Do you want an Apple Watch that can replace your satellite messenger, your cycling computer, and your running watch? Then, my friend, the Watch Ultra 2 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is for you. Like the Series 9, it has the new S9 chipset for faster processing and Double Tap and the new ultra-wideband chip for precision-locating your phone, and it will be more sustainable when paired with the Alpine Loop strap or the Trail Loop. It also has a new, shockingly bright 3,000-nit display. I didn’t see a difference on a sunny day on the water, but you might, on a glacier somewhere.
However, like the Series 9, many of the Watch Ultra 2’s best new outdoor features are only fully apparent when you’re also within reach of your iPhone. The touted offline maps are only visible on the watch when you download them on your iPhone and have it charged and within Bluetooth range of the watch. If you start a cycling activity on your watch, it shows up as a Live Activity on your iPhone. Many of these features—along with the handy Action button and the three-mic array—are also available on last year’s debut Watch Ultra and WatchOS 10. Again, if you bought a Watch Ultra last year, I would wait to upgrade. If this is your first, however, you will thoroughly enjoy the Watch Ultra 2. This is the watch to get if you love outdoor sports but also want the full functionality of a smartwatch—as long as you don’t accidentally close the tab that tells you how to get back home.
???? Why It Might Be Hard to Find: Apple recently decided to suspend sales of the Watch Ultra 2 and Series 9 on Apple.com starting December 21 and in it’s retail stores December 24, pending an expected ban by the International Trade Commission. The federal agency is considering a ban because of a dispute over a patent for the technology that Apple uses in the newest Watch models’ blood-oxygen sensor. If the ban does happen, the Apple Watch may not be available on Amazon or other retailers starting December 26.