The New Apple Watch Ultra Might Just Replace Your Garmin

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I’ve switched between my Apple Watch and a Garmin Fenix watch for several years, depending on the day. The Apple Watch has been my go-to for daily life because it’s great at motivating me to get out for a run, keeps me up to date on notifications, stores a ton of music, and works seamlessly with my iPhone and AirPods.

Out in the backcountry, I needed the Fenix because the battery lasts for weeks, it comes with a genuinely robust GPS and great tracking features, and you’d need a hammer to break the thing. On days when I was adventuring—backpacking, skiing, out on a bikepacking trip—I would always swap the Apple Watch for my Garmin because we all know that the regular Apple Watch isn’t very robust. The battery lasts a day at most, and the face tends to shatter if you bang the watch around.

This announcement from Apple, however, changes everything. I was in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Headquarters in Cupertino, California, today to hear that the brand will be launching the Apple Watch Ultra ($800) for those of us who need more than just a daily driver.

The Ultra is a significant upgrade because it goes a long way toward solving all three problems I mentioned above. The battery now lasts up to 36 hours, so you’ll be able to take it on multi-day adventures and not worry about dying. The outside is made of lightweight and robust titanium, and the watch face is made from sapphire (similar to what you’d find on some other high-end adventure watches), so if you go over the handlebars on your bike or yard sale on your skis, the watch should be fine. The Ultra now has an enhanced GPS feature where you can use the Compass app to leave waypoints while you’re out, and the watch can guide you back along them if you get lost—something that’s extremely useful while exploring any new backcountry area. Apple says their GPS is also optimized to connect even when next to tall trees and high-rise buildings.

Other adventure features I’m excited to test include:

  • 86-decibel siren for emergency rescue situations
  • A digital crown that is bigger and easier to operate with gloves on
  • A three-microphone array that helps you make calls in windy conditions,
  • Temperature rating that allows the watch to operate from -4 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit
  • If you’re also a scuba diver, you should scroll through the features because Apple claims the Ultra is a full-featured dive computer

Based on these stats, the Apple Watch Ultra is still not as robust as a top-end adventure watch like the Garmin Fenix 7X Solar (which I’ve been testing for the past year), so there will still be core users out there that prefer their Garmin, Suunto, or Coros watch. But for those who adventure and love the usability of the Apple Watch and other Apple Products, the Ultra finds an excellent middle ground. Watch this space for further testing of the Apple Watch Ultra, available to order now and arrives on Sept. 23.

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