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Apple Watch Ultra 2: Everything we know and what we want to see
Following longstanding rumors, Apple released a “pro” smartwatch in 2022 in the form of the Apple Watch Ultra. The product offers various enhancements over other Apple Watch models, such as superior battery life, extra durability, a brighter screen, and a dedicated action button. Can we expect an Apple Ultra 2nd generation? What upgrades might it have, and when could it ship? We’ve pieced together all the Apple Watch Ultra 2 rumors so far, as well as the upgrades we’d like to see.
Will there be an Apple Watch Ultra 2?
Almost certainly. While Apple never shares exact unit sales, the Ultra was well-reviewed by Android Authority and many other outlets. Apple also rarely launches a new product category these days without making a serious commitment — despite the failure of the 1st gen full-size HomePod, the company is taking another shot with a 2nd gen model.
There have also been rumors about a new Ultra, which we cover below. Those rumors could all turn out to be wrong, or Apple could spontaneously change its mind, but we doubt it.
Will it be called the Apple Watch Ultra 2?
Probably not. Apple avoids blunt naming schemes for most of its products, the obvious exception being the iPhone.
Most Apple Watches have been labeled under a “Series” umbrella, beginning with the 2nd gen core model, which debuted as the Series 2. The only exceptions have been the original, the Ultra, and the SE, and the SE’s 2022 update is only sometimes marked “2nd generation” by Apple.
Our prediction is that the next Ultra will follow in the SE’s footsteps, or become the Ultra Series 2 — we’re just calling it the “Ultra 2” for the sake of convenience. Apple could of course try something different, especially since the Ultra’s competition isn’t regular smartwatches but high-end fitness/adventure watches from the likes of Garmin.
When is the Apple Watch Ultra 2 release date?
- Original (Series 0): April 2015
- Series 1 and 2: September 2016
- Series 3: September 2017
- Series 4: September 2018
- Series 5: September 2019
- Series 6 and SE (1st gen): September 2020
- Series 7: October 2021
- Series 8, Ultra, and SE (2nd gen): September 2022
The likely candidate is September 2023, since Apple has rarely stepped outside of a September update window for Watches. It could miss that month, but even if it does, we wouldn’t expect a launch any later than October.
What specs and features will the Apple Watch Ultra 2 have?
Apple will probably refine the Watch Ultra 2’s design rather than attempt an overhaul. There aren’t any conspicuous problems with the current-gen model, and Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman says that Apple is diverting resources from other product lines to get its mixed reality headset off the ground. The Watch team hasn’t been mentioned in that respect, but if true, the claim suggests where Apple’s priorities lie.
Anything else is mostly speculation at this point. Gurman says that Apple is working on a first-party MicroLED display for the Ultra lineup, meant to replace the current OLED screen, but that it won’t arrive until 2024. In theory that technology could enable even better brightness, colors, and viewing angles.
One likely upgrade is a faster processor. Apple has introduced new Watch processors every year since the 1st gen model, and the Ultra lineup represents the company’s cutting edge.
Fitness, health, and adventure
Apple’s fitness- and health-tracking hardware should remain static, except perhaps for minor refinements it can come up with. The Ultra already has heart rate, ECG, compass, altimeter, depth, blood oxygen, and dual-band GPS functions, not to mention the temperature sensors added in parallel with the Series 8.
Rumors have long suggested Apple’s interest in adding blood glucose and pressure sensors to Watches, but Gurman says that’s not predicted to happen until at least 2024. Those technologies will also need government clearance in regions like the US, Canada, and Europe, since they cross over into medical territory.
What will the Apple Watch Ultra 2 price be?
This is a genuine mystery. In the absence of contrary evidence, we’re assuming Apple will stick with the $799 US price tag of the original. That’s already a lot to ask for a smartwatch, and it helps undercut some competing watches like the Garmin Epix Gen 2.
The company has been under a lot of pressure with supply chain and inflation issues, however, not to mention its tendency towards features that increase manufacturing costs. That could lead to a price bump.
Apple Watch Ultra 2: What we want to see
Even better battery life
Apple promises up to 36 hours of battery life on the 1st gen Ultra under “normal” use. That can be extended as far as 60 hours using Low Power Mode, which reduces GPS and heart rate readings, and turns off always-on display functions.
While that’s much better than a Series 8, both of those figures pale next to some of the smartwatches Apple is competing with. The Garmin Epix Gen 2 runs up to 6 days in normal smartwatch mode, and 21 days in Battery Saver Watch Mode. The Fitbit Sense 2 is rated up to 6 days as well, despite costing a much cheaper $300.
We’re not expecting Apple to improve the Ultra 2’s battery much if at all, since the company uses more powerful processors than its rivals. But the longer we can go without charging, the better. One day Apple might even follow Garmin’s lead in adding solar panels to extend outdoor usability.
A fully customizable action button
The Ultra’s action button makes it more convenient than a regular Apple Watch in a lot of situations, since it’s simpler to do things like open the Workout app, mark a Backtrack point, or record a run precisely when it starts. For whatever reason though, Apple currently limits customization to a narrow range of options.
Sooner or later we’re expecting Apple to open up the button’s versatility — it’s just a matter of building out support in watchOS. You can already assign it to an action created in the iPhone Shortcuts app, but we’d like to be able to launch any app on a Watch, and ideally assign the button to specific commands within those apps.
While we’re at it, Apple should modify the button so it’s harder to press accidentally, say if you’re wearing wrist wraps for weightlifting.
Recently the Wireless Power Consortium announced plans for Qi2, an upgrade to the ubiquitous Qi standard. Little is known so far, but the WPC says that Apple’s MagSafe technology is being integrated, which should improve charging efficiency by keeping coils aligned.
Qi2 might not sound important for a new Ultra, since Apple Watches have used magnetic charging pucks since the beginning. What you might not remember is that Watches have never supported Qi — that’s one of the reasons you need a purpose-built charger to top them up. Adding Qi2 could open up access to more third-party accessories, or even reusing more of Apple’s own.
Platforms like Garmin, Polar, and WHOOP place a strong emphasis on recovery tracking. After all, muscle is built after a workout, not during one, and there’s not much point to hitting a gym or the trails if you’re too fatigued to complete things.
If Apple is serious about catering to athletes and other diehard fitness fans, as the Ultra suggests, recovery tracking needs to be in place for the Ultra 2. The good news is that it’s mostly a matter of synthesizing existing data, such as sleep quality, blood oxygen, and training/activity load. We imagine that with the number of health researchers working for Apple, this feature is almost a lock for watchOS 10, which should launch just ahead of an Ultra 2.