Dive Tidbits From Underwater Chamber Testing the Apple Watch Ultra

I hadn’t really planned on writing a separate post for the video shown above, where I put the Apple Watch Ultra in my underwater depth testing chamber. Mostly because my list of non-Apple things is growing right now, and there’s lots of other cool stuff to get to. However, after I published the video I’ve seen some questions on the lack of Apple’s ascent rate warnings and safety stops. So, I figured I’d quickly cover that here, merely as somewhere to link to.

First though, in case you haven’t watched the video – you should. Especially if you’re into geeky things (that’s why you’re here, right?). For those long-term readings, you’ll remember nearly a decade ago I had a depth testing chamber made, which allows me to simulate various depths – including creating entire second-by-second dive profiles. I can literally re-create any dive profile I want and have the machine control it, to the second, emulating the dive. It’s super cool. I go into the entire backstory of this in the last 3 minutes or so of the video (literally titled “Story Time”).

However, before we get there, I explain that basically the Apple Watch Ultra is a certified dive device, and that it has two levels of ‘design’. The first is the hardware design, which is certified to 100m in depth. And then the second is their software app, which is designed for usage to 40m (131ft) of depth.  That native app is called…umm…Depth. And it essentially aims to show your current, well…depth (and duration/water temp). But that’s it.

clip_image001

But, Apple made a big deal in the keynote about their partnership with Huish Outdoors and their upcoming app called the Oceanic+ app. That app (which costs $79/year) has all the dive-related functions you’d find in a normal dive computer. Things like dive planning, water type, ascent warnings, safety stops, mixed gas options, etc… That app isn’t available today, and is slated for sometime this fall.

Now, in the keynote, they briefly showed some app data pages, but it was slim pickings. However, if you found the right person over in the hands-on area at the post-keynote tables, there was a guy that was demoing the app. I got a long-form hands-on demo, but it wasn’t entirely the focus on my time there. So while that was cool (there’s some tidbits in my original Apple Watch Ultra video), what’s more useful is this nifty chart that I was sent, which shows a slate of screenshots from the Oceanic+ app, including things like ascent warnings, etc…

OceanicPlusApp-AppleWatchUltra

And then this all pairs with the Oceanic+ phone app, which has a dive log, including showing the entry/exit GPS points on the map and the full details of the dive (plus pre-dive planning).

OceanicPlusApp-AppleWatchUltraPhoneBits

Of course, all of this would make for a super interesting comparison to the Garmin Descent G1 ($649), which has been sitting in my long-term testing queue for many months. I’ve got a number of dives in on it, and a boatload of non-dive stuff as well. Basically, the Descent G1 is an Instinct 2 Solar, but with all the dive stuff of Garmin’s higher-end Descent MK2 series ($1,299). The core dive-specific difference is it lacks air integration (which then requires the $1,499 version of the MK2, plus Air Integration module for another $400). Below, the Descent G1.

clip_image001[6]

Price-wise, the Descent G1 is cheaper than the Apple Watch Ultra ($799), and of course has all the native dive stuff built-in, whereas the Ultra would at present require the $79/year subscription for the Oceanic+ app. Obviously, there’s a gazillion other differences between the two watches.

Anyways, that’s getting off on a tangent, but a few of you have asked my thoughts there as well. Certainly, there’s many reasons why someone would choose Garmin vs Apple or vice versa, beyond just diving. And until the Oceanic+ app releases, it’s hard to know how exactly those two feature sets compare.

With that, hope you found the video interesting – and get ready for yet more busy weeks. Definitely a fun time of year!

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49 Comments

  1. Harmen

    You clearly had fun and it is infectious. Good to know it’s actually so hard to flood most watches. Now I’m waiting for someone to make a non-subscription dive app.

