Apple Watch Ultra 3: Everything We Know So Far

The Apple Watch Ultra 3, likely to be released in September 2024 alongside the iPhone 16, is expected to offer fewer upgrades compared to its predecessor, the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Keep reading to learn what the rumored changes are.

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When Apple Watch Ultra 2 debuted last year, key new features included a 50% brighter display, a faster S9 chip, a "Double Tap" gesture for interacting with the watch without touching the screen, on-device Siri, and increased internal storage. Unfortunately, the next version of the device is unlikely to reach those lofty heights. Here's what the rumors say.

Display Technology

apple watch ultra night mode
Initially, it was believed that Apple was working on an Apple Watch Ultra with a microLED display, which would provide increased brightness, better contrast, and improved battery efficiency. However, these plans appear to have been postponed indefinitely. Apple worked on microLED display technology for several years, but the project was scrapped in 2024 and there are no current plans for a microLED Apple Watch in the near future.

On the flip side, Apple is rumored to be adopting new low-energy OLED panel technology in new Apple Watch models to further reduce the power consumption of its always-on display. If that's the case, it's unlikely that Apple would use the technology in its latest Series model without also bringing it to its latest Apple Watch Ultra model.

Design

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The design of the Apple Watch Ultra 3 is likely to remain largely unchanged. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman recently said that this year's third-generation Apple Watch Ultra will have "roughly the same look as the original." He has previously suggested a totally redesigned "Apple Watch X" with a thinner case and magnetic bands is coming, but this is likely to be a different model to the Ultra, and he said it would be released "in 2024 or 2025."

New Features

apple watch ultra sandy
The Apple Watch Ultra 3 was expected to include improved health tracking capabilities such as blood pressure monitoring and sleep apnea detection, aligning with the rumored features of the Apple Watch Series 10 / X.

The blood pressure monitoring featuring will let users know if their blood pressure is trending upward, and will provide an option for users to note what they were doing when hypertension occurred. Specific blood pressure numbers will not be provided, though. Meanwhile, sleep apnea detection will use sleep history and breathing patterns to estimate whether someone suffers from sleep apnea, with the watch suggesting that users contact a doctor if so.

However, the development of these features has reportedly encountered significant challenges. The hypertension detection feature has proven to be insufficiently reliable during testing, raising concerns about its integration into the refreshed design, which may delay its release until the following year.

Similarly, the sleep apnea detection feature faces issues as it depends on blood oxygen saturation measurements. Currently, Apple Watches in the United States cannot measure blood oxygen saturation due to a legal dispute with Masimo. This dispute could potentially be resolved by September, or Apple might argue that the blood oxygen sensor serves purposes unrelated to blood oxygen levels. Alternatively, Apple could announce the sleep apnea detection feature and delay its release until a resolution is achieved.

Hardware Updates

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The Apple Watch Ultra 3 is expected to have "almost no" new hardware upgrades compared to the Apple Watch Ultra 2, according to Apple supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. His phrasing would seem to suggest that the rumored blood pressure and sleep apnea detection features will be machine learning / software-based, relying on existing sensors. However, Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman says the Apple Watch Ultra 3 will feature a new processor that succeeds last year's S9 chip, and that this could "lay the groundwork for some AI enhancements down the road."

Colors

Apple Watch Ultra Black Feature
Apple currently offers the Apple Watch Ultra 2, released in September 2023, in the same natural titanium color as the first-generation model. Prior to launch of the second-generation model, some rumors suggested Apple could release a new darker color option. It didn't happen.

However, we know that Apple originally designed a first-generation Apple Watch Ultra with a dark ceramic back that was never launched. Moreover, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman in 2023 said it was "theoretically" possible the finish could be released for a later model. Previously, the high-end Edition model of the Apple Watch Series 7 was available with a Space Black titanium case.

watchOS 11

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One thing we can be sure of is that Apple Watch Ultra 3 will run watchOS 11, the latest version of the Apple Watch operating system. Apple previewed the software during WWDC in June, and users can expect a range of updates and improvements, such as additional Smart Stack widgets, Check In for Messages and workouts, a Vitals app to view key health metrics, a Translate app, a new Apple Pay feature called Tap to Cash, training load for workouts, additional workout types, more customizable Activity rings, and more.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Ultra 2
Related Forum: Apple Watch

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