For the Last Time, Please Don’t Buy the Apple Watch Series 3

For the Last Time, Please Don’t Buy the Apple Watch Series 3
The Series 3 was a good watch when it came out. Three years ago. Don't buy one new. (Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo)

Well, well, well. Despite begging every higher power that I wouldn’t have to write yet another blog about why folks shouldn’t buy the Apple Watch Series 3 anymore, a 9to5 Mac report notes that several Series 3 owners have reported that their watches are randomly rebooting since upgrading to watchOS 7. So here we are again.

The gist is that several Series 3 owners have taken to Apple and MacRumors forums complaining that after downloading watchOS 7, their watches have started randomly rebooting multiple times per day. Some report other bugs as well, such as the Series 3 locking itself, failing to load complications, pairing issues with iPhones, and severe battery drain. (Meanwhile, others have stated watchOS 7 actually improved battery life.)

Anecdotally, it seems this isn’t limited to users who’ve had a Series 3 for years. Some users with newly bought Series 3 have also complained of suffering multiple random reboots. It also seems to affect both cellular and GPS-only models. Some theorise that the lower RAM on the Series 3 compared to the Series 4, 5, SE, and 6 might be the culprit. Others swear it has to do with the Series 3 rebooting whenever a user steps outside of wifi range and needs to switch to cellular. Others yet think it might have something to do with third-party app notifications. These are all fine theories, but they’re theories — not proof. For every issue a user has presented, there’s another user in these forums saying “Well, I haven’t had a problem on my Series 3.”

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Unless Apple officially weighs in, it’s impossible to know for certain what exactly is causing some Series 3 owners to have such serious reboot issues, while others are perfectly fine. You also have to consider that the final, public version of watchOS 7 is still very new. Apple released watchOS 7.0.1 late last week to fix some bugs, and it’s possible that the issues Series 3 owners are currently experiencing may be patched in a future update.

That said, it is a fair warning that if you try to use older hardware with new software, you’re more likely to run into performance issues. A big reason why Gizmodo doesn’t recommend getting a brand new Series 3 over the Watch SE or Series 6 is that even bought new, the Series 3 has a shorter lifespan as it uses components that are already several years old. Newer software will only get more demanding on ageing hardware, not less. That and some features on watchOS 7, like Family Setup, will not be compatible with a new Series 3. If you want mobile, you’re also out of luck as new Series 3 watches are GPS-only.

For now, it appears that there’s no way to downgrade to watchOS 6 once you’ve upgraded to watchOS 7. If you have a Series 3 and haven’t updated, you may want to hold off until a fix is available, especially if all you really want is basic notifications and tracking. (I should note, however, this is not a permanent solution.)

Look, I get it. The fire sales are appealing. The temptation of getting a Series 3 for less than the retail $300 feels like a total steal. Resist. If money is truly an issue, and you absolutely cannot swing the $400 for the Watch SE, there are several other very good, non-Apple Watch options that will get you basic notifications and tracking. Right now, the only people who should have a Series 3 are the folks who bought them months or years ago. I repeat, for what’s hopefully the last time, do not buy a new Series 3 right now.