Despite the Apple Watch Series 3 still being sold new as of this writing, it will not be eligible for watchOS 9, the Apple Watch software refresh arriving this fall.
Though watchOS 9 compatibility was not part of the WWDC 2022 keynote, an availability note at the bottom of the watchOS 9 announcement in Apple Newsroom (opens in new tab) revealed the update is for Apple Watch Series 4 and newer.
On one hand, ending support for Apple Watch Series 3 makes sense. Not only do a few of the watchOS 9 new features rely on more modern hardware than what powers the Apple Watch 3, but a five-year-old smartwatch has to stop getting updates eventually. That's an expected reality of device cycles.
But on the other hand, Apple's website currently lists the Apple Watch Series 3 for $199, the mode's discounted price since 2020. I'm sure you could walk into a Best Buy or other big box tech retailer and grab the 2017 Apple Watch brand-new, too.
If you were to buy the Apple Watch Series 3 now, you wouldn't receive software updates starting four to five months for now, or whenever watchOS 9 officially rolls out. This doesn't mean that the Apple Watch with watchOS 8 will instantly become useless, but it'll not get future security patches or other important improvements.
There were already select watchOS features that only work with Apple Watch Series 7 or Apple Watch devices with ECG (since Apple Watch Series 4) and blood oxygen (since Apple Watch Series 6) sensors.
Yet Apple has kept the Series 3 smartwatch around as one of the best cheap smartwatches, giving shoppers a discounted entry-point into the Apple Watch experience. At first, the move made sense. But to actively sell a smartwatch that will not be updated along with all the other best smartwatches from Apple before the end of the year could be a problem.
I have no doubt the Apple Watch Series 3 will be discontinued when the rumored Apple Watch 8 is announced in the fall, and there could even be a new budget alternative in the form of the Apple Watch SE 2.
But I think Apple should pull the Apple Watch Series 3 immediately. I can't see a silver lining to selling something that'll stop being updated before the end of the year.
I'd strongly recommend against it, but if shoppers want to pick up second-hand or last-call inventory from third-party retailers during summer deals season, I suppose they could. Instead, I'd recommend spending a bit more on an Apple Watch SE bought through one of the best Apple Watch deals.