Apple Watch Ultra 3's MicroLED suffers major setback — Wearable display tech upgrade possibly delayed beyond 2026

Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Future)

A new supply chain report indicates that the MicroLED display technology we once thought might debut in the Apple Watch Ultra 3 as early as this year has been delayed beyond 2026. 

For several months it has been reported that Apple is working on a significant Apple Watch display upgrade in the form of MicroLED. As recently as last year it was reported that this could come as soon as the Apple Watch Ultra 3, but that a 2024 release in line with the Ultra’s current annual release cycle was not on the cards. In October, top insider Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple had not yet kicked off Apple Watch Ultra 3 development, citing delays to “innovative health management features” and “issues related to Micro LED production.”

At the time, the revised prediction brought his musings into line with those of DSCC’s Ross Young, who has previously stated 2025 could be the year of MicroLED on the Apple Watch. Sadly, however, the latest reports indicate that even this time frame might be out of the question and that we could be waiting years for a potential MicroLED Apple Watch of the future. 

Apple Watch MicroLED — Likely years away 

Korean outlet TheElec reported on Tuesday that “It is expected that Apple Watch with micro LED will not be seen until 2026,” or perhaps even 2027. The report cites “multiple industry officials” who claim that Apple hasn’t completed the component supply chain it needs. To that end, Apple “is expected to have difficulty releasing an Apple Watch with micro light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in 2026.” 

As you might expect, Apple is planning to bring its premium display upgrade to its best Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Ultra, ahead of the standard Series and SE line. However, according to the report Apple faces significant obstacles in the form of manufacturing costs and production yields. TheElec says a MicroLED for the Apple Watch Ultra costs nearly four times as much to produce as the current OLED display. The cost is so high that, as it stands, Apple’s current pricing policy could see a MicroLED Apple Watch priced higher than Apple’s best iPhone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Given that’s clearly unfeasible for consumers, it seems Apple is in part biding its time in order to bring down manufacturing costs. 

MicroLED Apple Watch displays would offer significant gains in product lifespan, making the Apple Watch UItra more durable and futureproof compared to the current OLED display used in the Apple Watch Ultra 2. MicroLED is also “superior in luminance and power consumption,” which would make the Apple Watch Ultra’s MicroLED display much brighter and more vibrant, all while consuming less power, extending the battery life. 

As noted, Ming-Chi Kuo had previously tipped the Apple Watch Ultra 3 as the first MicroLED Apple Watch. However, given reports of this significant setback, it seems safe to assume Apple might release at least one, if not two fresh Apple Watch Ultra models in the interim with the current OLED panel. 

More from iMore

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9