Updating an Apple Watch Series 3 is a nightmare in 2021
The Apple Watch Series 3 was first released in September 2017, bringing fitness improvements and a faster processor. Nearly four years later, in 2021, Apple is still selling the Series 3 as its entry-level Apple Watch model starting at $199, an $80 savings compared to the more recent Apple Watch SE. Only, as I’ve recently learned, “still selling” and “supporting in a reasonable manner” are two very different things, and updating an Apple Watch Series 3 in 2021 is a nightmare of infuriating technological hoops to jump through.
Normally, updating an Apple Watch is an annoyingly long but straightforward process: you charge your Watch up to 50 percent, plug it in, and wait for the slow process of the update transferring and installing to your smartwatch.
But the non-cellular Apple Watch Series 3 has a tiny 8GB of internal storage, a fair chunk of which is taken up by the operating system and other critical software. So installing a major update — like the recently released watchOS 7.4 — goes something like this:
- Unpair and wipe your Apple Watch to factory settings
- Set up the Apple Watch again and restore from backup
- Realize you weren’t supposed to restore from your backup yet
- Watch an episode or two of Brooklyn Nine-Nine while you wait for the backup to finish restoring
- Start from step one again — but as a brand-new Apple Watch, without restoring from an existing backup
- Update completely fresh Apple Watch, which now has enough free memory to update
- Consider how much you actually want to use this face unlocking feature everyone keeps hyping up in the first place
- Unpair and wipe the Apple Watch a third time
- Restore from your backup and finally use normally
And the issue seems to apply whether you’ve installed a pile of apps or not. Apple’s support website doesn’t even recommend that Series 3 owners bother trying to clear up space — it just advocates that they go straight to the aforementioned reset cycle.