Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

Expect an evolutionary upgrade instead of anything earth-shattering.

Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

Key Takeaways

  • The Apple Watch Ultra 3 may offer minimal hardware upgrades, like a faster S10 processor, blood pressure sensing, and sleep apnea detection.
  • It could support magnetically-attached bands, but that's not certain.
  • Expect a release in September or October 2024, with pricing uncertain right now.

The Ultra series has proven a popular addition to the Apple Watch lineup, and understandably — even if you're not the hardcore fitness or adventure fan Apple targets in its marketing, extra durability and battery life has some obvious appeal. It means less worrying about bumps, or charging often, especially for sleep tracking and trips out of town. If you're an athlete, an Ultra is practically the only Apple Watch you should consider.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 shipped in September 2023, but apart from its faster S9 system-on-chip, it was a relatively modest update over the original Ultra. An Ultra 3 is believed to be in the works, and should arrive later in 2024 — but will it offer any meaningful upgrades? And when exactly will it ship?

Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

Apple Watch 3 rumors

The latest claims, and what we can expect in general

Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

Present rumors suggest that while there will be an Apple Watch Ultra 3, it will be a modest refinement of the Ultra 2. Specifically, in May 2024, Apple supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told MacRumors that there will be "almost no" hardware upgrades, without elaborating on what that meant. The safe bet is that Apple will stick to the same overall design, perhaps switching to a slightly faster "S10" processor.

The safe bet is that Apple will stick to the same overall design, perhaps switching to a slightly faster "S10" processor.

Apple is also believed to be working on an Apple Watch Series 10/X, from which most software or hardware upgrades will likely carry over to the Ultra 3. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has suggested that these could include blood pressure sensing and sleep apnea detection. Note, however, that the latter feature would require a blood oxygen sensor — something currently disabled on US Apple Watches, owing to a patent dispute between Apple and US medical device maker Masimo. We'll have to see if Apple can devise a workaround, settle out of court, or resign itself to oxygen sensing only working for a portion of its customers.

Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

Another Series 10/X feature may be support for new magnetically-attached bands. If that comes to fruition, it could make older Apple Watch bands obsolete, at least without some form of adapter. The tradeoff though would be more internal design space and improved convenience — it can be tricky to slide some of those existing bands in and out of a Watch's connection slots.

Speculative additions

Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

Hypothetically, an S10 chip could support some form of Apple Intelligence — the generative AI tech announced at June 2024's Worldwide Developers Conference — but the company hasn't showcased it for any Apple Watch so far, or even announced related features in watchOS 11, which is due this fall. Apple could, of course, be waiting for new hardware before it reveals compatibility.

There's no guarantee of a crossover in next-generation screens.

Another possibility is that Apple will increase the amount of storage in the Ultra 3 from 64GB to 128GB. Why? Well, there aren't any rumors along these lines, but one of the big additions in watchOS 11 will be the ability to cache Apple Maps data offline for hiking (initially, only in the US). Those maps could potentially consume a lot of space, leaving little room on a 64GB model for cached music or third-party apps. More storage would also be another way of distinguishing the Ultra 3 from both its predecessors and the Series 10/X.

Apple is expected to enhance the LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) display on the Series 10/X with more thin-filament transistors, improving power efficiency, but we're filing this under the "speculative" category for the Ultra 3 because Apple technically uses different displays on Ultras versus other Watch models. The Ultra 2 has a 1.91-inch display capable of 3,000 nits of peak brightness, whereas the Series 9 has a 1.7-inch panel that tops out at 2,000 nits. There's no guarantee of a crossover in next-generation screens.

Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

What should we not expect with the Apple Watch Ultra 3?

Don't look for a thinner case design. That's another thing predicted for the Series 10/X, but Kuo's claims suggest the Ultra 3 will look the same as the Ultra 2. That may hard to avoid in fact, since Ultras have to pack in more components than other Apple Watches, including an Action button, tougher water seals, and of course a larger battery.

We're also giving a miss to Apple's long-awaited blood glucose technology. Development of a non-invasive sensor has been underway for years, but there haven't been any rumors of a breakthrough that would put it on a 2024 product. Such a sensor could be a major selling point for diabetics, who have to regularly to poke themselves with needles to test blood sugar.

Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

When will the Apple Watch Ultra 3 be released?

Assuming Apple is indeed planning to put out the Ultra 3 in 2024, the most likely launch window is September, or October at the latest. The only Apple Watches that have ever debuted outside September have been the original (April 2015) and the Series 7 (October 2021). The company tends to stick to narrow schedules, especially for products it can market to holiday gift buyers. We'll learn the exact details during Apple's usual fall press event — which should happen by mid-September if trends continue.

How much will the Apple Watch Ultra 3 cost?

We haven't seen any rumors of a price hike, so we're targeting $799, as with the Ultra 2. Apple would have a hard time justifying an increase without a dramatic redesign.

Should I buy the Apple Watch Ultra 2?

If you don't already own an Apple Watch, the Ultra 2 is still a very capable smartwatch. Extra storage and Apple Intelligence could be selling points if they make an appearance on the Ultra 3, but that's a gigantic "if," and you should ask if they'll make a genuine difference in daily use.

Apple Watch Ultra 3: What we know

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