Why the Apple Watch Ultra has been my favorite Apple product for years

When Apple announced it Apple Watch Ultra, I wrote it as a device that was not designed for me. I don’t run a marathon. I Don’t dive or go on one-day hikes Without any cellular service. I’m a regular user who works occasionally and runs a few times a year. in other words, Fitness features It’s part of what I use on any smartwatch, but it’s not the driving force.

I also sit at a desk to work. I don’t expose my devices to harsh conditions, much less need a titanium watch case that can take a beating.

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Given how the Apple Watch Ultra was first advertised and marketed, along with the $799 price tag, I didn’t pre-order it.

But, the same morning shipments of the Apple Watch Ultra were due to arrive and in-store availability started, I checked my local Apple Store inventory and they had two watches in stock.

So, on a whim, without thinking and contrary to everything I said after launch, I bought one. I figured I could bring it back After testing it at least I have some perspective on what it’s like to use Ultra for future stories.

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48 hours later, I knew I wouldn’t go back to Ultra. It quickly became clear that this isn’t just a watch for “sportsmen and adventurers.” Apple says on the Ultra’s webpage.

And now, nearly a full two months after its release, the Apple Watch Ultra is one of my favorite products that Apple has released in the past few years. Here’s why.

Charging an Apple Watch Ultra on a rooftop

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Battery life is king

I’ve never had an issue with the battery life of previous Apple Watch models. When sleep tracking launched, I changed my charging habits to charge my watch in the morning when I was ready, and I can’t remember a single instance of ending the day with a dead Apple Watch.

However, there were close calls. Specific usage situations or tasks are taken into account to ensure that the battery will last for a full day of use.

With the Apple Watch Ultra, you don’t have to think about battery life every day. In fact, I’d say I charge the Ultra about every 2.5 days. And even then, not because Ultra battery about to die.

That’s because I get an alert before bed that the battery won’t last all night while it’s tracking my sleep.

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Just two weeks ago, I went out of town for the weekend. In the past, I’ve had to pack an Apple Watch charger and know when to charge my watch while traveling — a task that’s even more difficult when you’re traveling because you’re constantly on the move.

But this time, packing the charger wasn’t such a clue. I knew if I left town on a full charge, I’d get through the entire weekend without a low battery prompt. And even if it does happen somehow, WatchOS 9’s new low power mode will extend battery life until I get home.

I left with 100% charged, 36 hours later I came home with over 30% left; More than enough to track sleep and charge the next morning.

Apple Watch Ultra models side by side

Jason Henner/ZDNET

The show is amazing

I’ve never had an issue with the Apple Watch’s screen size, especially with the ever-increasing size of Apple Watch Apple Watch Series 7 to 45 mm.

But the added size of the Apple Watch Ultra screen has shifted my expectations of what I can and can’t do on the Watch from a device I use for perceivable information to one I actively seek to interact with.

The extra brightness of up to 2,000 nits ensures that I can see the watch screen in direct sunlight and that it comes through clear and legible. In short, the big screen is a game-changer when it comes to using a small computer on your wrist.

Apple Watch and AirPods next to each other on the roof

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Long battery life + bigger screen = the iPhone for my wrist

The larger screen and longer battery life are two very obvious reasons to love the Apple Watch Ultra. I realize that. But the combination of the two features very much feels like Apple is working its way toward turning the Apple Watch into an iPhone for your wrist. Rather than being a companion device, as the Apple Watch was up to this point, the Ultra can — and does — perform the basic iPhone tasks we all rely on every day.

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The list is long, but here’s what I use my Apple Watch Ultra on a regular basis, regardless of whether or not I have an iPhone nearby:

  • Make and receive phone calls (with and without AirPods connected to the clock)
  • Use Apple Maps to get directions, phone numbers, and local business hours
  • Messages app for exchanging text messages and iMessages. (Did you know you can attach photos to an iMessage conversation or a new email on your Apple Watch?)
  • Calendar and reminder applications to view and manage the daily agenda
  • Run shortcuts for things like playing music, controlling my car, etc.

Admittedly, all of these tasks are essential. But that’s exactly what makes it so great on the Apple Watch Ultra. Instead of thinking about sending someone a message, picking up my iPhone, and then getting lost on Twitter for five minutes and forgetting what I was going to do, I simply raise my wrist and speak to Siri or press a few buttons on the screen to compose a message.

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Better yet, I don’t even need to have an iPhone with me. I can—and often do—leave my phone at home and rely on the Ultra’s cellular connection to stay connected, while simultaneously disconnecting from the extra apps and services that come with a full-fledged smartphone.

Another one of my favorite use cases for the Ultra is walking and listening to the Time To Walk exercises that are part of my Apple Fitness + using my AirPods Pro. This is something I sometimes do with a non-Ultra Apple Watch, but I’ve found myself doing a lot more with the Ultra for no other reason than not to worry about it affecting battery life.

The Ultra isn’t perfect, and it’s nowhere near ready to be a complete iPhone replacement. But it looks like we’re closer than ever to having a smartwatch that can replace a phone. And I, for one, can’t wait for that to happen.

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