Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: buy now or wait?

Apple Watch Ultra ECG measurement.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Apple has officially announced its September event, where we certainly can expect an iPhone 15 lineup. Not only are we going to have new iPhones, but we are going to get the new Apple Watch Series 9 — and maybe even the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

The Apple Watch Ultra was launched last year with the iPhone 14, and it is the Apple Watch designed for extreme activities like diving and mountain climbing. But it also has incredible battery life, the Action button, and the largest display yet for an Apple Watch. If you want the best Apple Watch experience possible, it’s the one to buy.

The question is whether you should you wait for the Apple Watch Ultra 2, or would you be fine with buying the original Apple Watch Ultra right now? We’re here to help you out.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: design

Mockup of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 with a dark titanium finish.
ShrimpApplePro / Twitter

The Apple Watch Ultra has a 49mm titanium case with a flat sapphire crystal display. The screen is an always-on LTPO OLED display that can reach up to 2,000 nits of brightness. It has the usual Digital Crown and Side Button on the right side of the case, and there’s also the orange-accented Action Button on the left side of the watch.

From the rumors that are floating around so far, it doesn’t seem like the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is going to have many design changes compared to the current model.

According to recent reports, one change to the Apple Watch Ultra 2 lineup could be the addition of a dark titanium color option alongside the natural titanium finish. It could be something similar to the Space Black titanium option that debuted with the Apple Watch Series 5.

The Apple Watch Ultra's side and Digital Crown,
Apple Watch Ultra Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There are also some whispers about Apple using a 3D-printing process for certain mechanical parts of the Apple Watch Ultra 2, but these are likely just a cost-saving measure for Apple. The parts themselves are probably the Digital Crown, Side Button, and Action Button, but the look and feel of them should remain the same.

Other than these two bits, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 should retain the same design as the current Apple Watch Ultra. If you weren’t a fan of the large size and “bulkiness” of the Apple Watch Ultra, then that likely isn’t going to change with the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: specs

Someone wearing the Apple Watch Ultra with the Wayfinder face.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

The current Apple Watch Ultra uses an S8 chip, just like with the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE 2. It’s quite fast and snappy in terms of performance and has no problem keeping up with whatever you want to throw at it.

If the rumors are to be believed, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 will have a new S9 processor — the same one we expect to see in the Apple Watch Series 9. According to reports, this would be the biggest performance boost for the Apple Watch since the Apple Watch Series 6. The S9 chip is rumored to be based on the A15 Bionic chip that first launched in the iPhone 13 lineup.

Mark Gurman of Bloomberg claims that this performance boost from the S9 will be “significant.” However, it’s hard to say just how much of an improvement it’ll actually be — after all, the current iteration of the Apple Watch Ultra is already excellent.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: features

Using the Depth Gauge on the Apple Watch Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra redefined the Apple Watch with its set of features designed for more rugged and extreme outdoor activities than previous models. The titanium casing makes it much more lightweight and durable than its aluminum and stainless steel siblings, and the larger size means more room for a bigger battery.

Since it’s designed for more extreme outdoor activity, the Apple Watch Ultra also has an IP6X dust resistance rating, is water resistant up to 100 meters, and is swimproof — allowing you to dive recreationally up to 40 meters with EN13319 certification. There is also a depth gauge with a water temperature sensor, and you can get the Oceanic+ app to use it as a full-on dive computer.

And though you hopefully never need to use it, there is also an 86-decibel siren that you can activate with the Action button. It’s audible for up to 600 feet and can be legitimately helpful if you need assistance in remote areas.

At the moment, we haven’t heard of any new features that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 may have that its predecessor doesn’t. We can definitely expect it to have everything that the current Apple Watch Ultra has, at the very least. But aside from the new S9 processor that we already mentioned, it’s been mum on the feature front.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: health tracking

Apple Watch Ultra taking a measurement for blood oxygen levels.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

One of the big reasons why anyone would want an Apple Watch is for the health-tracking features. The Apple Watch Ultra offers everything that the Series 8 has, with the added benefit of the larger and more durable titanium case, longer battery life, and more features designed for extreme activity.

Right now, the Apple Watch Ultra has 24/7 continuous heart rate monitoring, SpO2 (blood oxygen) tracking, an ECG app, high and low heart rate notifications, irregular rhythm notifications (good for detecting atrial fibrillation), and cardio fitness notifications. And like the Series 8, there is also a temperature sensor, which is especially helpful for cycle tracking thanks to ovulation estimates.

Apple Watch Ultra is also able to track sleep if you wear it at night, and there is fall detection, which alerts emergency services if you take a hard spill.

There have been no reports so far that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 will be getting any new health sensors. Many people are hoping to see something new on this front, such as blood pressure or noninvasive blood glucose monitoring, but it’s not very likely that these health technologies are ready for prime time just yet.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: battery life

Activating Low Power Mode on an Apple Watch Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The first-generation Apple Watch Ultra has proven to be a beast in terms of battery life, with a single charge lasting around 36 hours — twice as long as the Apple Watch Series 8. This can be further extended into the 60-hour range if Low Power Mode is enabled.

We should expect the Apple Watch Ultra 2 to have similar battery life, if not better with the S9 chip. Since the S9 could bring faster performance and improved power efficiency, it wouldn’t be out of reach for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 to get up to 40 hours of battery life between charges. This is speculation, of course, but it could be a possibility with a new chip.

Like the previous iteration, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 should include a USB-C magnetic fast-charging cable.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: price

An Apple Watch Series 5 and an Apple Watch Ultra with an assortment of various Apple Watch bands.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra is the most expensive Apple Watch, coming in at $799 for a single size and finish. While this may seem expensive at first, it is only $100 more than the cheapest stainless steel version of the Series 8.

We are not expecting a price increase for the Apple Watch Ultra 2. However, it could be possible to see a slight price increase for a black titanium model, similar to how the Space Black Link Bracelet is $100 more than the Silver version, but this is uncertain.

Regardless, we can definitely expect it to be at least $799.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Apple Watch Ultra: availability

The Apple Watch Ultra with the Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch SE 2.
From left, the Apple Watch SE 2, Apple Watch Series 8, and Apple Watch Ultra Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Last year, the Apple Watch Ultra came out on September 23, 2022.

Apple has announced its fall event will take place on September 12. At the event, we can expect to see a new iPhone 15 lineup, along with the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Going by previous track records, preorders should start as early as the following Friday, which would be September 15, and then a public release would be September 22.

While the first Apple Watch Ultra is an excellent smartwatch, we would recommend holding off on purchasing one right now. At least wait until the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is announced, and see if the updates (the new processor and titanium color) are worth a purchase. If not, then you should be able to find a first-generation Apple Watch Ultra at a discount from some retailers while they still have stock.

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