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I’m glad I never bought the Apple Watch Ultra 2

Modular Ultra watch face on an Apple Watch Ultra.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

When Apple launched the original Apple Watch Ultra in 2022, it wasn’t a complete surprise since Apple had been rumored to have a more “rugged” Apple Watch model coming for a couple of years. But what was surprising was just how good the original Apple Watch Ultra was — even for people who never plan to go scuba diving or climb a mountain.

In 2023, Apple released the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which is identical to the original on the surface. But on the inside, it has the new S9 chip for localized Siri requests and the Double Tap gesture. Other than that, there’s really very little difference between the two; there wasn’t even a new color to differentiate between the original and the new one.

As great as the new S9 chip and Double Tap are, I am still sticking with my original Apple Watch Ultra, which I only got earlier this year as an upgrade from my old Apple Watch Series 5. Though I typically love getting the latest and greatest, the first Apple Watch Ultra is still fantastic here in late 2023.

Battery life is still outstanding

Apple Watch Ultra showing Battery Grapher app.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

When I was still using my Apple Watch Series 5, I was content with it for tracking my active calories and steps, heart rate, workouts, and other basics that you’d expect from a health tracker. But the biggest annoyance I was having was with the battery life. Its battery would be completely depleted by dinnertime, and I’d need to put it back on the charger before the end of the day.

Going from that to the Apple Watch Ultra was a huge upgrade from the not even 12 full hours I was getting on the Series 5. One of my favorite things about it is the incredible battery life. That was true when I first got the Ultra, and it hasn’t changed now that we’re at the end of the year.

Apple Watch Series 5 and an Apple Watch Ultra next to each other.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

As someone who was used to having to charge up the Apple Watch in the middle of the day, the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra has been a game changer. By the time I put my Apple Watch Ultra on the charger each night before I go to sleep, it still has at least 50% battery or more. Yes, I know I don’t need to put it on the charger each night, but I don’t wear it to sleep, and it comes off while I shower, so topping it off at night makes the most sense for me.

I’ve also left the Optimized Charge Limit feature on, so typically, my Apple Watch Ultra only charges up to around 80% each night, and every few days or weeks, it will go to 100%. The point of the Optimized Charge Limit setting is to help increase the battery life span so that it doesn’t degrade as fast.

Regardless of whether I charge every night or whether it is 80% or 100%, I’ve never really worried about the battery life of my Apple Watch Ultra. It was a little disappointing to see that the Ultra 2 did not improve the battery life, so I’m not exactly missing out on anything in this aspect.

My original Apple Watch Ultra battery is holding up strong at 100% capacity, and a single charge can still get me through more than a day. If you’re also still using a first-generation Apple Watch Ultra, don’t worry — it’s still a beast.

The S8 chip is plenty powerful

The Apple Watch Ultra's heart rate sensor active.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

One of the benefits of the S9 chip in the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is that it allows for faster localized Siri requests that don’t require a data connection, as well as access to your health information. The other benefit is that it makes the Double Tap gesture possible, letting you use your Apple Watch with one hand for certain tasks.

Though these are certainly nice features to have, they’re not necessities, at least for me. I barely use Siri as it is; the only time I actually use Siri is to set a timer when cooking dinner. And though there have been times when Double Tap would be nice to have, it’s not of utmost importance to me.

The S9 chip is also supposed to make the Apple Watch Ultra 2 even faster for day-to-day tasks. But you know what? I still think the S8 processor in my original Apple Watch Ultra is fast enough for me. It launches apps quickly when I tap them from my app list or watch face complication, notifications come in as necessary, and I never have an issue with waking up the display. I have my Action button set to launch the Workout app, and it always works without skipping a beat.

For my needs, the S8 is still a very capable chip and is more than enough for my needs. I’m not sure I’d use Siri more if I had an Apple Watch Ultra 2, though I’m sure I’d make use of Double Tap. But right now, I’m perfectly content without them.

I can’t live without the Action button

Apple Watch Ultra hanging on playground bar showing the Action Button.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

With the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple added a big new hardware feature to go with the new design: the Action button. It has since inspired Apple to replace the silent/ring toggle on the iPhone 15 Pro models with their own Action button as well, and it’s definitely one of the best decisions Apple has made in recent years.

I pretty much use the Action button on my Apple Watch Ultra every day. I never changed it from the default setting, which is set to launch the Workouts app. I do a walk almost every day around the neighborhood, or some indoor exercises when it’s too cold or dark out. The Action button has been the fastest way for me to get the workout going, and I honestly love it.

Previously, on my Apple Watch Series 5, I would have a Workout complication on my watch face as a shortcut to launch the app. However, this meant a complication slot had to be taken up by a static workout icon that added no valuable data on my watch face, which I like to use for information at a glance. Now that I have the Apple Watch Ultra Action button, I have a larger and very bright display that can show me all the data I need without having to waste a valuable complication spot.

Though the Action button on the Apple Watch Ultra feels a bit more limited than the one on the iPhone 15 Pro in terms of actions that you can do with it, I still think it’s one of the most useful additions to the Apple Watch as a whole. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I couldn’t go back to a regular Apple Watch Series again.

The original Apple Watch Ultra is still an excellent smartwatch

Widgets on an Apple Watch Ultra.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

I was honestly surprised that Apple released a second-generation Apple Watch Ultra so soon. This is the kind of product that I was expecting to be on a biennial upgrade cycle considering just how good the first one was. And honestly, the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra is still just so good that I have no need for the second iteration, which I see as a very minor upgrade.

It also doesn’t help that the Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2 are pretty much identical on the exterior. Since there was no rumored black titanium color option, there’s no way to tell if someone is using the first or second generation.

Perhaps the Apple Watch Ultra 2 wasn’t designed for those who already have the first generation of the product. And that may very well be the case. But if you’re still using the first Apple Watch Ultra, fret not — it’s still a damn good smartwatch.

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Christine Romero-Chan
Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade. She graduated from California…
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