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Apple Watch Ultra review

The Apple Watch Ultra is the smartest sports watch the brand has engineered, but is it a good option for triathlon? Former 220 Triathlon editor James Witts investigates...

Apple Watch Ultra for triathletes

The Apple Watch Ultra is arguably the finest smartwatch around. But does that make it the best watch for triathlon?

As part of our recent multisport watch group test, we pitted it against some of the other leading triathlon watches on the market. Here’s how it performed…

Apple Watch Ultra review: Is it a good buy for triathletes?


Well, the first thing to note is that it’s bulkier than previous versions, yet remains the most stylish among the other multisport watches we reviewed.

At 49mm, the display is Apple’s largest watch face to date and is crystal clear on the swim, bike and run thanks to a bright screen that’s constructed from flat sapphire crystal and housed in an aerospace-grade titanium body.

On the right side is a dial and button; on the left is an ‘action’ button and speaker.

Battery life

One of the biggest killers to Apple’s attempts at infiltrating the endurance-sport market has been battery life. This has been much improved with the Ultra now delivering at least 36hrs of everyday use between charges, which cranks up to 60hrs in low-power mode.

Vitally for triathletes, you’re now also getting 16-20hrs in GPS mode, which should be sufficient for most Ironman athletes. Yes, it’s not up there with the likes of Coros and Garmin’s top-end efforts but it’s heading in the right direction.

That battery life’s been matched by durability. In the past, the Apple Watch just felt too lightweight and deluxe to put through the rough and tumble of triathlon. Not now, though.

Triathlon-friendly features

So, what about sport features? Well, the good news is that there’s an automatic transition function that works brilliantly, accurately picking up our change from swim to bike to run. You can customise these workouts to create your own brick efforts, or pick from built-in sessions.

So, that’s good. As are the myriad run metrics, which include deep-dive analytics like vertical oscillation, ground contact time and stride length. You’re also given power data, which will please many.

The swim’s not bad, either, as it’s pool- and open-water swim friendly. In all honesty, the winter test period means we can’t give you an honest appraisal of its outdoor swim capabilities but we’ve read good reports on its accuracy with the major gripe being a lack of distance alert.

In the pool, it proved pretty spot on with distance while also providing things like calorie count.

It’s the cycling aspect that arguably needs work as there’s no power connectivity – a big omission for the outlay. Another aspect to work on is a lack of offline mapping and navigation, which again seems remiss at this price.

Additional features

Beyond tri-specific features, we’d need another 20,000 words to cover the rest. You can play music stored in your Ultra, control music in your iPhone and stream music from Apple Music; monitor ovulation patterns; let off a loud siren if you get into trouble; and much, much… more.

The Apple Watch Ultra still needs refinement for committed multisport athletes but it’s certainly on the right track.

Verdict: Impressive smartwatch with strong multisport appeal.

Score: 81%

Also consider…

Garmin Fenix 7 Solar

  • £689.99

For considerably less money you could also opt for a watch from Garmin’s Fenix range. This series of watches has regularly rated well when we’ve reviewed previous iterations and in our Fenix 7 Solar review we awarded it 89%.

Standout features include offline maps, power meter compatibility, Training Status, Training Readiness, accurate GPS, solid HR monitoring and a new Real-Time Stamina tool that tells you how much you’ve got left in the tank.

You also get a touchscreen, which you can turn off if you’d prefer to use buttons, plus smartphone notifications and fantastic durability.

And battery life? Well that’s impressive, too. In GPS mode you get a mighty 57 hours, though that’s boosted up to 73 hours if light conditions are right for the watch to charge via solar.

Profile image of James Witts James Witts Freelance sports writer and author


Former 220 Triathlon magazine editor James is a cycling and sports writer and editor who's been riding bikes impressively slowly since his first iridescent-blue Peugeot road bike back in the 80s. He's a regular contributor to a number of cycling and endurance-sports publications, plus he's authored four books: The Science of the Tour de France: Training secrets of the world’s best cyclists, Bike Book: Complete Bicycle Maintenance, Training Secrets of the World's Greatest Footballers: How Science is Transforming the Modern Game, and Riding With The Rocketmen: One Man's Journey on the Shoulders of Cycling Giants