  2. Paul in Kirkland

    I’d love to know if the background on that warning screen changes to match the color of the band you’re wearing 🙂

  3. Dave Lusty

    I’d love to see Garmin put the hardware in the Fenix 8 for dive functionality. Even if they delay the actual dive parts at least it would mean the dive watch wouldn’t always be a generation behind for everything else.
    That subscription for the dive app is insane. When compared to a cheap Suunto or even the less cheap Garmin I don’t see why I’d even consider renting that functionality.

    • Yeah, I agree. Or perhaps at least on whatever the equiv to the Sapphire models is in the future.

      The downside though is that Garmin has historically massively slowed firmware rollouts to the dive watches relative to the rest of the Fenix/etc product line, as they’ve cited additional safety/QA type checks related to software updates for the dive watches.

    • Dave Lusty

      Yes I do get the reasons, but they’re going to have to work that part out somehow if Apple intend to take the segment.
      In theory the Garmin platform can be segmented the way Apple have, with the dive app separately handled as an app, I believe they do this already anyway? Even if the dive app required specific firmware it would be less frustrating than requiring last gen hardware. Or if they require last gen hardware they need to get better at rolling software features out to older platforms, like Apple do. They’ve improved a lot in this regard, but they seem to still hold back too much in an effort to show value in new watches. I’ve had every Fenix since the 2, and I’d have done that even if they gave older watches new features. Every update has added significant hardware improvements which enable genuinely new features. Garmin just don’t seem to think this is compelling enough, but I definitely do. Not that I use the touchscreen much!

    • Neil Jones

      Totally agree Dave. Despite Garmin’s somewhat surprising claims to the contrary, the Decent G1 clearly uses the same codebase as the Instinct 2 (or they’ve done an outstanding job of replicating the bugs!). I understand the need for tighter testing on the dive functionality, but why can’t that operate in a sandboxed environment during dives and have its own development cycle, allowing development of the other shared functionality of the watch to keep pace with the Instinct? Same goes for the Descent Mk2/Fenix family. It’s not as if their current approach is paying dividends either, plenty of G1 mid-dive crashes/resets are being reported and on about 50% of my dives the watch has rebooted within 5-10 minutes of surfacing.

    • Yeah, I agree. I do think Garmin needs to figure out a way to keep regular firmware updates moving, else, people will lose the reasons why they bought a Garmin-based dive watch for the other 95% of the time. For example, the Instinct 2 series has had massive feature updates this summer, but the Descent G1 hasn’t gotten those yet (everything from 9.23: link to forums.garmin.com)

      Also notable that you’re still seeing post-dive reboot. I saw that back this past spring as well, but haven’t dived with it this summer. :-/

    • Dave Lusty

      I suspect that traditionally it’s because of the way Garmin were structured. Originally the outdoor team made Fenix and then handed it to another department (e.g. sailing) who would build on top. From the outside it looks as though they recently restructured to centralise a bit more as Fenix doesn’t appear to sit in outdoors any more on the website. I think if that’s the case we will see a gradual slide to a point where the OS and software will be pushed to every device that supports it. It’ll be a slow change but from the outside it looks like they’re moving that way.

    • Alan Wynn

      The answer is really simple. Many people like me will already have an Apple Watch Ultra. I do 1-3 dives trips in an average year. That would mean that I am paying about $5.00 – $30.00 in an average year (there are cases where I will have a short trip and only be able to dive a single day). Suunto’s cheapest dive computer shown on their website now seems to be $299. That would mean one would pay for a minimum of 10 years of subscriptions payments vs. a watch that would be 10 years old when it was done and likely had no software support for 5 years.

      This is not the watch for a dedicated scuba diver (although with 3 people in a family, doing 6 drive trips a year, it is $43 a person, vs. $897), but a great add on for a casual diver like me and many of my friends.

      I spoke to a friend in Bonaire who is a Dive Instructor/Dive Master who said it would be great for many of his customers who do one long dive trip a year.

  4. Theo

    $79/year or $79/month for the Oceanic+ app??

    • Andy

      Its per year. Per month would be kinda heavy.

