Apple Watch Ultra just tipped with microLED display — this is huge

Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Future)

We’re not expecting the Apple Watch Ultra 3 to land next year, but a future model is taking shape, according to a new report from the supply chain market research firm TrendForce

There are two notable things at this early stage. The first is that the firm is expecting the next-generation Apple Watch Ultra to be the first to adopt microLED display technology in its screen. 

The second is that said screen will be the largest yet, measuring 2.12 inches across the diagonal — a big increase from the Apple Watch Ultra 2’s 1.93 inches.

That 10% increase may raise eyebrows. The Apple Watch Ultra already feels large on small wrist, with the case weighing a not insubstantial 61.4 grams. Indeed, our wearables expert Kate Kozuch admitted that she sometimes had to take it off at night for comfort reasons, despite praising the large screen in daily use. 

Perhaps thinner bezels will absorb most of this, and Apple may find ways of making the wearable lighter too. We shall have to see.

The second cited change is less controversial: with its microscopic LEDs, microLED technology can be brighter and thinner than OLED, while offering a longer lifespan to boot. In other words, the first Apple Watch to offer it will likely be worth the wait.

But a substantial wait is expected. TrendForce says that this microLED version of the Apple Watch Ultra isn’t expected until 2026 — and the firm has previously said that the delay is due to difficulties in manufacturing, with low yield rates and subsequent high costs.  

While the high costs are expected to be relatively under control by 2026, it will still likely make the wearable more expensive in future. According to TrendForce’s analysis, the price by then could be “below $120, equivalent to 2.5 to 3 times the current price of OLED panels”. While the report calls this “a reasonable range for a new technology”, consumers already paying $799 for the current model may disagree.

Of course, a 2026 release date for a model with microLED doesn’t mean that we won’t see another Ultra model before then. It’s possible that Apple will refresh it with other features before then, even if it’s just a faster chipset to ensure it doesn’t fall behind the cheaper models. 

Nonetheless, the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that unless development starts this month at the latest, then we can rule out the Apple Watch Ultra 3 for 2024.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.