The microLED Apple Watch Ultra might not be dead after all — what we know

The Apple Watch Ultra on a wrist showing the new Map view for hikers.
(Image credit: Future)

Rumors that Apple may launch a microLED Apple Watch Ultra have been floating around for a couple of years now. But last week word got out from the supply chain that Apple has unceremoniously canceled the project — at least for the time being. But that may not be the case. 

The news was originally broken by supplier OSRAM, with Ming-Chi Kuo claiming that the whole watch was being canceled “for the foreseeable future". However both DigiTimes and ETNews report that Apple is still committed to the microLED Apple Watch Ultra.

The reason OSRAM’s LED chip may have been dropped is down to decreased performance — meaning Apple would have to go elsewhere. ETNews claims that Apple may have already found itself a replacement supplier from either Taiwan or China, with DigiTimes claiming that Taiwanese firms AU Optronics (AUO) and PlayNitride are two of the frontrunners. 

It’s reported that AUO has begun mass production on microLED watch display panels, while PayNitride is already mass producing the necessary chips. AUO is reportedly a “promising partner” thanks to its own microLED display advancements.

Kuo claimed that microLED production costs were currently too high to be economical, though DigiTimes’ sources claim that things are still within expectations. They say that it’s the kind of thing that always happens when Apple pioneers a new kind of technology, and it’ll all work out provided that production can be scaled up in the future. Though this isn’t to say there aren’t hurdles that need to be overcome.

But hurdles don’t mean the problem is canceled, just that it may not arrive for quite some time. We’ve heard rumors suggesting the microLED wearable may not arrive until 2026, so it may just be a case of waiting to see what Apple does over the next couple of years. 

We’ve long heard rumors that Apple had bold ambitions for microLED tech across its lineup and there’s no rule that says it has to debut on Apple Watch Ultra. In fact The Elec has reported that Apple may start offering microLED displays in future versions of the Vision Pro headset. Considering microLED is set to boost power efficiency and brightness, it’s the perfect tech for a portable device like a mixed reality headset.

But until Apple actually announces something, we can’t be entirely sure about what’s going on. Needless to say the microLED Apple Watch Ultra probably isn’t dead, but that doesn’t mean you should expect it to arrive anytime soon.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. 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 about how terrible his Smart TV is.