It's time Apple Watch Series 3 was put out to pasture

iPhone and Apple Watch
iPhone and Apple Watch (Image credit: iMore)

The news that Apple Watch Series 3 is beginning to show its age began circulating yesterday when The Verge's Chaim Gartenberg wrote about the farce that was his attempt to update the software on his watch. And it's a prime example of Apple sometimes not knowing when it's time to put a device out to pasture.

Apple Watch Series 3 has been around for almost four years at this point and it sits at the bottom of the Apple Watch pyramid, riced at just $199. That's a bargain Apple Watch to be sure, but sometimes meeting a price point means you cut too many corners. The same goes for keeping older devices around, like is the case here.

See, updating any Apple Watch Series 3 is an issue, whether you bought it in 2017 or today. The cheap Apple Watch comes with just 8GB of storage which means getting a new version of watchOS onto it is a battle at best and an impossible one at worst.

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:

Gartenberg then goes on to run through the process needed to update watchOS on an Apple Watch Series 3 and, amazingly, it involves resetting the whole device. Even more amazingly, that's what Apple tells users to do (opens in new tab), too. Because 8GB of space isn't enough to run the watchOS update even with the most modest number of apps installed. And that's just bad.

Apple Watch Series 4 and newer all come with 16GB of storage and don't suffer from this issue. I appreciate that Apple kept its Series 3 model around to hit that sub-$200 price point. Bit if the experience is so shoddy, what are the chances anyone will want to upgrade and pay more for a new model?

Apple Watch Series 3 will no doubt go the way of the dodo later this year when Apple Watch Series 7 arrives. It should have been killed off last year at the latest.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • It’s actually not time. The Series 3 watch is perfectly functional and capable. For a $300-$400 watch, there should be incremental updates for the life of the watch. Remove features if you have to, but no user should have to wipe their watch and reinstall. Period. If the OS can’t fit on the watch, it is a problem of the bloated OS, not the watch. This strikes me as pure laziness on the part of Apple. While I love my Series 3 watch and don’t feel any rush or need to update, I feel pretty strongly that it should not be an issue. It was an issue with earlier versions of the OS. Frankly, these devices are not that old and Apple should not be given a free pass in supporting them. Watches should not be help to the same standard as smartphones. I shouldn’t need to replace my watch every three years or even five years. It should be at least a ten-year proposition. If not, then what we give up in switching from mechanical to smart watches is too great a price to pay. That thinking should be put out to pasture.
  • I think you're falling into the trap that stopping selling something doesn't mean stopping supporting it. Apple would still release updates to watchOS that support Apple Watch Series 3. Supporting and selling are two very different things. My MacBook Pro is 5 years old and still gets macOS updates. It hasn't been sold for about 4 years.
  • Right, but if the point of the story is that the updates carry this bloat and require extraordinary measures to install, then even having the support updates would be a burden. Like most end-of-life products, you could continue to use the 3 for years, but would need to do so without the security updates.