The Apple Watch Ultra 2 may be just a couple months old but already I’m daydreaming about its replacement. As someone who covers tech wearables for a living, I’m always contemplating the ways my favorite devices can be improved upon.
The Ultra 2 offers some nice advantages over its predecessor, like a new processor and double-tap feature, but as a whole, it’s a granular update. Both devices share the same chunky design, rugged build quality and many of the same fantastic features.
However, with the Apple Watch Ultra 3 unlikely to launch in 2024, there’s a good chance we’ll see a total redesign of this premium wearable sometime in 2025. This potential means a radically different device compared to Apple’s current Ultra models. With that in mind, these are the features and design changes I most want to see in Apple's next-generation flagship smartwatch.
Apple Watch Ultra 3: more sizes and styles
In 2023, let alone 2025, the Apple Watch Ultra lineup should aim to be more inclusive of all body sizes and types. Moreover, the 49mm size of the Ultra is far too large for many wrists, mine included.
With the Ultra 3, I’d like to see Apple add a couple of different size options. By all means, keep the 49mm variant but another version closer to 41mm would better suit quite a lot of wrists. While on the subject of sizing, how about some different color options to suit our tastes too? For $800, it’d be nice to express myself a bit more. And no one wants to be rocking the exact same wrist candy as the person sitting next to them.
Swap the OLED screen for a MicroLED one
There’s a lot of talk about MicroLED in the consumer technology space. And with good reason, it offers some serious advantages over the OLED screens we’ve come to know and love. While both are capable of excellent color reproduction and true blacks, MicroLED screens should remain consistent for the long haul, unlike OLEDs. This is because MicroLED tech doesn’t rely on organic compounds, which degrade over time, to make light. OLEDs do.
MicroLED screens also have the potential to be brighter, thinner and cheaper to manufacture than OLEDs. In short, they are the future. And I very much hope to see one in the Apple Watch Ultra 3. On the subject of screen brightness, a jump to 4,000 or even 5,000 nits (from 3000 nits) would also be a welcomed improvement.
Increase the waterproof rating
100 meters of water resistance is no joke. Whether you are lounging poolside, boating, snorkeling or doing some light scuba diving, your Apple Watch Ultra should function just fine. However, serious scuba divers and plenty of watch geeks, myself included, would be thrilled to see that rating increase to 200mm. This is, after all, a device built for extreme activities.
Expand the operating temperature range
Similar to waterproofing, Apple should increase the Ultra’s on-wrist operating temperature range. Right now, the Ultra 2 performs at its best between -4 degrees and 134 degrees Fahrenheit, which I find somewhat limiting.
An expansion in both directions would benefit folks living in extreme climates as well as cold-weather athletes. As an avid snowboarder, I want a wearable that will reliably keep tabs on all more core fitness stats, especially while I’m off riding in deep powder for hours on end. Right now, I don’t trust the Ultra to do that.
Apple Watch Ultra 3 needs more battery life
Temperature rating and battery performance go hand-in-hand. So while we’re at it, Apple, let’s see you double the battery life of the Ultra series.
With today's Ultra, you get 36 hours of battery life under standard conditions (on a good day) and up to 72 hours in low-power mode on the Ultra 2 (60 on the Ultra). These numbers are just okay, especially considering Fitbit’s flagship smartwatch lasts six days and Garmin’s five.
Add more health recovery and readiness features
One gripe we have with the Apple Watch Ultra series is a lack of comprehensive workout recovery and readiness information. Brands like Whoop and Garmin do this well. And Apple would be wise to take a page out of their playbooks.
Tracking health data points is one thing. But recovery metrics combine all that data into something more useful, painting a greater picture of one’s overall well-being.
Make it look less dorky
Lastly, I’d like to see a more fashionable take on this premium device, something beyond a large metal rectangle would be nice. In my opinion, it looks needlessly techy, borderline dorky. But this doesn't have to be the way!
So what has to change? A slimmer case would be a good start. I’d also like to see the watch offered in a shape other than, gasp, a rectangle. But perhaps a total aesthetic refresh is in order.
After all, the first Apple Watch was designed and conceived by Jony Ive, a student of the legendary designer, Dieter Rams. He created The Ten Principles of Good Design, widely considered the industrial design Ten Commandments. And while Apple has long held to Dieter’s principles, when it comes to the Ultra series, they may want to revisit #3.