on the original Ultra too.

Ultimately, there’s not a lot new here that the Ultra 2 gains over the Ultra when it comes to tracking modes and sensors that deliver those workout metrics.

Battery life

If you were hoping for more battery life on the Apple Watch Ultra 2, then you’re sadly out of luck. Apple has stuck to the same 36 hours in typical usage with an additional 72 hours in the same low-power mode offered on the first Ultra.

That does mean you’re getting the best battery life on an Apple Watch, but it’s still going to be roughly the same as what you could enjoy on the first gen Ultra.

Initial verdict

It’s fair to say that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 sounds like a modest update for Apple’s outdoor-centric smartwatch.

The main changes lie with that brighter screen and the new S9 and Ultra Wideband chip, with most of the software features announced set to land on the Ultra as well.

If you felt the performance of the Ultra was sluggish or you didn’t think the screen was bright enough for your adventures, then there might be reasons to upgrade. Ultimately though, it looks like the core tracking experience is going to be very similar.

TAGGED Apple Watch

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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