Apple Watch Series 3 Owner? You May Need to Wipe Your Device for the Next watchOS Update

Apple Watch Updating watchOS Unpairing or Repairing Credit: Duncan Andison / Shutterstock
Text Size
- +

Toggle Dark Mode

One of the great things about owning an Apple product is that you can count on getting seamless software updates for years — it’s something that users on other platforms can only dream of. Unfortunately, there are rare situations where continuing to support older products leads to extra complications, as users of the Apple Watch Series 3 have recently discovered.

When Apple rolled out watchOS 7 last year, many users of the older model encountered multiple problems with the update, from an outright failure to launch to battery problems, extremely sluggish apps, complications that fail to open, and random shutdowns and lockups.

To put this in perspective, the Apple Watch Series 3 came out alongside the iPhone 8 and iPhone X back in 2017, and it’s now the oldest Apple Watch model that’s still supported by watchOS. However, it appears that Apple may have been overly optimistic about the capabilities of the aging wearable, and may have been better off dropping support for it entirely.

Unfortunately, that’s a bit difficult for Apple to do right now, as it’s actually still selling the Apple Watch Series 3. With the recent release of the new Apple TV 4K to replace the 2017 model, the Apple Watch Series 3 now holds the distinction of the oldest product that’s still being sold by Apple.

It doesn’t seem like Apple wants to admit defeat quite yet, though, so it’s trying a new tack in iOS 14.6 that it clearly hopes will help users have a smoother updating experience for watchOS 7.5.

According to 9to5Mac, iOS 14.6 is now asking at least some Apple Watch Series 3 users to unpair and restore their Apple Watch before installing a watchOS update.

The new prompt was discovered by Nicolas Lehmann, a Series 3 user in Brazil who shared a screenshot of the new watchOS update prompt on Twitter.

While the screenshot is in Portuguese, it roughly translates to “Could Not Install the Update: To install the watchOS update unpair Apple Watch and pair it again on the Apple Watch iPhone app” and offers buttons to either Close or Unpair.

The new requirement seems to stem from the fact that the watchOS 7 updates have simply gotten too big, particularly on the non-cellular Apple Watch Series 3 GPS, which only includes 8GB of memory.

It’s not an entirely new problem, as previous versions of iOS 14 have simply recommended that Apple Watch Series 3 users delete some apps before they can install the latest watchOS 7 update, but needless to say that was a much more cumbersome process for users, who had to figure out what to delete to free up the requested 3GB of extra space.

On the other hand, simply unpairing the Apple Watch is much simpler, as this will erase its contents entirely to make room for the new update to be installed. Further, since your iPhone will make a complete backup of your Apple Watch before unpairing it, you won’t need to worry about losing any of your apps, data, or settings — these will simply be restored from the iPhone during the repairing and update process.

What’s perhaps more significant about this is that it could be a sign that the smaller-sized Apple Watch has had its last hurrah. It seems unlikely that Apple will continue selling it after the Apple Watch Series 7 lands next year, especially if getting watchOS 8 onto it proves to be even more of a challenge.

  • Apple Watch Series 0: 1 year — 2015–2016 (1 year)
  • Apple Watch Series 1: 2 years — 2016–2018 (2 years)
  • Apple Watch Series 2: 1 year — 2016–2017 (1 year)
  • Apple Watch Series 4: 1 year — 2018–2019 (1 year)
  • Apple Watch Series 5: 1 year — 2019–2020 (1 year)
  • Apple Watch Series 3: 4 years and counting… 2017–????

When Apple discontinued the Apple Watch Series 2 in 2017, immediately following the release of the Series 3, the older Series 1 lived on for another year as a more affordable option. It was the only other model to be sold for more than a single year.

The release of the Apple Watch Series 5 in 2019 spelled the end of the 2018 Series 4, and history repeated itself with last year’s Series 6 replacing the Series 5. Yet, throughout all of this time, the Series 3 has lived on, and it’s already the longest-running Apple Watch model in the product’s history by far, now in its fourth year. It will be interesting to see if Apple carries it into a fifth.

Social Sharing