Apple Watch Series 3 Is Not Ready for watchOS 7.4.1
The trouble started last year shortly after Apple launched watchOS 7 (along with the new Apple Watch Series 6 and Watch SE). My wife’s Apple Watch Series 3 ($199 GPS model), which I bought for her almost two years ago, did not like the update at all.
It should have. WatchOS 7 is compatible with all Apple Watches back to version 3, but it turns out it’s compatible in the figurative sense: Apple Watch Series 3 can run watchOS 7 but getting it on the wearable is like trying to stuff 16 clowns into an eight-clown car.
The issue boils down to a matter of space. Apple Watch Series 3, which launched in 2017 and has sold continuously since, was blessed with just a precious 8 GB of storage (you could get 16 GB if you paid more for the cellular model, which is no longer available). Subsequent Apple watches have far more storage space. Apple Watch Series 4, for instance, has 16 GB. Even the affordable Apple Watch SE has 32 GB. WatchOS 7 needs at least a tad over 3 GB to install on any of these compatible smartwatches.
When we tried updating my wife’s watch last September, it repeatedly failed. Eventually, I saw a message noting that lack of space. Various online sources, including Apple, suggested removing apps and other items like photos, music, and podcasts my wife had downloaded to the watch. You can't do that through the watch itself. For that task, I had to open the watch app on her iPhone.
Podcasts turned out to be the biggest space-eater and there were definitely some apps she didn't need. (Pro tip: Do not let your iPhone automatically download companion apps to your Apple Watch unless you absolutely plan on using them.)
I spent a lot of time deleting all I could, and, in the end, it wasn’t enough. Through a bit more online research I found information that recommended a total watch reset, which means you also have to go through the whole setup process again (Apple recommendations on this front were buried below the less aggressive measures). This would freshen the Apple Watch storage space, freeing up the necessary room by, essentially, gutting the interior.
After a couple of tries, this eventually worked.
Then watchOS 7.4.1 arrived last week, an update large enough that — you guessed it — my wife’s Apple Watch 3 couldn’t handle it.
I’m now faced with the prospect of resetting, pairing, and reinstalling the latest watchOS again (an issue now widely reported for many Apple Watch Series 3 owners — at least we’re not alone). It’s something I honestly do not want to do.
To say I’m frustrated is an understatement. To say my wife is annoyed is like saying the Arctic is cold. As she sees it, and I agree, despite owning a relatively new Apple Watch, it’s not fully equipped to handle Apple’s modern software.
With this in mind, I wonder how Apple can continue selling the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS model. Imagine buying this smartwatch today. Sure, watchOS 7.4.1 is probably pre-installed, but what happens six months from now when watchOS 8 arrives? Will your still-new wearable be obsolete?
Apple needs to be more transparent about watchOS’s storage limitations and take Apple Watch 3 off the market now (instead of waiting until September, when I expect them to do it). In the meantime, I have some explaining to do — again — to my wife.
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