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Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review

This watch excels in accuracy, connectivity, and user-friendliness, though it's a modest upgrade over the first generation
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Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review (The Apple Ultra 2 has an incredible interface and feature set, though the tradeoff is drastically less battery life.)
The Apple Ultra 2 has an incredible interface and feature set, though the tradeoff is drastically less battery life.
Credit: Matthew Richardson
Price:  $799 List
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Manufacturer:   Apple
By Matthew Richardson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 2, 2024

#3 of 13
  • Features - 20% 10.0
  • Battery Life - 20% 4.0
  • Ease of Use - 20% 9.0
  • Accuracy - 20% 8.0
  • Design - 20% 9.0

Our Verdict

The Apple Ultra Watch 2 is our go-to recommendation for fitness enthusiasts seeking prolonged battery life and robust connectivity features in an Apple Watch. It's elevated by the user-friendly Apple Health app, which efficiently organizes exercise, sleep, and daily heart rate data. The watch's stylish design complements its vibrant display and a sizable 49mm case. However, the latest iteration offers minimal advancements, making an upgrade from an Apple Watch Ultra 1 largely unnecessary. Despite Apple's emphasis on ruggedness, its core strength continues to be in its smartwatch capabilities. Compare it to other top watches in our lineup of the best GPS watches.
Leading UI for a smartwatch
Great design
Excellent health metrics
Short battery life
Limited improvements over Ultra 1
Apple Watch Sales In Limbo
We previously reported that Apple was halting sales of the Ultra 2 and Series 9 Apple Watches due to a patent dispute with Masimo regarding the blood oxygen sensor technology. As of January 18, 2024, the watches will be sold without the blood oxygen feature. The blood oxygen app will still be on the devices, but with a message that it's no longer available. Previously sold watches, and those sold outside the US, will not have this app disabled.

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Bottom Line The second generation's software takes a backseat behind notable hardware upgrades, but this still remains our top-choice smartwatchEase of use and accuracy make this the best watch that we've ever testedOne of the largest we tested, this watches is bombproof and features insane battery life with multi-satellite supportIf road and urban running is your top priority there is no watch on the market better than this modelThis watch excels as an affordable GPS companion, offering value and dependable accuracy
Rating Categories Apple Watch Ultra 2 Garmin Fenix 7 Pro... Coros Vertix 2 Garmin Forerunner 955 Coros Pace 3
Features (20%)
Battery Life (20%)
Ease of Use (20%)
Accuracy (20%)
Design (20%)
Specs Apple Watch Ultra 2 Garmin Fenix 7 Pro... Coros Vertix 2 Garmin Forerunner 955 Coros Pace 3
Watch Face Material Flat sapphire crystal display Power glass Sapphire Glass Corning Gorilla Glass DX Mineral Glass
Bezel Titanium Stainless steel Grade 5 titanium alloy with PVD coating Fiber reinforced polymer Glass fiber reinforced polyamide
Case Titanium and ceramic Fiber reinforced polymer Titanium alloy with PVD coating Fiber-reinforced polymer Glass fiber reinforced polyamide
Strap Material Spandex/Polyester Silicone Silicon or nylon Silicone Silicone
Tools Required to Change Band? No No No Yes No
Model Tested N/A Pro Solar Standard Standard N/A
Size Tested One size only 47 mm One size only One Size only One size only
Measured Main Body Size (diameter) 49 mm 47 mm 50 mm 46.5 mm 41.9 mm
Measured Thickness 14.4 mm 14.5 mm 16 mm 14.4 mm 11.8 mm
Measured Screen Width 35 mm 33 mm 35.5 mm 33 mm 31 mm
Measured Weight 2.60 oz 2.9 oz 3.17 oz 1.7 oz 1.5 oz
Measured Charging Time 96 min 150 min 128 min 120 min 113 min
Battery Type Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion Rechargable lithium ion
Measured Battery Life With GPS 12 hours 75 hours 135 hours 41 hours 34 hours
Manufacturer-Reported Battery Life Up to 36 hours normal use Smartwatch: Up to 18 days/22 days with solar
Battery Saver Watch Mode: Up to 57 days/173 days with solar
GPS Only: Up to 57 hours/73 hours with solar
All Satellte Systems: Up to 40 hours/48 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems + Multi-band: Up to 23 hours/26 hours with solar
All Satellite Systems + Music: Up to 10 hours
Max Battery GPS: Up to 136 hours/289 hours with solar
Expedition GPS: Up to 40 days/74 days with solar
Smartwatch mode: 60 days;
GPS: 140 hours
Smartwatch mode: Up to 15 days
GPS-only mode without music: Up to 42 hours
All-Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band with music: Up to 8.5 hours
All Systems GNSS mode plus Multi-Band without music: Up to 20 hours
Ultratrac mode: Up to 80 hours
Smartwatch mode: 24 days; GPS: 38 hours
Navigation Built In? Yes - detailed Yes Yes Yes Yes - breadcrumb
Satellite Networks Used Precision dual-frequency GPS: GPS, GNSS, Galileo and BeiDou GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO Dual Frequency
(GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, QZSS)
Maps? Yes - detailed Yes Yes - detailed Yes - detailed Yes - breadcrumb
Back to Start Navigation? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Water Resistance (max depth) 100m 100m 100m 50m 50m
Music Control? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes - downloads only
Music Storage? Yes - 64gb storage Yes Yes - 32gb storage Yes - 2000 songs Yes - 4gb
Daily Fitness Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Touchless Payment? Yes Yes No Yes No
Sleep Tracking? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Blood Oxygen? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Compass? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Barometric Altimeter? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Temperature Sensor? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Main Software App Apple Health Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Coros App Garmin Connect, widgets for other features Coros App
Can Software Crossover to Different Software Ecosystems? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Warranty Info 1 year 1 year 2 year 1 year 2 year

