The Apple Watch Ultra is here, and it’s Apple’s biggest and best adventure watch yet. It’s designed to be “rugged and capable” — built for marathon runners, divers, and those awe-inspiring folk who take on an ironman. With up to 60 hours of battery life, a huge 49mm design, and the Action Button we’ve all been waiting for, I was excited to put it to the test.
After I unboxed the Ultra on a rainy Friday morning and set it up, I set out on a ten-mile test run to see how the watch performed, as the first part of my Apple Watch Ultra review. Would Apple’s battery claims stand true, and what about the new workout features, designed to make the watch a competitor to the likes of the Garmin Fenix 7? Read on to find out which feature surprised me the most.
Not sure how to pick between the Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8? Read our face-off first. Apple also recently announced the Apple Watch SE 2022, and the Apple Watch Series 8 — check out our reviews of both watches on Tom’s Guide.
I just ran 10 miles with the Apple Watch Ultra — and this feature is a game changer
I’m the first to admit, I was most excited about the Action Button on the Apple Watch Ultra — a new customizable button that offers instant access to a range of features. You can easily choose between features like a flashlight, backtrack, waypoint and stopwatch, but as a runner, I programmed the Action Button to take me straight to the workout function on the Apple Watch. If I wanted to, the button could take me right to an outdoor run, but as I often use my Apple Watch to track hikes with my dog, swims, and bike rides, I opted to go to the full list of workout modes.
The button can also be used mid-run to pause the activity — one of my main bugbears on the Apple Watch to date. Sure, Apple gave runners the option to swipe and pause manually or press the two side buttons at the same time, but neither were that easy to do on the move, with sweaty fingers, or when wearing gloves. I found I was able to squeeze the Action Button and the side button while running toward a stop light with no issue.
Yet 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 just have one of the best running watches. Precision start means you can bypass the 3…2…1 countdown sequence when starting an activity, and wait until you know the watch has found GPS signal.
As you can see from the photos above, when the watch finds GPS (this only took a few seconds every time I tried it, even indoors), the GPS widget in the top left corner turns blue.
Again, Apple hasn’t reinvented the wheel here — it’s something Garmin has done for years, but it is a big deal for Apple, and something that should be rolled out across all of its watches. Starting a run without being sure your watch is connected to GPS makes zero sense, especially on race day or when running in the city when crowds and skyscrapers can interfere with your watch's GPS. Plus, it makes sense when Apple has added dual-frequency GPS to the watch, integrating L1 and L5 algorithms. Apple says this allows the Ultra to “deliver the most accurate GPS of any Apple Watch to date.”
I’ll be continuing to test the Apple Watch Ultra over the next few weeks, and will continue to compare its data to the likes of the Garmin Fenix 7 and Garmin Forerunner 955, yet from my first run, the outlook looks good. Apple hasn’t done anything ground-breaking, but instead, they’ve added the features the Apple Watch has been missing for years in a bigger, brighter package than we’ve ever seen before.
Next: Some Apple Watch Ultras are experience a display issue — here's what we know.