Wayfarer review: the new Apple Watch Ultra 2 delivers style and performance

by James Wilkinson

Apple’s all new Apple Watch Ultra 2 made a splash when it debuted in late September, bringing new features to Apple’s most capable and rugged smartwatch, and achieving a significant environmental milestone. Has it been worth the hype? Absolutely because this is Apple’s best Watch release yet.

As expected, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 offers all of the features users have come to love about the Ultra, alongside a swathe of all-new enhancements, including advanced capabilities for water adventures, expanded altitude range, Precision Finding for iPhone, a magical new double tap gesture, Apple’s brightest display ever and much of is thanks to the powerful new S9 SiP.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 runs watchOS 10, which delivers redesigned apps, the new Smart Stack, new cycling experiences, features to help explore the outdoors, and a new watch face — Modular Ultra.

With all the new advancements, Apple Watch Ultra 2 has the same 36-hour battery life with regular use and up to 72 hours in Low Power Mode.

For the first time, customers can calso hoose a carbon neutral option of any Apple Watch, which the company says “represents a significant milestone toward Apple 2030: Apple’s plan to be carbon neutral across its entire business, manufacturing supply chain, and product life cycle by 2030”.

“This year we’ve made our most rugged and capable Apple Watch even better,” said Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams.

“Apple Watch Ultra 2 is our most advanced Apple Watch, with great performance and feature updates.

“It’s perfect for anyone who wants our biggest, brightest display, longest battery life, and best GPS of any Apple Watch, all in a stunning design.”

The brilliant Apple Watch Ultra 2 is powered by custom Apple silicon in the all-new S9 SiP.

The company says it is Apple’s most powerful watch chip yet delivers systemwide improvements and brand-new features, including a new double tap gesture.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 also has a new 4-core Neural Engine that can process machine learning tasks up to twice as fast as the original Apple Watch Ultra.

You’ll love some of the new innovations such as the Digital Crown and Taptic Engine — along with gestures like tap, swipe, wrist raise, and cover to mute — make Apple Watch simple and intuitive to use.

“With a new double tap gesture, users can easily control Apple Watch Ultra 2 using just one hand and without touching the display.,” Apple says.

“Users can tap the index finger and thumb of their watch hand together twice to quickly and conveniently perform many of the most common actions on Apple Watch Ultra 2.

“Double tap will also open the Smart Stack from the watch face, and another double tap will scroll through widgets in the stack.”

The double tap is a feature that makes Apple Watch Ultra 2 easier than ever to use, especially when you have your hands full.

Double tap controls the primary button in an app so it can be used to stop a timer, play and pause music, or snooze an alarm.

The gesture can be used to answer and end a phone call, take a photo with the Camera Remote on Apple Watch, or even switch to the new Elevation view in the Compass app to see the relative elevation of saved waypoints.

The new double tap gesture is enabled by the faster Neural Engine in Apple Watch Ultra 2, which processes data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart sensor with a new machine learning algorithm.

The algorithm detects the unique signature of tiny wrist movements and changes in blood flow when the index finger and thumb perform a double tap.

Something Apple Watch users will quickly notice on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the brighter display.

According to Apple, a new advanced display architecture pushes the maximum brightness of Apple Watch Ultra 2 to 3000 nits — 50 per cent brighter than the first generation of Apple Watch Ultra and the brightest display Apple has ever designed — for greater readability in harsh sunlight.

For dark rooms or early mornings, the display can also lower to just one nit so as not to disturb people close by.

Flashlight also benefits from the new display architecture; rotating the Digital Crown temporarily doubles the brightness to better light the way.

Something we also love is the new watch face designed for Apple Watch Ultra, called ‘Modular Ultra’, which takes advantage of the large display, using the outermost edge to present real-time data, including seconds, altitude, or depth.

It offers the most complications of any Apple digital watch face to customise for sports, outdoor adventures, and ocean and water activities.

Once you start using it, you’ll wish it was a face that was on previous devices. Yes, it impresses that much.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 is designed for extremes and has been tested for use across the largest range of altitudes for any Apple product, from 500 metres below sea level to explore the lowest valleys, and up to 9,000 metres to ascend the world’s tallest peaks.

The new release is perfect for water sports, including extreme activities like kitesurfing and wakeboarding, along with recreational scuba diving to 40 metres — and now freediving — with the updated Oceanic+ app from Huish Outdoors.

The built-in Depth app now saves a log of each session so users can review the most recent sessions on Apple Watch Ultra or view the complete history of all dives with a GPS entry point in the Fitness app on iPhone.

During a freedive with the Oceanic+ app, users will see critical data like depth and elapsed time, and receive target depth alerts, all in big, bold, glanceable text.

Between dives, heart rate zones help users monitor and lower their heart rate, and preset alarms like surface time and elapsed session time guide users through each training session. The detailed logbook provides a full profile, including descent and ascent speeds.

For the first time on Apple Watch, Siri requests can be processed on device. For requests that do not require information from the internet, like starting a workout or setting a timer, Siri does not rely on Wi-Fi or cellular networks, resulting in quicker and more reliable responses. The powerful Neural Engine also makes dictation up to 25 per cent more accurate.

On-device processing is private and secure, and now Siri can be used to access data from the Health app for health- and fitness-related queries.

For example, a user can ask how many hours of sleep they had the previous night, for progress on closing their Activity rings, to start an outdoor run or cycling workout, or make requests like setting a waypoint with just their voice, even with no connectivity.

Users can also make Siri requests on Apple Watch Ultra 2 to log health data such as their weight, body temperature, period, or medications taken.

The ability to use Apple Watch to find iPhone is a favourite user feature. Now, the S9 SiP includes a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip to enable Precision Finding for the iPhone 15 family, which has the same chip.

Precision Finding provides distance and direction, as well as visual, haptic, and audio guidance to a misplaced iPhone, even if it’s in a different room or a user doesn’t remember where it’s been stowed after a dive, for example.


Select case and band combinations of Apple Watch Ultra 2, Apple Watch SE, and the new Apple Watch Series 9 are Apple’s first-ever carbon neutral products.

According to the company, as part of Apple 2030, the carbon footprint of Apple Watch Ultra 2 has been significantly decreased.

“Emissions were reduced from the three biggest sources of greenhouse gases — materials, electricity, and transportation,” Apple says.

“The small amount of emissions remaining are offset with high-quality carbon credits from nature-based projects.”

Apple Watch Ultra 2 paired with an Alpine Loop or Trail Loop features 95 per cent recycled titanium, compared with no recycled titanium in the first Apple Watch Ultra.

A new logo on Apple Watch Ultra 2 packaging indicates models that are carbon neutral.