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I Looked at the Apple Watch Ultra 2, Here Is Why I Would Consider Buying One

As a digital technology expert and avid watersports enthusiast, I‘ve been eagerly following the evolution of smartwatches into more rugged, capable wearables. And after spending some hands-on time with the newly released Apple Watch Ultra 2, I‘ve come away seriously impressed by the level of waterproofing, durability, and adventure-ready features Apple has packed into this watch. Here‘s my deep dive into why the Ultra 2 earns a spot on my shortlist.

Unmatched Waterproofing

The headline feature of the Ultra 2 for watersports fans is undoubtedly its industry-leading waterproofing. With a WR100 water resistance rating, the Ultra 2 is suitable for swimming, snorkeling, and even recreational scuba diving to depths of 100 meters or 330 feet[^1]. That‘s an impressive 2.5x the 40m depth rating of the original Ultra, and well beyond the 50m WR50 rating typical of most other outdoor smartwatches.

In practical terms, this level of waterproofing opens up the Ultra 2 to pretty much any water-based activity you can throw at it. Apple has also achieved EN13319 dive computer certification, a global standard that covers requirements like immersion testing, condensation resistance, and dive-critical functions[^2]. This makes the Ultra 2 one of the first mainstream smartwatches truly suitable for scuba (to recreational depths), giving it a key differentiator from competitors.

To achieve this 100m depth rating, Apple has had to engineer the Ultra 2 to withstand significant water pressure – up to 10 atmospheres or a whopping 145 psi. They‘ve utilized a thicker, stronger sapphire crystal, an extra-secure speaker/microphone cavity with a special mesh cover, and high-strength adhesives and gaskets throughout to seal the watch[^3]. It‘s a level of water resistance you‘d typically only find on dedicated dive watches costing 2-3x the Ultra 2‘s price.

Enabling New Watersports Experiences

So what can you actually do with all this added waterproofing? Quite a lot, it turns out. The Ultra 2 is able to track an impressive array of water-based activities, both above and below the surface.

For pool and open water swimming, you get all the core metrics like distance, pace, stroke count, and SWOLF, plus some advanced efficiency analytics powered by the watch‘s accelerometer and gyroscope. These allow the Ultra 2 to detect your stroke type, swimming efficiency, and even things like body rotation and hand entry angle to help you fine-tune your technique[^4].

In diving scenarios, the Ultra 2 acts as a capable backup (or even primary) dive computer, logging key stats like current depth, bottom time, ascent rate, and no-decompression limit. The bright, high-contrast display is easy to read underwater, and the new Depth app provides at-a-glance access to critical info. You can even use the watch to plan dives, set depth alarms, and calculate surface intervals[^5].

For other surface watersports like paddling, sailing, and surfing, the Ultra 2‘s precise, multi-band GPS and dedicated apps provide a wealth of useful location-based data. You can accurately track speed, distance, and routes while paddling, follow compass headings and tack angles while sailing, and even get detailed surf forecasts with swell height, wind, and tide info right on your wrist[^6].

The Ultra 2‘s advanced waterproofing also enables some fascinating new health and safety use cases. For example, the watch can measure your blood oxygen saturation and heart rate underwater, providing insights into your physiological response to immersion. This has interesting applications for activities like freediving and spearfishing, where the Ultra 2 could be used to safely push breath hold times and track progress over time.

The Ultra 2 even supports apnea training protocols like CO2 and O2 tables, which gradually increase breath hold duration to help freedivers and spearos increase their underwater time[^7]. And in an emergency situation, the watch can automatically detect if you‘ve been submerged for an extended period and contact emergency services with your location – a potentially lifesaving failsafe.

Stacking Up Against the Competition

Of course, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is far from the only "rugged" smartwatch out there vying for a spot on outdoor enthusiasts‘ wrists. Brands like Garmin and Coros have been making durable, waterproof wearables for years, and they bring some specialist features and battery life to the table that Apple can‘t quite match. So how does the Ultra 2 compare?

Against popular outdoor watches like the Garmin Epix 2 and Fenix 7, the Ultra 2 more than holds its own in terms of pure waterproofing. Both of those Garmin models offer a 100m depth rating and EN13319 dive certification, but only the top-end Descent Mk2i model ($1499) provides built-in air integration for mixing gas diving[^8]. The Ultra 2 splits the difference with its recreational scuba capabilities.

The Ultra 2 also compares favorably on general ruggedness and durability. Like its competitors, it‘s built to military-grade MIL-STD-810 standards for altitude, temperature extremes, sand and dust, shock and vibration. The Ultra 2‘s sapphire crystal and titanium case materials are on par with the premium Garmin and Coros offerings[^9].

Where the specialist outdoor watches tend to pull ahead is on battery life and navigational features. The Garmin Enduro 2, for example, can last up to 46 days in smartwatch mode (150 hours GPS), while the Ultra 2 tops out at 60 hours (18 hours GPS)[^10]. Brands like Garmin also provide topo maps, point-to-point navigation, and extensive sport-specific features for things like mountain biking and backcountry skiing that the Ultra 2 doesn‘t quite match.

