Don’t Buy an Apple Watch Series 3

Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo
Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

If you were wondering whether you should save yourself a couple hundred dollars and opt for an Apple Watch Series 3: Don’t. A Bloomberg report says alongside the forthcoming Series 6, Apple is planning to introduce a new, more affordable Apple Watch to replace the Series 3.

So far, we don’t know much about this lower-cost Apple Watch — an “Apple Watch SE,” if you will — other than it’s aimed at competing with wearable makers like Fitbit in the budget smartwatch category. AppleInsider speculates that it might feature a plastic chassis. Meanwhile, 9to5 Mac theorises the cheaper watch is likely to have a faster chip and some more advanced features, like fall detection, while forgoing the upgraded displays you see on the Series 4 and Series 5.

Regardless, it’s likely that the new budget watch will feature upgraded guts compared to the Series 3. When Apple previewed watchOS 7 at WWDC, it quietly noted that the update would not work on watches older than the Series 3. That was a big signal that the hardware on older Apple Watches was finally maxed out — but it also indicated that the Series 3 was also on its way out.

The Series 3’s $299 price tag (or lower if you find it on sale) is awfully tempting if you’re just looking for a basic smartwatch and don’t give a rat’s arse about advanced health features. But Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has an excellent track record with Apple leaks, and this new rumour changes the calculus a bit. Gurman’s report, plus the Series 3’s ageing hardware and the upcoming updates to watchOS 7, make a newer budget watch option seem highly probable.

Timing-wise, in non-pandemic years, Apple tends to hold its spring launch event in the first half of September. There’s been a lot of back and forth in the rumour mill whether that will hold true this year, but even if there’s a delay, we should know for certain by the end of October at the latest. Unless you find a Series 3 being resold for $200 or less in the next few weeks, it’s not worth the “savings” when a new launch is just around the corner.

A few weeks ago, I argued that the only people who should opt for a Series 3 are folks who aren’t sure whether a full-featured smartwatch is something they actually want. That’s still largely true, considering we don’t have a firm idea of what pricing on the potential low-cost Apple Watch will be. It’s possible that it might be $299 like the Series 3 currently retails for. It’s possible it might be slightly more or less, depending on what materials the watch is made of. That said, from a longevity standpoint, if you can afford to wait a bit, you should.

A reminder: The Series 3 likely only has another year left in it. Whatever the new budget Apple Watch is, it’ll be more future-proof and likely get you more bang for your buck, even if it ends up being slightly more expensive.

If you already have or recently bought a Series 3, you shouldn’t feel like you’ve been cheated. It’s still a good entry-level smartwatch. You’ll be good for another year, or at least until WWDC 2021, when we find out whether watchOS 8 updates will come to the Series 3. Even if at that point Apple rolls out a monumental upgrade, you’ll still have saved yourself some cash and bought some time to consider whether an upgrade makes sense for your needs. But if you haven’t bought anything yet and are thinking of upgrading from a Series 2 or older, you absolutely should not buy a Series 3 right now.