On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the Apple Watch Ultra – a new, more rugged watch that's clearly designed to challenge the likes of Garmin for a place on adventurers' wrists. It features a tougher case than the regular Apple Watch 8, a redesigned interface with a more tactile Digital Crown and (for the first time) a physical button, and improved water resistance.
Its battery life pales in comparison to the best Garmin watches – just 36 hours, or up to 60 in low power mode, which will be arriving with a future firmware update. I'd also argue that the Apple Watch Ultra needs dedicated buttons, and a lot more of them. A single customizable button is a step in the right direction, but won't allow you to do a great deal without looking down at your wrist, and fiddling with the touchscreen and Digital Crown.
However, the new Apple Watch has one feature I'd definitely like to see Garmin adopt, and that's its loud emergency siren – a 168-decibel alert that you can activate if you run into trouble on the trail. The video below demonstrates how it works.
You should always carry a hiking whistle when you're out adventuring in case you need to signal for attention (take a look at the buckle on your backpack's chest strap and you might even find a simple plastic whistle built into it). It might be something relatively straightforward like a twisted ankle, or something much more serious like being trapped by a rockslide. They might not be quite as loud as your voice if you absolutely bellow at the top of your lungs, but they let you keep making continuous noise for a lot longer, increasing your odds of rescue,
The Apple Watch Ultra has some advantages, though. First, it's even louder than a typical whistle, making it easier for you to be heard over long distances, and second it only requires you to hold a button, rather than blow into a whistle when you might be tired, injured, and breathless.
Alpine Distress Signal
he main downside I can see (and it's quite a big one) is that the siren has its own unique sound, and doesn't create the international Alpine Distress Signal, which is three quick blasts in quick succession repeated once per minute.
Your watch may also become damaged or run out of power, so it's important not to rely on it, and always carry a hiking whistle as well (see our guide on how to use a hiking whistle for more info).
It's not perfect, but I do think that a siren would be a useful tool for Garmin to integrate into some of its best GPS watches – particularly the Enduro and Instinct series, which are designed for outdoor adventures and multi-day off-road events.
It could work alongside Incident Detection, activating an alarm while also alerting your emergency contacts, and you might be able to switch between a continuous siren and the Alpine Distress Signal with the touch of a button.
It'll be interesting to see whether such a tool finds its way into any Garmin watches released over the next couple of years. The rumored Garmin Instinct Analog might make an appearance in the coming months, so we may find out soon.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).