The Apple Watch Ultra is here, and it’s Apple’s biggest and best adventure watch to date. Built to be “rugged and capable” – built for marathon runners, divers, and those amazing folk who tackle Iron Man. With 60 hours of battery life, a massive 49mm design, and the action button we’ve all been waiting for, I was excited to test it out.
After I unpacked the Ultra on a rainy Friday morning and set it up, I proceeded to run a ten-mile test run to see how the watch would perform, as part of my Apple Watch Ultra review. Will you believe Apple’s battery claims, and what about the new workout features, designed to make the Watch a competition for the likes Garmin Fenix 7? Read on to find out which feature surprised me the most.
Not sure how to choose between Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8? Read our interview first. Apple also recently announced the release of Apple Watch SE 2022and the Apple Watch Series 8 – Check out our reviews of both watches in Tom’s Guide.
I just ran 10 miles with an Apple Watch Ultra – and this game-changing feature
I’m the first to admit, I was pretty excited about the Action button on the Apple Watch Ultra — a new customizable button that offers instant access to a host of features. You can easily choose between features like a flashlight, backtracks, waypoint, and a stopwatch, but as a runner, I programmed the action button to take me directly to the workout function on my Apple Watch. If I wanted, the button could take me directly to my outdoor runs, but since I often use my Apple Watch to track my dog’s walk, swim, and bike ride, I chose to go through the full list of exercise modes.
The button in the middle of playback can also be used to pause the activity—one of the main concerns I’ve had on the Apple Watch so far. Sure, Apple gave runners the option to swipe on and off manually or press the two side buttons at the same time, but it wasn’t easy to do while on the go, with sweaty fingers, or when wearing gloves. I found that I was able to hold the action button and the side button while running toward the stop light without any problem.
However, the action button isn’t the feature that surprised me the most — I was expecting to like it, and I did. Instead, it was the Precision Start feature that really made me think Apple might have one of the best running watches. Accurate start means you can skip the 3… 2… 1 countdown sequence when starting an activity, and wait until you know the watch has found a GPS signal.
As you can see from the images above, when the watch finds GPS (it only takes a few seconds each time I try it, even indoors), the GPS widget in the upper left corner turns blue.
Again, Apple hasn’t reinvented the wheel here – it’s something Garmin has done for years, but it he is A big deal for Apple, and something to be thrown across all of its watches. Starting a run without making sure your watch is connected to GPS makes no sense, especially on race day or when running in a city when crowds and skyscrapers interfere with your watch’s GPS. Additionally, it makes sense for Apple to add dual-frequency GPS to the watch, incorporating L1 and L5 algorithms. Apple says this allows the Ultra to “deliver the most accurate GPS of any Apple Watch to date.”
I’ll keep testing the Apple Watch Ultra over the next few weeks, and I’ll keep comparing its data to the likes of the Garmin Fenix 7 and Garmin Forerunner 955, but from my first run, the outlook looks good. Apple didn’t do any groundbreaking work, but instead, they added features the Apple Watch had been missing for years into a larger, brighter package than we’ve seen before.