Apple Watch Series 3 shows its age when user tries to update it

Apple Watch Series 3 explorer face
Apple Watch Series 3 explorer face (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • A new report shows how difficult updating an Apple Watch Series 3 is in 2021.
  • The Verge tried updating the watch to watchOS 7.4.

Updated an Apple Watch Series 3 to watchOS 7.4 is a bit of a struggle.

As reported by The Verge, while Apple still sells the Apple Watch Series 3, trying to update it to the latest supported software is not an experience you would expect from a "current" Apple product.

Normally, updating an Apple Watch is an annoyingly long but straightforward process: you charge your Watch up to 50 percent, plug it in, and wait for the slow process of the update transferring and installing to your smartwatch.But the non-cellular Apple Watch Series 3 has a tiny 8GB of internal storage, a fair chunk of which is taken up by the operating system and other critical software. So installing a major update — like the recently released watchOS 7.4 — goes something like this:

The article goes on to explain the insanely long process of updating the Apple Watch Series 3 to watchOS 7.4, which Apple released to the public last week:

  • Unpair and wipe your Apple Watch to factory settings
  • Set up the Apple Watch again and restore from backup
  • Realize you weren't supposed to restore from your backup yet
  • Watch an episode or two of Brooklyn Nine-Nine while you wait for the backup to finish restoring
  • Start from step one again — but as a brand-new Apple Watch, without restoring from an existing backup
  • Update completely fresh Apple Watch, which now has enough free memory to update
  • Consider how much you actually want to use this face unlocking feature everyone keeps hyping up in the first place
  • Unpair and wipe the Apple Watch a third time
  • Restore from your backup and finally use normally

According to the Apple Support website, Apple does not offer any other option, including clearing storage.

And the issue seems to apply whether you've installed a pile of apps or not. Apple's support website doesn't even recommend that Series 3 owners bother trying to clear up space — it just advocates that they go straight to the aforementioned reset cycle.

It is clear that, while Apple can technically claim that the Apple Watch Series 3 supports the most recent version of watchOS, the process to even update the software is clearly showing the age of the device. At this point, customers would most likely be better served by purchasing the more recently released Apple Watch SE.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.