In this weekly column, Android Central Fitness Editor Michael Hicks discusses the realm of wearables, apps, and fitness tech regarding running and health, in his pursuit of becoming faster and fitter.
I’ve possessed four iPhones in my lifetime (4, 6, XR, and 14 Pro), but until last autumn, I had never purchased an Apple Watch. My younger self was too thrifty for accessories, didn’t care at all about health, and deemed it too informal for runners. Only after I had started using Android phones and watches did I experiment with my first one, the Apple Watch Ultra 2.
Three months later, I regret to announce to my Android-loving readers that they’re missing out. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 isn’t flawless, and the SpO2 patent controversy caused me to postpone writing this for a couple of months. However, now that I’ve become accustomed to its advantages and techniques, it’s challenging to switch back to alternatives.
At this stage in my life, now that I am suddenly conscious of concepts such as mortality and body fat percentage, smartwatches have become much more intriguing to me. It’s why I wedged my way into this position as Wearables Editor, seizing the opportunity to evaluate Android watches like the Galaxy Watch 6 or fitness watches like the Garmin Forerunner 965.
In this context, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 stands up against all of the competing wearables I’ve donned in recent years. After I return the unit Apple lent me, I will seriously contemplate purchasing another one, or the inevitable Ultra 3, despite the fact that my current daily watch (the Forerunner 965) has tools for runners that Apple is not in a position to provide (yet).
Admission of a humiliated squircle enthusiast
One of the most common refrains of my Android Central colleagues is how much they loathe the squircle look compared to a classic, round-edged smartwatch. I can’t blame them for their bias, either. All the Apple lookalikes from Amazfit, Fitbit, and other fitness brands make me associate squircles with cheap quality.
Co-workers, skip to the next section so you don’t lose all respect for me. To everyone else, well, you know that your typical rounded smartwatch UI is like looking at a smartphone through a microscope. You get a really good look at one tile or app at a time with blown-up text, but the design is limited because things need to sit in the vertical center to be properly visible. Anything on the edge would be cut off, so they make you swipe a bezel or turn a crown to see more.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 displays more information on my wrist in a more visually pleasing manner, full stop. With any given menu, you can see more rows or columns of buttons (or just larger buttons) than Wear OS can offer, and anything that’s on display is fully visible, even if it’s positioned on the top or bottom edge.
I’m not pointing out anything revolutionary here, but I’ll just say it: I like having a 1.9-inch display! The default Modular Ultra watch face accommodates so many complications that you can check a ton of information without having to touch anything. Meanwhile, if you try to give a circular watch a 1.6-inch display or larger, it becomes so cartoonishly big that it loses any semblance of “style” to begin with.
Since no Android watch is going to steal Apple’s aesthetic anytime soon, that means returning to a smaller display with the Pixel Watch 3 or Galaxy Watch 7, and that’ll be a tough adjustment.