Apple Watch Ultra 2: all the latest rumors and what we want to see

Apple Watch Ultra sitting on a yellow bench.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Replacing the Apple Watch Ultra will be a tough task. At launch, it was marketed as an outdoor adventure smartwatch with all the right features and materials. It’s a fantastic device, but the high price and large size make it unsuitable for some people. Nevertheless, it earned a 5/5 score in our review and has continued to impress.

What can Apple do to enhance the second version of the Apple Watch Ultra? Rumors suggest there won’t be too many changes compared to the current model. And yet, we still have our expectations, which you can read more about below.

Here’s a roundup of all the latest Apple Watch Ultra 2 rumors, plus a few things we’re hoping to see.

Apple Watch Ultra 2: design

Mockup of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 with a dark titanium finish
ShrimpApplePro / Twitter

The 2023 Apple Watch Ultra model should maintain the impressive design of the first generation. However, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that a dark titanium color option may be added alongside the natural titanium finish. Apple reportedly tested a darker option for last year’s release, but designers vetoed it as they didn’t like the appearance.

ShrimpApplePro, a reliable leaker, confirmed the darker titanium finish and shared the above image on Twitter. The image provides a good representation of the new color.

Besides the new color, we aren’t expecting much else in terms of design changes for the Apple Watch Ultra 2. That may be disappointing if you weren’t a fan of the Ultra’s big and bulky nature, but anyone who liked the original model should be right at home with the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Apple Watch Ultra 2: specs

Apple Watch Ultra laying on its side on a concrete seat.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The 2023 Apple Watch lineup is expected to include the Apple Watch Series 9 in 41mm and 45mm sizes, in addition to the Apple Watch Ultra 2. A successor to the Apple Watch SE 2 isn’t expected to launch until 2024.

The entirety of this year’s lineup is expected to feature an all-new S9 processor, which should provide the biggest performance boost since the launch of the S6 chip with the Apple Watch Series 6 in 2020. The S9 is based on the A15 Bionic chip that was first introduced on the iPhone 13 series.

What this performance boost will mean for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 isn’t known, although Gurman says it’s “significant.” It’s safe to assume that it will result in better performance for opening apps, responding to notifications, etc., but it’s unclear if Apple will use the added performance to introduce new features not yet seen before. At this point, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Apple Watch Ultra 2: battery and charging

Low Power Mode on the Apple Watch Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Improved performance with the new S9 processor should also result in longer battery life for the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Currently, the Apple Watch Ultra can last up to 36 hours between charges, which is twice as long as the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE 2, which can only last up to 18 hours.

Could this number increase to 40 hours on the Apple Watch Ultra 2? Maybe even 42 hours? Any increase in battery life would be great news, especially since the new Ultra is not expected to offer any new features except those from the watchOS 10 update.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 should include a Magnetic Fast Charger to USB-C Cable for recharging.

Apple Watch Ultra 2: release date

Someone holding the Apple Watch Ultra.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Rumors suggest that Apple will unveil the iPhone 15 series in mid-September, with release dates expected about a week later. Apple typically announces its new Apple Watch at the same iPhone launch event, so this is also when we’ll likely get an Apple Watch Ultra 2 announcement.

If you want to be among the first to purchase an Apple Watch Ultra 2, you should get your opportunity before the beginning of October.

Apple Watch Ultra 2: price

The Apple Watch Ultra with the Solo Loop band attached.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

You can purchase the current Apple Watch Ultra for $799. There has been no indication of a price hike for a newer model. It is possible that the new dark titanium model could see a price increase, but this is uncertain.

At $799, the Apple Watch Ultra is considerably more expensive than the aluminum versions of the Apple Watch Series 8. However, it’s only about $100 more than the Apple Watch Series 8 in stainless steel.  Besides, though $799 isn’t cheap, it’s not the most costly Apple Watch on the market. That distinction still belongs to the Apple Watch Hermès, which starts at $1,229 for the least expensive option.

What we want to see in the Apple Watch Ultra 2

Don’t make it bigger

Night mode on the Apple Watch Ultra's Wayfinder watch face.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There are some rumors already circulating that the screen on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 may be larger than the current model. At first, this sounds concerning — but provided the case itself is no bigger, it’s fine. Yes, the Apple Watch Ultra is a big watch, but it’s not unmanageable for those who are either used to wearing big watches or don’t have small wrists. Keeping it the same size, whilst possibly increasing the screen size, sounds fine.

