Like the iPhone 14, the Apple Watch Ultra has a quietly revolutionary aspect that went under the radar—at least until the people at iFixit tore down the device. Apple’s new category of wearables is “a potentially giant step towards making the Watch more repairable,” iFixit writes, and it all starts with the screws.
Four pentalobe screws on the back of the Watch Ultra, unique among all Apple’s Watch models, suggested the same kind of front-and-back access that iFixit’s iPhone 14 teardown revealed. But opening from the back will almost certainly damage the Ultra’s waterproof gasket. And the experienced teardown team at iFixit also lost one of the band release button’s springs during removal. Most disappointingly, there’s not much to be replaced from the back other than the back itself and its sensor array.
As such, replacing the battery on an Apple Watch Ultra will likely take days, not hours, and will be done at a regional service depot, not in-store, iFixit’s Sam Goldheart writes. “It’s a missed opportunity—if Apple could get the battery under the [system-in-a-package]then these new screws on the bottom could enable a battery swap without going through the extremely well-sealed display.”
Opening that display was tougher than usual for an Apple Watch, and it was already difficult. “The seams are tight, the prying angle steep, the risk of separating the display from the glass: high,” Goldheart writes. But with Force Touch gone from Apple’s devices and antennas moved into the screen and body of the Watch, there’s less to accidentally damage as you remove the display.
The Ultra does have one repairability plus, however: Its battery is encased in a hard shell, which drastically reduces the fire risk from damage or prying and allows for removal without dissolving or prying adhesive inside the Watch’s tight confines. The battery also has a “hair” mark that, in iFixit’s estimation, allows for some pressure relief should the battery start to swell. (You definitely want to give lithium-ion batteries some room).
The (literally) biggest changes inside the Watch Ultra are its noisemakers. The buzz-producing, water-ejecting Taptic Engine is 50 percent larger than in the Series 8, and the dual speakers are 70 percent larger than the Series 8’s, iFixit estimates. That might explain why Apple’s “Siren” feature is limited to a not-quite-blaring 80 decibels.
The Ultra case is impressive, iFixit writes, fitting a bevy of antennas, sensors, and other hardware in its precision machined rectangle. And it’s why the repair company believes Apple could keep innovating until the battery inside a device meant to be tested for its longevity is more easily replaceable.
Disclosure: Kevin Purdy previously worked for iFixit. He holds no financial stake in the company.