Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8 – Face Off!



How do Apple’s top 2022 Apple Watches – the Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Series 8 compare? Let’s take a look…


The Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra are now out. While the Apple Watch Series 8 is a relatively modest upgrade compared to the Apple Watch Series 7, the Apple Watch Ultra is an all-new type of Apple Watch aimed at a specific audience: endurance athletes, climbers, and divers.

The two Apple watches have a number of similar features including 32GB storage; blood oxygen, heart rate, and temperature sensors; and emergency SOS and Crash Detection.

But just what are the differences between the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra?

Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8 – Face Off!
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Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8: Specs

Before we dive into the differences, let’s get the spec out of the way:

Apple Watch Series 8 Specs

First, these are the official specs from Apple for the Apple Watch Series 8:

  • 41mm or 45mm case
  • Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display, up to 1000 nits
  • Ion-X glass display on aluminum cases; sapphire crystal display on stainless steel cases
  • GPS and GPS + Cellular models
  • S8 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor; W3 wireless chip; U1 chip (Ultra Wideband)
  • Digital Crown with haptic feedback
  • Temperature sensor, blood oxygen sensor; electrical heart sensor and third-generation optical heart sensor
  • High and low heart rate notifications, irregular rhythm notification, and ECG app
  • International emergency calling, Emergency SOS, Crash Detection, and Fall Detection
  • Water resistant 50 meters
  • Dust resistant (IP6X)
  • LTE and UMTS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.3
  • GPS/GNSS, compass, and always-on altimeter
  • Built-in speaker and mic
  • 32GB capacity

Apple Watch Ultra Specs

And these are Apple’s official specs for the Apple Watch Ultra:

  • 49mm case
  • Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display, up to 2000 nits
  • Flat sapphire crystal display
  • GPS + Cellular model
  • S8 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor; W3 wireless chip; U1 chip (Ultra Wideband)
  • Digital Crown with haptic feedback; Action button
  • Temperature sensor; blood oxygen sensor; electrical heart sensor and third-generation optical heart sensor
  • High and low heart rate notifications, irregular rhythm notification, and ECG app
  • International emergency calling, Emergency SOS, Crash Detection, and Fall Detection
  • Water resistant 100 meters
  • Dust resistant (IP6X)
  • LTE and UMTS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.3
  • GPS/GNSS, compass, and always-on altimeter
  • Dual speakers and three-mic array with beamforming
  • 32GB capacity

Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8: Design

Design is probably the most immediately notable difference between the two models. The Apple Watch Series 8 retains the relatively slim design the Watch has had since Series 4. It still comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes.

But the Ultra…well, it’s a chunky monkey. It comes in one size – 49mm – making it larger than the Apple Watch Series 8. The Ultra also has a flat display as opposed to the Series 8 curved display in order to better protect it from bumps. And the Ultra is made from Titanium, not the aluminum or stainless steel of Series 8 models.

Overall, these differences make the Apple Watch Ultra much more rugged and resistant to damage. But perhaps the most notable design difference is the Ultra feature an addition button called the Action button. It’s large and orange and designed so it can be easily pressed even through gloves. The Action button is also customizable, so it can open various apps or even run a Shortcut when pressed.

The Ultra is only available in a color Apple calls Natural, while the Apple Watch Series 8 comes in midnight, starlight, silver, or Product Red for the aluminum case, or graphite, silver, or gold for the stainless steel case.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8: Display

As already mentioned, the Apple Watch Series 8 comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes and the Apple Watch Ultra comes in a 49mm size. Both modes also feature an Always-On Retina LTPO OLED display. However, the Ultra’s display is twice as bright – at 2,000 nits – compared to the Series 8.

The Ultra’s display is also capable of Night Mode so the wearer can better see it in dark places – like when scuba diving. It also comes with an exclusive watch face called Wayfinder, which features a live compass.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8: Battery Life

Unsurprisingly the Ultra has a longer battery life than the Series 8.

The Apple Watch Series 8 has a standard 18-hour battery life. But the Apple Watch Ultra doubles that to 36 hours.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8: Cellular + GPS

The Apple Watch Series 8 comes in a GPS-only model featuring L1 GPS, or a Cellular + GPS model. But the Ultra only comes in a Cellular + GPS model. It also features the upgraded precision dual-frequency (L1 and L5) GPS.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8: Water Resistance

The Apple Watch Series 8 is water resistant up to 50 meters. But the Ultra is water resistant up to 100 meters. Plus the Ultra also features EN13319 certification, a depth gauge with water temperature sensor, and a Depth app that is downloadable from the App Store. 

Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8 – Face Off!

The final main difference between the two Apple Watches is the speaker technology. The Apple Watch Series 8 features a speaker and mic, but the Ultra features dual speakers and three-mic array with beamforming.

The beefed-up speakers in the Ultra complement its Siren, which is exclusive to the Apple Watch Ultra. The 86-decibel Siren is designed to attract attention if you are in trouble while, for example, hiking in the mountains. It is audible up to 600 feet.

Apple Watch Ultra vs Apple Watch Series 8: Which Should You Get?

There’s no doubt that the Apple Watch Ultra is the better Apple Watch. However, unless you are an endurance athlete, diver, or mountain climber (or the like) there is little benefit derived from the Apple Watch Ultra in normal everyday home and work use.

Most consumers will want to choose the Apple Watch Series 8 over the Ultra – and Apple knows that. They designed the Apple Watch Ultra for a specific – and relatively small – group of people.

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Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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