I honestly think watchOS 9 is the greatest update for the Apple Watch in years, and the main reason is Apple Watch Series 3 going away for good. I know it’s a very affordable wearable for those who just want an Apple device to track their daily activities, but with new Watches coming soon and so many new technologies available, Apple is making the right move to support watchOS 9 only to newer Watches.
Supporting only newer Apple Watches is absolutely the right call. What is not is how Apple continues to sell the Series 3 with little acknowledgement of its forthcoming software dead end. As of writing, the Series 3 marketing webpage contains zero notice of WatchOS 9 incompatibility, and neither does the comparison tool. It is mentioned on the Apple Store page — “compatible with watchOS 8 and earlier versions”, as though one could install earlier versions if they wanted to — and on the WatchOS 9 preview page. WatchOS 9 may not yet be publicly available, but I still do not think it is fair for Apple to continue selling an incompatible model. And, in a perfect world, sales of the Series 3 would have ceased one or two years ago.
You see, things have changed since my defense of the Series 3 back in September. I was still running watchOS 7 then and the experience — apart from OS updates — was perfectly fine. But a couple of months ago, I bit the bullet and went through the multi-hour experience to update to watchOS 8. I had read that watchOS 8 would make the pain of updates a thing of the past. What I had not read was that the occasional pain of long updates would be replaced by the daily pain of a watch that commonly takes a second or two to respond to taps and swipes — if it responds at all.
As someone with a 2012 MacBook Air destined to run MacOS Catalina until its circuits melt, I feel Drang’s pain. It is unfortunate when the final year of software compatibility coincides with an unsatisfactory release on that hardware.