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Apple Watch Ultra 2: Evolution not revolution

The updates, although still important, are mostly hidden away on the inside

Apple Watch Ultra 2
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Price: €899
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This was never going to be a flashy upgrade for the Apple Watch. Last year saw the addition of the Ultra to the line-up, targeting the more demanding sports enthusiasts. Although it was still distinctly an Apple Watch, it still looked different from anything Apple had released before.

This year, the updates are mostly hidden away on the inside, although still important nonetheless. That means it essentially looks the same: 49mm watch case, action button that can be mapped to almost whatever you want, thanks to the inclusion of Siri Shortcuts as an option, and the chunkier case design.

The Ultra 2 comes with a brighter screen – about 50 per cent at up to 3,000 nits – a new S9 SiP chip that powers some of the smarter functions, and a new Ultrawideband chip that facilitates more precise locations for tracking down your items – with one caveat that we will get into later.

The S9 chip brings one important update to the watch: it will now allows Siri to process requests on the device, rather than sending them off to the cloud. That means Siri will be able to process requests that deal with information that previously would have been off-limits, such as health data.


It also means you no longer need an internet connection for Siri to work, so you should get fewer refusals to carry out requests because of a bad connection. Within reason, of course; Siri will need to access the internet if you request something that is outside the scope of the data immediately available on your watch or phone.

It is also supposed to be more accurate at dictation. While I haven’t noticed any great problems with Siri with previous versions of the Apple Watch, there were far fewer accidental activations of Siri with the Ultra 2 than with the Series 8, which was a welcome change.

Some of the features are coming with a software update, such as the double tap and the modular watch face that is exclusive to the Ultra 2. The latter, available as part of the beta preview programme, gives you a heap of information at a single glance, using all the available space to cram in information such as your progress on your fitness rings, temperature, elevation, heart rate, last viewed waypoints, messages and so on. There are seven customisable fields, and lots of options for the size and layout of the time. The night version moves everything to red light so it doesn’t affect your ability to see in the dark.

Battery life on the Ultra 2 is noticeably better than the standard watch, but if you are looking for a replacement for your Garmin, the three-day life may fall short of your expectations.

The double-tap feature, once fully released, will allow you to activate key functions on the watch without touching it, by simply tapping your finger and thumb together twice. That means answering a call or silencing an alarm, for example, or scrolling your way through the Smart Stack of apps on your watch.

My first thought was for the potential of an accidental trigger, but the movement needs to be quite deliberate. You need to raise your wrist to wake the watch, and then double tap your thumb and forefinger together twice, similar to a pinching gesture. But at the same time, the watch doesn’t have to be so tight that it is nearly cutting off the circulation to your wrist to register the movement.

It is not an essential feature, but it makes life easier.


The Apple Watch ultra does exactly what you expect it to: it can be used as a diving watch, has dual frequency GPS for more accurate positioning, and is IP6X rated for dust. The case is made of titanium, too, so it is lighter and more durable, perfect for the more extreme athletic pursuits.

It’s IP6X rated for dust, and is water resistant at up to 100m, and diving up to 40m.

The new chip makes Siri better, and more secure, with the ability to process requests on the device a particularly welcome addition.

The €100 price cut for Irish buyers doesn’t hurt either. It makes a change from the constant hikes.


The Ultra 2 may be cheaper this year but it’s still a significant investment. Unless you need the advanced features, your needs would probably be better served by the lower cost but still excellent Series 9.

Battery life on the Ultra 2 is noticeably better than the standard watch, but if you are looking for a replacement for your Garmin, the three-day life may fall short of your expectations.

Everything else

Battery life hasn’t changed – you’ll get 36 hours out of the Ultra 2 with everyday use – longer if you put it into battery-saver mode.

The precision finding for your phone works well, giving you more precise location guidance. But this will only work this well with an iPhone 15, so if you have an older device, you are out of luck; standard device location it is for you.

The verdict

The Ultra 2 is ideal for more extreme sports-focused Apple fans.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist