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Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: should you upgrade?

Renders of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Ultra next to each other.
Digital Trends

Apple has once again asserted its dominance in the premium smartwatch market by launching the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which replaces the previous model, the original Apple Watch Ultra, after just a year. While the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra was groundbreaking, the latest model is more of an incremental upgrade, with only minor tweaks.

If you own the earlier version of the Apple Watch Ultra, you might be wondering whether it’s worth upgrading to the new one. This question will need to address two central issues: 1) whether you plan on utilizing the fresh features and 2) whether or not you mind paying for the somewhat pricey new device.

Boasting the largest and most brilliant Apple Watch display to date, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is packed with fresh features, including a brand-new S9 chipset. Moreover, this model comes equipped with a distinct Apple Watch face. As a bonus, users can look forward to a highly anticipated double-tap finger gesture, just like the Apple Watch Series 9.

Here’s a detailed comparison between the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and the original Apple Watch Ultra to help you decide whether it’s worth upgrading.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: specs

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Apple Watch Ultra
Display 49mm titanium case size

Always-On Retina display

Up to 3,000 nits

410 by 502 pixels

1,185 sq mm display area

49mm titanium case size

Always-On Retina display

Up to 2,000 nits

410 by 502 pixels

1185 sq mm display area

Processor S9 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor
W3 wireless chip
4-core Neural Engine
S8 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor
W3 wireless chip
4-core Neural Engine
Speakers Dual speakers and a three-mic array with beamforming and wind noise mitigation Dual speakers and three-mic array with beamforming
Storage Capacity 64GB Capacity 32GB
Battery Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery Up to 36 hours Up to 72 hours low power mode Fast charging Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery Up to 36 hours Up to 60 hours low power mode Fast charging
Dimensions and weight
49mm x 44mm x 14.4mm
61.4 grams
49mm x 44mm x 14.4mm
61.3 grams
Software watchOS 10 watchOS 9 (upgradeable to watchOS 10)
Sensors Blood oxygen sensor

Electrical heart sensor

Third-generation optical heart sensor

Ambient light sensor

Water temperature sensor

Blood oxygen sensor

Electrical heart sensor

Third-generation optical heart sensor

Ambient light sensor

Water temperature sensor

Connectivity Cellular connectivity on GPS + Cellular model

Cellular connectivity waypoints

Supports Family Setup

International roaming

Second-generation Ultra Wideband chip

Wi-Fi 4

Bluetooth 5.3

Cellular connectivity on GPS + Cellular model

Cellular connectivity waypoints

Supports Family Setup

International roaming

U1 chip
(Ultra Wideband)
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Bluetooth 5.3
Material and colors  Natural titanium Natural titanium
Durability 100-meter water resistance

Recreational dive to 40 meters

Certified IP6X dust resistant

Tested to MIL-STD 810H

100-meter water resistance

Recreational dive to 40 meters

Certified IP6X dust resistant

Tested to MIL-STD 810H

Price $799 $799

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: design

<entity>Apple Watch Ultra</entity> 2 bands.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 Apple

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a smartwatch almost identical in design to its predecessor, right down to its natural titanium case. The only noticeable difference is the new bands that come with it. The good news is that these new bands work with the Ultra 2 and the first-generation Ultra.

The Apple Watch Ultra with Wayfinder watch face.
Apple Watch Ultra Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

One feature sets the Apple Watch Ultra 2 apart from its predecessor: a unique watch face. The new Modular Ultra watch face is the highlight of this smartwatch. It uses the outer edge of the device to display real-time data such as seconds, altitude, and depth. The watch face has been designed to be highly customizable, offering more options than any other digital face from Apple. This means you can personalize it to your liking, whether you’re into sports, outdoor activities, or water-based pursuits.

The good news? The new watch face should also come to the original Apple Watch Ultra, so if you love the watch face but don’t feel like spending another $799 just to get it, you won’t have to.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: display

Apple Watch Ultra 2 nits
Apple

So, here’s the deal: Both Apple Watch Ultra models have a slick 49mm titanium case with a super-fly Retina display that’s always on. The display is 410 by 502 pixels, with a similar display area on both. But the new Apple Watch Ultra 2 has a brighter display than the old Apple Watch Ultra. We’re talking 3,000 nits of brightness instead of 2,000 that was previously offered. That’s a full 50% more brightness, which is major. It means you can easily read your screen even in the bright sun, and if you spend a lot of time outdoors, that’s a big deal.

And, get this: if you’re in a dimly lit room, the screen on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 can lower itself to just one nit — something that’s great for not disturbing someone else in the room early in the morning. You can also temporarily double the brightness by rotating the Apple Watch Ultra 2’s Digital Crown, which is pretty darn sweet.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: internal hardware

Apple Watch Ultra 2 dual gesture example
Apple

The Apple Watch Ultra 2, much like its cousin, the Apple Watch Series 9, is loaded with the advanced S9 SiP, providing various system improvements. Thanks to Apple’s 4-core Neural Engine, the S9 chip unlocks new features for your enjoyment. Among them is the ability to use Siri on the device itself, allowing you to securely and privately access and store your health data straight from your Apple Watch. What’s even more impressive is that requests that don’t require an internet connection will still be processed without Wi-Fi or cellular data.

