It’s been five years since Apple debuted the Series 3, and at WWDC 2022, it effectively laid the smartwatch to rest. watchOS 9 will not support the Series 3, and that likely means the Apple Watch SE will officially take over as Apple’s budget smartwatch.
The Series 3 introduced cellular calling when it launched in 2017, and at the time, it was a great smartwatch. (Though, the battery life could’ve been a bit 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 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 in 2020 alongside the Series 6, it muddied the waters with regard to which watch was truly the budget option. That’s because the Series 3 was still an option — for a heavily discounted price. At the time, the Series 3 was put forward as an entry-level watch, while the SE was for folks looking for the next level up without having to shell out for a flagship.
That… wasn’t a great idea. Even if you managed to upgrade to the latest watchOS, many of the newer features didn’t work as well. Some weren’t even included at all, despite the Series 3 supporting later versions of watchOS. App load times were so slow that it just wasn’t worth it.
Currently, the rumor mill is saying 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 kind of rugged watch is on the way as watchOS 9 adds multisport activities for triathletes, more in-depth metrics for running, and several new workout views. But dropping support for the Series 3 gives extra credibility to rumors that we may see a new SE as well.
Should this all pan out, it’d be a much smarter product lineup than what’s currently available. You’d have a watch that caters to the Garmin or Polar crowd, a watch for folks who prioritize smart features over fitness, and a watch for folks who don’t want to spend too much. This effectively would mean Apple is repositioning SE as its entry-level device instead of its midrange device. That, in turn, could mean the standard Series 8 becomes the new midrange watch while the rugged version takes the premium spot. In essence, the watch lineup would look a lot more like the iPhone lineup.
If you’re a Series 3 owner, you don’t have to upgrade immediately. It’s actually better to wait until later this fall when Apple announces the Series 8. At that time, you can usually find older or refurbished flagships like the Series 4, 5, 6, and 7 at a more palatable price. Or, depending on if we get a new SE with updated features, that could also be a compelling option. But, once again, if you’re thinking about 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 remains a bad idea in 2022.