Apple Watch Ultra 2 launch reveals all-new features

Apple has unveiled its latest flagship smartwatch – here’s what’s new.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 was revealed alongside the Apple Watch Series 9 and iPhone 15 series at Apple’s launch event on September 12, 2023. Pre-orders opened immediately, with the official release date arriving on September 22, 2023. 

In the run-up to the reveal, there was plenty of speculation about what changes we might see. As it turns out, the changes are relatively minor. Whether they are enough for anyone who already has an Apple Watch Ultra to justify upgrading, is questionable. But if you’re in the market for a new device, there may be enough here to persuade you to consider this watch.  

Apple Watch Ultra 2 worn by a cyclistCredit: Apple

Price and release date

A pleasant surprise

The Apple Watch Ultra costs £799, which is £50 less than the original Apple Watch Ultra at launch. Pre-ordering for the new device opened on September 12, 2023, while the official release date was September 22, 2023.  


Featured product

Apple Watch Ultra 2

RRP: £799.00

Apple Watch Ultra 2


The same design as the original Apple Watch Ultra

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has the same dimensions as its predecessor, with a 49mm (1.93-inch) titanium case, and a sapphire-glass display to help withstand the great outdoors.  

In terms of looks, there’s very little to differentiate the Apple Watch Ultra 2 from the previous model. But Apple has made some noteworthy changes in terms of performance and software. 

One example is the screen brightness, which can reach up to 3,000 nits – 50% brighter than both the original Apple Watch Ultra and the iPhone 15. It can also go as dark as 1 nit for low-light situations.

For most people, 2,000 nits was already bright enough (it’s really only necessary in extremely bright conditions). But for some, this extra brightness may come in handy. 

What is a nit?

A nit is a unit of measurement for light intensity, and how bright light appears. Generally, this unit is used in relation to screen brightness for devices such as televisions, mobile phones and smartwatches.

The other major design change is in terms of a new watch face, called Modular Ultra. This face (which is also compatible with the original Apple Watch Ultra) displays information around the edge of the screen.  

There is a wide selection of complications to choose from (a watch complication is any function on a watch that isn’t telling the time, such as a date, a different time zone or weather forecast) of which you can display up to seven at a time. 

Carbon neutral

And one last point worth highlighting: Apple claims that this generation of Apple Watch is its first carbon-neutral product, made with more recycled materials, clean electricity, and reduced shipping emissions.

Apple’s Product Environmental Report goes into it in more detail, and a reduced carbon footprint is always welcome. It’s worth noting that the Ocean Band (designed for water sports and recreational diving) is not carbon neutral, however. 


A new S9 chip

Arguably the biggest difference is in terms of the new processor, the S9 chip. The same chip is used in the Apple Watch Series 9, and succeeds the S8 chip which featured in the Watch 8 and original Ultra.  

The S9 chip allows Apple to introduce new features (which we’ll explore shortly) and we’d also expect it to be more responsive than its predecessor in routine use.  

Despite the new chip, battery life remains unchanged, with Apple claiming the same 36-hour battery life, and up to 72 hours in Low Power Mode, as was found in the first Apple Watch Ultra.

This feels slightly disappointing, and battery life remains one of our single biggest issues with Apple Watches in general. It remains, however, the best battery performance on any Apple Watch so far. 

Finally, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 comes with 64GB of storage, double the 32GB of the original device. This allows for more apps, music and other media to be stored.  



Several new highlights

Double Tap

We mentioned the new processor allowing Apple to add some extra features to the Apple Watch Ultra 2. One of the most notable is the “Double Tap” gesture control (which is due to be available from October 2023).

This involves quickly tapping your thumb and index finger together twice on your watch-wearing hand, allowing you to respond to things on the watch without having to tap the screen itself. Examples include answering phone calls, pausing a song, or launching a widget.  

Allowing you to do this without using your other hand may be useful if you are, for example, in the middle of a workout, cooking a meal, or carrying shopping bags in your other hand. This feature is expected to arrive in a software update in October 2023.

Built-in Siri

A second noteworthy feature is Siri. Siri has, of course, been available on Apple Watches before now. But crucially, the new processor allows Siri to work on the watch itself, rather than having to be online at all times. Asking Siri to set a timer or mark a GPS waypoint will be possible even if you’re in the middle of nowhere.  

You won’t be able to use Siri for everything without a connection. If you want to ask Siri who starred in a film, or for a weather forecast, it will still need to go online to find the information you want. 

Find your iPhone more easily than ever

Finally, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (and Apple Watch 9) has an enhanced Precision Finding feature that guides users to their lost handset more accurately than before.

Your watch will now tell you which direction to move and how many feet away you are from your iPhone, to make retrieval easier than ever.

For anyone who’s experienced that sinking feeling when their phone is nowhere to be found, this could be the most valuable feature of all. This will only be compatible with the iPhone 15 generation of devices, however. 

Should I buy the Apple Watch Ultra 2?

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is this year’s flagship model, as reflected in that £799 price tag. As a result, it won’t be the right Apple Watch for everyone. 

Many of the features we’ve highlighted – including Double Tap, built-in Siri and enhanced Find my iPhone – are also available in the Apple Watch Series 9, which is available from £399.

If you’re looking for an Apple Watch that still offers plenty of performance and lots of new features, the Series 9 is well worth looking at.

Featured product

Apple Watch Series 9

RRP: £399.00

Apple Watch Series 9

And if you already have the original Apple Watch Ultra, is it worth upgrading? That’s a personal decision, but for us, the Ultra 2 doesn’t represent a massive jump from the original Ultra.

That remains an excellent device, and unless there’s a specific feature you desperately need on the Ultra 2, there’s little to justify an upgrade.  

Where the Ultra 2 comes into its own is if you’re an outdoors enthusiast who enjoys pursuits like mountaineering, climbing or scuba diving, and you need a rugged device with better battery life than the Series 9. In this case, and if you don’t already own an Apple Watch, then the Ultra 2, with all its new features, is definitely worth considering. 

Steven Shaw

Written by Steven Shaw he/him


Steven Shaw has been a freelance writer for a variety of outlets, most notably TechRadar. His degree in Medieval History prepared him less adequately for his career than you might expect, but the years spent working in technology focused retail were much more helpful.

Outside of work, Steven is passionate about health and fitness, and particularly enjoys high-intensity interval training, weight training, and increasingly, spending time recovering. Steven loves reading, films and a wide variety of sports. A particular highlight was watching Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar batting together in an exhibition match.

He wishes he could travel more. He can also tell you a lot about the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Carolingians. Most of his non-work time is spent with his young children, who are the living embodiment of high-intensity training.