Apple yesterday officially confirmed its annual September special event for next week. The September 15 event is said to focus primarily on a new iPad Air and new Apple Watch hardware, including the Apple Watch Series 6. Interestingly, Apple is also reportedly preparing a new Apple Watch Series 3 replacement. Read on as we detail what that could mean for the Apple Watch lineup this year.
Apple Watch Series 3 backstory
The Apple Watch Series 3 was first introduced in 2017, and it was a notable update at the time. It was the first Apple Watch model to offer cellular connectivity. It was also powered by Apple’s S3 processor that brought significant speed improvements to the watchOS experience.
Since 2017, the Apple Watch Series 3 has continued to be a focal point of Apple’s wearables lineup. Apple sells it today for $199 with GPS or $299 for GPS and Cellular. Multiple research firms estimate that it accounts for a large percentage of Apple’s wearables business.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is starting to show its age, particularly as we approach the release of the Apple Watch Series 6. The S3 processor inside the Series 3 simply isn’t up to the task of many watchOS features nowadays, and the boxier design looks especially dated compared to the modern Apple Watch Series 4 and newer design.
With the looming release of the Apple Watch Series 6, the Apple Watch Series 3 is tricky to recommend. This year, however, things are further complicated by reports that Apple is also planning a lower-end Apple Watch that will serve as a direct replacement to the Series 3.
The Apple Watch SE
Bloomberg was first to report that Apple is planning a lower-end Apple Watch for this year. In a report published last week, Mark Gurman wrote that the Series 3 replacement will help Apple compete with lower-cost devices such as those from Fitbit:
The new Apple Watch lineup will include a successor to the Apple Watch Series 5 and a replacement for the Series 3 that will compete with lower-cost fitness devices such as those from Fitbit Inc.
Essentially, it appears as if Apple has plans to give the Apple Watch lineup a treatment similar to the iPhone lineup with the introduction of what sounds a lot like the Apple Watch SE.
Earlier this year, Apple released the new iPhone SE as a replacement for the iPhone 8. It features the same physical design, but with Apple’s latest A13 processor inside, upgraded camera technology, and wireless charging support. It’s the most affordable iPhone in Apple’s lineup, and it’s a popular option for those who want a reliable and future-proof phone, with a familiar design and lower price tag.
The reported Apple Watch Series 3 replacement could be quite similar to the iPhone SE: bringing one of Apple’s latest processors to the lower-end market for budget-conscious shoppers. The new processor would give the lower-end Apple Watch much more headroom for new watchOS 7, from both Apple and third-party developers alike.
One thing that’s unclear, however, is what kind of design the Apple Watch Series 3 replacement might feature. Currently, the Apple Watch Series 3 is available in 38mm and 42mm sizes, while the Series 4 and Series 5 are available in 40mm and 44mm sizes.
The Apple Watch Series 3’s 38mm/42mm form factor sticking around has been a pain point for many developers. It’s possible that Apple is able to give the Series 3 replacement a minor redesign to increase the screen size options to 40mm/44mm, but it’s unclear for now.
Finally, the Apple Watch Series 3 lacks many of the health features that make the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5 so appealing. While it’s unlikely that Apple will bring the ECG functionality to the lower-end Series 3 replacement, it could absolutely add fall detection functionality.
Should you buy the Apple Watch Series 3 now or wait?
The Apple Watch Series 3 is a tempting option in Apple’s wearables lineup. However, we absolutely recommend waiting to see what Apple has in store for next week. The Apple Series 3 replacement will certainly be a better product than the current Series 3. What’s unclear, though, is if Apple will be able to maintain the $199 price point.
Ideally, the Apple Watch SE will use Apple’s 64-bit S5 processor and add additional health features, while retaining the $199/$299 pricing structure. We’ll learn more from Apple itself on September 15.
What do you think of the rumors of a new Apple Watch SE? What’s on your wishlist for the new Apple Watch hardware this year? Let us know down in the comments!