I worry about the future of the Apple Watch Ultra

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra is one of the biggest additions to the Apple Watch lineup in recent years since its launch in 2022. It’s also one of the absolute best smart watch also with a large and super bright OLED display, incredible battery life and an Action button.

While the first Apple Watch Ultra was a huge deal, Apple Watch Ultra 2 It felt more like an iterative upgrade than the first one. But it looks like we’re in for a major upgrade in 2026—for better and for worse.

Transition from OLED to micro-LED

Apple Watch Ultra 2 alongside the original Apple Watch Ultra.
Apple Watch Ultra 2 (left) next to Apple Watch Ultra Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch has used OLED display panels since the beginning. In fact, the Apple Watch started using OLED before the iPhone (iPhone X was the first OLED iPhone) and OLED displays are rumored to come to the iPad in 2024then come the OLED MacBooks.

But what is a micro-LED? Basically microscopic versions of the conventional LEDs we know. With micro-LEDs, there are entire arrays that make up each pixel. As the name suggests, micro-LEDs are hundreds of times smaller than regular LEDs.

The reputation is that Apple will eventually switch to micro-LEDs for all devices, but that process will take about ten years. The first device that looks set to get the micro-LED treatment will be the Apple Watch.

Previous reports indicated that the micro-LED transition would begin in 2024, but this was later changed to 2025. However, 2026 now seems more likely due to low yields.

What does this mean for the Apple Watch Ultra in 2026?

Ultra modular watch face on Apple Watch Ultra.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

At the moment, the 49mm Apple Watch Ultra has a display size of 1.91 inches. When the Apple Watch Ultra switches to micro-LED, the display size will reportedly increase to 2.12 inches. That’s an 11% increase in size, and while it gives us more screen to work with, it’s also a pretty big increase.

Switching to micro-LED will also cost Apple 2.5-3 times as much as the current OLED display. The increase in production costs would be around $80, and Apple would have to compensate for it somehow.

The most obvious answer is to pass that cost on to consumers and create the Apple Watch Ultra even more expensive.

Pushing the limits

A rendering of the Apple Watch Ultra that is 11% larger than its current size.
9 to 5 Mac

If these reports are true, then I’m a little worried about the future of the Apple Watch Ultra.

First, I already had my hesitations about their current size, since this is the largest Apple Watch to date. Although I usually prefer smaller watches, I got used to the size after a few months of wear. But there’s no doubt it still looks big on my wrist, especially considering that I am a woman with smaller wrists.

I’m not sure I like the idea of ​​the Apple Watch Ultra coming even bigger than it currently is. For many people, the Apple Watch Ultra is bigger than they’d like and looks a little goofy on smaller, bonier wrists. However, there is no doubt that a larger display would make it easier to see and use, especially in bright outdoor conditions.

Perhaps the best solution is for Apple to figure out how to make the display bigger without making it too big for normal people. I think it would be best if the bezels on the Apple Watch Ultra display were reduced to fit more screen space. Another option would be to switch it to landscape view so it’s wider and doesn’t hang so much on your wrist.

However, one good thing could bring the Apple Watch Ultra a little bigger: more battery. If it’s a little bigger, there could be a little more room for a bigger battery, which would mean even longer battery life. It was a little disappointing that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 didn’t extend the 36-hour battery life, so that’s a potential benefit.

Stretching the wallet even thinner

Apple Watch Ultra with Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch SE 2.
(Left to right) Apple Watch SE 2, Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra isn’t cheap. Even though it’s only available in one size and material, it’s still $800. Most people I know get the cheapest Apple Watch possible, which is the aluminum model. And it’s not just family and friends – I usually see people wearing non-Ultra Apple watches in public.

If the Apple Watch Ultra has micro-LEDs and it costs Apple more to make it possible, then the retail price for the Apple Watch Ultra will almost certainly be higher. It might be $50 more or $100 more, but it won’t be cheap either way. A higher price tag on the Apple Watch Ultra doesn’t make it more appealing, that’s for sure.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch isn’t something you have to upgrade every year. That may make the potential price increase easier to swallow, but not by much. I tend to think of the Apple Watch as an investment in your overall health and well-being, although your mileage may vary.

Big changes are coming

The heart rate sensor on the Apple Watch Ultra is active.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If these reports are to be believed, we are still a long way from seeing a bigger and more expensive Apple Watch Ultra. So no, you don’t have to worry about all this for at least two years.

Regardless, I’m not sure I like the idea of ​​the Apple Watch Ultra getting bigger. I was already skeptical about the current size, and even though I’ve gotten used to it, I don’t know if I want to go any bigger. If the Ultra gets bigger, the top and bottom edges will definitely hang off my wrist. I don’t like the idea.

And of course I’m not in favor of making it more expensive. For many people, $800 is a hefty chunk of change, and going up in price may not help depending on the economy.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but I’m not sure the Apple Watch Ultra is going in the right direction, at least in terms of price and size. It will be interesting to see how much better micro-LEDs will be than OLEDs, but will the compromises be worth it? I’m not so sure.

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