Apple’s next major event is happening tomorrow, Sept. 12, and we’re expecting see a new iPhone 15, Apple Watch Series 9 and possibly the second-generation Apple Watch Ultra. I’ve been wearing the current Ultra for almost a year, and it’s without doubt the best Apple Watch money can buy. But there are features I’d really like to see in the next version.
The public beta of WatchOS 10 previews some Apple Watch Ultra updates like topographic maps and support for Bluetooth accessories including power meter pedals. These additions go a long way to help the Apple Watch Ultra stand out as a top-tier smartwatch, though I hope we get even more safety- and sports-focused options on the Ultra 2.
Two sizes to suit more wrists
I love wearing sports and outdoor watches, but sometimes they can be too big for everyday wear. I have a relatively small wrist measuring 152mm, and though I don’t think the 49mm Ultra looks or feels too hefty, it will likely overwhelm anyone with a smaller wrist. Another size option could go a long way to opening up the Ultra’s appeal to people who want a rugged watch with a smaller case size.
The Apple Watch Series comes in a number of different finishes, so why not the Ultra? Currently, the titanium Ultra is available in only one color. Rumors surfaced about a darker titanium finish, which I think would pair nicely with the midnight ocean band Apple currently sells.
Emergency SOS via Satellite on the Apple Watch
A standout iPhone 14 feature is Emergency SOS via Satellite that lets you message with an emergency dispatcher even when you’re out of cellular range. The new safety tool has already saved lives, so it makes sense to bring it to the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Hopefully, you’d never need to use Emergency SOS via Satellite, but for people who use the Ultra as an outdoors adventure watch, it would be an incredibly valuable safety feature.
WatchOS 10 supports SOS waypoints in the compass app, so you can visually see the last spot you had a cell signal. But this requires you to track back to that last location. The Ultra already has a built-in siren that can audibly alert passersby to your location, as well as fall detection and Emergency SOS that works when you have cell service. So it seems like a logical include for additional off-grid safety tools like satellite connectivity to the Ultra 2.
A built-in flashlight for extra safety
All Apple Watches have a screen-based flashlight you can turn on from the Control Center. If you’re like me and walk or run when it gets dark, it’s not as practical to have the entire screen taken up with this light because then you can’t use it to see anything else, like your workout stats. I’d love to see a built-in flashlight that can illuminate the path in front of you.
The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro series has a similar built-in LED, and it’s a valuable safety tool. You can adjust the brightness level, change the color to a red light or even strobe or pulse the light to alert others to your location.
Slimmer bezels and a new processor
A key Apple Watch Ultra design element is its flat screen. But if you use anything other than a watch face with a black background, you can see some of the bezel around the display’s edge. To really capitalize on the 49mm case size I’d love to see a true edge-to-edge display that goes right up to the case.
Like my colleague Lisa Eadiccico speculated in her Apple Watch Series 9 wishlist, I would also love to see the always-on display do more than it can now. One of the most frequent requests I get from CNET readers and viewers is help in finding a watch that can show a seconds count on the display at all times. A newer processor might make something like this possible, but that’s only speculation at this stage.
Recovery metrics to help you train better
The Apple Watch tracks a bevy of health and fitness stats like VO2 Max, sleep quality, blood oxygen levels and heart rate variability. I’d love to see the Apple Watch Ultra 2 interpret all those metrics by giving us some recovery metrics like other sports and endurance watches.
This could be as simple as guidance to help you identify if a bad night’s sleep will impact your training readiness the next day. Visually, I’d love to see something like an extra ring in the Activity app that shows if you’re ready to tackle a workout or how “charged” you are based on the previous day’s activity and night’s sleep. Maybe even throw in some customized suggestions for workouts you might want to try from Fitness+ based on your readiness.
Similar features already exist on other sports watches. Garmin has the Body Battery to indicate how your body is coping with a training routine, while Polar shows metrics like cardio and muscle load after a workout. Fitbit’s Daily Readiness Score ranks your readiness out of 100 and surfaces some workouts you might want to try depending on the score.