Apple (AAPL) unveiled its latest Apple Watches: Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 8, and the all-new Apple Watch Ultra.
The smartwatches range in price from $ 249 for SE to $ 399 for Series 8 and $ 799 for Ultra. I got to spend some time with the new watches after Apple’s September 7 event, and of the three, I was very surprised by the Apple Watch Ultra.
Initially I thought that the watch, with its 49mm case, would be a real behemoth tied to my wrist. And while it’s certainly much larger than the 7 Series I normally wear, it’s not some kind of unsightly bulk either.
The Ultra is built for extreme athletes – think triathletes, marathon runners and divers. I’m not one of those, but when I put the watch on it made me want to at least run. The entire design is more robust than the Series 8, complete with a border around the screen that prevents it from being nicked, a more pronounced digital crown, and a new programmable action button on the left side.
Rotate the Digital Crown when using the Ultra’s Wayfinder dial and its display changes from all colors to black and red to prevent the screen from being too jarring when you’re in the dark. And if you’re truly lost, the Ultra can blast an 86 decibel siren to alert anyone nearby.
There is also the option to set waypoints on the Ultra while you are hiking and then use them to go back to the starting point if you go back. I called up the function on the Ultra demo I was using and adding waypoints seemed pretty intuitive.
There are also a number of water-based features including the ability to take the Ultra to deeper depths than previous Apple Watches and a depth gauge to let you know how low you are and give you the water temperature.
Unfortunately, Apple didn’t have a tank on hand to test them. Maybe next year.
The Apple Watch Series 8 and SE are for everyone else
While not as robust as the Apple Watch Ultra, the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE still get some nice upgrades this time around. Both watches now use the same S8 chip, also found on the Ultra, and all three watches achieve shock detection and drop detection.
The SE is overall a solid entry-level smartwatch thanks to its starting price of $ 279, the same as Samsung’s entry-level Galaxy Watch5. It replaces the Series 3 as Apple’s base watch and should prove more than capable for most users. But if you’re looking for more, the 8 Series is where it’s at.
The big addition to the 8 is its two temperature sensors: one on the bottom of the watch on the skin and the other on the top of the watch. The reason for the two sensors is to help take room temperature out of the equation when measuring body temperature.
However, you cannot activate the sensor yourself. Instead, Apple markets it as a means of tracking ovulation and better predicting periods by measuring nighttime temperature combined with a range of other readings. Of course, you can see how your temperature fluctuates if you’re not tracking ovulation, for example by seeing how activities like exercising or even drinking affect your temperature over time.
I found the Apple Watch Ultra interesting, while the SE looks like a good buy for first-time smartwatch buyers or those looking to save a few bucks. But for my money, it looks like the Apple Watch Series 8 is the overall winner in this group, if only because it appeals to the broadest range of people.
Does that mean they are worth the upgrade? I’ll have to test them more thoroughly to find out.
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