In the market for your first Apple Watch? You might be tempted to go for the company’s cheapest offering. If you don’t know whether you’ll enjoy having a mini iPhone strapped to your wrist, the $299 cost of an Apple Watch Series 3 might look more tempting than dropping $599 on the latest Series 7. If this is the train of thought you’re on, I implore you to derail it: Do not buy a Series 3 in 2022.
It’s not that the Series 3 is a bad watch. Apple still supports it with the latest version of watchOS; though it will be slower than a top of the line model, it is still perfectly functional; and while it lacks the latest bells and whistles, it probably offers all the features you’re looking for. But it is fundamentally flawed in a specific way: storage space.
The Series 3 only ships with 8GB of internal storage, about what you’d expect from an iPod in the mid-2000s. That might not sound like a deal-breaker if you’re not planning to download a bunch of songs, podcasts, or photos to your watch. However, that 8GB of storage will still be a pain in your arse when it comes time to update your device.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s great Apple still supports a watch released in 2017. I’m all for product longevity. I believe you can keep an old Apple Watch running even longer just by replacing the battery. However, in 2022, watchOS updates are too big for the 8GB Series 3 to handle. In order to update, Apple forces you to unpair your watch from your iPhone, erase the contents of your watch, then install the update.
And since the Series 3 is so old, these updates also take forever. My fiancée updated hers recently, and after wading through the unpairing process, the update itself took around two hours just to download to the watch. I even tried disabling Bluetooth on her iPhone, which can speed up the time it takes to download the update, but it didn’t have much of an effect. After waiting even longer for the update to finally install, she then needed to restore from her previous backup in order to use her watch as it was before installing the update.
It’s possibly the worst process for updating a device — certainly an Apple one–that I’ve encountered. That doesn’t mean she’s going to ditch it — the Series 3 still tracks workouts, accepts messages and notifications, and sets alarms, along with all of the other basic things you’d expect of a smartwatch. The obnoxious updates are just something she’ll have to deal with on occasion.
What to buy instead of the Apple Watch Series 3
New buyers are in a different boat. Sure, $299 is a good price for a functioning Apple Watch, but for $130 more, you can buy the Apple Watch SE, which nets you a whole lot more watch without the frustrating update issue. The SE comes with a modern S5 processor, a bigger and better display, an improved heart rate monitor, and fall detection, among other new features. Oh, and you can install updates without resetting the entire watch first, so that’s a plus.
I can’t in good conscience recommend you buy a product you expect to use for years when there’s something so fundamentally flawed about it, especially when there’s another affordable option that will serve you much better.
I would not be surprised to see Apple drop the Series 3 from the lineup this year. Come WWDC 2022, The company will unveil watchOS 9, and, if it chooses to, it may stop software support for this ageing model. There’s no guarantee that will happen — Apple still supports the iPad Air 2, which came out in 2014 — but it’s something to think about before you buy.