As a runner, I am a huge fan of Garmin watches, and I always love to run with my Garmin Fenix 7 watch because of its advanced running features, longer battery life, and accuracy. When Apple released its most advanced smartwatch, the new Apple Watch Ultra, I decided to give it a try.
I would say the Apple Watch Ultra is an excellent smartwatch with some fantastic features and is good for running. It does not replace the popular GPS running watches from Garmin or Polar, but still, it is a perfect option for many runners, especially iPhone users.
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Is the new Apple Watch Ultra good for running?
The Apple Watch Ultra is the most expensive and feature-packed smartwatch the company has ever made. If you want a running watch with advanced health tracking features such as Electrocardiogram, then you dont have any other better option than Apple Watch Ultra.
Even though other smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, or Fitbit make smartwatches with ECG, none of them are ideal for a serious runner. Because of this reason, many runners go for a Garmin or Polar watch. However, the lack of advanced health tracking features such as ECG, blood pressure monitoring, or safety features was a pain on the butt for many runners.
With the release of the Apple Watch Ultra, it looks like the monopoly of the high-end running watch market is about to change. The Apple Watch Ultra has many features that make it ideal for running. Even though it does not have advanced running features like Garmin, an intermediate runner can use it for running without any problem.
Now let us look at some of the features that make the Apple Watch Ultra a good running watch.
Highly Accurate GPS
Compared to other Apple Watches, the Ulta has a more accurate and reliable multi-band dual GNSS chip that supports GPS and GLONASS. The dual chip allows Ultra to receive signals from two satellites simultaneously, resulting in more precise location tracking.
I was eager to test out the new Ultra on my runs and decided to run with Fenix 7 and Apple Watch Ultra side by side. However, the result was not as accurate as I thought it would be. The Apple Watch was about 0.67 miles off, while the Fenix was about 0.35 miles off.
It was not acceptable for an expensive smartwatch like Apple Watch Ultra. I expect the GPS to be more accurate since it is one of the selling points of this watch.
The Backtrack Function is an essential feature for runners because it allows you to return to your starting point without getting lost. This Backtrack feature is especially useful if you are running in an unfamiliar area or want to explore a new trail.
The Backtrack function was already available on previous Apple Watches, but it is improved in the Apple WatchOS 9. The improved Compass app and Backtrack function make it easier to find your way back. This feature worked pretty well for me on the Downtown, London, Canada runs, and I could find my way back to the starting point without any problem.
However, Ray Maker from Dcrainmaker says while exploring remote areas of Alphs where no cellphone signals are available, the Apple Watch Backtrack screen went blank, and it took some time to show the route again. So, the Backtrack feature is good, but it still needs some improvement.
New Action Button
The latest Apple Watch Ultra has a new action button to help you quickly access your favorite running apps. For Action Button, you can either assign no action or any action from the list below.
I assigned the Workout app to the new action button, and I found it very convenient to start my run with just a press of a button. As a result, you dont have to go through the menu to start your workout. You can customize the new action button in the settings; luckily, it does not take much time.
New Running Metrics
Apple has added three new running metrics to the new Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra as follows.
- Vertical Oscillation
- Stride Length
- Ground Contact Time
With the addition of these three running metrics, Apple now joins Garmin and Polar in offering more in-depth data about your run. The best thing about the Apple Watch Ultra and Series 8 is that you don’t need an external sensor to track these metrics; the watch can do it right from your wrist. Even the Garmin Forerunner watches require a running pod or chest strap to measure some of these metrics.
Make Phone Calls with LTE
If you are looking for a cellular/LTE smartwatch for running, there are not so many options available. Even Garmin makes only one smartwatch with LTE, the Forerunner 945 LTE, which is excellent for running. Still, I prefer Fenix 7 for running, and it does not have a cellular variant yet.
With the release of the Apple Watch Ultra, there are now two cellular smartwatches for runners: Apple Watch Ultra and Forerunner 945 LTE. With these smartwatches with LTE, you can make phone calls, send text messages, and use apps on your watch without carrying your iPhone. LTE is an optional feature on every smartwatch and is more expensive than the non-LTE version. Plus, you also need to spend at least $10 /month on a cellular plan from your carrier.
However, the Apple Watch Ultra is available only in LTE, and there is no non-LTE version. But it is up to you whether to activate the LTE feature or not. I recommend activating the LTE feature only if you think you need it. For example, if you want to go for a run without your iPhone and still be able to make or receive phone calls, send SMS, or use apps, then you should activate the LTE feature.
Music On the Wrist
Music Playback is not a unique feature of the Apple Watch Ultra, but it is still one of the best features of a running watch. It supports popular music streaming apps, including Apple Music, Spotify, and Deezer. If you have activated LTE, you can stream music directly from the watch without your iPhone. It is very convenient for runners since you don’t need to carry those heavy iPhones to enjoy music.
Advanced Health Tracking Features
Electrocardiogram or ECG is an essential tool to track heart health. Unfortunately, no running watches other than Apple Watch Ultra have this feature yet. The Garmin watch alerts you about irregular heart rates, but you cannot take an ECG. Even the later Fenix 7 or Forerunner 955 does not have this feature.
Also Read: 14 Best Smartwatch with ECG Approved By FDA
Since the ECG monitoring feature in Apple Watches is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is more reliable. It has saved many lives by detecting atrial fibrillation(AF) at the earliest, which can be an initial sign of a heart attack or stroke. Later other smartwatch makers such as Samsung and Fitbit also started offering ECG features in their smartwatches, but none of them have a good running watch with ECG yet.
The blood oxygen level sensor(SpO2), temperature sensor, sleep tracking, and stress level monitoring are other health monitoring features of the Apple Watch Ultra. Those health-tracking features make Apple Watch Ultra the best-running smartwatch with advanced health tracking features in 2022.
If you are a solo runner and explore remote trails, Apple Watch Ultra’s fall detection feature is a lifesaver. If it detects a hard and deadly fall and you do not respond for one minute, it will automatically call Emergency Services(911) and share your location. Plus, it also notifies your emergency contacts that you have fallen.
If you have activated the cellular feature, the Apple Watch Ultra will connect to the cellular network and call emergency services even if you are not carrying your iPhone. But if you have not activated cellular, you must have your iPhone to make the call. The fall detection feature is not new, and Apple Watch has had it for a few years. But it is still one of the best security features offered by the Apple watch.
Your running watch must be water-resistant so that it can withstand sweat and rain. The Apple Watch Ultra has a rugged design, and it can withstand water up to 100 meters(164 feet) thanks to its titanium frame and Sapphire crystal front. TechRax recently did multiple tests to check the durability of the Apple Watch Ultra, and they even used a hammer to test the Apple Watch Ultra. You may wonder to know that the table broke first before the Apple Watch Ultra.
Without any doubt, I can say that the Apple Watch Ultra is the best running watch ever made by the company. Even though it does not replace top-end Polar or Garmin running watches, the Ultra offers excellent features that those watches do not have. FDA-approved ECG, skin temperature monitoring, and fall detection are some of the best parts of the Apple Watch Ultra. If you are looking for a running watch with advanced health tracking features and excellent music playback, then Apple Watch Ultra is the best choice.
Shnisa has been running for over 10 years and cycling for even longer. In his free time, he enjoys exploring new trails and routes. He also likes to experiment with different running and cycling gear, such as shoes, watches, and apps. He loves smartwatches and fitness trackers more, as he believes they make running and biking even more fun!