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Apple Ultra Watch 2 continues to be the best smartwatch for athletes and those looking for longer battery runtimes in an Apple watch. If you appreciate connectivity and phone-like features on your wrist, we continue to recommend this model. Apple's Health app is also our favorite for viewing data and metrics associated with our runs, sleep, and daily HR tracking. We think it offers the cleanest design without feeling cluttered like the competition. The physical design is elegant and premium, offering a super bright display and 49mm case size. This updated model has little to offer over the previous version right now, but we expect this hardware to be more utilized in the future. We would not recommend upgrading if you already have a first gen Apple Watch Ultra.

While this is a great watch, it's not for everyone. Our priority in a GPS watch is battery tracking and on-screen data viewing while performing activities — both areas where the Ultra 2 falls flat. For less serious athletes, these qualms are likely overly critical, but we find this watch is often distracting and overly featured. Luckily, you can customize it to minimize features and distractions, but that would make us question purchasing this watch style in the first place. Apple's marketing emphasizes its rugged capabilities, but at the end of the day, it's an Apple Watch, and smartwatch features continue to be its strong suit.

Performance Comparison

apple watch ultra 2 - the ultra 2 features an unchanged body but contains a wide range of...
The Ultra 2 features an unchanged body but contains a wide range of hardware upgrades. Extensively tested in the canyons of Utah.
Credit: Matthew Richardson


Receiving the highest rating for its feature set, there is little offered on the GPS watch market that you don't have access to with the Ultra 2. With an extensive set of both native and third-party apps, you can customize your experience to your liking. It's these features that make it possible to leave your phone behind, especially if you pay for a cellular data connection that will keep you connected. Regardless of your data connection, you can still access features like Apple Pay, downloadable music, SOS, and maps. The main change for this model over the first iteration is its updated chipset, which allows for new features like precision watch finding, on-device Siri, and a double tap gesture that activates the main function of any app you are in.

Red mode was previously one of our favorite additions to this watch, and now it automatically adjusts to changing light conditions. Recently, flashlights have been making their way onto GPS watches, which have quickly become one of our favorite features. While the Ultra 2 doesn't have an actual flashlight, the screen gets super bright and is the best screen-style flashlight we've tested, thanks to its peak 3000-nit brightness.

