Apple enters the outdoor smartwatch market with its new Apple Watch Ultra

Apple watch Ultra
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple launched a new rugged version of its smartwatch at their September Keynote event. The Apple Watch Ultra is a new flagship model which is inspired by explorers and athletes from around the world and designed for new and extreme environments.

We had heard rumors a couple of months ago that Apple was going to release a rugged outdoor smartwatch. The official launch from Apple will no doubt send shockwaves among the sports smartwatch markets. 

While the Apple Watch is an unmistakable piece of sleek Apple design, Apple are keen to stress that the classy exterior is tougher than it appears. The new watch features a 49mm titanium case and the flat sapphire front crystal screen is the biggest and brightest Apple Watch display to date. Not only does the Apple Watch Ultra have the biggest display, but it also has the longest battery life, Apple is claiming 36 hours during 'normal use', Apple says a low power setting offering 60 hours is coming soon, although what defines normal use is unclear. The Apple Watch Ultra is waterproof to 100m and has an IP6X dust resistance rating too.

Apple watch Ultra

(Image credit: Apple)

Alongside the crown and touch screen, there is a new action button that can be used to start activity tracking or customized with other outdoor-related functions. On the other side is a safety button that can make emergency calls or retrieve your Medical ID.

There are three outdoor-specific straps: Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, and Ocean Band. The Trail Loop is a thin flexible band with a little stretch for extra comfort while the Alpine Loop is made from textile layers and secured with a titanium G‑hook. The Ocean Band, unsurprisingly, is aimed at water sports and uses a molded fluoroelastomer rubber with a titanium buckle and a spring‑loaded titanium adjustable loop that secures through tubes in the strap.

Inside the Apple Watch Ultra gets dual-frequency GPS. Apple says that by integrating both L1 and L5 GPS into a new antenna design it gives greater range with better power efficiency. The GPS combines with Apple's Maps data and uses an algorithm to better identify actual locations.

Apple watch Ultra

(Image credit: Apple)

Disappointingly most of the features seem to be marketed toward hiking, running, and diving although there's little doubt the watch will also be able to handle other activities like cycling – especially once companies like Strava start developing specifically for this watch.

You get all the usual health metrics that you would expect from an Apple Watch on the Ultra. Body temperature sensing, sleep tracking, ECG heart monitoring, and blood oxygen levels are all tracked. You can also control music, get maps, receive calls and texts and use Siri too.

Apple has a keen eye for entering new markets and dominating. Since the Apple Watch was first launched in 2015, Apple has reportedly managed go on to secure 50 percent of the market share in 2021. 2022 is a bumper year for Apple wearable fans as Apple also released the new Apple Watch 8 alongside a budget SE model as well.

It will be interesting to see how existing market leaders Garmin and other wearable brands react to this newcomer as we think Garmin might still have the edge with its Solar power-equipped adventure watches like the Instinct 2. While it might lack the sophisticated aesthetic, the Instinct 2 is packed with features, boasts solar recharging, and is around half the price.

The Apple Watch Ultra is available to order today, with availability beginning Friday, September 23 – although you’d better get saving as prices start at £849 

Graham Cottingham
Senior reviews writer, Bike Perfect

Graham is all about riding bikes off-road. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro, and gravel racing. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has embraced bikepacking over the last few years and likes nothing more than strapping some bags to his bike and covering big miles to explore Scotland's wildernesses. When he isn’t shredding the gnar in the Tweed Valley, sleeping in bushes, or tinkering with bikes, he is writing tech reviews for Bike Perfect.

Rides: Cotic SolarisMax, Stooge MK4, 24 Bicycles Le Toy 3, Surly Steamroller

Height: 177cm

Weight: 71kg