Apple may be forced to end support for the $199 Apple Watch Series 3 due to hardware constraints, according to a tweet from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The entry-level smartwatch has been the company’s most affordable starting point to its smartwatch ecosystem for the last few years but has struggled to install and run watchOS as it's grown in size and features.
Kuo writes the Series 3 may finally reach the end of its life in Apple’s third-quarter this year because the smartwatch simply won’t have enough processing power to run future versions of watchOS.
Limitations — While there’s always a possibility for Kuo is proven wrong, the Series 3’s days have been numbered since Apple introduced the Apple Watch SE. Though affordable, the Series 3 currently uses the S2 system-on-a-chip, one of the oldest pieces of custom silicon Apple still sells. It’s from 2017 and as plenty of people have written, it’s not advisable to purchase, even for less than $300.
The Series 3’s limited 8GB of onboard storage means that updating the smartwatch is far more complicated than Apple’s other devices. Series 3 owners are required to unpair their watch from their phones, save a backup of their watch, set up the Series 3 as a new device, update, and then restore from the backup. Given how long it takes to update an Apple Watch normally, this makes an annoying software update process even more needlessly complicated.
There’s never been a worse time to buy a Series 3
Price — The Apple Watch SE is supposed to be Apple’s answer to customers looking for an “affordable” modern-ish smartwatch, much like the iPhone SE is for the company’s smartphones. It uses the body of an Apple Watch Series 4, some sensors from the Series 6, and the S6 chip of the Series 5. It’s capable of the most important features of Apple’s newest smartwatches (ECG and blood-oxygen monitoring excluded) and it can still be updated normally, all for $279.
But at $199, that $80 price difference made the Series 3 a tantalizing proposition. Combined with a refurbished iPhone or an iPhone SE, it’s the cheapest way to experience the close integration between Apple’s products. Without it, the $279 Apple Watch SE is the new floor in terms of price, a change that would mirror this year's iPhone SE jumping from $399 to $429.
Truly there’s never been a worse time to buy a Series 3.