Is the lackluster Apple Watch Series 7 the reason the Series 3 is still around?

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

Considering the reported problems that watchOS 7 gave Apple Watch Series 3 users, I fully expected watchOS 8 to drop support for the last remaining Apple Watch with the old design. I was certainly surprised when this past June, at WWDC, Apple announced that watchOS 8 would be compatible with the last remaining Apple Watch with the old design. While Apple has had a great history of supporting old devices with new updates, the company is usually pretty good at recognizing when tech is too old to make those updates useful.

Let's face it, the Apple Watch Series 3 is past its prime. Heck, you have to reset and unpair your Apple Watch even to get watchOS 8; maybe that tech is too old. So why is Apple Watch still selling the Apple Watch Series 3? It may be because the announced Apple Watch Series 7 isn't much of an update.

Apple Watch Series 7 doesn't look overly impressive

Apple Watch Series 7 Hero Underwater Apple (Image credit: Apple)

Unfortunately, at the iPhone event this year, the Apple Watch Series 7 announcement was a big disappointment. While it does have a slightly new look with a bigger screen and thinner bezels, there wasn't much of an update to anything else. It certainly wasn't the redesign lots of Apple Watch fans were hoping for, and with no new sensors or significant features, it's easy to pass the Apple Watch Series 7 over. Not even the internals got switched around this year, as the Apple Watch Series 7 uses the same chip as last year's Series 6, meaning there won't be a significant performance bum on the Series 7 either. Sure, by default, the Apple Watch Series 7 will become the best Apple Watch once it launches, but that's because the lineup of Apple Watch lineup will consist of the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch SE, and the Apple Watch Series 7.

So, how is the lackluster Apple Watch Series 7 responsible for the Series 3 being still around? You need to look at the big picture from Apple's point of view to understand.

Connecting the dots...

Apple Watch SE Strip Watch Face (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

I think in a perfect world, the wonderful Apple Watch SE should be the $199 Apple watch that Apple sells, but it's possible that Apple is worried selling the SE so cheap would potentially cut into its sales fo the new Apple Watch Series 7.

Think about it, if Apple decided to lower the price of the Apple Watch SE, what would be their mid-tier Apple Watch? The Apple Watch Series 6? It wouldn't make much sense to lower the price on the Series 6 when the Series 7 is basically the exact same except in form, and the Apple Watch SE isn't really all that different than the Series 6 to begin with. Yes, it does miss a few key features, like an always-on display and Blood Oxygen app, but for many people, the Apple Watch SE is the perfect Apple Watch.

This likely puts Apple in a bit of a weird spot with its Apple Watch lineup while they try to maintain their profit margins where they are and ensure that they sell units of the Apple Watch Series 7. If they want to have three Apple Watch models at three different price points and make money, the lineup they decided on is really the only option.

The Apple Watch Series 3 isn't all bad

While I still think that selling the Apple Watch Series 3 in 2021 is maybe a bit dumb, it's not all doom and gloom. Early indications seem to show that watchOS 8 run better on the Series 3 than the watchOS 7 did, with users reporting the upgrade actually brought some life back to their Series 3. Plus, even though watchOS 8 isn't the most significant update we've seen, it brings most of its features to the Apple Watch Series 3 no problem, which means Series 3 owners aren't missing much from the new update.

I'm all for tech being accessible to as many people as possible, and price plays a big part in that. But, I don't want companies selling old, outdated tech just to cash in on a cheaper market and make a quick buck. I sincerely hope that watchOS 8 continues to be a helpful update to current Apple Watch Series 3 users and doesn't cause issues down the line. Apple owes you at least that much.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.