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Apple Watch Ultra 2 first impressions: A brighter future for Siri

Published Sep 24th, 2023 12:06PM EDT
Apple Watch Ultra 2 with the Modular Ultra watch face
Image: Joe Wituschek for BGR

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You can tell the Apple Watch Ultra 2 has changed… on the inside.

On Friday, Apple officially released the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro, Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, and AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C. While the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro are certainly getting the most fanfare when it comes to new Apple products — and you can read my first impressions of the iPhone 15 Pro already — I also received the company’s second generation of the Apple Watch Ultra on launch day.

There’s one thing I noticed immediately about the Apple Watch Ultra 2 compared to the first generation: It looks exactly the same. If you had to, you couldn’t pick out the first vs. the second generation if your life depended on it. The only way I can personally tell the difference between the two is how clean the new one is compared to the slight imperfections on my first generation.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 with the Modular Ultra watch faceImage source: Joe Wituschek for BGR

One obvious difference, of course, is that the second-generation Apple Watch Ultra came with some new band choices. I personally went with the new Trail Loop in the Green/Gray colorway. The new band, in addition to being a new color, is also one of Apple’s first carbon neutral products. The company says that it contains 32% recycled content by weight and that 100% of the electricity used to manufacture the band comes from clean energy.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 with the Gray/Green Trail LoopImage source: Joe Wituschek

The other difference that I noticed right away was the new S9 processor. Well, not the performance that comes with the new processor — although it does feel zippy — but a vital feature it enables. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about Apple’s new double tap feature just yet — that’s coming later this year with a software update that many expect to be included in watchOS 10.1, especially since Marques Brownlee said so in his review of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Instead, the feature that I noticed was what the S9 processor and its four-core Neural Engine enabled: on-device processing for Siri. Up until now, any interaction with Siri required the watch to send your requests to the cloud. That could cause Siri to come across as… let’s call it, hesitant, when it was trying to handle your requests.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 with Siri runningImage source: Joe Wituschek for BGR

Now, with the S9 processor, Siri is able to handle requests on the device. Want to set a timer? Immediate response. Want to start a workout? Immediate response. Want to play a song that is downloaded to your watch? Immediate response. As someone who often goes on a run, walk, or hike with just my watch while leaving my phone behind, this response time is a real pleasure to finally have on my Ultra instead of just my iPhone.

I’ll need to wait to see how the brighter display, which increases the max brightness from 2,000 nits to 3,000 nits, works out when I’m on a run or a hike, but I’m glad to have the feature. And that’s about it! We have some time to wait to test double tap, so that’ll have to come later. Oh yeah, and it does feel good to buy Apple’s first carbon neutral product. The fact that I almost forgot that speaks to just how much the experience feels the same compared to the first generation in terms of quality, so that’s a win.

It’ll take a while to see just how much the difference the S9 processor makes with the overall experience, but with on-device Siri alone, I’m excited to own the Ultra 2.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.