Apple Watch Ultra Review: Design and Build Quality

Wednesday, Dec 07, 2022

The Apple Watch Ultra is the first Apple Watch I think looks nice.

The Apple Watch Ultra is the first aesthetically-pleasing Apple Watch, in my book. It’s bulky, sure, but, to me, it’s more subdued, less try-hard, and more its own character.

To me, the Apple Watch Series watches have long lived in Apple’s Watch Edition shadow. Apple tried hard to make a stylish watch. They tried so hard. They tried $20,000 hard. They used over-the-top materials to make a nerdy smartwatch stylish and trendy.

(It’s funny, because those Watch Edition models are likely to be worth more as collector items than as actual smartwatches.)

And that design has never really changed. Series 4 gained a few smoother corners and Series 7 pushed the bezels back a bit. By and large, the Series 8 Watch looks a lot like the original Series 1.

The Watch Ultra doesn’t abide by any of this. The Watch Ultra owns its look and feel thanks to its purpose instead of its intended style. The light and durable titanium provides strong durability for the toughest environments. I don’t think titanium looks as good as stainless steel, but again, titanium is there for durability, not for looks. The Watch Ultra owns titanium.

The Watch Ultra's back is made of ceramic. I kind of like the monotone creamy colour.

The raised display and titanium bezel are 180-degree changes from the Series watches. You’ll quickly note how many of the watchOS faces appear to be made for the pebble-y Series watches thanks to the hard-stop bezels on the Ultra.

But again, the raised display is presumably done for a reason — the Ultra’s larger, brighter, more durable display packs better technology for more demanding environments.

I think the best way to put it: The Ultra’s design first priority wasn’t intended for style. Rather, the first priorities were for ruggedness and durability, and materials and design flowed through after.

The Ultra is proud to be aesthetically rugged. Owning its design is what makes the Ultra so stylish.

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Apple Watch Ultra Review: Introduction

Sunday, Nov 13, 2022

The Apple Watch Ultra with an Apple Umber Leather Link band. The band is OK. I'm looking for something better.

I can feel the glow around the Apple Watch Ultra fading, so it must be a good time to write a review about Apple’s latest and greatest Apple Watch. Whether I can cover all the facets I used to cover about a new Apple product, I’m unsure. But now is as good a time as any to hash out some post-honeymoon thoughts.

It’s been awhile since I’ve used an Apple Watch. I gave a Series 2 Watch a good run for its money, sporting both an aluminum and then a stainless steel option for a few weeks before ultimately returning both. I wore a Series 4 Watch for significantly longer, only to sell and not look back. I just couldn’t find the value in the Watch at that point in time.

Things have changed since then though.

Since then, I’ve had three children. All are under 5 years of age right now and demand a ton of hands-on time.

Since then, I’ve developed a workout regiment. It’s fallen off the wayside a bit with the arrival of our third baby girl, but I still get onto the Peloton a few times a week.

Since then, we have a new toy in the backyard. This swim spa should keep us toasty warm and entertained over the next few years while the girls grow up, and I’m not exactly comfortable bringing my iPhone into the 104-degree water just yet.

All in all, I have a few new reasons to try out the Apple Watch. The least of which is an entirely new Watch body, one which actually looks good for the first time in the Watch’s existence. I’ve never, ever liked the pebble-shaped Watch. The Ultra finally has an aesthetic I’m semi-warm about.

So I’ve given it a shot for a few weeks. And I think the Ultra will last longer than the Series 2 before it. I suspect it’ll last longer than the Series 4 before it as well, but the honeymoon glow has started to wear off.

Over the next week or two, I’ll break apart different sections of this review into separate blog posts. I’ve learned I’m not very good with long blog posts, especially here on The Newsprint. The shorter, quicker I can make them, the more likely they’ll be published. Today is introduction day. Tomorrow (or the day after, or the day after) will be more. I already have most of this written, but I want to get something out the door sooner than later.

Or the glow will wear off.

On the Current State of Affairs When Purchasing an iPad

Monday, Nov 07, 2022

Here’s my current goal: My two daughters are increasingly capable of using an iPad for reading, writing, drawing, and, well, entertaining. We have one iPad in the house — my 2021 M1 iPad Pro — and that iPad is now used about 75% of the time for my daughters’ needs. I’d like to get a second iPad so I can get back to using mine for my own work, or to hand it off officially to my wife.

So which iPad is best suited for my two daughters, considering the fact I have a 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and a Magic Keyboard already in the house?

The purchase process for this particular need is surprisingly difficult right now.

The latest iPad — dubbed iPad 10 — seems like a big win, but I would have to buy a new 1st-generation Apple Pencil, a Lightning port adapter, and the Magic Keyboard Folio. This is quite an expensive path forward. Nope.

A 6th-generation iPad mini makes some sense right now. It uses a 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and is small, light, and portable. However, it’s also due for an update I’m thinking. And it doesn’t support the Magic Keyboard. Nope.

The current M1 iPad Air makes some sense as well. It supports all the accessories I currently have. But it’s also that weird lame duck right in the middle of the lineup which is somewhat hard to recommend to anyone purchasing right now. Nope.

I could look at refurbished models, but by golly is it difficult to nail down whether these iPads work with my accessories:

  • The 5th-generation iPad mini does not work with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil. Nope.
  • The 3rd-generation iPad Air uses a Lightning port and won’t work with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil. Nope.
  • The 4th-generation iPad Air appears to work with the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard. Maybe?
  • The widely-loved 2018 iPad Pro comes with USB-C and works with both the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard, but it won’t support external displays (if this became a long-term goal for their education) and it’s running an A12X Bionic, a 4-year old chip. This is also on the more expensive end of the spectrum. Nope.
  • There’s also a 2020 iPad Pro, but this has the same shortcomings as the 2018 iPad Pro above. Nope.

All in all, I think my best option is to go with the 4th-generation iPad Air. This is on the cheaper end of the scale, works with both the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard I already have, and has one of the later A14 Bionic Chip (the same as the current iPad 10), ensuring it should have some support life to it.

I could also consider getting myself an iPad mini and giving the girls the iPad Pro. This seems counter-intuitive to the whole process though, doesn’t it?

But most importantly here is the amount of time it took to determine this was the best option and the hoops you have to jump through to determine which accessory works with which iPad and which iPad is capable of running which software.

Most iPad-geeks already know which is which is which. The average consumer looking for an iPad for their 5-year-old daughter, though? It’s got to be pretty difficult to be an Apple salesperson right now when an eager parent walks through the door.