We here at 9to5Mac have talked about how Apple should kill the Apple Watch Series 3 for a while now. It’s Apple’s “white elephant,” as my colleague José has said, while Filipe noted, “If the company really cares about the user experience, it should discontinue the Apple Watch Series 3 while it can.” The primary issue with the Apple Watch Series 3 is really just that it’s getting slower and can’t handle updates. As it turns out, there’s precedent for Apple killing a product immediately before WWDC because it was going to drop compatibility for it. That product was an iPod touch.
On Wednesday, May 29, 2013, Apple very discretely killed off the fourth-generation iPod touch. WWDC 2013 would take place just 11 days later, on June 10. At the conference, Apple would unveil iOS 7, a complete redesign of the operating system. One thing conveniently omitted from the update? Fourth-generation iPod touch support.
When Apple discontinued the fourth-generation iPod touch, the company replaced it with a new camera-less version of the fifth-generation model. This particular version of the fifth-generation iPod touch had a unique two-toned silver/black look as well as plastic side buttons. Apple cut some corners to make a more affordable version of the iPod touch. The fourth generation it replaced was really only a low-cost model for people who didn’t want to spend the premium to get the model with a 4-inch display. But it continued selling that model up until 11 days before it announced an operating system that wouldn’t support it. If I had been a 4th-generation iPod touch customer at the time, I would’ve been pissed.
But ultimately, it was for their own good. The fourth-generation iPod touch was already not super performant with iOS 6. It had an A4 chip like the iPhone 4, which would get iOS 7, but it had half the amount of RAM. Even the 512MB of RAM in the iPhone 4 didn’t do iOS 7 justice. So not allowing fourth-generation iPod touch owners to install the update was a good thing. 256MB of RAM just wouldn’t have done the trick. Apple learned its lesson when they put iOS 4 on the iPhone 3G just a few years earlier.
Apple also killed the 6th generation iPod touch just a few days before WWDC 2019, replacing it with a new 7th generation model that’s still available today. Conveniently, the 6th generation didn’t receive iOS 13. Although that device was almost exclusively a spec bump, whereas the 2013 fifth generation model was an entirely new branch of the iPod touch lineup in the same vain as the Apple Watch SE.
Apple could’ve opted to do something similar with the Apple Watch Series 3 that it has been selling since September 2017. The Series 3 has already received 3 major watchOS updates: watchOS 5, watchOS 6, and watchOS 7. It’s already incredibly slow on watchOS 7, and users are even experiencing problems updating to the latest point releases. I still occasionally wear my beautiful white ceramic Apple Watch Series 3, and I can confirm it is very slow. If watchOS 8 stands to be a major release, I am afraid of what it might do to my Apple Watch Series 3.
It’s probably too late for Apple to quietly remove the Apple Watch Series 3 from sale with WWDC kicking off on Monday, but it could still drop support for the device with watchOS 8 and remove it from sale the same day. You also never know; it is still Friday. Apple always uses Friday evenings for discrete product discontinuations. Nevertheless, the Apple Watch Series 3 might still get watchOS 8. We’ll be very interested to see how it performs if that is the case.
It would be a gift to watchOS developers if Apple chose to kill off the Series 3. Designing for the smaller 38mm and 42mm displays has been a turn-off for developers in addition to the significantly slower performance.
Do you remember when Apple killed the fourth-generation iPod touch right before WWDC? Are you hoping Apple retires the Apple Watch Series 3? Let us know in the comments below!
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