Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Worth an upgrade?

Though the Watch Ultra 2 is an excellent watch, it doesn’t have any huge features the previous watch doesn’t have. Instead, it focuses on incremental changes - giving users a slightly better experience. If you were to put it on, the two are almost indistinguishable but the Ultra 2 has some features that will make the next ultra much better as a result. 

It looks identical to the Ultra but has a better chip, a brighter screen, and some really interesting Siri support. If you already have the first Ultra, you may not notice the difference but, upgrading from a Series watch or nothing, you will be getting the very best smartwatch available on the market. 

Stephen Warwick
Stephen Warwick

Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the best smartwatch to ever leave the halls at Cupertino, but owners of the first generation won't find cause to upgrade. The new S9 chip is very impressive, especially powering the new double tap functionality, and that 3000 nits of brightness is sure to turn heads. If you skipped Ultra last year to give Apple some time to iterate, this is definitely the year to make the leap. Equally, the first generation is no slouch and probably available at a much better price.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Specs

Here are all the specs for the two watches

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Ultra 2 vs Ultra
Header Cell - Column 0 Ultra 2Ultra
Case sizes49mm49mm
Battery life36 hours (up to 60 hours) 36 hours (up to 60 hours)
Screen brightness3000 nits2000 nits
Water resistance100m, swimproof and recreational dive to 40m100m, swimproof and recreational dive to 40m
Always-On displayYesYes
GPSPrecision dual-frequency (L1 & L5) GPS Precision dual-frequency (L1 & L5) GPS
CellularIncluded in every modelIncluded in every model
Night modeYesYes
Crash/Fall DetectionYesYes
Temperature SensorYesYes
Low Power ModeYesYes
Starting price$799$799

The two watches are very similar but the first difference you may notice is the new S9 SiP chip, which is a bit smarter and more powerful. This comes with a 4-core Neural Engine, allowing the watch to process machine learning tasks on the go. This new chip allows for on-device Siri that can use basic functions without your phone, as well as precision finding — meaning you can find your iPhone with your watch using accurate real-time data. It also has better storage at double the capacity which is a neat but small upgrade. 

Designed to replace the original Ultra watch, one thing a spec sheet can’t fully account for is the battery life. Though both watches share the same battery life, as batteries age and go through charge cycles, they tend to lose their efficiency. A new Ultra 2 will last a good bit longer than the standard Ultra purely because it’s newer and the first Ultra is a year old now. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Features

Apple Watch Ultra 2 on wrist

(Image credit: Apple)

Here are the new features in the Apple Watch Ultra 2

Improved Find My

The new chip has improved Find My functions, allowing you to pinpoint exactly where your devices are. It gives you a small notification with the direction and range of your iPhone. If you have a habit of forgetting where you have placed your phone, this watch can give you exact directions to get it.

On-device Siri

Used for small activities like setting timers and activating workout mode, you can now use Siri directly on your watch. Previously, it couldn’t activate without being connected to your phone but the S9 SiP makes your phone just a little more effective in those circumstances

Double Tap controls

If you have ever found yourself with just one hand struggling to navigate your watch, the brand-new Double Tap controls leverage that smart chip to allow you to use your watch with simple gestures. You can tap your thumb and forefinger together to click on certain buttons or activate some apps. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 on wrist

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Sensors

The sensors in the Ultra 2 are identical to the first Ultra watch. Both have a heart rate monitor, ECG, temperature sensors, Blood Oxygen sensors, Accelerometer, Gyrometer, and depth gauge. 

These will function a little better than previous watches due to upgraded specs but there is nothing new this time around. This means that, if you have the Ultra, there is no reason to upgrade when just looking at the sensors. 

Apple Watch Ultra with yellow band in garden

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Processor

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has an impressive S9 SiP chip. System in Package chips, or SiP chips for short, are a processor, storage, and RAM all in one as it is a very smart way of stacking integrated circuits. This allows Apple to ram more power into a smaller frame. The watch can get more powerful without having to get bigger. 

It is a 64-bit dual-core processor, like the first Apple Watch Ultra, but the new Ultrawide gen 2 chip adds those Find My upgrades and it features double the storage capacity of the previous model at 64GB. 

The S9 SiP has a 30% faster GPU and the 4-core neural engine is twice as fast as the original Ultra. The processor is one of the biggest upgrades between the Ultra and Ultra 2 with some real difference on paper. In everyday use though, you may not notice just how much stronger it really is. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Display

Both the Watch Ultra and Watch Ultra 2 have an OLED display and only come in 49m. They have the same dimensions and look identical from a distance. However, there are some upgrades to the display that come in the form of brightness

Whereas the first Watch Ultra has a peak brightness of 2000 nits, the Watch Ultra 3 can go all the way up to 3000 nits. This makes it better on those particularly bright days — something that compliments the very active lifestyle of many Ultra users. Despite this, the Ultra 2 appears to have the same basic battery life. 

Apple Watch Ultra and MacBook Pro

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Colors

There are no new colors this year, with both Ultra watches coming with a Titanium finish. While you can customize straps, you cannot customize the color of the frame itself. There were rumors earlier this year that a black Ultra Watch would launch but this didn’t happen.

Apple Watch Ultra Action Button

(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Strap options

From the official Apple shop, the strap options available have not changed at all with the options being: Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, and Ocean Band. The Alpine Loop is a polyester rugged band with ridges that originally came in Starlight, Orange, Abyss Blue, and Green but the Ultra 2 Alpine Loop is currently available in Blue, Indigo, and Orange. 

The Trail Loop, on the other hand, is a very light stretchy strap that originally came in Blue/Gray, Black/Gray, and Yellow/Beige. You can now only get the Ultra 2 in Green/Grey, Blue/Black, and Orange/Beige

Lastly, the ocean Band is designed to be used in water so has a tubular design. The Ultra Ocean Band came in Black, White, and Yellow, whereas the Ultra 2 Ocean Band is available in Blue, White, and Orange. If you pick up the bigger Series straps, they are also compatible with the Ultra line.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra: should you upgrade?

If you already have an Apple Watch Ultra, there isn’t much of a reason to upgrade. Though the spec differences are certainly welcome, they don’t feel nearly powerful enough to throw down another $799 to get them. The Ultra 2 is, however, a superb upgrade over the Series line so, if you are looking for a reason to get a more lavish watch and feel like you will get the most out of its more durable frame, this is a great upgrade choice. 

If you have an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max, the added Find My functions are pretty great and will work nicely into the ecosystem. As well as this, that processor will make you a little bit more future-proofed but the first Watch Ultra still performs excellently today as it’s only one year old. 

If you don’t yet own a smartwatch, the Apple Watch Ultra 2, with good battery life and a huge selection of unique features, is an excellent place to start. 

James Bentley

James is a staff writer and general Jack of all trades at iMore. With news, features, reviews, and guides under his belt, he has always liked Apple for its unique branding and distinctive style. Originally buying a Macbook for music and video production, he has since gone on to join the Apple ecosystem with as many devices as he can fit on his person. 

With a degree in Law and Media and being a little too young to move onto the next step of his law career, James started writing from his bedroom about games, movies, tech, and anything else he could think of. Within months, this turned into a fully-fledged career as a freelance journalist. Before joining iMore, he was a staff writer at Gfinity and saw himself published at sites like TechRadar, NME, and Eurogamer. 

As his extensive portfolio implies, James was predominantly a games journalist before joining iMore and brings with him a unique perspective on Apple itself. When not working, he is trying to catch up with the movies and albums of the year, as well as finally finishing the Yakuza series. If you like Midwest emo music or pretentious indie games that will make you cry, he’ll talk your ear off.