Battery life aside, the Apple Watch Ultra has almost everything a hiker could want in a smartwatch. There's impressive multi-band GPS, a super high resolution display that's excellent for maps, a tough waterproof case, a smart compass with tools to help you navigate if GPS fails, windproof microphones, and even a siren to signal distress if something goes wrong. The only thing it's really missing is a flashlight – and that might not change any time soon.
Garmin has long been one of the biggest names in rugged adventure watches, and its latest releases (including the Enduro 2, Epix Pro (Gen 2), and Fenix 7 Pro) have a hidden trick to help keep you safe outdoors: a white and red LED flashlight that you can use to make yourself seen, shine a light in the darkness, and send an SOS to rescuers in an emergency.
Almost all OLED watches have a flashlight app that turns the screen completely white to provide enough of a glow to see by, but a separate LED torch has the advantage of allowing you to still use the watch as normal.
I've found it extremely handy (in fact, I've put together a list of ways to use), and it seems like something similar would be a natural fit for the Apple Watch Ultra 2, which is rumored to be arriving later this year – but Apple users might be out of luck. Garmin has registered a patent for the idea, and it's pretty comprehensive.
Left in the dark?
The patent (document ID US 11711877 B2) describes "a wrist-wearable electronic device comprising first and second light emitting elements, a sensor, and a processor.
"The processor is configured to transmit a first command to the first light emitting element in response to the wrist-wearable device reaching a forward position relative to a user based on data received from the sensor and transmit a second command to the second light emitting element in response to the wrist-wearable device reaching a rearward position relative to the user based on the data from the sensor."
The document is very thorough, describing not just the current implementation of the flashlight, but also ways it could be incorporated into other parts of the watch (such as the strap), at different points on the bezel, and with more light-emitting elements. It also explains how, in future, the light could be activated by gestures or get brighter as you approach a more densely populated area.
It's possible that Apple may be able to work out a solution that avoids infringing on Garmin's patent, but I wouldn't expect it any time soon. According to recent rumors (courtesy of Bloomberg's resident Apple expert Mark Gurman), the main hardware change for the second-generation Apple Watch Ultra is likely to be a bigger display. There are rumblings about a microLED display, which would be visible from more angles than the current screen, but it now seems doubtful that will be arriving this year either.
Apple is good at keeping its device specs firmly under wraps until they're ready for launch, so we'll have to wait until its annual product showcase to know for certain, but it seems like this year's Ultra is likely to be a relatively modest iteration on the original. I'll keep my ear to the ground and let you know as soon as there's any further info.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 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).