The Apple Watch Ultra is Getting a MicroLED Display — But Not Until 2026

Apple Watch Ultra 3 Credit: Ricardo Resende
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Earlier this year, we saw a report that the Apple Watch Ultra could be getting a microLED screen as soon as next year. Now, a new report confirms that the premium Apple Watch is indeed destined to gain high-performance display technology, but it may not be coming as soon as we hoped.

In March, DigiTimes revealed that Apple has been “actively developing” microLED technology since 2014 when it acquired LuxVue, a company that had already begun work on microLED technology.

Since then, we’ve heard sporadic reports of Apple’s work on microLED, including news in 2020 that it had opened a new microLED plant in Taiwan. In each case, it seemed that the new screens were slated to come to the Apple Watch, but so far, they haven’t proven to be ready for primetime.

While DigiTimes suggested a microLED-equipped Apple Watch Ultra could arrive by late 2024, it seems that its prediction may have been a bit on the optimistic side. According to Korea’s TheElec, the production of microLED displays wasn’t slated to ramp up before the second quarter (Q2) of 2025 at best. However, supply chain sources say it’s now been postponed until early 2026.

Assuming Apple sticks with its typical fall release schedule, this delay would push the arrival of the microLED Apple Watch Ultra into September 2026. The previous manufacturing schedule may have allowed for a September 2025 release, but it’s unclear if that was ever in the cards.

Either way, the predicted timelines appear to have been too ambitious. As The Elec notes, there are problems mass-production problems like high unreasonably high manufacturing costs that have not yet been solved.

While some of this is likely simply due to the limitations of the technology, those cost factors also have a direct impact. On a similar front, that’s likely the reason that only the more expensive 12.9-inch iPad Pro boasts Apple’s more impressive Mini LED display technology. New display technologies are always expensive; it took years even for OLED to come to a price where it’s now accessible to most consumers.

It seems the same may be true of the Apple Watch, where Apple will unveil the first microLED on the premium Apple Watch Ultra. What’s less certain is when it will come to the standard Apple Watch models. Apple may reserve microLED as a unique selling point for the Ultra, as it’s done with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but it seems that it will trickle down to the rest of the lineup in time, even if that time is a few more years away.

Apple also eventually intends to bring microLED display technology to the iPhone, iPad, and even Mac. However, The Elec notes that the reason it’s starting with the Apple Watch Ultra is simply that it’s easier to do on smaller screen sizes with lower pixel densities. The Apple Watch Ultra has a 1.92-inch screen with a pixel density of 338 pixels per inch (ppi), which is the sweet spot for microLED placement.

By contrast, higher-resolution screens like the iPhone 14, which comes in at around 460ppi, require smaller microLEDs and driver chips that need to be packed more tightly together.

The Apple Watch would also likely benefit more from a move to microLED, which promises the kind of lower power consumption that’s important for a smaller wearable, plus a display that places the content much closer to the surface, to the point where it looks almost like it’s painted on top of the glass. This is something Apple has been aiming at for years, with rumors a new lamination technique would come to the Series 7 two years ago. However, like all the other rumors surrounding that model, it didn’t come to pass.

Although this means we aren’t likely to see a microLED Apple Watch until at least 2026, there’s a good chance we’ll see an Apple Watch Ultra 2 this fall, which also hints that Apple may intend to keep its more premium model on an annual update cycle alongside its standard Apple Watch.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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