Apple has established a reputation for supporting its older devices with software updates even several years after they’ve launched. The iPhone 6s, which came out in 2015, got iOS 15 or the same software on the iPhone 13 series, for example. When it comes to Apple Watch, the first and second-generation models have been phased out, though all versions since 2017 still get annual watchOS overhauls.
Though it’s possible certain watchOS 9 features will be optimized for the rumored Apple Watch 8 (that ended up being the case for watchOS 8 and the Apple Watch 7) earlier Apple Watch models should get the latest software. But one model in particular has finally been excluded — the Apple Watch 3.
In fact, a surprise WatchOS 9 upgrade might just be the best thing about Apple Watch 8. New rumors are suggesting that Apple could be coming out with a new low power mode with WatchOS 9 that will be reserved only for Watch 8 users.
Yes this means, that the third-generation Apple Watch can't test out the watchOS 9 public beta or use the watchOS 9 new faces, and more.
Here’s what we know in terms of watchOS 9 compatibility.
watchOS 9 supported devices — all the compatible Apple Watch models
No surprise here, the Apple Watch 7 will upgrade. In fact, that’s the smartwatch we’ll most likely test the watchOS 9 beta with. Not to mention, it’s the best smartwatch overall right now.
As for earlier Apple Watch models, all versions since the Apple Watch 4 will get watchOS 9. If you know how to use the Apple Watch, the experience isn't significantly different between generations. Besides the new Apple Watch 7 sizes, the only notable feature is the always on display that debuted with the Apple Watch 5.
Here are the Apple Watch models that support watchOS 9 compatibility:
watchOS 9 — what about Apple Watch 3?
You might notice we didn’t include Apple Watch 3 among the Apple Watch models that are compatible with watchOS 9. Apple still sells its third-gen smartwatch, making it the best Apple Watch for those looking to spend under $200 as well as one of the best cheap smartwatches. But that just changed.
We’re not really sure why the Apple Watch 3 is still around. Besides the fact that it gets some of the best Apple Watch deals during holiday seasons, it’s pretty outdated. You can’t buy an LTE version of it anymore, and its big bezels almost make it look archaic next to the Series 7.
Apple pulled Apple Watch 3 software support this year, ending updates on a 5-year-old smartwatch at some point. We must admit, the move doesn't seem fair to those who bought the Series 3 this year. It also all but confirms the Apple Watch 3 will be discontinued this fall, if not sooner.
Next: This is the new Apple watch feature I am most excited for in WatchOS 9.
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Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.