Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple Watch Series 3 may seem like an easy and affordable entryway into the world of the Apple Watch, but we’d recommend buying another model unless you’re looking for an exercise in frustration and disappointment.

It’s Still for Sale in 2021 (and 2022)

Alongside the debut of the Apple Watch Series 7 in September 2021, Apple made another announcement: it would continue to sell the Apple Watch Series 3. The Series 3 debuted in 2017, but Apple’s $199 price point for the device makes it seem like an affordable way for users to try on the Apple Watch for size.

While it is Apple’s lowest-priced Watch model, it comes along with shortcomings both major and minor that may have you regretting the purchase.

Why Should You Avoid the Apple Watch Series 3?

Anyone who has ever used an iPhone past its prime knows that just because Apple offers an update for older devices, that doesn’t mean that it will run well on them.

The Apple Watch Series 3 is beginning to show its age in some frustrating ways. Thanks to the relatively tiny 8GB onboard storage, even updating the watch to the latest version of watchOS is a convoluted process.

Unless you never actually use your Apple Watch, the limited storage fills rather quickly. Thanks to the size of watchOS updates, there often won’t be enough to update without backing up your watch’s data, installing the update, then restoring your data from backup.

Remember, this is every time you update watchOS. These may not come especially frequently, but this will be irritating the very first time you need to do it.

Of course, this is all assuming that Apple continues to support the Series 3 in future watchOS updates. Nobody wants to buy a product only to see the company drop support for it in a year. Apple hasn’t announced any plans to drop support, but the company hasn’t given a long-term outline for the future of the Series 3 either.

What Should You Buy Instead?

Apple Watch SE

Even if you’re on a budget, there are better options available than the Apple Watch Series 3. Yes, they may cost more, but you’ll get more for your money at the same time.

The Apple Watch SE is a better option for most people than the Series 3, but as of September 2021, it costs $279 to the Series 3’s $199. If you’re on the fence about buying an Apple Watch in the first place, that price difference may be a dealbreaker. That said, if you definitely want an Apple Watch, the SE is worth the extra money.

Both the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Apple Watch SE have dual-core processors, heart rate sensors, and promise roughly 18 hours of battery life. The Apple Watch SE is slightly larger, with 44mm and 40mm case sizes, while the Apple Watch Series 3 comes in 42mm and 38mm case sizes.

The Apple Watch SE has a major advantage in that you can buy a model with a cellular radio, which is missing completely in the Apple Watch Series 3. It also has a larger display with smaller bezels, a louder speaker, and 32GB storage compared to the 8GB in the Series 3.

The extra storage in the Apple Watch SE should be reason enough along to opt for this model, assuming you’re planning to keep it updated. The newer chip in this model should also continue working well with future watchOS updates for longer, giving the SE further longevity.

Best Cheap Apple Watch

Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE costs a bit more, but you're getting more modern hardware that will last you for a longer time.

Consider Buying Used

If you’re not interested in the Apple Watch SE, there are still options to get a better watch than the Series 3 without spending more than you’re comfortable with.

One of the best ways to save money on Apple products while still getting something you can be sure works right out of the box is to buy from Apple’s own Refurbished store. You get the price savings of buying used, but your Apple Watch will show up in mint condition in what looks like brand-new packaging.

At the time of this writing, you can find an Apple Watch Series 4 GPS in the Refurbished section of the Apple Store online for $279. Yes, that’s more than the $199 price tag of the Series 3, but you’re getting a larger, brighter screen, improved battery life, and a more svelte body.

You can also save even more money by opting for one of the many services that resell used Apple Watch models. If you’re looking at going this route, we’ve got a complete guide to saving money on Apple products that may help you out.

What If You Really Want a Series 3?

It’s possible that you’re a fan of the slightly harder-edged look of the Series 3 compared to the rounder shapes of newer Apple Watch models. Maybe you like the 38mm size compared to the slightly larger sizes of the Series 4 and later.

Of course, it’s also possible that you really don’t want to spend too much on what is essentially an accessory, but you still prefer to buy new. There are plenty of fair reasons you might be interested in buying an Apple Watch.

If you’re absolutely set on buying an Apple Watch Series 3, don’t let us stop you. Just make sure you’re aware of the downsides before you click that buy button.

Profile Photo for Kris Wouk Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk is a freelance tech writer and musician with over 10 years of experience as a writer and a lifetime of experience as a gadget fan. He has also written for Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, Android Authority, and Sound Guys. At MakeUseOf, he was Section Editor in charge of the site's Mac coverage.
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