watchOS 9 finally drops support for Apple Watch Series 3

It’s been five years since Apple debuted the Series 3, and at WWDC 2022 it effectively put down the smartwatch. watchOS 9 won’t support the Series 3, and that probably means the Apple Watch SE will officially take over Apple’s budget smartwatch.

The Series 3 introduced mobile calling when it launched in 2017, and it was a great smartwatch at the time. (Although battery life could have been slightly better.) While Apple continued to support the watch over the years, it became increasingly clear that the Series 3’s days were numbered. Since the release of watchOS 7 in 2020, many users have reported that the Series 3 struggles to update to new software. And watchOS 9 introduced a lot of new health and fitness features.

When the Apple Watch SE launched alongside the Series 6 in 2020, it clouded the waters as to which watch was really the budget option. That’s because the Series 3 was still an option – at a heavily discounted price. At the time, the Series 3 was put forward as an entry-level model, while the SE was for those looking to take it to the next level without having to buy a flagship.

That… was not a good idea. Even if you managed to upgrade to the latest watchOS, many of the newer features didn’t work as well. Some were not even included at all, despite the Series 3 supporting later versions of watchOS. The app loading times were so slow it just wasn’t worth it.

The SE will likely move from a midrange watch to an entry-level watch.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Currently, the rumor mill says that Apple plans to release three new Apple Watches this year: the Series 8; a rugged Apple Watch; and an updated version of the SE. It’s almost certain after today’s updates that some sort of rugged watch is on the way, as watchOS 9 adds multisport activities for triathletes, more in-depth stats for running, and several new workout views. But the dropping of support for the Series 3 lends additional credence to rumors that we may also see a new SE.

Should this all come true, it would be a much smarter range of products than what is currently available. You’d have a watch that caters to the Garmin or Polar crowd, a watch for those who value smart features over fitness, and a watch for those who don’t want to spend too much. In effect, this would mean Apple repositioning SE as its entry-level model rather than its mid-range device. That in turn could mean the standard Series 8 becomes the new midrange watch, while the rugged version takes the premium spot. Essentially, the watch lineup would be much more like the iPhone lineup.

If you’re a Series 3 owner, you don’t to have immediately upgradeable. It’s actually better to wait until later this fall, when Apple announces the Series 8. At that point, you can usually find older or refurbished flagships like the Series 4, 5, 6 and 7 at a more palatable price. Or, depending on whether we get a new SE with updated features, that could also be an attractive option. But again, if you’re thinking of buying a new Series 3 for super cheap, don’t. It doesn’t matter how “good” the deal is. It was a bad buy in 2020 and 2021, and it will remain a bad idea in 2022.


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