Apple Watch Ultra 2 — release date, price, specs, display and double tap gesture

Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Apple | YouTube)

Update: Check out our Apple Event live blog for the latest from Cupertino on the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple Watch Series 9 and more.

Apple Watch Ultra 2: cheat sheet

  • New S9 SiP introducing big performance upgrades with 5.6 billion transistors, 30% faster GPU, and 4-core neural engines that can power machine learning two times faster than Apple Watch Series 8.
  • On-device Siri communications now take place entirely on-wrist, with faster processing plus 25% more accurate dictation.
  • The upgraded U2 ultrawide-band chip makes finding your iPhone easier, and powers new proximity-based experiences between your Apple Watch and HomePod
  • The display now reaches 3000 nits and goes does to 1 nit.
  • Introduces a double-tap gesture that can uses index finger and thumb on your watch hand to control apps, launch Smart Stack and more.
  • The Apple Watch Ultra is certified carbon neutral product.
  • The Apple Watch Ultra 2 will retail for $799 and can be ordered today with a release date of September 22

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has been announced at today's Apple event, bringing a few key upgrades to last year's Apple Watch Ultra but keeping the same design. Now that the company offers a smartwatch suited for runners and outdoor sports enthusiasts, we’re eager to see how the second-generation model has improved for those that want the best Apple Watch experience.

Shipping with watchOS 10, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 packs a new S9 SiP (System in Package), an upgraded U2 ultrawide-band chip and a brand new double tap gesture that reminds us of navigation on the Apple Vision Pro. The Apple Watch Ultra 2's 49mm display goes up to 3,000 nits making it even brighter to use out and about in direct sunlight and the brightest display ever on an Apple Watch.

Alongside the Apple Watch Series 9, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 was unveiled at today's "Wonderlust" Apple event. Here’s what to expect from the next Ultra-branded smartwatch, from release date and price to new features and upgrades we think could make it one of the best smartwatches yet.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 release date

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 can be ordered today with availability beginning on Friday, September 22, 2023.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 price

Price is one of the key differences between the Apple Watch 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 with the former starting at $399 while the Ultra 2 has only one LTE-capable configuration with the price staying the same at $799.

That's the same as the starting price for the iPhone 15.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 features

Apple Watch double tap gesture

(Image credit: Apple)

The biggest introduction to the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in terms of features is the new double tap feature that Apple also revealed for the Apple Watch Series 9.

The gesture allows you to tap your thumb and index finger together twice in quick succession while wearing the watch to control the function you are currently in. You can answer and hang up calls, launch widgets, control workout settings, and more.

Double tap will also open the Smart Stack from the watch face, and another double tap will scroll through widgets in the stack.

The feature takes advantage of the new S9 chip (more on that below) and lets you interact with the watch when you've only got one hand available. Apple's demo showed a rock climber hanging off a rock and using the gesture to take a call on their Apple Watch Ultra 2.

The new double tap gesture is enabled by the faster Neural Engine in Apple Watch Ultra 2, which processes data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart sensor with a new machine learning algorithm. Apple says the algorithm detects the unique signature of tiny wrist movements and changes in blood flow when the index finger and thumb perform a double tap. 

However, the feature won't be available immediately. Instead, it will come as a software update in October.

On-device Siri means that Apple Watch Ultra users will be able to place a waypoint via voice even if they don't have any connectivity.

For those who are cyclists and divers, Apple has made a few notable improvements in these areas. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 will now connect via Bluetooth to power meters, speed sensors, and cadence sensors for cyclists, letting them unlock new metrics and workout views and improving their cycling workouts.

Meanwhile, the new built-in Depth app saves a The built-in Depth app saves a log of each session so users can review the most recent sessions either on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 or view the complete history of all dives with a GPS entry point in the Fitness app on iPhone.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 design

With a flat, 49mm display, the Apple Watch Ultra doesn’t look like any other Apple Watch ever sold. The second-generation version continues the rugged look with design and materials suited for outdoor sports.

