Apple has just unveiled watchOS 9, its new software for Apple Watch models, and it turns out there's a huge sting in the tail this year: The new software won't be compatible with the Apple Watch Series 3. Apple says that watchOS 9 "will be available this fall as a free software update for Apple Watch Series 4 or later".
Now, Apple dropping older devices from software support is nothing new. It has to be done, as new feature features become more complex and old processors can't run them smoothly anymore.
Except here's the genuinely outrageous part: Apple still sells the Apple Watch Series 3. You could go right now and splurge on a product that Apple knows will be out of date in three months. Clearly, you should not do that.
I have been covering Apple for over a decade, and I can't think of a precedent for this. In most cases, Apple's software update support is the best in the business. Years-old iPhones and MacBooks get new features and usually run them pretty well.
I cannot think of a single example where the company has knowingly sold a product that wouldn't run the latest version of an operating system once that OS has been announced.
Sometimes, older products don't get every feature from the new software, but the rule is still: same experience, different features. But that won't be the case here, because it'll be a full software version behind. Not a trimmed-back experience; a held-back one.
Our US Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff says that the Series 3 could barely run watchOS 8, so in some ways, it's not a surprise that it won't get watchOS 9… so just take it off sale, Apple. Don't put customers in a situation where they buy a shiny new device – brand new from the manufacturer! – that they'll discover has been left behind just three months later.
Opinion: Drop the Watch 3 now, and make the SE cheaper
I don't know why Apple is still selling the Series 3 in this situation (we have contacted the company for comment, and will update with any response).
I can only imagine it's to do with the low price and wanting to have the health features of the Apple Watch available to people cheaply, even if those people won't get any new features in the future.
But the Apple Watch SE exists, and it has much better health features, including a better heart rate sensor and fall detection.
Currently, the Series 3 costs $199 / £179 / AU$299 and the Watch SE costs $279 / £229 / AU$429… so split the difference. Kill the Series 3 right now, and drop the Watch SE price to $239 /£199 / AU$369. Better health features become more affordable – a great thing to give the world, right?
Probably most people who would pay what the Watch 3 costs would stretch a little further for better features. Plus, y'know, support for an operating system that's available to download right now.
But as of right now, the Apple Watch Series 3 is a poor purchase, and Apple shouldn't let people make it if it's not going to support it properly.