Apple Watch Ultra 2 — early rumors and upgrades we hope to see

a photo of the Apple Watch Ultra in run mode
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 could be in the works, bringing upgrades to 2022’s debut Apple Watch Ultra. Now that the company offers a smartwatch suited for runners and outdoor sports enthusiasts, we’re eager to see how the second-generation model will improve.

As an alternative to the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE (2022), the Apple Watch Ultra has the most premium features of any Apple smartwatch. The large screen, double the battery life, added action button and built-in siren are some of the reasons the Apple Watch Ultra is a powerful device. We found it’s even capable of replacing an iPhone, depending on your needs.

While we haven’t heard many rumors about the Apple Watch Series 9, early predictions about the Apple Watch Ultra 2 are already starting to surface. Here’s what to expect from the next Ultra-branded smartwatch, from a possible release date and price to new features and upgrades we think could make it one of the best smartwatches yet.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 release date rumors

The Apple Watch Ultra debuted in 2022 alongside the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE (2022). Current rumors suggest the Apple Watch Ultra won’t receive annual refreshes, but will instead be updated in 2024. 

Based on a 2024 release date estimate, the Apple Watch Ultra may follow the same refresh cadence as the budget-friendly Apple Watch SE. The original Apple Watch SE came out in 2020, while the second-gen version launched in 2022, as we noted. 

Unless Apple makes a major change to its release schedules, the rumored 2024 Apple Watch Ultra would likely be announced during a September event (which will presumably also feature the iPhone 16.)

Apple Watch Ultra 2 possible price

Price is one of the key differences between the Apple Watch 8 vs. Apple Watch Ultra. The Apple Watch Ultra costs a flat price of $799, with only one LTE-capable configuration currently offered. That’s double the starting price of the Apple Watch Series 8, and the same starting price as the entry-level iPhone 14.

Though Apple doesn’t often introduce price changes between generations of the same product line, there could be a price hike for the Apple Watch Ultra 2. According to a report from DSCC (opens in new tab), the next Apple Watch Ultra could feature a Micro LED display that costs five times more to develop compared to the current OLED screen. Pricier materials might mean a higher price tag.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 design

With a flat, 49mm display, the Apple Watch Ultra doesn’t look like any other Apple Watch ever sold. The second-generation version would likely continue the rugged look with a design and materials suited for outdoor sports.

There are a few things that are rumored to change, though. For one, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 may feature a Micro LED display, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman (opens in new tab). We’ve seen several years of speculation about a Micro LED display for the Apple Watch, and it could finally materialize in the Ultra series. 

Apple Watch Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

Why make a move to Micro LED? Apparently, people who have seen prototypes of the new smartwatch displays say that they “make content appear like it’s painted on top of the glass.” Brighter colors and off-angle viewing are benefits of Micro LED technology on TV-size panels, so we could see similar benefits on an Apple Watch screen.

A different design rumor says Micro LED isn’t the only change coming to the Apple Watch Ultra 2’s display. Digitimes (opens in new tab) reports that the Apple Watch Ultra’s screen will grow from 1.9-inches (the equivalent of 49mm) up to a 2.1-inch display, pushing the display size over 50mm. That might be too large for some wrists, but a better size for others. Perhaps two configurations will be offered to give customers options.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 what we want to see

Longer battery life: Yes, the Apple Watch Ultra has double the battery life of the Apple Watch Series 8, but we’d like to last longer than 36 hours with normal use. It would need to last closer to a week to keep up with comparable Garmin watches such as the Garmin Fenix 7 or Garmin Epix 2. The new Apple Watch low power mode feature does extend the Apple Watch Ultra’s battery life to 60 hours by limiting functionality, but that would certainly make a stronger baseline estimate.

More band options: Reviews of the specialized Apple Watch Ultra bands are subjective. While plenty of other Apple Watch bands are compatible with the Ultra model, it would be nice to see a larger selection of straps made specifically for the premium Apple Watch. Whether it’s more colors of the Alpine Loop, Trail Loop and Ocean Loop, or straps made of different materials, added models would introduce greater customization options.

More action button options: The action button is one of the best features of the Apple Watch Ultra, giving users a convenient way to launch certain functions and emergency features from the side of the device. That said, the collection of action button commands is limited compared to all the things the Apple Watch can do. If the action button was compatible with third-party Apple Watch apps or even hidden Apple Watch features, it could help the device better cater to the individual needs of a given user. 

Added health sensor: One downside of the Apple Watch Ultra compared to the flagship Apple Watch is that it doesn’t offer an additional health sensor. It has a skin temperature reader, SpO2 reader, ECG sensor, and heart rate monitor, which can all be found on the more affordable Series 8. If the Apple Watch Ultra 2 gets a blood glucose reader, blood pressure monitor, or other health sensor, it could help justify its higher price tag.

Same (or lower) price: Speaking of price, we hope the Apple Watch Ultra 2 isn’t more expensive than the original. At $799, it’s already one of the most expensive smartwatches on the market. If it becomes more expensive than an iPhone, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 might be a harder sell.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is an editor at Tom’s Guide covering smartwatches, TVs and everything smart-home related. Kate also appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account (opens in new tab), which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her on an exercise bike, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.