But, in my time using the Ultra so far, not once have I thought, “I can’t see the screen.” There’s interesting potential in changing the screen technology for one that’s more efficient or brighter, but I can’t see the value in changing the screen size just yet. Not changing the size of the Apple Watch Ultra overall for any Apple Watch Ultra 2 seems like the best course of action.

Make it smaller

Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch SE 2.
Apple Watch Ultra with an Apple Watch SE 2 Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While making the Apple Watch Ultra 2 bigger seems like a waste, making it smaller may not be. The Ultra’s size means it doesn’t appeal to anyone with small wrists, or who prefers small watches. One of the reasons I dislike the Google Pixel Watch is that it only comes in one size, and I’m sure there are people who feel the same about the Apple Watch Ultra.

Apple’s problem will be getting the balance in size and battery capacity right. If the Apple Watch Ultra 2 doesn’t provide much more battery life than an Apple Watch Series 8 (or the inevitable Apple Watch Series 9), then it’ll only be the design that separates it and will become redundant. Because it’s a tool watch for outdoor enthusiasts, it shouldn’t be small. But by minimizing some of the external design changes — the button guards, for example — a 47mm Apple Watch Ultra 2 could work, and bring this great smartwatch to more people.

Give it satellite connectivity

Person holding iPhone 14 with Emergency SOS via satellite notifications.
Apple

The iPhone 14 series has satellite connectivity and the Apple Watch Ultra has LTE as standard, but to really make the smartwatch work as a standalone device people can rely on own in an emergency, Apple should add satellite connectivity to the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Apple is one of the pioneers of this technology, but others are using it in increasingly interesting and more varied ways, so Apple may be able to maintain its lead by integrating it into a smartwatch.

Undoubtedly it will be technically challenging, and it won’t be a feature that will appeal to everyone, but it fits in with how hardcore Apple Watch Ultra owners will use the watch. It doesn’t really need the iPhone to accompany it now, so giving it the same emergency tools as the iPhone will mean there won’t be any compromises to leaving your iPhone behind.

Package it with a cheaper, everyday band

The side of the Apple Watch Ultra with the Solo Loop band.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra’s special bands really suit it, and add to the visual drama of the watch, but they aren’t especially suitable for all-day, everyday wear. Despite its size, the Watch Ultra can be worn all the time; all it needs is a more sensible, comfortable band (as I recently found out by using the simple silicone Solo Loop band with the Ultra).

Packaging the Apple Watch Ultra 2 with a “normal” band like the Solo Loop will also help it appeal to more people, as it lessens the outdoorsy style, and helps reduce the visual impact too. Make the Solo Loop in a special, Watch Ultra 2 color, and Apple retains some all-important exclusivity too. In an ideal world, if it can drop the overall price by $50 or $100 for this entry-level “comfort” version of the Apple Watch Ultra 2, then all the better.

Refine the features

Activating Back Track on the Apple Watch Ultra.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I haven’t used the Apple Watch Ultra to track hikes into the wilderness, or taken it deep underwater. It means there are aspects of the smartwatch’s features that I have not yet fully appreciated, or have the experience to understand its disappointments in these areas. There are plenty of people who have used the Apple Watch Ultra in these ways, though, and they are best placed to see where it can be improved.

The Ultra is Apple’s first go at a rugged smartwatch, and the new features were never going to be perfect, or please everyone. For the Apple Watch Ultra 2, Apple would be wise to draw on the experiences of Ultra enthusiasts to refine the hiking, navigation, diving, and running features. For example, I’ve seen comments wanting native support for .GPX files, a more intelligent Back Track feature, and improved dive timing.

If the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is really to improve on the Apple Watch Ultra, it’s in these niche areas it should do so; in its current form, it’s so immensely capable for the average user, it’s hard to make it measurably better. Instead, Apple needs to build on and refine the newly introduced features that make the Ultra such an exciting sporting, adventure smartwatch. It needs to listen to its hardcore owners and see why they still may reach for a Garmin smartwatch when they get serious.

Time is on Apple’s side

Wearing the Apple Watch Ultra with the Solo Loop band.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Ultra is the best smartwatch you can buy if you can manage the size (and own an iPhone), and I don’t think you absolutely have to utilize all the outdoor-specific features to enjoy it either. I’d never need the helium-escape valve on an Omega Seamaster 300M, but that wouldn’t stop me from wearing the watch.

For this reason, Apple doesn’t need to replace the Ultra any time soon and has plenty of time to work on making an Apple Watch Ultra 2 even better. While we may see a replacement later this year, it seems more likely any second-gen model will arrive in 2024. That means you shouldn’t hold off getting the Apple Watch Ultra now, and because it’s so good, you won’t be disappointed in it.

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