The Apple Watch Ultra 3 might not be ready for next year – and that's OK

Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has only been available for a couple of months, but rumors about its successor are already circulating, including suggestions that it might not be ready in time for Apple's September 2024 product showcase. But would that be such a bad thing? As someone who tests GPS watches for a living, I think it might be worth the wait.

As Notebookcheck reports, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has heard whispers that Apple's engineers haven't begun working on the next-generation adventure watch yet, meaning they'd be racing against the clock to have it ready by next fall.

There are a couple of possible reasons for this. First of all, there may be delays in the production of the microLED displays that might be replacing the AMOLED screens used by the first two Apple Watch Ultra models.

MicroLED would have a couple of big advantages for the Apple Watch Ultra. First of all, it would use a lot less power than AMOLED, which would mean longer battery life and make the Watch Ultra a viable option for multi-day camping, hiking and ultra running expeditions. It would also be viewable from more angles, making it better for map-reading outdoors.

Back in January this year, Bloomberg's resident Apple expert Mark Gurman heard suggestions that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 might have a MicroLED display, and that the company was working on developing its own manufacturing process so it wouldn't have to rely on partners like Samsung and LG. 

However, when September rolled around, this proved not to be the case; the Apple Watch Ultra 2's screen is 50% brighter than that of its predecessor, but it's still an AMOLED unit. 

Health holdups?

Another possible reason for the delay is a holdup in new health tracking tech that Apple wants to incorporate into the next-generation watch. Kuo hasn't suggested what those features may be, but I wonder if they're related to a possible partnership with biometrics company Rockley Photonics, which was rescued from bankruptcy in June with a $35m cash injection.

Rockley specializes in chemical spectroscopy, which allows a wearable to monitor a wealth of different biomarkers non-invasively, going far beyond what is currently possible with smartwatches. It has created what is essentially a clinic on a chip, capable of measuring lactate, blood sugar, core body temperature and much more from your wrist.

Woman checking her sports watch during workout

Rockley Photonics has developed a 'lab on a chip' to analyze a huge array of biomarkers non-invasively (Image credit: Getty Images)

I interviewed Rockley CEO Dr Andrew Rickman last year, and while he didn't name names, he said that the company had partnerships with many of the biggest names in wearables, and consumers would start to see the fruits of those collaborations towards the end of 2023.

"The response from everyone has been extraordinary," Dr Rickman told me. "I'd never seen this level of commercial traction for something new, And it’s really coming to a head."

Rockley's financial woes led to a complete restructuring of the company and could easily have caused delays for partners along the way, potentially including Apple.

Whatever might be holding up the Apple Watch Ultra 3, whether it's display or biometric technology, personally wouldn't mind waiting until it's ready. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 isn't massively different from its predecessor, and if you already own last year's watch, it'll be difficult to justify upgrading.

Rather than making relatively minor changes to keep up with a yearly release schedule, it would be much more exciting if Apple made us wait until 2025 for something that really changes the game.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.