According to Apple, the upgraded Neural Engine results in a 25% boost in accuracy for speech recognition. A new double tap gesture will also be introduced in a future watchOS update, giving you the power to execute various everyday actions with just one hand using your index finger and thumb. That’s right, without even touching the watch’s display! And as if that wasn’t enough, the double tap gesture also allows you to access the Smart Stack from the watch face, while another double tap allows you to scroll through the widgets in the stack smoothly.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 also has an extra feature that teams up with the watch’s second-gen Ultra Wideband chip called Precision Finding. This feature works with the Find My app and helps you locate your lost iPhone or other gear in a jiffy. When you activate Precision Finding, you get visual, haptic, and audio cues, plus details on how far away and which way to go to find your lost tech. No more tearing up the house looking for your stuff! Finally, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 also includes double the storage compared to the original Apple Watch Ultra; instead of 32GB, you’ll receive 64GB. That means you can store more photos, music, and podcasts directly on your wrist.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: battery

Activating Low Power Mode on an Apple Watch Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When the first Apple Watch Ultra was introduced, one of its standout features was its considerably improved battery life. While the regular Apple Watch could only guarantee 18 hours, the original Apple Watch Ultra promised an impressive 36 hours between charges. With the release of the Apple Watch Ultra 2, this number remains the same, but there’s a new change to the low-power mode. Apple promises 72 hours this time instead of the previous 60, which is no small feat.

While it’s unfortunate that the maximum battery life hasn’t increased for normal usage, it’s worth noting that it’s still twice what the Apple Watch Series 9 can deliver at only 18 hours. Both Apple Watch Ultra models support fast charging, which makes charging relatively pain-free.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: health and fitness

A person cycling while wearing an Apple Watch Ultra 2
Apple

The original Apple Watch Ultra was built to handle all types of outdoor workouts, while the latest version, the Apple Watch Ultra 2, offers even more features for those who enjoy water sports and mountain climbing. Like its predecessor, the new wearable device is perfect for kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and recreational scuba diving, with the ability to go as deep as 40 meters. The updated Oceanic app also includes freediving as a new option.

Additionally, the Depth app on the new watch lets you save logs of your sessions and review them later, complete with GPS coordinates accessible through the Fitness app on your iPhone. The new watchOS 10 update has several health and fitness features available on both versions of the Apple Watch Ultra. This includes better cycling workouts with Live Activity on iPhone, an updated Compass app that shows your elevation and a 3D view of waypoints, new topographic maps in the Maps app, mental health support tools, and more.

Any new fitness features on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 should be coming to the Apple Watch Ultra soon, seeing how both models use the exact same health/fitness sensors.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: environmental impact

Apple's goal to being carbon neutral by 2030 for all its products
Apple

Apple has announced its ambitious goal to attain carbon neutrality for all its products by 2030. The company has already made significant progress in this direction by achieving this feat for its Apple Watch, with certain case and band combinations for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 now being carbon-neutral. Apple has utilized 95% recycled materials in the titanium case to achieve this. Moreover, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 uses several materials, including tungsten in the Taptic Engine, rare earth elements in all magnets, and tin in the solder of multiple printed circuit boards crafted from 100% recycled materials.

Other materials in this new watch with this distinction include gold in the plating of several printed circuit boards, foil in the main logic board, copper wire in the Taptic Engine, and cobalt in the battery. For your Apple Watch Ultra 2 purchase to be carbon-neutral, you must purchase one with one of Apple’s new Alpine Loop or Trail Loop bands.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: price and availability

Apple Watch Ultra 2 price information.
Apple

You can preorder the Apple Watch Ultra 2 from the Apple website. The first orders will arrive to customers beginning on Friday, September 22. If you’re hoping to get your hands on the original Apple Watch Ultra, unfortunately, it’s no longer available for purchase through Apple.

However, don’t lose hope just yet. You may still be able to find one at discounted prices from retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon for the foreseeable future. Both Apple Watch Ultra models are priced at $799.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: a worthy upgrade?

Overview of new features for the Apple Watch Ultra 2.
Apple

Before Apple introduced the Apple Watch Ultra 2, the rumor mill said the biggest difference between it and the original model would be the case color. As the story went, the new watch would feature a dark titanium finish versus the natural titanium finish found on the older model. That didn’t happen.

Instead, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is packed with modest changes compared to its predecessor. Most of these changes are internal and center around its new S9 SiP, though other upgrades — like double the storage and a 50% brighter display — are also nice to see.

Do these changes justify upgrading from the Apple Watch Ultra to the Apple Watch Ultra 2? For most people, probably not. A faster processor, brighter display, and new gestures are very cool indeed. But is that all worth spending another $799 this year? We don’t think so. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is absolutely worth it if you’re buying your first Apple Watch Ultra, but for anyone rocking the first model, you’re better off waiting to see what Apple has to offer next year.

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Bryan M. Wolfe
Bryan M. Wolfe has over a decade of experience as a technology writer. He writes about mobile.
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