It is not uncommon in technology that we talk about “niche” products, a fairly common terminology (and abuse) that refers to those products that –supposedly– are not aimed at the mass public. As if the masses never buy “technology” that they don’t really need, not to mention the food and clothing that accumulates in pantries and closets – for no reason or real need – and ends up in the trash or GoodWill warehouses. .
At the last “Far Out” event in September in Cupertino, attendees had the opportunity to learn -in addition to the new iPhone 14 line- a “new product” from Apple, specifically, a smartwatch that did not follow the genealogical path started in April 2015 with the first generation of the Apple Watch and its Series that would go from 1 to 8, the latter also presented.
Those of us who were at that presentation remember that all the other products were “expected”, except the Apple Watch Ultra, which although it was not a total surprise (previous rumors spoke of “a bigger watch with an extra physical button”) if we magnetized for its design, features and – of course – its price. After the iPhone 14 Pro Max, it was the most sought-after product in the adjoining Steve Jobs Theater showroom.
What is, actually, the Apple Watch Ultra? A watch designed for high competition? A bigger Series 8? A new commercial adventure of Apple? We believe that the answers to these questions are still in process. The presentation in society of the largest watch in Cupertino defined it as a gadget for climbers, scuba divers and outdoor adventurers who make their outings more than just a hiking either sunday morning trek. If we call them “adventurers”, we would have to add the qualifier “seriously”. So, at least, they sold it to us at the presentation.
At this point in the year, countless analyzes and/or rigorous reviews have already been carried out, many of which maintain that to the new Apple Watch Ultra it’s not enough to compete with rivals like Garmin, Polar either Choirs. The biggest criticism goes here on the side of the battery, whose duration – high for an Apple Watch – is not enough to compete with the aforementioned brands. He also did not fare well when he underwent adventures more seriousa situation in which it was not as accurate or useful compared to models such as the Garmin Epixsimilarly priced.
The writer of this note is far from being a climber or diver like those who made the aforementioned reviews, although I usually go to the gym regularly (three or four times a week) and I try to take long walks around the city as much as possible. in other words: a clearly urban user, who already loved the latest Apple Watch Series and who now finds himself on his wrist with a watch that “is great” in more ways than one.
One of the first things I noticed is that many functions activated themselves. The so-called Action Button had little and nothing to do with this, but the Side Button and the Digital Crown did. Sometimes the coat or sweater sleeve triggered training or opened Apple Pay. Nothing serious, of course: but we are talking about urban use: how would you respond in more serious conditions, with a diving suit or under a high mountain parka?
There was also no case with its use when sleeping. Although in the day to day it manages to adapt to the normal dress of a large watch, in bed things change, and once I even woke up to be able to take it off and sleep without discomfort. My doll would get caught on the sheets or under the pillow, or the buttons would turn functions on or off that I didn’t need. If you want to monitor your rest, any other Apple model will be more suitable than the Watch Ultra.
Otherwise, all good. Fantastic, really.
If you are used to wearing large watches, the truth is that the size of the Watch Ultra should not bother you. The Garmin fēnix 7X is bigger, yes, but also many other “non-smart” watches that have been in fashion for years, such as the Casio G-Shock (some Diesel models are admittedly exaggerated). We could even go so far as to say that the Apple Watch Ultra neither it is so bigalthough the media noise that has been created around it has been, and with good reason.
Well, except for the unwanted activations that were mentioned before, there is very little to object here. Its always-on screen is a true marvel, and even in bright sunlight it increases its brightness to 2,000 nits so you can see everything without problems. Strictly speaking, its display area of 1,164 square millimeters isn’t much larger than the Series 8’s screen (1,143 square millimeters). The Ultra is thick to contain a larger battery (and lasts between 36 and 60 hours), but being titanium, it doesn’t weigh too much.
Its operating system, the WatchOS 9, also runs through the veins of the Series 8 and the Watch SE 2 itself. Everything here is smooth as silk, and no application takes time to open or work. The Wallet app is the one I have used the most, and it has never given me any problems. In addition, you control your music, it does not matter here if you are an Apple Music or Spotify user. Compass works every time, even when you’re 9,000 feet above sea level, and Camera Control—with which you can activate and manipulate your iPhone’s camera from your wrist—is often the feature that most attracts non-users. from Apple.
I have also used the Watch Ultra for Two-Factor Authentication (Apple ID), where the codes that I must enter on another device have appeared. Unlocking your MacBook or Mac just by wearing the watch on your wrist is always a plus, but we’ve also known this before.
In short: there is nothing that an urban user cannot do with the Watch Ultra that the Watch Series 8 does not do, except encourage a somewhat steeper walk on some mountain, or a deeper dive in the ocean. According to Apple, it will always be operational between -20 and 55 degrees Celsius, although we have not personally verified this (nor do we want to).
Another thing that has been notorious is that it is a watch that attracts attention. Perhaps much is due to its Alpine orange and Ocean yellow straps that I have alternated these weeks, but I must confess that it has looked good and not out of place when I have worn it with a formal or semi-formal jacket or coat, which sometimes happens with watches like the Casio G-Shock. People look at it, and many ask about it: they want to know what it’s like, how it works, if it’s worth it. And if I’m honest, I’ve gotten more negative reviews for how big my iPhone Pro Max is than for the size and appearance of the Watch Ultra.
Decades ago, the most expensive cell phones averaged $100 dollars, and one fine day the iPhone arrived with a price that quadrupled them. We know what happened next: the iPhone was a hit, and the competition followed Apple on its quest to make phones with just a big screen and no physical number keys. Then Apple made the iPhones even bigger and even more expensive, and again the competition followed suit, enlarging their screens and breaking the $1,000 per phone barrier many times over. In both cases, Apple was always clear about who its audience would be and, above all, what the competition would be.
The question here is obvious: is the Apple Watch Ultra a watch designed to compete against Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, Coros? It may be… in the future, when new Ultra “Series” come out and improve its battery life and tracking features (battery on phones like Garmin can last for weeks). But today it makes more sense to assume that Apple has wanted to open another flank in the market to compete against their eternal rivals: Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, before convincing professional athletes to leave their Garmin or Fitbit models to switch to Apple.
We know that the use of smart watches has increased exponentially in recent years, and people who a decade ago would never have thought of using them, today wear them on their wrists. And just like in the battle of the smartphones, Apple anticipates the future launch of bigger and more expensive competing watches.
This, by the way, doesn’t detract from the Apple Watch Ultra. On the contrary: it gives it a value foundational in a battle that is expected to begin in 2023, when Samsung and other Asian brands launch their new smartwatches. Will these be just as big and ambitious as the Watch Ultra? Can be. Samsung and Huawei usually collect the challenges launched by the competition, and we would not be surprised to have any news next February in a new Samsung Unpacked.
And if not, Apple will have put on the market a watch that doubles the price of a model that, in terms of features, offers practically the same. In the coming months we will know about the success or not of the new Apple Watch Ultra, since there are still countries in which it is not sold. We will only tell you that using it has been an unexpected surprise, that it has suited us well and that it has aroused quite a few envies. And there are many people who pay for things like that.