When Apple launched the original Apple Watch Ultra in 2022, it wasn’t a complete surprise as Apple had been rumored to have a more “tough” Apple Watch model in the works for a couple of years. But what was surprising was how Good the original Apple Watch Ultra was — even for people who never plan to go diving or climb a mountain.
In 2023, Apple released the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which is identical to the original on the surface. But on the inside, it has the new S9 chip for localized Siri requests and the Double Tap gesture. Other than that, there’s really very little difference between the two; there wasn’t even a new color to differentiate between the original and the new.
As good as the new S9 chip and Double Tap are, I’m still sticking with my original Apple Watch Ultra, which I only got earlier this year as an upgrade from my old Apple Watch Series 5. Although I usually love getting it latest and greatest , the first Apple Watch Ultra is still amazing here at the end of 2023.
Battery life is still outstanding
When I was still using my Apple Watch Series 5, I was happy with it for tracking my active calories and steps, heart rate, workouts, and other basics you’d expect from a health tracker. But the biggest annoyance I had was with the battery life. Its battery would be completely dead by noon, and I would have to put it back on the charger before the end of the day.
Going from that to the Apple Watch Ultra was a huge upgrade from the not even 12 full hours I got on the Series 5. One of my favorite things about it is the incredible battery life. That was true when I first got the Ultra, and it hasn’t changed now that we’re at the end of the year.
As someone who was used to having to charge the Apple Watch in the middle of the day, the first generation Apple Watch Ultra has been a game changer. When I put my Apple Watch Ultra on the charger every night before I go to sleep, it still has at least 50% battery or more. Yes, I know I don’t need to put it on the charger every night, but I don’t wear it to sleep, and it comes off when I shower, so topping it up at night makes the most sense to me.
I’ve also left the Optimized Charge Limit feature on, so usually my Apple Watch Ultra only charges up to about 80% each night, and every few days or weeks it goes to 100%. The point of the Optimized Charge Limit setting is to help increase battery life so it doesn’t degrade as quickly.
Whether I’m charging every night or whether it’s 80% or 100%, I’ve never really worried about the battery life of my Apple Watch Ultra. It was a little disappointing to see that the Ultra 2 didn’t improve battery life, so I’m not really missing out on anything in this aspect.
My original Apple Watch Ultra battery is holding strong at 100% capacity, and a single charge can still get me through more than a day. If you’re also still using a first-generation Apple Watch Ultra, don’t worry—it’s still a beast.
The S8 chip is very powerful
One of the benefits of the S9 chip in the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is that it enables faster localized Siri requests that don’t require a data connection, as well as access to your health information. The other benefit is that it enables the Double Tap gesture, allowing you to use your Apple Watch with one hand for certain tasks.
While these are certainly nice features to have, they are not necessities, at least for me. I barely use Siri as it is; the only time I actually use Siri is to set a timer when I’m cooking dinner. And while there have been times when Double Tap would be nice to have, it’s not paramount to me.
The S9 chip is also supposed to make the Apple Watch Ultra 2 even faster for everyday tasks. But you know what? I still think the S8 processor in my original Apple Watch Ultra is fast enough for me. It launches apps quickly when I tap them from my app list or watch face complication, notifications pop in when needed, and I never have a problem waking the screen. I have my Action button set to launch the Workout app, and it always works without skipping a beat.
For my needs, the S8 is still a very capable chip and is more than adequate for my needs. I’m not sure I’d use Siri more if I had an Apple Watch Ultra 2, but I sure would use Double Tap. But right now I’m perfectly happy without them.
I can’t live without the action button
With the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple added a major new hardware feature to the new design: the Action button. It has since inspired Apple to replace the silent/ring switch on the iPhone 15 Pro models with its own Action button as well, and it’s definitely one of the best decisions Apple has made in recent years.
I pretty much use the Action button on my Apple Watch Ultra every day. I’ve never changed it from the default setting, which is set to launch the Workouts app. I do a walk almost every day around the neighborhood, or some indoor exercises when it’s too cold or dark outside. The action button has been the fastest way for me to get my workout started, and I honestly love it.
Previously, on my Apple Watch Series 5, I had a workout complication on my watch face as a shortcut to launch the app. However, this meant that a complication slot had to be taken up by a static training icon that added no valuable data to my watch face, which I like to use for information at a glance. Now that I have the Apple Watch Ultra Action button, I have a larger and very bright screen that can show me all the data I need without having to waste valuable complication space.
While the action button on the Apple Watch Ultra feels a bit more limited than the one on the iPhone 15 Pro in terms of what you can do with it, I still think it’s one of the most useful additions to the Apple Watch as a whole. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I couldn’t go back to a regular Apple Watch series again.
The original Apple Watch Ultra is still an excellent smartwatch
I was honestly surprised that Apple released a second generation Apple Watch Ultra so soon. This is the kind of product I expected to be on a two-year upgrade cycle given how good the first one was. And frankly, the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra is still just that so good that I have no need for the second iteration, which I see as a very minor upgrade.
It also doesn’t help that the Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2 are pretty much identical on the outside. Since there was no rumored black titanium option, there is no way to tell if someone is using the first or second generation.
Perhaps the Apple Watch Ultra 2 was not designed for those who already have the first generation of the product. And that may well be the case. But if you’re still using the first Apple Watch Ultra, don’t worry — it’s still a damn good smartwatch.
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