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(The Gear Loop) - Apple’s recently held event produced an insight into numerous new product launches, with three new smartwatches slated. Perhaps most intriguing to outdoors types is this: the new Apple Watch Ultra.

Built for "endurance, exploration, and adventure", according to Apple, the latest smartwatch features a 49mm titanium case and flat sapphire front crystal that houses an ultra-bright screen for easy interaction in harsh environments. 


In essence, this is an Apple Watch Series 8 that has been given the rough and ready treatment, but its smattering of new design flourishes and features means the Californian company is now edging ever closer to territory held by the likes of Garmin and Suunto.

Apple has added a  customisable "Action button" that users can tweak to execute the most important functions to them, with ease. There’s also a new "Wayfinder" watch face that is designed specifically for the larger Apple Watch Ultra display and includes a compass built into the dial, with space for up to eight user-configurable set-ups.

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Built-in smarts

Unlike the rival Garmin models, which function extremely well as a sports watch but not so well as a smartwatch, the Apple Watch Ultra features Retina display, which is up to 2000 nits  - two-times brighter than any Apple Watch display yet.

Plus, it packs three built-in microphones to significantly improve sound quality in voice calls during any conditions. An adaptive beamforming algorithm uses the microphones to capture voice while reducing ambient background sounds, so you can effectively take a call while hanging off the edge of a cliff.

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Multiple bands

Three new bands are also on offer here, which give users the opportunity to swap them out for numerous occasions. 

An Alpine Loop band features two integrated layers made from one continuous weaving process that eliminates the need for stitching, which improves strength and makes this ideal for hikers, climbers and explorers.

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The Ocean Band is designed specifically for extreme water sports and recreational diving with a titanium buckle and corresponding spring-loaded loop. Finally, a Trail Loop is minimalist and lightweight, designed for runners and speed hikers.

Battery life and GPS

For the first time ever in an Apple Watch, the precision dual-frequency GPS integrates both L1 and the latest frequency, L5, plus new positioning algorithms. 

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This, says Apple, allows the Ultra to deliver the most accurate GPS of any Apple Watch to date, providing users the most precise distance, pace, and route data for training and competing.

But what’s the effect on battery life, as this has never been a traditional smart watch’s strong point? Apple says the Ultra has the best battery life of any Apple Watch, reaching up to 36 hours during normal use. Turn off GPS and other elements and it will last up to 60 hours. 

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That’s still some way off something like the Garmin Fenix 7 Solar, which can last an astounding 20 days out in the field in battery saver modes.

Features and activity tracking

With runners in mind, Apple has added a bucketload of metrics to this watch, including Stride Length, Ground Contact Time, Vertical Oscillation, and Running Power. New Workout Views, such as Segments, Splits, and Elevation, provide important metrics at just a glance, and thanks to the larger display, Apple Watch Ultra is the only Apple Watch that can show six metrics at once.

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Outdoors-types are served with an advanced compass and metrics that include latitude, longitude, elevation, and incline, as well as an orienteering view showing Compass Waypoints and Backtrack, which uses GPS data to create a path showing where the user has been. There’s also a built-in 86 decibel siren for emergency situations.

Built to withstand -4° F (-20° C) to 131° F (55° C), Apple says this is the toughest smart watch it has ever created. A military spec rating of MIL-STD-810H means it has been tested for Low Pressure (Altitude), High Temperature, Low Temperature, Temperature Shock, Contamination by Fluids, Rain, Humidity, Immersion, Sand and Dust, Freeze/Thaw, Ice/Freezing Rain, Shock, Vibration, and more. 

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Water sports and ocean-goers

Built to handle recreational scuba diving to 40 meters, Apple has launched a new Oceanic+ app, which automatically launches when it senses the user is diving.

This clever app essential turns the watch into a dive computer and runs the Bühlmann decompression algorithm, as well as offering dive planning, easy-to-read dive metrics, visual and haptic alerts, no-decompression limit, ascent rate, and safety stop guidance. 

Customers can order the Apple Watch Ultra now, which is priced at £849/$799, with availability in stores from September 23. 


Writing by Leon Poultney.