We tried the Apple Watch Ultra, the connected watch not to put on all wrists

Designed for athletes and daredevils, the new Apple Watch Ultra is officially intended for anyone looking for a high-end connected watch. After several minutes on our wrist, it seems obvious to us that it is not made for all audiences.

Is the new Apple Watch Ultra too big? During his presentation during the iPhone 14 keynote, this is clearly the question that came to mind the most. In all the promotional videos released by the brand, the connected watch at 999 euros seemed huge and incompatible with most wrists. We had the opportunity to try it for a few minutes in Cupertino. Here is our first opinion on the Apple Watch Ultra, while waiting for our test in the next few days.

The real Apple Watch Sport

Remember, when Apple marketed its first connected watch in 2015, the brand launched a “Sport” range with an aluminum dial. Soon enough, the Apple Watch Sport disappeared and became just the Apple Watch, in aluminum or steel depending on the preferences (and budget) of its owners. Apple, which had for a time thought of declining its watch in several iterations, had come to the conclusion that it was better to offer a simple range.

Seven years later, the situation has changed. Now number 1 in the connected watch market, Apple can afford to tackle specific segments. The Apple Watch Ultra is the first true version of the Apple Watch since its creation, targeting the most extreme athletes.

Here is the Apple Watch Ultra and its new design. // Source: Numerama

To suit them and hurt companies specializing in the field, like Garmin, Apple is betting on a padded design with stronger titanium edges, a non-curved sapphire screen and a new physical button dedicated to activities. Why a button? Because underwater or when wearing gloves, it is not possible to interact with the touchscreen. Apple explained to us that this was a recurring request from its customers, which it decided to listen to. This button is quite large, sinks well and can indeed be practical for starting a sports session or ending a stopwatch.

Watch Button Ultra
The Apple Watch Ultra has an “Action” button on its left side. // Source: Numerama

To make all these changes possible, the Apple Watch Ultra sports a really special design, designed to be solid while carrying a maximum of functions. The Apple Watch Ultra also has the right to a larger capacity battery and a larger dial (49 millimeters), so that its screen displays more information simultaneously. There too so that athletes can see everything at a glance.

Is the Apple Watch Ultra really as good as a Garmin? For the moment, we have only been able to try very few functions, such as the possibility of reversing on a road thanks to a mode exploiting its dual-frequency GPS. It works well, but it will take us several days of testing to really know how efficient the Apple Watch Ultra is compared to a Series 7 or Series 8. On paper anyway, the watch seems well equipped. Everything will also depend on the work of third-party developers to add functions not offered natively by Apple, such as pre-established hikes or other. Apple seems to have designed a lot of experiences just for the watch, without thinking that we might want a bigger screen to prepare activities.

A product designed for a specific category

Contrary to what we might have imagined at first glance, the Apple Watch Ultra is not so big. Despite its unique 49 mm dial (Apple explains that it could not have made it smaller given the on-board technologies), the watch does not seem huge to us compared to a 45 mm Apple Watch, like the one we have been wearing daily for several months. Of course, not everyone can say the same thing. On small wrists, the Apple Watch Ultra may often be unsuitable. There are new wristbands designed to keep it in place, but is a product that protrudes from the wrist bearable by everyone? This is already the first problem with this Apple Watch Ultra, which no longer comes in several sizes like the other models, and therefore unintentionally excludes certain people.

Watch Ultra Watch 45
Next to a 45mm Watch, the 49mm Watch Ultra looks pretty normal. But it is much thicker. // Source: Numerama

Then, if the size of the watch did not surprise us, we cannot say the same thing with its thickness. Aesthetically, it is not easy to get used to it. Next to the sublime, curved and thin Series 8, the Apple Watch Ultra looks really overweight. Some will see it as a quality for its robustness and its longer autonomy, others will necessarily see it as a reason not to opt for this product. Even if Apple imagines that its target will be much higher than that of just sports watches (and is probably right given its aura), the design of the Apple Watch Ultra will inevitably divide. It’s rare to see Apple tackle such a specific category, when the brand is used to aiming as broadly as possible.

Apple Watch Ultra // Source: Numerama screenshot

How to explain certain design choices, such as “Crown Guard” in protuberance in which are the rotating crown and the side button? It is above all a question of improving the user experience when one is in activity. Thanks to this slight protrusion, the digital crown is easy to handle, even with wet fingers. The entire design of the Apple Watch Ultra was done with the idea of ​​making it more practical than pretty.

Apple Watch Ultra crown
The rotating crown is in a special place, which makes it easier to handle. // Source: Numerama

The Apple Watch Ultra isn’t for everyone and is likely to be more divisive than most other Apple products. We can’t wait to test it to see if its ultra-sporty functions allow us to forget its more divisive design and if, despite our first impressions, it can be intended for someone who doesn’t go hiking every weekend.

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