As mountain athletes, our feature priority continues to be based on the functionality of activity tracking. The Ultra 2, in our opinion, falls flat in technical terrain, with the greatest oversight being the lack of a descent elevation data field. We also prefer data fields that adjust based on the amount of available screen real estate. If you have a data screen with one field, that data should be oversized to fit the additional room, but the Ultra 2 keeps the field the same size regardless. The mapping/compass function is one of the better on-watch options, but we'd be hard-pressed to use this over our phone, especially considering the maps lack a lot of topographic terrain detail in most locations. The Ultra 2 continues to be the best option for those who desire features and performance in urban or less technical environments. For serious athletes in technical terrain, we'd opt for something a little more tailored to that environment.

If you're an iPhone user and desire a fully featured smartwatch but still need durability and GPS tracking for the outdoors, consider the Ultra.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Battery Life

This metric and its importance to you should make or break your decision surrounding the Apple Watch Ultra 2. With only roughly 12 hours of GPS tracking, ultra-endurance athletes may want to look elsewhere. Luckily, you can extend the life by turning on Low Power Mode, but still expect it to be limited over the competition. Pretty much every GPS watch we've tested has increased battery performance with a new generation, but not with this Ultra 2 upgrade. Users of other GPS watches will be surprised by the amount of charging that is needed to keep this watch alive.

Other watches, even cheap ones, can last weeks without charging, whereas the Ultra 2 can't even make it two full days without low-power mode. Compared to the premium models at this price point, the battery life found on this model is almost annoyingly short, and it seemingly requires constant attention to make sure the watch isn't going to die on you. Users that have Apple Watches won't see the problem as they are accustomed to the low battery times, but if you are looking to upgrade your GPS watch and haven't used an Apple Watch before, be sure to consider this. While low power mode is an option, don't let it influence your decision-making; if you decide this watch is for you, expect to charge the watch almost every day, especially if you plan on using GPS tracking in addition to all-day health tracking.

apple watch ultra 2 - one downside to the numerous features and phone integration is a...
One downside to the numerous features and phone integration is a short battery life. You should expect to charge your device roughly every 24 hours if you plan on using GPS tracking.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Ease of Use

With so many features, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the Ultra 2, but rest assured, Apple has created a watch that is incredibly easy to use once you get the hang of it. iPhone users will be familiar with many of the applications as they seamlessly transfer between devices. If you can work an iPhone, you can easily understand the functions and UI elements on your wrist due to the many shared characteristics. We appreciate that many of the customizations and settings can be managed on your iPhone using the Watch app, which comes on all Apple phones.

One of our favorite aspects of this device group is the Apple Health app, which we find to be the most elegant and useful. Apple seems to put the most emphasis on daily health tracking, and they exceed the competition's apps and stats by doing so.

Both Coros, Garmin Connect, and Suunto can import into Apple Health, allowing you to use the app without using an Apple Watch.

New software updates have changed some of the button actions — now, the side button opens up the quick action menu instead of having to swipe down on the screen. The orange action button continues to do a host of items that you can customize; we keep ours to easily open the flashlight. One benefit of more buttons is the ability to have multiple hotkeys. Refinements continue to be made with the new hardware, and we are confident that Apple will continue to offer benefits in the future with new watchOS updates.

apple watch ultra 2 - apple's ui on the ultra 2 is incredibly easy to use with a lot of...
Apple's UI on the Ultra 2 is incredibly easy to use with a lot of the features mimicking those found on other Apple devices.
Credit: Matthew Richardson


No changes have been made to the optical heart rate sensor or dual-frequency GPS chip on the Ultra 2. Both have performed excellently in the past and after our extensive testing, we are once again confident that Apple is providing some of the most accurate metrics. The optical sensor is one of our favorites and rarely has spikes or dropouts, even on rough terrain like mountain biking. Even though it's a larger watch, the rectangular shape fits a wide variety of wrist types.

