- Apple Watch Ultra 2 has exceptional battery life, making it the perfect smartwatch for long trips without having to worry about frequent charging.
- The Ultra 2 has a bright display with a maximum brightness of 3,000 nits, making it easy to read even in direct sunlight or bright environments.
- The Depth app on the Ultra 2 adds value to divers, providing important information such as depth, water temperature and dive time while encouraging users to push their limits.
I spent the last week of October in Fiji attending the GoPro Creator Summit 2023. GoPro hosts the annual summit in another exotic location and invites dozens of content creators and athletes to trek around the world and then capture their activities on GoPro’s latest camera.
This year that meant catching everything from going down the river in a motorboat, to diving, freediving or skydiving on or near one of the countless islands that make up Fiji.
I’m neither a creator nor an athlete, but I was invited to cover various aspects of the event (some of which will be posted here soon). I also took the chance to test the new Apple Watch Ultra 2, putting it through its paces in an environment I don’t normally get to experience.
I’ve been using the original Ultra since it launched, so I was excited to experience the Ultra 2, which isn’t all that different from the original Ultra, at least on paper. However, it turns out that there are a couple of key areas where the Ultra 2 really shines brighter than the original Ultra, making the case the smart watch you want when you travel. At least I know I do.
Battery life for days… literally
The main reason I love traveling with the Ultra 2 is its long battery life. On short work trips, usually 36-48 hours, to cover a launch event, I don’t have to worry about even bringing an Apple Watch charger with me. The Ultra, and now the Ultra 2, have more than enough battery life to last the entire trip. Carrying one less charger, especially one designed for a single device, is always good.
My trip to Fiji was longer than my short work trips, of course. I was there for a total of five days when you look at the calendar, but thanks to time zones and the international date line, I was actually gone closer to eight days. And when I got back home, I almost immediately got on another plane and flew to Texas for four days to attend a wedding. In total I was on the road for 12 days.
During that time, I had to charge the Ultra 2 a total of five times, which was about every other day. I would usually wake up and put the watch on the charger while I got ready, and once I was ready to go for the day, so was the watch.
On November 1st, my last day in Fiji, I woke up at 6am local time, flew out at 10pm local time and landed at LAX at 12:30pm on November 1st. I didn’t get home for another 12 hours. I basically lived the same day twice because time zones are weird. And I didn’t have to worry about charging the Ultra 2 during my own personal Groundhog Day.
This is in stark contrast to Google’s Pixel Watch 2, which I’ve found needs to be charged every 28 hours or so. The same goes for all of Apple’s non-Ultra models; you’ll get about a day’s use out of it before placing it on the charger.
Whether it’s a long trip, like my recent excursion, or a short work trip, the extended battery life of the Ultra 2 is a key feature.
A screen so bright
Fiji is a beautiful place, so of course I spent a lot of time outdoors for various activities and events. Almost all of that time was spent in direct sunlight, or if I was in the shade there was still plenty of bright light, which is not an ideal environment for looking at a phone or smartwatch screen.
Even with the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 2,000 nits of peak brightness, I struggled to see the screen in direct sunlight. However, the Apple Watch Ultra 2’s screen is so bright that I never once had to cup my other hand around the screen to read the time or check a notification. Every time I looked down at it, whether it was always on the display or after I raised my wrist, I could clearly read what I needed to.
The Ultra 2’s display has a staggering 3,000 nits peak brightness, up from 2,000 nits on the first-generation Ultra, and a third higher than the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
According to the Health app on my iPhone, it was a day where I spent 437 minutes outdoors and in sunlight, and the Ultra 2 provided enough power to the screen to keep it visible while not causing an excessive drain on the battery. Impressive.
I’m not a diver, but I see the value of the Depth app
I had hoped I would get the chance to dive in Fiji, but since I skipped my certification class several years ago to watch a hockey game and there wasn’t enough time to go through a certification course before the trip, I was left with a alternative: snorkeling.
One of the reasons I wanted to dive was to test out the Depth app on the Apple Watch Ultra. The app automatically turns on when it detects it’s underwater and puts information like your current depth (and depth range), water temperature, and how long you’ve been underwater on your wrist. Effectively acting as a dive computer, it provides you with the most critical information, with the ability to use and trigger third-party apps that go even further.
When snorkeling, however, that information isn’t nearly as important, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to watch.
I wasn’t completely satisfied floating on top of the water and looking at the corals and fish below, so I tried to practice my freediving as much as I could. That is, hold your breath, go down into the coral and swim with the fish and other wildlife.
I used the Ultra 2 and the Depth app to gauge how deep I was going on each dive. The deepest? All of six feet. But you know what? It was an amazing six feet.
While I didn’t get to fully test the Ultra 2’s Depth app and dive computer skills, I used it as a tool to track and encourage myself to push my personal limits and boundaries. And it was a success.
It’s built to survive, and that gives you peace of mind
Up until the original Ultra was released, I owned and wore every Apple Watch Series model. Still, when it came time to swim, especially in the ocean, or put myself in environments where I could hit my wrist against something and break the screen, I took it off.
Although I spent a lot of time in Fiji’s beautiful waters – saltwater, to be precise – or riding in a speedboat that often made a 360-degree turn, who knows how fast, throwing the passengers from one side to the other, or jet skiing for almost 80km/h, or going through a Survivor challenge… I never once thought about taking the Ultra 2 off because I was afraid it would break.
The fact that the casing is made of titanium is a nice selling point, but what inspires the most confidence is the flat display design. That is, the titanium case comes up along and over the edges of the screen, leaving only the flat top that is slightly recessed to further protect it.
However, I had a close call during my trip, but it was not due to the watch itself, but to the fault of the watch band. The Ultra 2 I got from Apple came with the green/grey Alpine Loop band. Although I had many watch bands, some designed for water activities, I decided to use the Alpine Loop band for my trip.
Everything was fine until I jumped off a pier into the sea. Everything was fine until I hit the water, and I immediately felt the Apple Watch Ultra 2 slide down my wrist, over my hand. I quickly closed my hand and kept it from sliding off my arm, down to the bottom of the ocean.
I was so distracted by saving the watch, I didn’t realize my sunglasses were falling off and slowly making their own descent. Thankfully, someone on the pier reminded me, and I was able to leave the water with both the watch and the sunglasses.
Complications are priceless
Last but certainly not least, the Ultra 2’s larger screen and ability to display more information on a watch face in the form of complications was key to keeping me on time and in the right place during the trip.
I relied on complications from apps like TripIt and Flighty at the airport and shook Fantastical 2’s daily schedule complication for additional guidance.
But the complication I used the most came from the Clock app on the watch. Specifically, I put the local time at home on my watch face so I didn’t have to do all kinds of mental math to figure out the time and day of the week in Colorado. Subtracting 18 hours from your current time sounds simple, until you do it several times a day. Not to mention that as soon as I got back, I changed time zones yet again by going to Texas, and it was then rejected again, thanks to the time change over the weekend.
I was already really into the Apple Watch Ultra before my long time away from the office. Still, after spending nearly two weeks with the Ultra 2, I’m even more sold that it’s the best smartwatch you can own for traveling thanks to core features like extended battery life, rugged design, super-bright — and big — screen, and its secondary features like the Depth app and complications that are full of information, it’s the complete package.
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