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July 24, 2024

Apple Watch Ultra to Get Larger MicroLED Display in 2026

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Dec 17, 2023

Apple is reportedly planning to launch an Apple Watch Ultra model with a larger microLED display in 2026, according to recent reports. The new high-end Apple Watch model will feature a 2.1-inch microLED display, compared to the current 1.9-inch display on the standard Apple Watch Ultra.

Larger Display and Higher Price Tag

Analyst Jeff Pu claims that Apple is working on a next generation Apple Watch Ultra model that will feature a noticeably larger 2.1-inch display. This would represent an increase of around 10% compared to the current 1.92-inch display on the existing stainless steel Apple Watch Ultra model that was released just a few months ago.

Along with the larger screen size enabled by advanced microLED technology, Pu says that the price of the high-end smartwatch will also increase. The current Apple Watch Ultra starts at $799, but the analyst predicts the rumored 2026 model with a microLED display could retail for around $900 or $1,000.

| Model              | Release Year | Display Size | Display Type | Price      | 
|--------------------|--------------|--------------|--------------|------------|
| Apple Watch Ultra  | 2022         | 1.92"        | OLED         | $799       |     
| Apple Watch Ultra  | *2026*       | *2.1"*       | *microLED*   | *$900-$1000* |

This shows the key differences expected between the existing Apple Watch Ultra and the rumored next generation version launching in 2026 with an enlarged microLED panel.

Advanced microLED Technology

MicroLED displays are an emerging display technology considered to be a potential OLED replacement. MicroLED displays offer higher brightness, better power efficiency, higher pixel density for sharper image quality, and longer lifespan compared to OLED.

Apple has been investing heavily in microLED development for years, with plans to eventually transition to using microLED across its product lineup as the technology matures. So far however, microLED remains confined to the Apple Watch Ultra line for the foreseeable future.

The rumored 2.1″ microLED panel for the 2026 Apple Watch Ultra model would make it Apple’s largest microLED display in a shipping product to date. Integrating an advanced microLED display into a smartwatch form factor suggests rapid progress in developing this technology for the mass market.

Enabling Larger Display in Compact Form Factor

Fitting a noticeably larger 2.1″ display into a smartwatch chassis requires overcoming engineering challenges to avoid increasing the physical dimensions too much. Advances in microLED production techniques that allow for thinner, more power efficient displays gives Apple more flexibility to enlarge the display size in the new Ultra model.

Apple may also take advantage of expected improvements in semiconductor process nodes and chip packaging over the next few years to reduce the footprint of internal components. This can free up valuable space internally to accommodate the slightly expanded display panel. Reductions in bezel widths around the periphery of the display may also help maximize viewable screen area.

By 2026, further refinements in industrial design and internal layout should give Apple enough latitude to fit the bigger microLED display into an only marginally larger overall smartwatch body compared to current models. This allows the benefit of extra screen real estate while retaining overall compactness and wearability on the wrist.

Will Ultra Sales Justify Higher Price Point?

Despite packing in cutting edge technologies like the microLED display, some analysts question whether sales volumes of the premium-priced Apple Watch Ultra line can justify the additional R&D costs. The $999 price tag on the rumored 2026 model also pushes it into rarefied pricing territory for a wearable device.

However, the existing Apple Watch Ultra already commands a significant $200 premium over the standard Apple Watch Series 8 stainless steel model. This suggests there is demand for ultra high-end Apple Watch models with unique features at a premium price point among affluent consumers. The new model with push-the-envelope microLED technology could further differentiate and market it as an exclusive halo product.

Jeff Pu estimates annual shipments of around 2-4 million units for the next generation Ultra model. If Apple can hit shipment volumes at the higher end of guidance, it may be able to sustain its premium smartwatch play.

Apple’s microLED Development Roadmap

Incorporating microLED into 2026’s Apple Watch Ultra looks to be just one milepost in Apple’s long term product roadmap for the advanced display technology.

Apple already developed its first microLED display in a shipping product with the always-on retina display in the current Apple Watch Ultra. Expanding microLED to larger panel sizes indicates steady progress down the technology maturation curve.

Market analysts generally expect Apple to introduce microLED across more devices over the next several years, eventually spanning everything from iPhones, iPads to MacBooks by around 2026-2027.

Rolling out microLED in the Apple Watch Ultra first allows Apple to prove out the technology on a smaller scale before expanding it across larger products like iPhones once manufacturing capacities improve. If development proceeds smoothly, migration of microLED toward mid-size devices like iPads could also accelerate.

Outlook for Broader Smartwatch Industry Adoption

Apple serving as an early high-volume adopter for advanced display technologies like microLED also has spill over effects of catalyzing broader industry adoption. Even several years after debuting OLED displays in the Apple Watch, competing smartwatch makers have been slow to integrate OLED panels widely.

However, if Apple succeeds in shipping millions of units of a microLED equipped Apple Watch Ultra at commercial scale, it demonstrates viability that could help motivate other smartwatch makers to evaluate microLED displays more seriously.

Once display suppliers gain experience producing microLED displays at scale to meet Apple’s potential demands, it also lowers barriers to entry for further commercialization across the wearables segment. Nevertheless, Apple is expected to maintain a 1-2 generation lead over competitors when it comes to introducing bleeding edge display technologies into wrist worn devices.

Continued Segment Share Gains Likely

The rumored updated Apple Watch Ultra model with a bigger 2.1” microLED panel and $999 price tag is poised to push the envelope further at the top end of the smartwatch market. Apple continues to distance itself from competitors by repeatedly integration advanced technologies years ahead of the market.

Assuming no major stumbles with overall software and hardware integration, Apple appears on track to extend its segment leadership through the end of the decade. If the next generation Apple Watch Ultra manages to mostly contain size increases while noticeably enlarging the display, it could further widen Apple’s lead in global smartwatch shipments.

Compelling flagship halo products allows Apple to generate customer buzz and improve perception of technical leadership. This has spill over benefits helping boost sales across the rest of Apple’s smartwatch portfolio spanning from the new affordable Apple Watch SE 2 to the premium Hermès branded models.

While the Apple Watch Ultra model itself caters to a niche market of users requiring extreme durability and advanced sensors, the prestige and innovation halo effect from its cutting edge microLED display stands to fortify Apple’s command over the broader smartwatch landscape through the second half of this decade.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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