We tested the dual GNSS chipset in deep canyons where GPS tracking is notoriously bad, and we were impressed with the initial location and consistent tracking. You can expect dropouts on more vertical terrain, but this is common with all GPS watches. Connecting to a host of satellites allows for a superior connection that can ignore faulty signals. When deep in the canyons, our InReach was stuck waiting for a satellite to move into view over the canyon wall. Iridium, which is used on the InReach, contains 66 active satellites compared to the 100+ combined of GPS, GNSS, Galileo, and BeiDou found on the Ultra 2, which connected instantly.

It's important to note that many factors can influence heart rate readings, such as skin color, tattoos, and watch fit. You should aim to keep the watch snug enough so that it limits movement, especially during bouncy activities like running or biking. One benefit of indexed style straps is you can achieve the same tightness day after day, whereas velcro straps are more ambiguous. Most of the data and insights gathered from your watch revolve around the heart rate monitor, so you must achieve a comfortable but snug fit. For watch bands with sizing such as the Ultra 2, we'd highly recommend using their size guides.

apple watch ultra 2 - with a dual-frequency chipset, you can be confident that your gps...
With a dual-frequency chipset, you can be confident that your GPS tracks will be accurate even in technical terrain. Limitations continue to exist when the line of sight to the sky is minimal.
Credit: Matthew Richardson


While physical design is largely personal preference, it does play an essential role in how a watch feels on your wrist. At 49mm, the Ultra 2 is one of the larger screens, and its rectangular shape is unique among our test lineup. We've found this shape is less susceptible to moving when in rough terrain mountain biking, allowing us to wear it less tight than other watches. As a result, this watch feels the best on our wrist, providing the most secure fit for both daily use and activity. Skinny wrists or protruding ulna bumps can be particularly tricky for larger watches, and we find that this has the least interaction due to the rectangular design.

The full titanium bezel looks great and holds up to abuse; we've noticed no visible signs of wear from backpacking, running, and mountain biking. The glass has held up well to use, and we still have no visible scratches on the main face. Dedicated buttons and the larger scroll wheel allow for interaction even with gloved hands. The various strap designs allow for personalization, our favorite being the Alpine loop band. These bands are unchanged from the previous version and are easily changed without a tool. We found this band to be comfortable and durable and appreciate the subtle stretch and patina that the fabric takes on, becoming even more comfortable with use.

Apple continues to provide the best UI and screen resolution, offering an insanely bright 3000 nits of peak brightness. This is the best screen of any watch we've tested, and it works great in a wide variety of conditions due to the contrast. Colors easily look better than any other model in our lineup, and its always-on display provides a great aesthetic. While expensive, we think you could argue this is one of the best-looking watches on the market, and its premium materials provide confidence in both its performance and durability. We are excited to see what Apple offers for the Ultra lineup in the future.

The rectangular 49mmm case fits our team's wrist great offering readability in direct sunlight thanks to the super bright display. The auto-red mode is also a favorite of ours for sleeping indoors or outdoors.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Should You Buy the Apple Ultra Watch 2?

If you're in the market for a GPS watch but also want phone-like features on your wrist, there is simply no better smartwatch than the Apple Watch. Serious athletes can still benefit from the Ultra 2, but we'd analyze your battery needs and purchase based on those. Urban athletes or users who don't need all-day GPS tracking would benefit most from a product like this. We'd recommend mountain and endurance athletes continue to look at the options from Coros and Garmin.

What Other GPS Watches Should You Consider?

Our favorite GPS watch is the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro Solar. It's best for serious athletes who prioritize performance over smartwatch features like phone calls, messaging, and an extensive app store. If you're hoping to spend a bit less but still want a watch packed with performance, check out the Coros Pace 3, which is ultralight and offers great battery life and a screen that looks amazing even in direct sunlight.

apple watch ultra 2 - if you had to narrow it down to three we'd recommend the garmin...
If you had to narrow it down to three we'd recommend the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro Solar, Apple Watch Ultra 2, or the Coros Pace 3.
Credit: Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson