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In dramatic fashion, Apple rocked the dive world when it unveiled the Apple Watch Ultra. It made such a splash because, with the Oceanic+ App, it is also a fully functioning dive computer.

We had a chance to go diving with the Apple Ultra, with an activated Oceanic+ app installed, in waters both warm and cold and at depths to which it’s intended and beyond.

While there’s plenty to be said about the Ultra as a Smartwatch, we’ll leave that to others and stick to describing how the Apple Ultra works as a dive computer.

The crux of the Apple Ultra is that it has the hardware–waterproofing–to dive down to a max depth of 328 feet (100m). But the onboard sensors only have gauges that measure depths down to a maximum of 131 feet (40 meters).

So, the Ultra is firmly in the market for recreational divers that aren’t going to exceed the limits of an Advanced Open Water dive certification, which is 100 feet (30 meters).

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.8

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Clear and bright display is easy to see even in strong sunlight
  • check-mark
    Info is simple and easy to see
  • check-mark
    Controls can be used with dive gloves
  • check-mark
    Has a good compass
  • check-mark
    Optional Nitrox integration into planning
  • check-mark
    Alerts to rapid ascent with sound and haptics
  • check-mark
    Great potential (and expectation) for over-the-air upgrades to monitor health
  • check-mark
    Log book details and iPhone planner have potential through crowd-sourcing

Things we don't like:

  • check-markSubscription will prevent some from buying this exclusively as a dive computer
  • check-markBattery life: After a full day of use & two dives we were at 52% battery life

Where to buy:

apple-watch-ultra-dive-computer

Apple Watch Ultra Dive Computer: Oceanic+

Specs & Features

  • 49mm case size
  • Sensors gauge maximum 40 meters (130 feet)
  • Tested to MIL-STD 810H7 (100 meters max depth)
  • Up to 2000 nits of brightness
  • Sapphire Front Crystal Display
  • Certified IP6X dust‑resistant6
See the complete list of the best Dive Computer here!
Impressive form factor of Apple's hardware combined with a great execution by the Oceanic+ on user experience make the Ultra a huge addition to the dive computer market.
Impressive form factor of Apple's hardware combined with a great execution by the Oceanic+ on user experience make the Ultra a huge addition to the dive computer market.

While there is a depth app designed to work for snorkeling and free diving, Apple didn’t develop the software to run the Ultra’s dive sessions. Instead, they turned Oceanic to develop the diving software.

Enter the Oceanic+ dive compute app. The app monitors your depth, time in, temperature, and heart rate (only works on the wrist without a wetsuit) and gives you the data you need for a dive, like No Decompression Time, Dive time, max depth, etc. So, basically work like any other recreational dive computer from the likes of Shearwater, Garmin & Suunto.

During our testing, over 15 dives, we had the Ultra on a mount, side-by-side with some of the leading models currently on the market, including computers from Shearwater, Garmin and Cressi.

So when we refer to the Apple Ultra Scuba Dive Computer, we’re referring to this watch with Oceanic’s app installed and running.

It's interesting to see how different dive computers register changing conditions when they are in completely controlled circumstances. In this case, like most of our testing, we do this with the best models by mounting them on a rod so they remain at the same depth in the same temperature, constantly.
It's interesting to see how different dive computers register changing conditions when they are in completely controlled circumstances. In this case, like most of our testing, we do this with the best models by mounting them on a rod so they remain at the same depth in the same temperature, constantly.

There’s a catch to all this, though: you need a subscription to open up all the dive features of the Oceanic+ app. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to use it in snorkeling mode, where you only see time in water and depth.

So, it’s a dive watch on its own and becomes a dive computer ONLY with an active subscription to run the Oceanic+. Read more about the subscription later in the review.

How the Apple Ultra Works as a Dive Computer

As a Dive computer, the Ultra does what Apple does really, really well. It displays everything in a way that’s just so user-friendly and, somehow, stylish.

But what does that mean for you as a diver?

The Display and Controls

From the beginning, it’s very easy to read the info and change any setting that you’d like to change.

Above the water, you use the large touchscreen to change settings. Shifting from air to nitrox has never been easier than shifting the algorithm setting. It’s super easy.

Underwater, the touchscreen locks, so you’ll use the wheel to shift the screen view and one button to choose a heading on the compass.

The screen is super bright, in fact, the brightest we’ve seen in any dive computer. Comparing it to the Shearwater computers, the Apple Ultra is almost twice as bright at around 10 feet of depth. As we descended deeper, this leveled out more, but still, the Ultra kept being the brightest of the bunch.

Because it’s so easy to read and reliable, a quick glance will provide what you need to know about your current profile without filtering out too much information.

The button and the scrolling wheel are so serviceable that even with 6-millimeter gloves, there’s no fumbling about to get to what you want to see.

Compared to the Garmin Mk2 and G1, or the Shearwater Teric, which has several buttons to press that are, in fact, active while diving. While those buttons are useful for their purposes–especially for technical diving–it’s not as simple as the Ultra.

That counts for pretty much every stage of a dive, from the descent, bottom time to the safety stop. In other words, the Apple dive computer keeps things simple and accessible for a recreational diver that just wants to dive. In particular, a diver that’s part of a group and just wants to dive safely will find the Oceanic+ makes diving, well, easier.

Safety Features of the Ultra

We compared the Ultra diving with other leading dive computers, testing how and when information is offered.

When approaching the no decompression limit (NDL), the alert on the Ultra blinks into display clearly with mild haptic prodding. It happens at the same time as the Mk2, Shearwater Teric and other dive computers we had side-by-side, on a tube for some dives.

Similarly, when going beyond the NDL, alerts were clear and activated at the same time as our baseline computers.

We tried to provoke the Oceanic+, to see what warning alerts would look like. When ascending too fast, a clear message says exactly that and at the same time as the other computers. the only difference is how clearly it’s displayed. On the Apple Ultra, alerts pop up and fill most of the screen, whereas all of the premium computers alert with sound or haptic notification, but the display only shows a small indicator of warning.

What was a cut above the rest was the ease at which the safety stop stage was displayed. When reaching 20 feet, like any other computer, the Oceanic+ shows the safety stop with a countdown. That countdown is displayed more clearly than any other dive computer we’ve seen.

Algorithms of the Oceanic+

The Oceanic+ app uses the unmodified Bühlmann ZHL-16C algorithm to calculate in real-time the dive profile, which is the same that Garmin and Shearwater dive computers use.

You can make changes if you want to dive more conservatively,  by changing the gradient factors.

The Pre- and Post-Dive Experience

Before the dive, on the iPhone’s Oceanic+ dashboard, you can plan your dive with the dive planner and the location planner. The Dive planner will give you your NDL based on your current saturation, surface interval, and planned depth. This is much like the ones you’ll find on almost any other dive computer, Oceanic+ just makes it accessible on the phone as well as on the watch.

With the location planner, you plot in the dive spot and the app will give you information like weather, water temperature, wind, and tides. Oceanic and Apple have a plan to add crowd-sourced data to this plan so you’d be able to see info like visibility and comments from other divers. Currently, this data is not available.

What Does the Apple Watch Ultra Dive Computer Cost?

So far, a subscription-based dive computer is a bit controversial. Divers are not going to blindly flock to this solution. They’re a bit skeptical, but when working out the cost over time, it’s more compelling for certain types of people who ALSO are divers.

There are 4 available payment options:

  • $4.99 per day
  • $9.99 per month
  • $79.99 per year
  • $129.99 per year for a whole family of 5

This is for you if you’re looking for an Apple Watch or Smartwatch, but who also dives and/or has an active lifestyle.

And this is where the Subscription works quite well.

If you’re diving for 1 or 2 weeks a year, on holiday. Now you can get your own computer for something like 20 dollars.

Same price as renting one in the dive center or the same as getting a new battery if you’re using a user replacement model.

What’s the Future of the Apple Dive Computer

Whether over-the-air updates will add features like wireless air integration remains to be seen. But it adds to the anticipation.

Like us, Garmin will also be paying particular attention. For now, the Mk2 and Descent G1 are sitting atop the Smartwatch dive computer market in terms of performance diving performance, where Apple Ultra is the top for the all-round smartwatch that dives.

 

apple-watch-ultra-dive-computer-variety

Related Reviews

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.8

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Clear and bright display is easy to see even in strong sunlight
  • check-mark
    Info is simple and easy to see
  • check-mark
    Controls can be used with dive gloves
  • check-mark
    Has a good compass
  • check-mark
    Optional Nitrox integration into planning
  • check-mark
    Alerts to rapid ascent with sound and haptics
  • check-mark
    Great potential (and expectation) for over-the-air upgrades to monitor health
  • check-mark
    Log book details and iPhone planner have potential through crowd-sourcing

Things we don't like:

  • check-markSubscription will prevent some from buying this exclusively as a dive computer
  • check-markBattery life: After a full day of use & two dives we were at 52% battery life

Do you want more?

Stay updated with guides, reviews and more about paddling.

FAQ

Frequently asked questions about Apple Watch Ultra as a Dive Computer

How Much Does the Apple Watch Oceanic+ Dive Computer Cost?

There are 4 available payment options:

  • $4.99 per day
  • $9.99 per month
  • $79.99 per year
  • $129.99 per year for a whole family of 5

Is it worth it? See our video review here to hear our opinion.

What are the alternatives to the Apple Watch Oceanic+ App?

If you don’t want to pay the subscription fee for the Oceanic+ App, there’s a free app from Apple called Depth, that will give you similar data as an advanced dive watch does: your depth, time in the water, and the temperature.