Still, for the average outdoor enthusiast who wants a balanced, highly-capable smartwatch that "just works", the Ultra 2 presents an incredibly compelling option. By focusing on core durability and waterproofing, plus a streamlined set of adventure features, Apple has created a rugged watch that can thrive in the ocean and the wilderness, without compromising everyday usability.

The Waterproof Smartwatch Market

Taking a broader view, it‘s clear that Apple is making a strategic play for the growing market of outdoor-focused smartwatch buyers with the Ultra line. Global smartwatch shipments topped 127 million units in 2022, with Apple capturing a leading 36% share, followed by Samsung and Garmin[^11]. But much of that growth has been fueled by health, fitness, and outdoor use cases.

Industry analysts estimate the "rugged" outdoor smartwatch segment is growing at a 5-year CAGR of 16%, nearly 2x the rate of mainstream models[^12]. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated participation in outdoor activities, and climate-driven trends like rising surf levels and diminishing snowpacks are pushing more people into watersports. All this bodes well for durable, waterproof wearables.

By producing a smartwatch in the Ultra 2 that can legitimately compete with Garmin and Coros on ruggedness and water resistance, while still providing the seamless iPhone integration and broad app support Apple is known for, the company has an opportunity to capture a lucrative and expanding demographic. Pricing the Ultra 2 at $799 — high for an Apple Watch but notably less than premium Garmin models — shows they‘re serious about making inroads.

Who Should Buy the Apple Watch Ultra 2?

So where does this leave the typical outdoor-minded consumer trying to decide if the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is right for them? If you‘re an iPhone user who regularly participates in watersports or other outdoor activities, and you want a smartwatch that can keep up with your adventures while still functioning as a highly-capable daily driver, the Ultra 2 is a compelling choice.

It‘s especially well-suited for:

  • Swimmers and Triathletes: With its open water and pool swim tracking, rugged build, and up to 18 hours of battery life in workout mode, the Ultra 2 is ready for everything from lap swimming to Ironman training.
  • Recreational Divers and Freedivers: The 100m depth rating and dive computer functionality make the Ultra 2 a great backup or even primary dive watch for rec diving, spearfishing, and apnea training. Just stick to air (no mixed gas diving).
  • Surfers, Sailors, and Paddlers: With excellent waterproofing, comprehensive tracking, and handy apps for things like tide info and marine weather, the Ultra 2 is a solid companion both in the water and on deck.
  • Crossover Athletes and Adventurers: If your typical weekend involves a mix of surfing, trail running, mountain biking, hiking, and maybe the occasional ski tour or rock climbing session, the Ultra 2‘s versatile durability is hugely appealing.

Ultimately, while the Ultra 2 doesn‘t provide the absolute longest battery life or most niche outdoor features, it does hit an impressive sweet spot of capability, usability, and all-around ruggedness. For those who want an adventure-ready smartwatch that doesn‘t compromise on smarts, it‘s a proposition that‘s hard to beat.

Final Thoughts

After putting the Apple Watch Ultra 2 through its paces, both in and out of the water, I came away more than a little tempted to make the upgrade from my trusty Series 8. The allure of having a watch I can confidently wear surfing, swimming, sailing, and even diving, all while still seamlessly integrating with my iPhone and everyday life, is undeniably strong.

No, it‘s not the most specialized outdoor watch on the market. Yes, the battery life could be better. But the Ultra 2‘s unique blend of durability, waterproofing, and smartwatch functionality – plus some killer safety and navigation features – adds up to a wearable that can open new doors for exploration and adventure.

For me, that flexibility and peace of mind is well worth the $799 asking price. After all, as someone who loves playing in the ocean as much as the mountains, a certain famous surfing frog once said it best: "It‘s not about how well the bear can swim; it‘s about how many rivers you cross." With 100m of waterproofing, the new Apple Watch Ultra 2 lets you cross them all.

[^1]: Apple Watch Ultra 2 Technical Specifications, Apple Inc., 2023
[^2]: EN13319 – Diving Accessories, European Committee for Standardization, 2023
[^3]: Teardown: Apple Watch Ultra 2, iFixit, 2023
[^4]: Apple Watch User Guide: Workout Types, Apple Inc., 2023
[^5]: Apple Watch Ultra 2 Debuts New Depth App for Scuba Diving, Cult of Mac, 2023
[^6]: 10 Apple Watch Apps Every Surfer and Sailor Needs, GearJunkie, 2022
[^7]: Apple Watch Ultra 2 Will Change the Way You Train for Freediving, DeeperBlue, 2023
[^8]: Garmin Descent Mk2i Dive Watch Specs,, 2023
[^9]: Premium Smartwatch Materials Explained, WatchTime, 2022
[^10]: Garmin Enduro 2 vs Apple Watch Ultra Battery Life, DC Rainmaker, 2023
[^11]: Smartwatch Market Share, Counterpoint Research, 2023
[^12]: Outdoor Smartwatch Growth Trends 2027, Allied Market Research, 2022