Apple Watch with microLED display now looks dead — here’s why

Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Future)

Rumors that the Apple Watch Ultra would get a microLED display have been spreading for some time. However, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman that isn’t happening, as the company has shelved those plans for the time being.

According to the report, the cost of the cutting-edge display technology was too great, forcing Apple to move on with other plans for its beloved smartwatch.

It turns out that the plan was scrapped some time ago, as Gurman notes that Apple bailed "around the same time as the company’s decision to cancel work on a self-driving car."

Unfortunately, the shelving of the microLED division also means several dozen engineering jobs were cut in the US and Asia since those working in that division would no longer be needed. The remaining employees in that division will be moved to other areas within Apple.

Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also reported that microLED displays on the Apple Watch wouldn’t happen at the end of February. "The production costs are too high to make it economically viable" according to Kuo, which gives the Bloomberg report even more validity. 

Shortly after those reports were released we heard another report claiming that Apple was still committed to microLED display technology, but it appears those rumors were incorrect. 

When did microLED Apple Watch rumors start?

The rumors regarding a microLED display-toting Apple Watch aren’t new. Apple has reportedly been working on the technology for an Apple Watch Ultra since 2023, which makes it all the more surprising that the company has given up. 

The new watch was reportedly going to come out in 2024 or 2025. Not only would the watch use the latest technology, but it would also move Apple away from its reliance on Samsung or LG for displays as much.

If the technology were indeed proving prohibitively expensive, it would make more sense for the firm to cut its losses and move on. However, this might not be the end; as Gurman said, Apple is “eyeing microLED for other projects down the road,” so we could see the futuristic screen technology in our favorite Apple devices—it just won’t be as soon as we first thought.

What would microLED bring to the Apple Watch?

The new screen technology, with its microscopic LEDs for individual pixels, sounded like a big leap forward for smartwatch displays. The next Ultra is rumored to get a 2.12-inch display that would be brighter and thinner than an OLED display. It could still get the larger screen, but it won’t be as thin without the microLED screen, nor will the images displayed on it appear as bright and vibrant.

Another benefit that would have come from microLED is efficiency. Since an Apple Watch is a relatively tiny device with a small battery, a more power-efficient display would extend battery life, allowing the watch to be more useful for fitness tracking all day and sleep tracking all night.

Finally, microLED doesn't come with the risk of burn-in, a common problem with OLED displays. A microLED Apple Watch could deliver a lot of the benefits of an OLED smartwatch without the drawbacks, but it sounds like we won't be seeing one anytime soon.

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Dave LeClair
Senior News Editor

Dave LeClair is the Senior News Editor for Tom's Guide, keeping his finger on the pulse of all things technology. He loves taking the complicated happenings in the tech world and explaining why they matter. Whether Apple is announcing the next big thing in the mobile space or a small startup advancing generative AI, Dave will apply his experience to help you figure out what's happening and why it's relevant to your life.