Apple Watch Ultra 2: A Day In the Life Of a PhD Student – Medium

Apple Watch Ultra 2 Review After One Month

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13 hours ago

I received the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (AWU2) and the iPhone 15 Pro as a birthday present by my parents which I am eternally grateful for. Before, I had the Apple Watch Series 7, and I wouldn’t have upgraded on my own. However, they insisted that I keep it and as the good son that I am, I have worn it for the past month every day. In this blog I want to share my experiences and impressions with the watch.

Image by author. Shot with iPhone 15 Pro, edited in LuminarAI.

Sleep Tracking

It is 4:40 a.m. and my watch gently nudges me on my wrist to get my lazy a… out of bed. What others might call crazy, I call the beginning of a functional day for me. My watch doesn’t seem to judge me either. Instead it greets me with a good morning on the screen and shows the current time, the state of charge, and today’s weather. 13 degrees Celsius is perfect for a run. But before that I’ll be heading for the gym. My watch still has 64 % of battery left although I charged it over a day ago and recorded two workouts with it.

AWU watch face. Image by author. Mockup by FreeMockupWorld.

I hit the massive Digital Crown and my trusty watch face appears. Compared to the Series 7, the Digital Crown is bigger now and has an orange ring on it indicating its cellular capabilities. Since eSIMs aren’t as widespread in Germany as they are in the US, I don’t really use that feature. Plus, I don’t believe in using my phone less — I control my phone, not the other way around.

I digress.

Health Features

While waiting for my laptop to boot up and the coffee machine reach operating temperature, I take a look at the sleep section in the health app on my phone. Seven hours slept with a good amount of deep sleep.

Sleep analytics on the watch. Image by author. Mockup by FreeMockupWorld.

Athlytic tells me I’m 33 % rested — must be good enough. I listen to some music on Apple Music and head to the bathroom. It is here that the double pinch feature comes in handy — especially when your brushing your teeth or taking a s…

Rested score from the Athletic app. Image by author. Mockup by FreeMockupWorld.

It’s 5:30 a.m. and almost time for me to switch to my workout clothes. But before that I’ll do a breathing exercise on my watch. After one minute and seven breaths my average heart rate is 57 and Athlytic shows a readiness of 100 %. That’s more like it!

Fitness and Media

At the gym I put on my Soundcore headphones with active noise canceling. Pressing the action button takes me straight to the workouts app, so I don’t need it as a complication on my watch face.

3…2…1, and the fun begins. Controlling the music is as easy as swiping to the left on my watch. Plus, on one glance I have the total workout time, my heart rate, active, and total calories.

After getting back home and changing my attire, it’s time for the run. I’m doing the marathon plan in the Nike Run App, which is also installed on my AWU2. Opening the app via the complication is as easy as a breeze and swiping one page to the left reveals all runs I have ahead of me for the week.

Nike Run Club app on the AWU. Image by author. Mockup by FreeMockupWorld.

I tap on the one scheduled for today and can then choose between a guided or non-guided run. With guided runs you have a coach gently whispering into your ear what you have to do throughout the run. I typically choose a guided run when it is a speed workout. For recovery runs and long distance runs I do the non-guided ones since I’m listening to podcasts anyways.

Podcasts on the AWU. Image by author. Mockup by FreeMockupWorld.

Funnily enough, its biggest strength — battery life — has gotten me a bit of trouble lately. Since I don’t have a cellular plan for my watch and don’t take my phone with me during runs, I have to pre-load podcast episodes. Well, this only happens when the watch is on the charger. So, charging less frequently means having less episodes which also means I regularly run out of episodes during runs — first world problems, I guess.

Anyways, one encouraging screen later my run is finished and I’m heading back home to stretch.

The watch gently nudges me on my wrist to tell me that I’ve closed the move and exercise rings — attaboy!

Now the work can begin.

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At exactly 8:30 a.m. my watch smoothly vibrates and a Sorted notification tells me to start with my first deep work block. For the next four hours, I’ll do nothing but some of the hardest tasks for the days as I am the most refreshed right now.

