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Alongside announcing four new iPhones and the Apple Watch Series 9, Apple also announced an updated version of its biggest and most expensive watch, the $800 Apple Watch Ultra 2.
Apple is taking preorders for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 now, with deliveries starting next Friday, Sept. 22.
If you’re having a hard time trying to decide if the Ultra 2 is worth upgrading to from last year’s Ultra, or you can’t decide between the two watches, then I have good news! Below I’ll walk you through the similarities and differences between the Ultra and the Ultra 2 to help you make an educated decision.
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The Ultra 2 is one of the first watches to ship with Apple’s new S9 processor, with the Series 9 being the other. The S9 promises faster performance, and the ability to process Siri commands on the watch itself. It also enables a new double tap feature that Ultra 2 owners can use to control their Apple Watch by tapping their fingers.
Apple also doubled the storage of the Ultra 2, going from 32GB in the original Ultra to 64GB. This gives you more space for things like apps, music, podcasts and photos.
Finally, the Ultra 2 has Apple’s second-generation ultra wideband chip, which can be used to help locate compatible lost devices and interact with other smart home gadgets like a HomePod.
The original Ultra has an ultra wideband chip, but only the Ultra 2 can be used to precisely locate a misplaced iPhone, giving the exact distance it is from the watch.
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If you’re someone who spends a lot of time outside, the Ultra 2’s maximum brightness of 3,000 nits is surely going to be something you’ll appreciate. The original Ultra’s screen is plenty bright at 2,000 nits itself, but there have been a handful of situations over the last year where the screen wasn’t as visible as I’d have liked in direct sunlight.
I haven’t seen the Ultra 2 in person yet, let alone in an environment where 3,000 nits is warranted, but I’d imagine that it’s more than bright enough to be seen in nearly any situation.
One of the features Apple showed off that’s coming to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 during the keynote was a new double tap gesture. When wearing either watch, you can pinch your finger and thumb to interact with the watch without having to actually touch it. The gesture allows you to do things like answer or hang up a phone call or select a menu item.
The original Ultra doesn’t support the double tap feature. Not officially, at least.
You can, however, enable Assistive Touch in the Watch’s accessibility settings to use all sorts of hand motions and gestures to completely control the watch, much in the same way double tap works on the Series 9 and Ultra 2.
To enable the gestures on your Apple Watch right now, open the Settings app on your watch, then go to Accessibility > AssistiveTouch and turn on AssistiveTouch. Select Hand Gestures, and then turn it on.
Michael Berk/CNN Underscored
A new processor, an improved ultra wideband chip, double the storage, and a brighter screen – that’s what the differences between the Ultra and Ultra 2 distill down to.
The size of the watches, the material of the case, buttons, microphones, speakers, connectivity features, health sensors, water and dust resistance ratings and charge time are all identical between the two watches.
I naturally kept up on all of the rumors about the new iPhone 15, Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra leading up to the Apple event, and every time there was a new rumor about the Ultra, I desperately hoped it wasn’t true because I didn’t want to be tempted to upgrade.
And, dear reader, after watching the event, I can tell you that I have zero inclination to upgrade to the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The brighter display, faster processor and new double tap gesture are all nice updates, but nothing that’s a must-have.
If you can find the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra at a discount as retailers clear out inventory over the next few weeks, I recommend taking advantage of it.
Otherwise, based on our experience with the previous Ultra, the Ultra 2 should end up being the best smartwatch Apple has ever made. You’ll be just as happy with it as you would be with the original Ultra.