However, we recommend that you always use a dive computer. If you’re not keen on the Oceanic+ subscription model, we recommend one of these dive computers instead:

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Bradley Axmith
Member
Bradley Axmith
Reply to  Adam

I think most people are a little taken aback by Apple wading into the market with something completely new. Your righ, Adam, the subscription is competitive when measured out over time. But the bottom line of their target market is a person who will also dive. The subscription is for therefore optional for these sometime divers. The PADI open water crew that learned to dive with a maximum 130 foot dive table. Compare that to Garmin’s Mk2 which is a dive computer for people who also do golf, hiking, backcountry skiing, etc. No matter what, the visual experience of the Oceanic+ on the Ultra is more vibrant, maybe even more clear. Not for everyone, but many people will happily pay whatever subscription plan suits them.

Adam
Adam

Not sure what all the criticism of the subscription model is all about. Just simple math right? I have a SW Teric that costs about $1,150.00. An annual subscription for the app is about $80.00. So basically 14+ years of use before you spend the equivalent of the one off cost of a nice dive computer. If the functionality or usability is bad I get why it might receive bad reviews, but subscription models don’t seem like anything more than a different way to pay, not an increased cost.

Neg
Neg

The 20W USB-C charger charges the watch very quickly. I really don’t recommend charging it any other way. (and yeah, this means another $20/€25 on top…)

Nicolai Lonne
Member

Monday, November 28, 2019: The Oceanic Plus app is now available. This app turns the Apple Watch Ultra into a real dive computer. We have tested and reviewed the app in-depth and updated the article.

HydronautInSpace
HydronautInSpace

That subscription is a big turn off. I was planning on getting this as a backup dive computer. I am a an Apple fan and a regular recreational diver and go hiking often. This watch would have been perfect if that subscription was not there. Even without the subscription I would only get this as a backup dive computer. I still wouldn’t rely on this as my primary dive computer

Bradley Axmith
Member
Bradley Axmith
Reply to  Alex

Hey Alex. It’s a bit of a gamble, but let’s see what the experience is like first. Agreed that it seems unreasonable compared to Garmin’s Mk2/Mk2s and G1, but there could be something that sets the Oceanic+ on an Apple watch apart. Could be… We’re planning on testing it in the coming weeks to find out.

Alex
Alex

Being an an athlete and occasional diver, I was super excited about the Apple Watch ultra. I was so hooked.
Until I learned about the subscription. Massive turn off. I don’t want to buy it anymore. There’s no way I drop this kind of money and pay subscription on top of that just to use a function that is already there and the watch is advertised with it.
I hope they come to their senses.

Bradley Axmith
Member
Bradley Axmith
Reply to  Gary

Apple’s control of the App Store will prevent other players from getting into the market. But therein lies the tension between hardware and software in some of these companies’ business models–similar to some car companies’ dilemmas.

Gary
Gary

What’s to keep Garmin and Shearwater from making an apple watch ultra dive app?

Bradley Axmith
Member
Bradley Axmith
Reply to  Eddie

There are a lot of unknowns with the Ultra as a dive computer. But we imagine that–as you point out with OTA updates–solutions from 3rd parties will meet the needs. The subscription thing will be interesting to see. As soon as we get one and the Oceanic+ goes live, we’ll be able to see how many people are sharing their dive info. When that happens will share how much activity there is.

Eddie
Eddie

This would make a fantastic dive computer. However, there are three main showstoppers preventing me to ever consider this a “serious” dive computer.

1 – Air Integration. I think this will come eventually.
2 – Subscription. There is no way – ever – that I will pay a recurring fee to use this functionality on ANY dive computer
3 – Serviceability – Those seals degrade over time, faster if one dives a lot. This watch needs to have the ability to be serviced, and having the seals replaced. The seals will fail, and will fail faster for some.

Anthony Loro
Anthony Loro

I give it about three months until there are apps that do the same thing without a subscription

Bradley Axmith
Member
Bradley Axmith
Reply to  Brian Rossman

Until we get a chance to play around with this under the waves, we’re not going to know if it’s worth it. Lots of companies are going to subscription-based after-purchase features–car companies, electric surfboards, etc. It’ll turn some people off (toward Suunto and Garmin, for ex), but it’ll capture the Apple-lytes who also dive; rather than the divers who also have an iPhone (in the Apple ecosystem).

Brian Rossman
Brian Rossman

I was on the fence being in Michigan where a lot of diving is by the location cold water… Previous put your phone in a case showed that iphone batteries get very sad when cold.

Now I see you need the subscription for Tissue Loading, ie the most important function. I’m pissed off enough about this that it may actually steer me away from other Oceanic gear because that is just inexcusable.

Bradley Axmith
Member
Bradley Axmith
Reply to  Nameky Namek

It’s a bold move, the subscription angle. It’ll be interesting to see who will be buying this exclusively for scuba diving. It’s turned a lot of people off, but Apple has that uncanny ability to attract and hold people in their ecosystems. They do make aesthetically pleasing hardware that has a strong appeal because of its simplicity and minimalism. Most comparable (still only in theory) competitors are for tech divers, whereas this one is strictly a reacreational, social “computer”.

Nameky Namek
Nameky Namek

I’m not paying a subscription to use a dive computer and i really hope the rest of the industry doesn’t get the same idea.

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