Will Your Apple Watch Run watchOS 11?

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While iOS 18 has brought some good news for folks with older iPhones, the situation with watchOS 11 isn’t quite as sunny. You’ll be able to install iOS 18 on an old 2018 iPhone XR, but if your Apple Watch comes from that same era, it may be time to upgrade.

That’s because Apple is once again drawing the line at four years with watchOS 11. While we weren’t holding our breath for the Apple Watch Series 4 to stay on board, in a surprise twist, Apple also nixed the Apple Watch Series 5 and the original Apple Watch SE.

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That makes the Apple Watch Series 6 the oldest model that can be upgraded to watchOS 11. That model came out in 2020 alongside the iPhone 12 lineup, but oddly, the Apple Watch SE, which arrived at the same time, has been voted off the watchOS 11 island.

Here’s the list of models that Apple says are compatible with watchOS 11:

  • Apple Watch SE (2nd generation)
  • Apple Watch Series 6
  • Apple Watch Series 7
  • Apple Watch Series 8
  • Apple Watch Series 9
  • Apple Watch Ultra
  • Apple Watch Ultra 2

To be fair, the Apple Watch Series 4 had a pretty good run, receiving an unprecedented five watchOS updates that took it from watchOS 5 to watchOS 10. No other Apple Watch model has received more than four updates, and it looks like Apple is returning to that tradition by dropping the Apple Watch Series 5 off the list for watchOS 11 this year.

However, this year also marks the first time an Apple Watch SE has been old enough to be left out of the latest version of watchOS. This gives it the distinction of being the only model since the original 2014 Apple Watch to stop after three watchOS updates. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s a new trend for the more affordable SE models, but it’s probably not surprising, considering these typically have previous-generation silicon.

For instance, the 2020 Apple Watch SE used the S5 chip from the Apple Watch Series 5, so it makes sense that both those models would fail to make the cut. By that same logic, the second-generation Apple Watch SE will likely reach the end of its update cycle at the same time as the Apple Watch Series 8 since both use the same S8 chip. If four years is the new normal for the primary Apple Watch models, that likely means that watchOS 13 will mark the end of the line for both the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch SE 2.

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Of course, none of this means your Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5, or original Apple Watch SE will suddenly stop working when watchOS 11 comes along. You’ll still be able to use it with watchOS 10, even if you update your iPhone to iOS 18 or buy a new iPhone 16. You’ll be missing out on some new features like the new Vitals app, Training Load, and the ability to pause your rings for a few days to take a break, but what’s working for you now will continue to work just fine even after your iPhone gets iOS 18.

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