    • Correct, per year. Which, I think is still kinda pricey for the recreational diver that might only use this once or twice per year at a resort/vacation dive.

    • Andy

      It is indeed kinda pricey, considering you can buy a very decent second hand actual dedicated dive computer for that money.

      I just bought a very good if not good looking Suunto unit for my wife for 50 usd.

    • Harmen

      There seems to be sufficient open source decompression planning and even dive computer code out there that I hope someone will come out with a decent competitor app soon enough.

    • Leo

      For a twice a year recreational diver the standard app is sufficient.

      But I gues divers migt be the same as runners/bikers. More data is better. Why? Because it’s more

    • Neil Jones

      They also offer monthly and even daily subscriptions, which whilst they work out considerably more expensive than the annual one, actually provide a very cost-effective option for occasional/holiday divers who might only need the functionality for a couple of weeks every year

    • Dave Lusty

      “For a twice a year recreational diver the standard app is sufficient.”

      Does the built in app do no-fly time? Does it tell you no-deco time? Looked like a bottom timer to me and that was old fashioned 20 years ago. As Andy said, a second hand Suunto is cheaper than the yearly sub and includes the watch. Even my (titanium body) Suunto Stinger still does everything the new computers do except Bluetooth, and they go for 100 bucks on Ebay. I’ll buy a Descent when it’s inside the latest Fenix, but until then I see no compelling reason to change

    • Luke Randall

      They have per month pricing ($9.99) but interestingly even per day pricing of $4.99. So for someone doing casual dive trips 2-3 times a year you’re looking at $30 a year.

      I still hate that what’s touted as a core feature comes with a subscription cost attached to it though…

    • scottg

      Well that app is only $29 a year if you accept adverts.

      If you have to spend 30 minutes at 80 feet, might as well do some shopping*, right ?
      *Requires optional Starlink Dive buoy, sold separately.

    • Alan Wynn

      For those customers it seems it is either $10 a month or $5 a day.

    • Alan Wynn

      @Andy: If you are comparing an $800 Apple Watch with a $79 subscription to a $50 used watch, you are correct, that would seem like a lot. I think that is not the comparison that any real user is going to make. No one is saying: “I want to go scuba diving a few times, should I spend almost $900 or should I buy a used watch without Bluetooth instead?” What they are saying is: “I already have an Apple Watch. I am thinking of upgrading my Apple Watch. I would like a bit more rugged design with a bit longer battery life. I think I will get the Apple Watch Ultra. Next month I am going to Bonaire (or Grand Cayman, Hawaii, BVI, USVI, etc.) for a week and instead of bringing my old dive watch that does not do anything other than be a dive computer, I can pay $10 and have a dive computer that nicely integrates with my ecosystem. I think I will do that.”

  5. Andy

    Maybe its just me and maybe its just me having seen quite a few things fail under pressure, but as a friendly tip and thinking purely your best I would recommend wearing (at least) safety glasses when near anything pressurized. They even make them quite cool looking nowadays!

    Its no fun removing shards/things from your eyeballs surgically, I have seen it done to my former coworkers.

    • I mean, I did technically have the safety glasses…they were just hanging up behind me. 😉

      That said, probably true and some validity there. In this system, the first failure point is specifically the thin little wimpy rubber hose that you see me plug in.

  6. Volker

    Ray, wait: perhaps I have missed it: you can use the instinct 2 solar for diving (apart from the references to this in the manual) to show you the depths? So the instinct 2 solar (about 359€) can do this and the much more expensive F6/F7 series can´t show this? Or have I missunderstood something? Thanks!

    • The Descent G1 is based on the Instinct 2 Solar, but it’s not just an Instinct 2 Solar. It has additional hardware inside for the depth pieces. Same way the Descent MK2 is based on a Fenix 6 Series device, but has additional stuffs for the depth side.

      Thanks for being a supporter!

