Apple Guide Podcast

Apple Guide Podcast


October 29, 2021

In 2017, Apple launched the Apple Watch Series 3. And in 2021, Apple decided it would continue selling the Series 3 through 2022 for $199. Here's why you shouldn't buy the six-year-old Series 3 brand new, what Apple should have done instead, and my Apple Watch recommendations.

My first set of gripes comes down to problems facing developers, of which I am not. But, from what I hear, there are things about the Series 3 that make life so much harder to support. For starters, the Series 3 is sold in 38mm and 42mm screen variants. Meanwhile, the rest of the lineup has moved to larger 40mm and 44mm screens. This means developers have to support and optimize their apps for four different small screen sizes. Then you have the older S3 processor, which isn't slow by any means and works great for what most people use the Series 3 for. However, the older processor is built off of technology that the rest of the Apple Watch lineup has moved on from. Developing for the Apple Watch alone is difficult, and removing consistency isn't doing any favors.

That's not to say the Apple Watch Series 3 is a bad watch. Hey, if you're looking for a simple smartwatch without all the bells and whistles and the fancy health trackers, it sounds like a great option. That is until you run into all the user-facing issues.

The biggest of these is the 8GB of internal storage. In 2017, 8GB may have been enough. Today, that's nothing. Of that 8GB, almost 5GB is taken by WatchOS alone. Then, if you try to install the latest update, watchOS 8, which weighs 1GB, you're now at 6GB. But, typically you can't even install the updates because other things have taken that space, like other installed apps or files. And, there's really no way to delete all that extra data. As crazy as it seems, Apple says if you don't have enough space to update your Series 3, you will need to backup your watch to your iPhone, wipe it to factory settings, install the update, and restore it from a backup. That whole process can take about 2 to 3 hours. Now, image Apple releases a watchOS update about once a month or so. That's a long time to spend updating a watch. It's so much of a hassle that I don't even bother unless the update brings a feature I want to play with, not that ever happens. Most of the new features in watchOS require sensors that come with the higher-end Apple Watches. So, at this point, the Series 3 is really only getting security updates and app redesigns. Then, as updates come along, you will be left with a crippling amount of storage to the point you can only use the built-in apps. Maybe, by that point, 3rd party apps won't matter because even the developers will have moved on, making Apple the only person still supporting the ancient watch.

However, it appears that worrying about the storage capacity may not be as big of an issue thanks to some optimizations Apple has added with iOS 15 and watchOS 8. For starters, I was able to download and install watchOS 8 without having to restore the watch unless Apple hid it in the update process. Also, the Watch app is more transparent on how the limited amount of space is being used. There's now a storage bar that details how much space each category is taking. It even includes the total size of watchOS. However, watchOS is still missing from the list below. Then, each app has a sub-menu detailing how much storage they are using. Other than that, it appears WatchOS 8 did some optimizing to find about 4GB of storage which is probably enough to do what you need to do.

Now, if you got the cellular option while the Series 3 was still top of the line, you're in good shape with 16GB of internal storage. This would become the standard storage capacity with the Series 4. And, starting with Series 5,