Apple Watch Ultra 1 vs Ultra 2: Is It Worth The Upgrade? (With Video)

by | Sep 13, 2023

Is It Worth It?

  • Chip: Ultra 2’s S9 is faster, but noticeable differences are minimal.
  • Display: Ultra 2’s is supposedly brighter, but tests show little difference.
  • Features: Ultra 2 offers double-tap, depth logging, voice-activated way-points, and faster Siri.
  • Battery: Same battery life; but Ultra 2 has longer low-power mode.
  • Design & Price: Identical look; Ultra 2 is pricier.

Much like everyone else keen on outdoor adventures and wearable tech, I was ecstatic to hear about the Apple Watch Ultra 2’s launch at their Fall event.

When Apple released the first Apple Watch Ultra last year, they clearly had their eyes on a market largely dominated by Garmin.

Fast forward to today, and we’re looking at an updated Apple Watch Ultra 2.

It brings a few internal tweaks and some new software features to the table, but is it worth the upgrade?

Check out the video below, or continue reading

Ultra 1 vs Ultra 2 Key Differences

Ultra 1
Ultra 2
S8 SiP 64-bit dual-core processor
S9 SiP 64-bit dual-core processor
Ultra Wideband Chip
Gen 1
Gen 2
Display Brightness
2000 nits
3000 nits
On-board Siri
Precision Finding iPhone
Battery Life
36 / 60 hours
36 / 72 hours
Depth Log
Waypoint Voice
$729 (varies)

Reasons to Buy the Ultra 2

Upgrading to the latest piece of tech is always tempting. But in some cases, the changes made may not warrant a new purchase.

Here are some reasons why the Apple Watch Ultra 2 might be worth your attention.

1. A More Powerful Chip

Apple claims that the new S9 chip is 30% faster than the Ultra’s S8, which should offer a much smoother experience.

Are you someone who likes to have the fastest and smoothest operating device? If so, then the Ultra 2 may be a good buy for you.

But how much smoother can it be? The Ultra 1 already runs flawlessly, never slows down, and never freezes. 

In the video posted above, we tested the speed of the new S9 chip in the Ultra 2 versus the S8 chip in the Ultra 1, only to find not much of a difference.

The on-board Siri is certainly faster, but when we opened various applications, there was no clear winner between the two.

2. Depth Log for Divers

If you’re into underwater activities such as diving or snorkeling, Apple made some changes to their depth app on the new Ultra 2.

The new Depth app now logs all your sessions directly in the app, which allows you to review the data collected to analyze your dives.

While this isn’t a game-changer, it is certainly a helpful addition for those who use their Ultra 2 heavily for water activities.

3. Brighter Display

The Ultra comes with a new 3,000 nits screen, which is 50% brighter than the Ultra 1, coming in at 2,000 nits. However, you will only notice this difference on harsh sun days.

I want to point out that not once have I ever thought I needed a brighter screen on my Ultra 1, even on the sunniest of days, but this feature may be appealing to some.

In my Ultra 1 vs 2 brightness test, I turned the brightness on both devices up all the way, the placed them side by side in various lighting environments.

There was no clear winner between the two, in fact, the Ultra 1 almost looked brighter to me almost everywhere.

Many users appear to be having this same issue.

4. Voice-Activated Waypoint Setting

A new feature on the Ultra 2 is the agility to set waypoints with your voice, even without any internet connectivity.

This is a big change, and honestly should’ve been in the Ultra 1.

What good is having a outdoorsy watch without the ability to use waypoints without internet?

Anyways, it’s here now, and you should be glad it is.

4. On-board Siri

Thanks to the new S9 chip, all processing of Siri is done on-board your Apple Watch. This means it does not need to reach out to the servers to process a command as it needs to in the Ultra 1.

Because of this, there is a significant improvement in speed. We tested this in the video at the top of this article, and recommend you check it out.

Reasons to Stick With Your Ultra 1

Before you rush off to make that purchase, let’s consider why you might want to hold on to your existing Apple Watch Ultra 1.

As noted above, there aren’t any ground-breaking innovations with the new Ultra 2, so sticking with the Ultra may be the best choice for most.

Here are some reasons you may want to stick with the Ultra 1:

1. Similar Battery Life

The Ultra 2 has the same exact battery as the old Ultra.

And despite the newer model touting a next-gen processor, Apple has managed to get the same amount of battery life with the new Ultra 2.

The Apple Watch Ultra 1 has a battery life of 36 hours and up to 60 hours in low power mode. The Ultra 2 has the same 36 hour battery life, but has an increased lower power mode capacity up to 72 hours.

So what we’re seeing is no increase in battery life for normal operation. The only time you will see a difference is if you’re using low power mode.

2. Same Old Design

If you were holding your breath for a new design, now is the time to exhale, with great disappointment.

Both the Ultra 1 and the Ultra 2 are identical in design, from the way they look, to the dimensions, and even identical weight.

The one slight difference is that the Ultra 2 weighs 61.4g, while the Ultra 1 weighs 61.3g. In other words, you won’t notice a difference, and these are the exact same watches aesthethically.

3. To Save Money

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 will cost you $799 before taxes, and for students and veterans with a verified account, you can grab it for $719.

Now that the Ultra 2 is released, you should be able to pick up a new Ultra 1 for around $729, depending on where you’re shopping.

Unless the new features really speak to you, or you just love having the most up-to-date tech, this is a lot of money for an mediocre upgrade.

If you already own an original Ultra 1 and are tight on finances, perhaps skip this upgrade, since there really is no difference.

So, which is it? Stick with The Apple Watch Ultra 1, or buy the Ultra 2?

Here’s what I think:

    • Tech Enthusiasts: If cutting-edge technology excites you, and the Ultra 2’s minimal new features appeal to you without stretching your budget, then this upgrade might be right up your alley.

    • Current Ultra Owners: If you’re already sporting an Apple Watch Ultra 1 and find that the new features don’t offer you substantial benefits, sticking with your current watch could be the more prudent option—and save you $800+.

    Ultimately, the best smartwatch for you is the one that meets your individual needs and fits within your financial comfort zone.

    For me? I bought the Apple Watch Ultra 2 because I love having the latest tech. Let us know in the comments below which watch you plan to get.


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    Ken Lynch

    by Ken Lynch

    Ken is a Technologist, Healthcare Data Analyst, and the owner and sole contributor to The Wearable Guy.

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