Three Month Review of the Apple Watch Ultra

I’ve now had my Apple Watch Ultra for just over three months, and it feels appropriate to share my thoughts on the the experience.

First Reactions

When the Ultra was first announced, I had some big doubts about it. For one thing, I was shocked by the size of it. A 49mm Apple Watch sounded absolutely enormous – especially for someone like me who has always worn the smallest sized Apple Watch. Having wrists on the small side of average, I just didn’t think that I’d be able to pull it off. On top of that, I wasn’t completely sold on the design of the Ultra…that crown guard… In honesty, it just looked really bad to me in the initial images, lacking the elegance that I’d come to love and appreciate about all the stainless steel Apple Watches that I have owned.

In addition to design concerns, I was apprehensive about buying an Apple Watch that wouldn’t work with any of the numerous nice and expensive bands that I’ve built up over the years. If you have or had a 42/44/45mm Apple Watch, your bands are compatible with the Ultra (with some small caveats). Sadly and obviously, the 38/40/41mm Apple Watch bands are not compatible.

Doubts aside, the improvements to battery life were a big appeal to me. I’ve hoped for years that Apple would somehow manage to increase the battery life for the Apple Watch, and the Ultra finally delivered this – although by significantly increasing the size of the watch. I almost always find myself overly conscious of what I’m doing with my Apple Watch and how it’s going to impact the battery. This is especially true for when I use it to track activities that are an hour or more. I wondered if perhaps the Ultra would eliminate this. Apple’s battery life claims led me to believe it would.

Building Interest

I’ve had every Apple Watch that’s been released except the SE, SE2, and the Series 6. None of the SE models appealed to me because I prefer stainless steel and sapphire screens. The Series 6 didn’t seem to have enough new features over my Series 5 to justify an upgrade. When the Series 8 was announced, I felt the same way. It’s only difference over my Series 7 was crash detection and skin temperature (which is used only for female menstrual tracking). So in 2022, the only upgrade that seemed worthwhile was the Ultra.

Obviously, my love for the Apple Watch meant that I had to at least see and touch an Ultra in person. So, several days after it came out, I managed to find on at my local T-Mobile store that I could actually touch and try on. My immediate thought when I put it on my wrist (and I strongly expect anyone used to a 38/40/41mm Apple Watch will have the same reaction) was “Wow! This really is much bigger!” Just from a couple minutes, I couldn’t see myself getting used to the large size. Even if I did want to buy one, there was no stock available at any local stores, and online orders were backed up by weeks. This pretty much made it a moot point.

Still, I kept seeing more and more posts and articles about the Ultra. Being the biggest re-design of the Apple Watch in years, the hype was tangible. However, it’s always hard to know how genuine all the reviews are and how many are just looking to tap into the hype and get clicks and views. Either way, I became more and more curious about the device.

As my interest peaked, I just so happen to see that my local Apple Store had some Ultras in stock – even with the size band that I needed. So, of course, I caved in and ordered one for pick-up. Now, I’d get a chance to actually see how good of a device it was in my day-to-day life and determine if the hype was actually warranted.

Size and Wearability

After just one full day of wearing the Apple Watch Ultra, it no longer felt like an enormous watch on my wrist. In fact, it quickly became “normal” to me. In fact, now when I wore my 41mm Series 7, it feels minuscule – so much so that I wondered how I ever managed to use such a small screen for years. It was a similar experience as when I went from my iPhone 5 to my iPhone 6.

I think it’s worth mentioning that it did take some time for my wrist to adjust to the heavier weight of the Ultra, and I’d occasionally notice some wrist soreness. I’ve read multiple posts from others saying the same thing and asking questions about it. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience, the soreness eventually went away. I never notice it now.

Most reviewers talk some about the wearability of the Ultra for sleep tracking. My personal experience is that it’s not terribly uncomfortable for sleep, but there’s an important caveat. I’ve slept in a watch my entire adult life – at times even with heavier dive watches. I just got into the habit of leaving my watch on over night. From that perspective, I don’t find the Ultra any less comfortable. If you’re comparing it to other Apple Watches though, it’s definitely more noticeable on the wrist. Whether or not you find it tolerable is really a very personal opinion.

Battery Life

It’s always been my preference to either charge a watch daily/nightly or weekly. Any other cadence creates too much unpredictability for me, since you end up with a low battery at unideal times. With a daily/nightly or a weekly cadence, you’re never left wondering when you’re going to need to charge the device. Most reviewers have pointed out that you can get up to three days of usage with the Ultra before needing to charge it, but that’s contingent on how you use it and how comfortable you are letting the battery get low.

This puts the Apple Watch Ultra in no-man’s land for me when it comes to battery life. So why, you may ask, do I find the Ultra’s battery life to be so great. The answer for me is simple. It never runs out of battery during the day. It’s finally at what I’d define as “all day” battery life. I can pretty much throw anything at it throughout the day without worrying if it’s going to make it to the end of the day. Many people over the years have found Apple’s 18-hour battery life to be sufficient, but I always found that it meant I had to baby the battery and even turn off certain feature – especially on days with workouts lasting an hour or more.

With the Ultra, I can now actually use things like the LTE during an outdoor workout without thinking about how much battery it’s going to use. I can respond to as many messages and notifications as necessary.

As far as my charging habits, I’d still be annoyed if I didn’t have my previous Series 7 to use while the Ultra is charging. Having a back-up watch eliminates the frustration of the Ultra requiring charging at random times throughout the week. I’ve gone back and forth between using my Series 7 and my Ultra for sleep tracking, but I’ve tried to avoid charging either of them throughout the entire night to better improve battery health over the long-run. Truthfully, I’m still not sure that this is worth the hassle.

