Apple Watch Ultra Initial Thoughts and Early Review

One of my goals for the month of November was getting an Apple Watch Ultra.

Apple Watch photo that says "Start your first run".
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Quick disclaimer: None of the products or apps mentioned in this post are sponsored or affiliated with me in any way. They are all products and apps I’ve purchased with my own money that I enjoy using.

I received an Apple Watch Ultra with the beige trail loop on Friday 11/4/22. I started wearing it on Monday 11/7/22. I had trouble getting the watch hooked up to AT&T’s cellular plan. If you ever have this happen to you with Apple Watch and a cellular plan with AT&T that’s not new, call for support and ask to speak to a real person. This was a nightmare when I tried to transfer my second ever cellular version of the Apple Watch from Series 3 to Series 6. This time I tried to find a solution on my own, but I remembered the hours of frustration I spent trying to figure it out on my own and had to speak to a representative at AT&T anyways. 

The problem: AT&T doesn’t activate your ESIM a/k/a EID when they send you the watch if you order it online. You do have to deactivate AT&T’s NumberSync on their website. You also have to call and speak to a representative because NumberSync doesn’t work for Apple Watch on the AT&T site. You must set up cellular for your Apple Watch in the Apple Watch App on your iPhone. If the ESIM isn’t activated on your Watch when AT&T sends you the watch then you will get an error message when you try to set up Cellular. The workaround is to call and have support activate the ESIM on your watch and wait with them on the phone to make sure the cellular feature is working on the Apple Watch. To do this, you’ll need to turn off your phone, use another device you can make calls on and have the representative on the phone call your cell phone number and see if it comes through on your Apple Watch (without your phone being on). Then, you are set!

This was a big pain point for me because I suffered with the frustration of not being able to do it on my own. Go figure! I had to ask for help, and that’s something I struggle with anytime.

So, my gripe with setting up cellular on the watch is a gripe about AT&T and not about the actual watch itself. 

The watch has been great. Even though it wasn’t set up with cellular, I did have it on over the weekend and took my phone with me so I could use it tethered to the phone since it wasn’t capable of working completely on its own yet. 

Likes and loves so far:

  • I like the night mode. I use it during the day so there’s less brightness. I use night mode during the day to cut down on blue light. Night mode makes the watch less interesting to always be distracted by. It’s a nice option to turning on theatre mode as a way to not have the screen constantly on and being bright and distracting to me.
  • I like the bigger screen for my eyes. I can make the font bigger, and it’s just easier to see things on the larger 49mm screen vs. the former 44mm screen I’m coming from.
  • Battery life is great so far. 
  • Stat tracking has been awesome. 
  • I like how light the Trail Loop watch band is. I had a silicone band on my previous watch. The Trail Loop band is very light and acts like a seatbelt keeping my watch firmly attached to my wrist so it doesn’t slide around. The silicone band wasn’t as comfortable as the Trail Loop. The slack that I tucked in always poked into my wrist and I never liked it.
  • Sleep tracking and wearing the watch over night was comfortable and I slept through the night without it waking me up. (I’m an insomniac and a very light sleeper and fear anything waking me up during the night. I didn’t wear apple watch to track sleep for years because I was terrified it would wake me up, but it didn’t!).
  • Athlytic app. I’ve never done much with the statistics I’ve gotten from the 5 years of owning Apple Watches in the past. I like the Athlytic app so far and I’m looking forward to integrating its scores based on data analysis on how I should train every day using things like sleep analysis and heart rate variability.

Dislikes and complaints so far:

  • The color of the Trail Loop band. I chose the beige/yellow/light blue one, and it’s really ugly. I struggled to pick out a Watch band I really liked. None of the options were really what I wanted.
  • The Watch feels like it was made for men only. Yes, you can wear it as a woman, but there’s nothing feminine about the watch on the wrist of a woman, in my opinion. The watch size is a plus, but it’s also a negative. It’s huge and really sits prominently on my wrist. With small wrists and forearms, the watch really stands out and that’s a negative for me. I’m not a fashionista, but I do like having a watch that complements me and whatever I’m wearing and isn’t the only thing people see when they look at me. Like, “Wow, that’s a big Watch!”. That is what my husband keeps telling me.
  • The Trail Loop looks like a seatbelt. The aesthetics of this watch band are a negative, even though I like the feel of the Trail Loop Band.
  • The Trail Loop isn’t waterproof. I like to swim, so this was a struggle for me when I purchased the Watch. I’ve never had a watch band from Apple that didn’t dry instantly. I’m keeping my silicone band from my Apple Watch Series 6 so that I can wear it in the water when I do swim. However, for daily things like doing the dishes or showering, the band gets wet and doesn’t dry instantly.
  • The Trail Loop could stain. I’ve never had a watch band that could get truly stained because it was a fabric. My husband made spaghetti and sauce the other night. I noticed I was being extra careful when I was washing out the sauce pan to make sure I didn’t get tomato sauce on my watch band. I’ve NEVER had to worry about stains with any of the other watch bands in the past.
  • The watch face feels heavy on my wrist. I miss the lighter version of the regular Apple watch.
  • I had to purchase a third party app to do anything with data analysis that I do get from the Watch. This is a complaint about any Apple Watch I’ve ever had. If you want to build a weight workout, you need a third party app. If I want to get suggestions about my training based on the stats the watch provides, I have to purchase a third party app. I like having all things in one place, on one platform and one ecosystem. I don’t like having a bunch of different apps to deal with. I wish Apple Watch (not just Ultra) gave me suggestions for my training and suggested ways to track my training without having to purchase third party apps in order to do so. The workaround for this is to use Apple Fitness Plus, which I have and use on occasion. But if I want to track weight workouts, see the next lift I’m going to do on my watch, then I need to buy a third party app to do so. I use Fitbod for these weight workouts. I use MySwimPro for swimming workouts. I use Apple Fitness Plus for yoga workouts.

Things I’m looking forward to trying and things I’d like to see in future Apple Watch Ultras:

  • My first trail run! I got this watch so the battery life would last me for a trail ultra marathon I’m planning on running. So, yes, in a sense, I got the Apple Watch Ultra to motivate me to do an ultra trail marathon. I’m excited about this, and a little scared given the injury I’m coming back from. I ran a marathon and have done other distance events like triathlons and duathlons and cycling distance events, but it’s been a long time since my last marathon (11 years)! 
  • I’m not a diver or skier so those things on the ultra watch mean nothing to me. I paid for the trail running features for both trail running and long distance hiking. 
  • I would love to see a future watch built for an Ironman athlete and a matching watch band to boot. Doing an Ironman distance triathlon is a goal of mine. I’d love a watch that could support and was made for all triathletes for swim, bike and run and has a band to match with the waterproofness of the silicone band or like the old Nike Watch Band that was breathable, but that had the comfort and velcro option that doesn’t dig into my wrist like the Trail Loop has.
  • I’d love to see a lighter version of the watch for women (i.e. a version that weighs less). 
  • I’d love to see a watch that could integrate into your daily life and outfits that doesn’t look so masculine.

So, those are my updates so far and my review, likes and dislikes about Apple Watch Ultra after wearing it for less than a week.

More reviews to come after I do go for my first trail run and also just use the watch more and more day-to-day now that cellular is activated. I’m looking to use my phone less and the Watch more, and I haven’t had a chance to test that yet. That’s another thing I”m looking forward to trying along with my first trail run.

Hope you’re having a great day!

Sarathlete