An Apple Watch Ultra 2 on an orange background

(Image credit: Apple)

The launch of an Apple Watch Ultra 3 this year has been in the balance, according to the rumor mill – and fresh speculation suggests that, while it’s now on track for a September reveal, it could be a very minor upgrade.

The largely reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has apparently told MacRumors that the Watch Ultra 3 will have “almost no” hardware upgrades from the current Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Unfortunately, the analyst didn’t share any more details, but that speculation follows a recent theme that’s seen the prospect of a microLED screen boost look increasingly unlikely for Apple’s most powerful smartwatch.

Of course, we don’t know what software upgrades Apple could be planning for watchOS 11. Or if Apple could yet sneak in a hardware tweak, like a new smaller alternative to the current model’s rather beefy 49mm case. 

It’s also possible that the Watch Ultra 3 could come with an S10 chip (most likely, a rebranded version of the S9), as would qualify as a very minor hardware change. But overall, it sounds like Apple’s next flagship smartwatch will be a somewhat underwhelming upgrade – particularly if Samsung does, as it’s been hinting at lately, launch a Galaxy Watch Ultra at its next Galaxy Unpacked event, which is expected to be on July 10. 

Have we hit peak Ultra?

Apple Watch Ultra 2 using traditional strength training

(Image credit: Future)

Not long ago, it looked more likely that we wouldn’t see an Apple Watch Ultra 3 at all this year, with analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stating in October 2023 that the odds on it making an appearance in 2024 were “decreasing”.

This was apparently due to delays for new features like a micro-LED display and “innovative health management features”. Well, it now sounds likely that those bigger upgrades won’t arrive this year, but that Apple is planning to launch a mildly updated Ultra model anyway.

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That isn’t exactly a disaster if you’re looking for a powerful, tough smartwatch that can handle most outdoor adventures – our Apple Watch Ultra 2 review called it “the best Apple Watch ever” with “the smartwatch world’s best screen”.

But considering that the Ultra 2 was itself only a minor upgrade, it’d be slightly disappointing to see Apple repeat the trick again this year. It does appear, as TechRadar’s Fitness & Wearables Editor Matt Evans recently argued, that we are reaching peak smartwatch, when it comes to hardware, with the best smart rings now the more exciting wearables.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Samsung from stating that it’s looking to launch “new premium models” in the smartwatch category in the second half of this year, with the Galaxy Watch 7 even tipped to get blood sugar monitoring

Given that Apple recently had to start shipping the Watch Series 9 in the US without its banned blood oxygen sensor due to a patent dispute, the company’s wearables could be in for their toughest battle so far this year. 

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Mark is TechRadar’s Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he’s contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph’s Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London’s Square Mile. 

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