The Apple Watch Ultra is, arguably, the most exciting watch we’ve seen Apple make in the past few years. It’s big, it’s tough, and it’s built for an adventure. As a runner, I’ve put the Apple Watch Ultra through miles of testing for my Apple Watch Ultra review, but one feature I’ve not been able to test is the watch’s ability to perform as a dive computer.
So to find out more, I spoke to Torben Lonne, a dive expert and chief editor and co-founder at DIVEIN.com (opens in new tab), who recently used the Apple Watch Ultra on a diving trip to Malta.
Lonne wore the Apple Watch Ultra on more than 15 dives on a trip to Malta, alongside computers from Shearwater, Garmin, and Cressi. Read on to find out more.
Apple Watch Ultra Oceanic+ app: Price and availability
On November 28, the Apple Watch Ultra became a dive computer with the help of the Oceanic+ app (opens in new tab). Apple has positioned the Ultra as a watch for recreational scuba divers — it can go up to 40 meters, and has a depth gauge and water temperature sensors. If you’re planning to dive a few times a year on holiday, the app allows you to turn the Ultra into a dive computer for $9.99 per month.
The app monitors your depth, time in, temperature, and heart rate (if you’re not wearing a wetsuit). It’ll also give you important data like decompression time, your dive time, current elevation, maximum elevation allowed, and max depth.
Here’s what a Dive expert thinks about the Apple Watch Ultra
To find out more, we spoke to Lonne after a diving trip to Malta, and here’s his verdict:
Easy to read screen
The first thing he noticed? How bright the screen was on the 49mm Apple Watch Ultra was compared to some of the other models, even underwater.
“Apple has done an amazing job on the visual experience," he said. "The Ultra has such a noticeably bright screen that it’s as clear in sunlight as it is during night dives."
"The graphics and font size on this bright screen make it easier to see and read than any other dive computer out there. Underwater, the touchscreen locks, and you're navigating the app via the scroll wheel, shifting through four different watch faces. This is something you can do even when wearing thick dive gloves."
The Ocean Loop isn’t long enough
“The ocean loop is nice and comfortable and fine for diving in warm waters without a long sleeve wetsuit," Lonne said. "But when wearing a wetsuit, I only barely got it on. There's an extension strap that you can buy separately for about $50."
For a lot of his testing, he strapped the watch onto a pole alongside some of the other popular models on the market.
The Ultra needs to go deeper
As well as the screen, Lonne tested how easy the watch was to use underwater, especially compared to the Garmin diving watches, which have more buttons to make navigation easier.
In his longer review (opens in new tab) of the Apple Watch Ultra, Lonne says while the Ultra lacks some of the technical features of its competitors, “the Apple dive computer keeps things simple and accessible for a recreational diver that just wants to dive.”
“The Ultra, with the Oceanic+ app has a more visually clear user experience," he said. "The notifications, no decompression limits, and safety stop, for example, are displayed very clearly and–somehow–more stylishly than other comparable dive computers on the market. We found that, unlike many other dive computers, we could use this within minutes of getting it."
However, "the biggest issue with the Ultra is the depth limit of 130 feet/40 meters, which will throw some divers off buying it.”
Battery life was pretty good
Two other features Apple flagged with the release of the Ultra were its improved battery life, and its safety features. I asked Lonne how well the battery fared on his diving trip. “From a full charge, the Ultra lasted for five dives over two days with some light messaging and a few Apple Pay transactions,” he said. “There’s likely enough for six dives over two days, but that might bring the battery close to running out post-dive. So, you need to charge it in-between days of diving.”
Its safety features are great
What about the safety features on the Oceanic+ app? When you’re approaching the no decompression limit (NDL) of a dive, the Apple Watch Ultra is meant to alert you, both on the display, and with haptic prodding. “It’s, by far, the clearest and most visually appealing user experience among all other leading dive computers," Lonne said. "That’s where Apple and Oceanic have really crushed it: with the visuals.”
Apple Watch Ultra Oceanic+ app: Verdict
The verdict? The Oceanic+ app turns the Apple Watch Ultra into an excellent diving watch for amateur, or recreational divers. With the help of the app, you can spend around $20 on a trip and turn your watch into a diving watch, without having to invest in any extra tech. Plus, as a diving watch, it’s got a bright screen, a decent compass, and it’s easy to use wearing gloves.
Looking for more on the Apple Watch Ultra? Here's how to use the Action Button on the Apple Watch Ultra, plus what happened when I ditched my Garmin for an Apple Watch Ultra.