While the outward look of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 remains the same as last year's version, Apple has made a few design tweaks on the software side. New display architecture means the Apple Watch Ultra 2 now boasts a screen brightness of 3,000 nits, which is both 50% brighter than the first Apple Watch Ultra and apparently the brightest display Apple has ever made.

For dark rooms or early mornings, the display can also lower to just one nit so as not to disturb people close by.

Apple Watch Ultra 2

(Image credit: Apple | YouTubbe)

Some of the rumors that were initially touted failed to appear. For example, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 won't make use of a microLED display nor does it change the screen size. Similarly, there's no mention of an all-black version that was heavily rumored in the run up to the launch.

However, Apple has introduced a new Modular Ultra watch face exclusive to the Apple Watch Ultra 2 that uses the outside edge of the display to show even more information at a glance. This includes real-time data like passing seconds, altitude or depth while diving. Like the current Wayfinder watch face, it can be turned to night mode that makes it red-and-black for better visibility in the dark.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 performance

Apple Watch Ultra 2

(Image credit: Apple | youTube)

The performance is where users will notice the biggest change as the Apple Watch Ultra 2 makes some notable upgrades over its predecessor.

Like the Apple Watch Series 9 it will pack a new S9 processor chip (the first new chip in an Apple Watch since the Series 6) as well as the new Ultrawideband chip that will allow Precision finding for iPhone. While Precision Finding provides distance and direction, as well as visual, haptic, and audio guidance to a misplaced iPhone, it's not universal. It will only work with a member of the iPhone 15 family which also includes the new U2 chip.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 also has a new 4-core Neural Engine that can process machine learning tasks up to twice as fast as the original Apple Watch Ultra. So whether that comes to flicking between multiple apps or installing brand new ones, we expect the Apple Watch Ultra 2 to be much faster and more responsive.

Apple has kept the same 36 hours of battery life, with 72 hours in low power mode, as the first generation Apple Watch. Which is still better than you'll find on any other Apple wearable.

Apple Watch 9 vs. Apple Watch Ultra 2

Apple Watch Ultra 2

(Image credit: Apple | YouTube)

If you’re going to be in the market for a new smartwatch soon, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are both strong options. That said, many of the arguments are still the same compared to the Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Ultra, meaning our advice holds steady.

Both watches benefit from enhanced processors and better environmental specs, but the Apple Watch 9 will be the better smartwatch for most people. The Apple Watch Ultra 2, on the other hand, is better for those who would benefit from the outdoor sports features, or who can justify spending $400 more for the premium design.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 what we wanted to see

There were a number of things on our wish-list that didn't turn out to be true, but we're keeping them noted down here for when it comes time to start talking about the Apple Watch Ultra 3.

Longer battery life: Yes, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 has double the battery life of the Apple Watch Series 9, but we’d like to last longer than 36 hours with normal use. It would need to last closer to a week to keep up with comparable Garmin watches such as the Garmin Fenix 7 or Garmin Epix 2. The Apple Watch low power mode feature does extend the Apple Watch Ultra 2’s battery life to 72 hours (better than the 60 available on the Ultra 1) by limiting functionality, but that would certainly make a stronger baseline estimate.

More action button options: The action button is one of the best features of the Apple Watch Ultra, giving users a convenient way to launch certain functions and emergency features from the side of the device. That said, the collection of action button commands is limited compared to all the things the Apple Watch can do. If the action button was compatible with third-party Apple Watch apps or even hidden Apple Watch features, it could help the device better cater to the individual needs of a given user. 

Added health sensor: One downside of the Apple Watch Ultra compared to the flagship Apple Watch is that it doesn’t offer an additional health sensor. It has a skin temperature reader, SpO2 reader, ECG sensor, and heart rate monitor, which can all be found on the more affordable Series 9. We had wanted to see the Apple Watch Ultra 2 get a blood glucose reader, blood pressure monitor, or some other health sensor that could help justify its higher price tag.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef. 

With contributions from
  • sforsyth01
    The modular ultra watch face is not exclusive to the Ultra 2. I have it using the beta on the Ultra 1.