Typically, I will do something for my PhD now, which currently consists of writing the next journal paper.

If you want to get more insight on my work and what I do on a weekly basis, you should subscribe to my weekly newsletter ‘The Creative Engineer’. I publish almost each cough Sunday with updates about my work, one intriguing article concerning tech, engineering, or productivity, one podcast episode that entertained me through my long run, and finally one YouTube video in the same topic area.

Then I ask Siri to enable my work focus mode and set a timer of 50 minutes for me, followed by 10 minutes for a short break. I repeat this process four times. Meanwhile, my phone sleeps on the shelf across the room. This ensures distraction free working, which is mandatory if you want to tackle hard tasks.

When I want to focus on hard tasks I need focus music to help me. So I put on my AirPods and listen to some music via my phone. Thanks to the new double tap feature of the AWU2, I can quickly play and pause the music whenever I need to read or concentrate extra hard. Plus, in case I get a call, I can double tap as well and talk over the AirPods.

Music control over the Apple Watch. Image by author. Mockup by FreeMockupWorld.

I’m still not over the fact that Apple sells the double tap feature as new. I activated this feature long before Apple announced it in the keynote. However, it is in fact more reliable on the AWU2 and Series 9. Still, I refuse to believe the same thing isn’t possible on the Series 8 and 7. I guess they needed any reason they could get to sell the new watches.

Should You Buy An Apple Watch or the Competition?

Let me begin with Fitbit. After Google bought the company and you now need a premium subscription to get all the features of their watches, I think investing in a Fitbit is not an option. This leaves us with Polar and Garmin as a reputable alternative. Let’s Start with Polar.

Although Polar has some exceptionally well built hardware — especially their sleep tracking capabilities — I could never make friends with their devices. First, you can’t even change the watch face. You can only rotate between five or six different pages showing different metrics. Second, most devices don’t offer on device storage for music or podcasts. This is a no-no during my long runs. Third, the heart rate monitor never really worked for me. However, this is an individual problem and can be different for you. In general, due to the non-existent smartwatch features I would avoid Polar watches.

Lately, I’ve seen a slew of videos documenting how people switched to Garmin from an Apple Watch and never looked back. Before I bought my first Apple Watch (SE, 2020) I had a Garmin Vivoactive 3, Vivoactive 4, and Fenix 5s. Although they were fantastic watches that provided accurate data and had some decent smartwatch features, I would always observe one behaviour of each device that nobody seems to tackle in their videos — that is drift. After about one to one and a half years of usage, each watch I ever owned by Garmin would start to show either more or less miles for the same route or it would lose my heart rate during workouts more consistently. Especially the drift in the distance was immediately noticeable for me as I’m running the same route for the past 6,000 miles.

For one, it is unacceptable that a software update causes inaccuracy when it worked perfectly fine before. Second, it has happened with too many devices for me to give Garmin another chance.

I’m the type of person to use his devices for three to four years. I don’t want Garmin to decide this for me.

The Apple Watch is the first device for me to provide the most consistent readings. Be that in distance while running (or cycling) or heart rate. Specifically the heart rate monitor is one of the most accurate in the industry. This is true not only for the AWU2 but for the Series 7 and SE.

To me the Apple Watch is the most versatile, and as an average Joe when it comes to fitness, the health features are more than adequate. Trust me, all the wellness metrics Garmin throws at you will be obsolete after three months of owning the watch. I never paid attention to the redness score or whatever my Fenix 5s showed me each morning. Certainly, the novelty exists in the beginning and you’ll be glad to have it but it will quickly fade — at least this was the case for me.

Why do I stress this so much?

No device is perfect and we have to make compromises. Plus, I gain nothing if you decide to buy an Apple Watch. However, if I have to choose between getting a plethora of ‘nice to have’ data and true accurate data, I’d rather choose the latter.

And for anyone that thinks and Apple Watch is not enough to run a marathon:

My very first marathon I ran wearing an Apple Watch SE (2020). Not only ran it with the SE but also trained for it the months before. The only feature Garmin has that is truly attractive are the daily suggested workouts. Yet, even this is meaningless when you already follow a training plan.

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