Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Ultra: Is it time to upgrade?


Apple Watch Ultra 2


Apple launched the first Apple Watch Ultra in 2022, targeted towards the outdoor adventure market where Garmin is dominant. The updated Apple Watch Ultra 2 provides some minor internal upgrades with some continued software updates to make it more compelling.

Rumors indicated that we would see a new black color for the Watch Ultra 2 but that was not announced. Internal updates, along with sourcing of the case materials, was revealed, making the Apple Watch Ultra 2 a fairly minor update for the best smartwatch available today.

Also: Everything announced at Apple’s ‘Wonderlust event’

Looking at the specifications below, there is just one line updated for the new Apple Watch Ultra 2.


Apple Watch UltraApple Watch Ultra 2
Display49mm 410×502 LTPO OLED sapphire glass touchscreen49mm 410×502 LTPO OLED sapphire glass touchscreen
MaterialsTitanium casing and three band optionsTitanium casing and three band options
ProcessorApple S8 with 64-bit dual-coreApple S9 with 64-bit dual-core
Water resistance100 meters100 meters
ConnectivityLTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, ANT+, multi-band and dual frequency GNSSLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+, multi-band and dual frequency GNSS
SensorsOptical HR, barometer, compass, altimeter, Pulse Ox, skin temperature, water temperature, depth gaugeOptical HR, barometer, compass, altimeter, Pulse Ox, skin temperature, water temperature, depth gauge
BatteryUp to 36 hoursUp to 36 hours
Dimensions49 x 44 x 14.4mm and 61.3 grams49 x 44 x 14.4mm and 61.3 grams

You should buy the Apple Watch Ultra 2 if…

Apple Watch Ultra 2

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You want a brighter display

The original Apple Watch Ultra launched with a brilliant display capable of 2,000 nits of brightness. In my one year of usage, I never thought I needed a brighter display, even in full sunlight. However, the Ultra 2 now boasts a display supporting 3,000 nits of brightness.

Since there is no LED flashlight on the Apple Watch Ultra, bumping up the display brightness and offering a flashlight boost mode may provide a similar experience in dark conditions. You can assign the large Action button to serve as a flashlight where the display is shown in an all-white color.

2. You want Apple’s newest processor

The most significant internal update for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the move to Apple’s S9 internal processor. We’ll have to see if there are significant improvements in the speed and responsiveness of the watch, but the original Watch Ultra never experienced any issues, so it is unlikely to be an obvious improvement.

Despite the new processor, the battery life remains the same at a 36-hour advertised life. The brighter display may reduce that while the S9 processor balances things back out.

3. You care about the environment

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is also constructed of titanium, just like the original Watch Ultra. However, it incorporates 95% recycled titanium. If you purchase the Watch Ultra 2 with an Alpine Loop or Trail Loop band, it ends up being a carbon-neutral purchase.

Also: Buying an Apple Watch? Here’s how to pick the best one for you

You should keep your Apple Watch Ultra if…

Apple Watch Ultra

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

1. You don’t want to spend any more money

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is also priced at $799 so the new watch won’t cost you any more than last year’s Watch Ultra. You could likely sell your Apple Watch Ultra for $500 (lowest Swappa price is $550 in good condition) and end up paying just $300 net for a new Watch Ultra 2.

I wrote about what I needed to see in the new Watch Ultra 2 to upgrade so after viewing the announcement it is clear that I am not upgrading this year.

2. Your Watch Ultra has character

The day after my Apple Watch Ultra arrived I went out and ran a Tough Mudder. While the display came out of all of that torture in perfect state, there were a couple minor scratches around the bezel. Over the past year, my Watch Ultra has developed some scratches and wear, adding to the ultra-rugged ambience of the watch. 

If you have battle scars on your Watch Ultra, you may want to keep it around for storytelling and forego the newest model since the upgrades are minor and you can look forward to what is coming next.

Also: Apple Watch Series 9: Top 4 new features we’re excited about

Alternatives to consider

There are other GPS sports watches and smartwatches to consider if neither of these meets your needs. Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices:

Samsung’s 2022 Watch 5 Pro remains in the lineup and is the best Galaxy Watch available with a sapphire display and titanium body to handle any adventure.

Despite being one year old, the Enduro 2 continues to excel with the longest battery life of any Garmin watch. Solar charging helps extend battery life while the LED flashlight is a daily tool.

Coros has its most powerful watch priced less than Garmin while providing much of the same functionality. Battery life is stunning on the Vertix 2 so get out and explore.


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