Activity Tracking

In honesty, I was and still am a little underwhelmed with the activity tracking chops of the Ultra. Almost all of the newest activity features are available to anyone with a watch that can run watchOS 9. The distinguishing features for the Ultra are:

  • multi-band GPS, and
  • precision start workouts with the Action Button.

Multi-band GPS results in more accurate GPS tracking outdoors, especially in areas with dense tree coverage or high buildings. I usually notice that my Ultra even shows me on the correct side of the road – something previous Apple Watches always failed at. I don’t personally notice an enormous difference in total distance tracked, but as a full disclaimer, most of my workouts are indoors.

Precision start allows you to wait for a GPS lock and Heart Rate (HR) lock before starting your workout. Using this skips the usual 3, 2, 1 countdown that’s seen on all other Apple Watches when using the first-party Workout app. The feature improves the accuracy of GPS and HR at the start of your workout, and it’s useful for those that participate in group sporting events like races. As a friendly reminder, I commonly forget that I have the feature enabled and realize a few minutes into my workout that I forgot to press the Action Button to start the workout. I’m still getting used to it, but I like it.

I remain disappointed that Apple is still relying entirely on third-parties for important activity features like recovery, training load, and suggested workouts. If it were not for apps like Athlytic, Training Today, Gentler Streaks, WorkOutDoors, and others, the Apple Watch wouldn’t even be in the running for many people – especially those that may be interested in a watch like the Ultra.


In terms of bands for the Ultra, I now have all three: the Trail Loop, the Alpine Loop, and the Ocean Band. All three of these were designed specifically for the Ultra, though they’ll also work with any 42/44/45mm Apple Watch. Here’s my key takeaway for each of the bands.

The Trail Loop is the easiest for finding a perfect fit and the easiest to adjust. As with any cloth band, it will retain some water when it gets wet and take a few minutes to dry out. Lastly, the Trail Loop requires a bit of a snugger fit than the others because of the weight of the Ultra.

The Alpine Loop is the most versatile from an aesthetic and functional perspective. Admittedly, that’s subjective. I find it to be the Ultra’s equivalent of the Braided Solo Loop. Similar to the Trail Loop, the Alpine Loop retains liquid when it gets wet and takes a few minutes to dry. It’s a little more finicky to put on and take off but that also means that it’s very secure on your wrist.

The Ocean Band is the easiest to maintain and get wet. The material is soft and has a good stretch to it. As others have said, I find it to be very comfortable. The biggest negative to the band is that it’s bulky, which makes it hard to wear with long sleeves. For me personally, it’ll be mostly a warm weather band.

In terms of other bands, 42/44/45mm Apple Watch bands are compatible with the Ultra. In my experience the bands are interchangeable, but the fit isn’t perfect. That makes perfect sense, considering that the Ultra is 49mm and is longer from top to bottom. This makes the biggest difference with the Braided Solo Loop and Solo Loop. If you want to use one of these, make sure you start of trying one size smaller than normal.


Action Button

Other than the overall design, the Action Button is the main hardware differences of the Ultra compared to other Apple Watches. A certain niche of users have clamored for more buttons for years, especially runners.

Rather than list out everything you can do with it (not much), I’ll just say that it has a lot of potential but isn’t nearly utilized enough. Just recently, third-parties have finally started taking advantage of the button. Apple’s own apps use the button for a very small set of actions. For anything else, you’ll need to use a Shortcut.

I’ll sum it up simply. Apple needs to allow for a lot more customization with the Action Button within its own apps. It’s not enough to just depend on third party apps. For example, the Workout app allows you to start a workout and to mark a lap. That’s it. I’d personally prefer to use it to start and pause workouts, as I don’t use laps. Others may be great with the lap function, but the point is that there should be more options.


I honestly didn’t know if I was going to end up keeping the Ultra. It’s the first Apple product with which I started off so unsure.

In the end, it majorly grew on me. The design, in my eyes, became more utilitarian and tool rather than ugly. Even the polarizing crown guard became less obtrusive to me. The size quickly became normal to me. Yes, I notice it more on my wrist, especially with certain shirts and outfits and in certain circumstances, but it’s not bothersome to me at all.

Who knows? Maybe I am fooling myself, but I honestly don’t think it looks bad or too big on my six inch wrist. It’s certainly at the limits of what I can wear, and I’d absolutely welcome an eventual size reduction or an option for a smaller Ultra. At the end of the day, the size is more than fine.

The biggest thing that I can’t give up is the battery life improvements. The Ultra is what the Apple Watch always should have been in that regard. A watch shouldn’t require any thought as to whether or not it’ll make it to the end of the day, and you certainly shouldn’t need to disable key features to make it there.

My wishlist for a future Ultra would be:

  • a smaller size option,
  • offline maps, and
  • Recovery, exertion, training load, and dynamic goals.

My dream Apple Watch Ultra would be one that last a full week on one charge, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

I didn’t really need or care much about the design changes that the Ultra brought to the Apple Watch. I wasn’t one of those people clamoring for a flat design, and I certainly never asked for a bigger watch. While the extra robustness is nice to have, it’s not super necessary for my lifestyle. What makes the Ultra such a great device is how much it improves the overall experience with the Apple Watch. If making the Ultra bigger was the only way to achieve this, that’s totally fine with me…so long as it doesn’t go any larger than 49mm.

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