    • Volker

      I mean, the depths is shown up to 36 (feet) on the shown instinct 2 solar pic – this will not work on a F6/7, correct?

    • The pic above is a Descent G1, not an Instinct 2 Solar (the G1 is based on the Instinct 2 Solar though, so it has all the base Instinct 2 Solar features as a starting point). That dive is after a relatively shallow secondary reef dive that day.

      But correct, they won’t show on a Fenix 6/7 because it doesn’t have the added depth hardware internally.

    • Volker

      Ah, sorry- my bad: I mixed it up!

  7. Neil Jones

    One thing that seems to be causing a lot of confusion in Apple forums and reviews is that a 100m rating refers to static pressure, and doesn’t mean you could dive with the watch to depths of 100m or anywhere close, regardless of software, equipment or common sense. Of course, misunderstanding water resistance ratings is nothing new and no-one’s going to be attempting anything beyond ND recreational dive depths with this anyway, but as is always the case with Apple’s following, there’s already a lot of ‘passionate discussion’ going on about this, with the usual amount of ultracrepidarianism.

    • Actually, Apple did in this case.

      If you check out the two specs that apple certified against, ISO 22810:2010 specifies the waterproof rating for watches statically (to 100m in Apple’s case). However, DIN EN13319 covers the depth gauge and specifically operation of said gauge to the specified water pressure listed (100m in this case), given that would require pressing buttons in order to use said operation as covered under the functional area, thus would be covered to 100m according to Apple’s claims.

      Apple would be playing a super-dangerous liability game if they tried to claim later down the road that their EN13319 didn’t cover button usage to 100m despite their support article explicitly claiming it, since buttons are required to change data pages in the Oceanic+ app they featured – and also required per EN13319.

  8. Ian H

    Hi Ray, i remember the depth chambers arrival so go back a while and have wanted to ask for a while now – can we go back to attaching watches to ceiling fans by the charger cables please? 😉

  9. Andrew

    Pretty neat – your post/video got picked up by MacRumors. Congrats!

  10. Eric Elliott

    Hello,

    Great information here. Seems like it is getting tougher and tougher to find actual technical info on new products.
    I know the current release plan for the Apple Watch and Oceanic app do not include air integration, but wondering if the watch already has the hardware needed for this to be added later via software updates or not?

    • Alan Wynn

      Not as far as Apple has announced. It does not have an FCC rating for the lower frequency radio needed to do air integration. Maybe on a future Ultra.

  11. ChrisTexan

    For your dying tablet issue, use disk2vhd (and a USB dock so that you can transfer the data to a flash drive or what-have-you, while not having the tablet die on you simultaneously). Then you can load virtualbox or similar, or if using a Windows 10/11 “Business” version (Professional, etc), can use native Hyper-V to spin up the virtual image (have to add the role) on whatever machine and boot that image up portably (hopefully)… may run into license key issues, but worth a shot anyhow, and likely the easiest path of low/no resistance (just getting the USB pass-through feature enabled so the image can talk to the hardware port to your compressor setup may take a little tweaking). Hopefully that might help extend the life of your rig anyhow. Good luck!

  12. TimRules!

    It’s worth noting that the Oceanic+ app has some pretty decent Free functionality (including Gauge mode and the Logbook) as well as Daily and Monthly subscription options … I am noticing a lot of comments by people who are put off by the annual subscription cost, but I suspect that daily/monthly options are going to be more popular (as more serious divers will stick with Garmin/Suunto/Shearwater/etc. for the time being …).

    At least, that’s how I plan to use it …

  13. Kevin

    I have done 5 dives this week with an Ultra on my left wrist and Descent MK2i on my right. For very basic dive metrics, the Ultra was on par with the Descent. Went down to 85 feet on one dive and both matched. The Ultra will never be my primary so long as there is no air integration.

