Apple Watch Ultra could get a major display breakthrough next year

Apple Watch Ultra
(Image credit: Future)

Update: This new display tech may debut on the Apple Watch Ultra, but could end up on iPhones down the line.

The Apple Watch Ultra may be designed for extreme sports, but there’s no denying there’s an appeal to a larger screen, better battery life and improved durability. Two of those features may even be getting an upgrade next year, according to a new rumor.

According to analyst Jeff Pu (via 9to5Mac (opens in new tab)), Apple could have plans to increase the size of the 2024 Apple Watch Ultra to offer a 2.1-inch display. That’s on top of a microLED panel that can offer a number of improvements, notably lower power consumption.

The current Apple Watch Ultra offers a 1.9-inch display and features an OLED display. However, as we noted in our Apple Watch Ultra review, that larger display may be too much for some people — particularly if you have petite wrists. So boosting the size of that display by another 0.2-inches may push the device out of the comfort zone for more people. 

But the larger screen isn’t what we’re most excited about. Because if Pu is correct, this could be the first Apple product to feature micro-LED technology. There have been a bunch of rumors that Apple would incorporate micro-LED for some time now, and next year could see them finally come to fruition.

Micro-LED displays are made up of millions of microscopic LEDs, functioning in much the same way as an OLED display. Each LED is is own source of light, meaning the screen can offer true black, better colors and still have the capacity to be incredibly thin. The displays also have much lower power requirements, and could lead to better battery performance in a mobile device like the Apple Watch Ultra

The benefit of micro-LED, compared to current OLED displays, is that the panels offer brighter displays, richer and more accurate colors. On top of that the displays don’t use any organic components, which eventually die off in an OLED panel. Which means microLED doesn't have the same long-term issues.

The major issue in utilizing micro-LED is that it’s still considerably more expensive than the alternatives, including the mini-LED tech now seen in some MacBook Pro and iPad Pro models. Though adding a small panel in a device that already commands a premium price tag could be an ideal way for Apple to get started. 

The first Apple OLED display was in an Apple Watch, after all. Plus, once micro-LED manufacturing begins, prices should slowly start to decrease thanks to increased competition and increased efficiencies of manufacturing the panels on a larger scale.

We’ll have to wait and see whether Pu’s prediction comes true, and it’s going to be some time before we know for sure. That said, since Apple has already reportedly invested in micro-LED technology, it means it’s only a matter of time before we see the panels appear on one of its devices. The Apple Watch Ultra is a good an option as any.

Tom Pritchard
Automotive Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.