Apple’s premium smartwatch is getting its first major upgrade. During its annual fall event on Tuesday, the company showed off the $799 Apple Watch Ultra 2, the first update for the high-end watch meant for extreme athletes and others with more specialized fitness-tracking needs.
As expected, the second-gen device will keep the same 49-millimeter form factor as the original, but still offers some significant upgrades. Notably, the Ultra 2 comes with a new extra-bright 3,000 nit display — up from 2,000 nits in the original Ultra — to make the screen easier to read in varied light conditions. In darker settings, the display can dim down to a single nit of brightness. Night mode can also now activate automatically thanks to the watch's ambient light sensor.
The Ultra 2 will be among the first watches to get Apple’s new S9 chip, which will power the new “double tap” gesture, and upgraded Siri functionality. As with the new Apple Watch Series 9, the gesture allows wearers to answer calls, snooze alarms and perform other tasks by quickly pinching their thumb and forefinger together.
Like the original Ultra, the second-gen device promises longer battery life than its smaller Series 9 counterpart. According to Apple, the Ultra 2 will top out at 36 hours of battery life on one charge, but can last up to 72 hours in low-power mode. That’s a slight improvement over last year’s model, which could go 60 hours in low-power mode and 36 hours on one charge.
When the Ultra launched last year, one of its standout features was its depth-tracking abilities meant for scuba divers and other underwater activities. Now, the onboard Depth app has been upgraded to automatically save past dives so you can track depth history directly from the watch or get more detailed stats in the iPhone app.
Data junkies and extreme athletes can also take advantage of a new "Modular Ultra" watch face that uses the larger, brighter display to cram the most complications the company has ever put on a single watch display. The Ultra 2 will also get the same software upgrades as the Series 9, thanks to watchOS 10. Among the upgrades are new cycling workout-tracking features and new, more powerful widgets, as well as an upgraded compass app.
Apple noted it switched to 95 percent recycled materials in the Ultra 2, part of a broader push to lessen the environmental impact of its products. The company claims the Ultra 2 is “carbon neutral” when paired with the company’s new Alpine Loop or Trail Loop band.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is available now for pre-order, and will ship on September 22. In the meantime, be sure to check out some early impressions of both the Ultra 2 and the Series 9 from Engadget's Deputy Reviews Editor, Cherlynn Low, who covered Tuesday's event in Cupertino.
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