    • Alan Wynn

      @Kevin: Thanks for the feedback on using the Ultra as a dive computer. That is really cool to see someone really try it out. From my experience, there are three kinds of divers: 1) Total amateurs (not even certified, people who are going to do the resort course and do a single (or a very small number) of dives over a day or a week. 2) Casual divers (many of my friends and me), who do 1-3 dive trips a year, usually up to a week at a time (although sometimes just a single day on a short trip). 3) Serious divers. Anyone using an air integrated computer, a rebreather, using esoteric mixes, etc. Most of these people probably go on more than 3 dive trips a year.

      The first category will either just use the free Oceanic+ version that even gives them a much nicer dive log than any paper one, and better than the Suunto Mac or Windows versions for which they would have to buy a cable. Even paying the $10 would probably be cheaper than renting at many dive shops.

      The second category is the primary target of the dive functionality. I would happily pay up to $30 to get really nice diver computer for the way I use it, and one that I would not need to worry about bringing with me on a trip. I cannot tell you how many diver logs I have had over the years, but I have no idea where any of them are. While my friend with whom I dive a lot has an air integrated Suunto (he dives more and has more money to spend on diving), I have an old Suunto that is no where as nice as an Ultra would be.

      Those people like you (and the few friends of mine that are more serious divers) will either do as you did and use it as a backup, or use it for its logging functions. Maybe a future version will add an air radio, maybe it will not. Had to know.

      However, while I am sure you did not buy it as a dive computer, that you used it anyway (even if only as a back up), means that it has served its purpose. 🙂

  14. Alejandro

    Interesting post, thank you. As an adventure training, SCUBA diving, HIIT and cross-country distance runner the potential of this new watch is very appealing to me. I hope, however, that someone creates an alternative diving app to what’s currently on offer. 80 bucks a year subscription model is a pass, and the lack of “air integration” is a problem not likely to be solved unless some sort of RF or sonar technology is built into following models. Still, it’s great first step.

    • Alan Wynn

      @Alejandro How many dive trips do you make in a typical year? The annual fee only makes sense for people who make more than 7 dive trips a year, and as you said, many of those people will want air integration. Oceanic seems to have priced this with the idea that a substantial number of their users will be in that category. Otherwise, they would be smarter to set it at $30 a year (assuming the peak is 2 dive trips) or $40 (assuming the peak is 3 dive trips).

  15. Nordicbynature

    On why the AW is not a dive computer: link to youtu.be

    • Yeah, video doesn’t really make sense. The Apple Watch Depth app is designed as a depth gauge – the same as your depth gauge attached to your regular. Just like that gauge, it has specified limits.

      The app people are mainly waiting for, is the Oceanic+ app.

  16. Robin

    Hi Ray – my Gopro hero 9 stopped working at somewhere less than it’s rated 10 m yesterday. Interested to see what they’re actually built to withstand, if you have a spare moment….

    Also, is there any difference between to Garmin Descent and Fenix line in terms of actual water resistance? I know the Descent claims to be engineered to 100m, but the Fenix also claims 100m Wr, but without the certification. Is there any real difference? Would you still dive with a Fenix?

    Thanks for your good work.

  17. technbio

    Do you know if we could do deco dive with the oceanic app..

    • technbio

      BTW i’m waiting an answer about the deco feature from oceanic…..air integration is really a miss for me…same price for a good diving computer who offer that option..

    • Tim Hill

      See “Decompression Limits” here: link to oceanicworldwide.com … appears to be a feature of the paid version: link to oceanicworldwide.com

      Also, there are rumours that AI is in the works (see the Reply from the original poster to comments here: link to youtube.com )

    • technbio

      Hi

      Effectively it seems to have deco…mode

      Once a diver has exceeded the no decompression limit, mandatory decompression stops will be activated and will vary based on the depth and time spent at a particular depth. We recommend even with advanced training to always stay within your no decompression limits. Your variometer will indicate the decompression ceiling along with a decompression countdown timer.

      Thanks

    • technbio

      Here the confirmation from oceanic..support

      The app is fully compatible with DECO diving within the depth parameters.