Technical data

You can do better than the Apple Watch Series 3 in 2021, even if you want to save money


The Apple Watch Series 3.

The Apple Watch Series 3 was a turning point for the Apple Watch line when it debuted in 2017. The third version of the Apple Watch was the first to include a cellular option that didn’t require an iPhone to be nearby to work. This made it work for Dick Tracy-style phone calls, and CNET’s Scott Stein boasted in his review that when combined with Apple Music, the watch started to look like an iPod Shuffle on his wrist. Now, in 2021, you can still buy the Apple Watch Series 3 for $ 199 (£ 199, AU $ 299) and it is still actively receiving updates from Apple to support WatchOS 8.

That makes the $ 199 Apple Watch Series 3 the cheapest entry point for the Apple Watch in 2021, as it was last year in 2020. Even if it’s the cheapest way. expensive to access an Apple Watch, WatchOS 8 and the world of watch bands this clip into the Apple Watch, there is also the question of whether it is good value for money at this price. At $ 199 or less, there are also newer competing watches that work with iOS and Android, have modern features the Apple Watch lacks such as an always-on display, and will likely enjoy continued support in the years to come. to come. This last point is very important, as there is no guarantee that the Series 3 will see the eventual WatchOS 9 after having already received four years of support.

Let’s go over a few reasons why you should be wary if considering the Apple Watch Series 3, along with comparable alternatives.

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The Apple Watch Series 3 can always be updated to the new WatchOS 8 operating system, but the process of installing this update can be more complicated than it is worth. Apple has its own support page on what to do if you don’t have enough space to update your Apple Watch, which means having to unlink the watch and set it up as new in order to free up. enough space for the update.

That’s because the Apple Watch Series 3 includes 8 GB of internal space for the cell-free version, while the $ 279 Apple Watch SE includes 32 GB. The cell version of the Apple Watch Series 3 had 16 GB. GB of space, but this has been dropped. We don’t have technical specifications for the Apple Watch Series 7 yet, but last year’s Series 6 also includes 32GB of space.

Most Apple Watch users are unlikely to ever use all of their storage space, but to download and install an update, the Apple Watch Series 3 clearly doesn’t have enough space to make the update. up to date simple. By comparison, when I updated the Apple Watch SE or the $ 180 Fitbit Versa 2 released in 2019, I simply place the watch in a charger, launch the respective app for the watch from my phone, and start the update from there. About 10 to 20 minutes later, the process is complete.

Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE hits a happy medium with modern Apple Watch specs at a lower price point than the Series 6 or upcoming Series 7.

Vanessa Main Orellana / CNET

Older specifications

The age of the Apple Watch Series 3 also includes its general specs, and it’s not just a difference in storage space as mentioned in the last section. The 3 Series includes an S3 SiP with a dual-core processor, a version of the optical heart sensor available in 2017 and on the 38mm version a display area of ​​563 square millimeters. While the new updates add compatibility with services like Apple Fitness Plus, a software update doesn’t change the fact that many of these specs show their age. In comparison, the Apple Watch SE has a newer chip with a 64-bit dual-core processor, a second-generation version of the optical heart sensor, and on the 40mm version, a much larger display area of ​​759mm². the Apple Watch series. the display of 3.

Even though the Apple Watch SE costs $ 80 more than the Apple Watch Series 3, its list of features still shows how much more you get over this Series 3 model. An always-on altimeter can track your altitude, the watch includes fall detection, heart health notifications, bluetooth 5.0 for better connections with wireless headphones and many other features available in the Apple Watch Series 6. The main differences that keep the price at $ 120 less that the Apple Watch Series 6 are the lack of an always-on display and a few health features like the lack of an ECG sensor. That said, if those sensors and an always-on display are important to you, you might want to cast a wider net than Apple Watches.


Fitbit Charge 5 includes many of the newer health-tracking sensors in a wearable device that’s cheaper than the Apple Watch Series 3.

Lexy Savvides / CNET

Better options for $ 199 or less

Once you get away from the Apple Watch, there are several other options that handle many of the best features of the Apple Watch and in some ways are even better.

Fitbit is particularly stacked with products under $ 199 that could do whatever you want the Apple Watch to do. The aforementioned $ 180 Fitbit Versa 2 has six days of battery life, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and an oxygen saturation (SpO2) sensor. The latter sensor is available on the Apple Watch, but only if you’re paying for the Apple Watch Series 6 or the upcoming Series 7. If you’re willing to cut battery life down to two days, you can use this always on. display. The Versa 2’s weak spots are its limited support for third-party apps, which isn’t expected to increase now that Fitbit will turn its attention to support for Google’s Wear operating system.

For the same $ 180 you can also get the brand new one Fitbit Charge 5. While this one is more of a fitness tracker, it’s stacked with almost all modern fitness tracking features (including an ECG sensor and stress tracker) as well as GPS.

And although we haven’t tested it, Mobvoi’s $ 199 TicWatch E3 is supposed to be updated to the next version of Wear OS from Google which is co-designed with Samsung. This watch currently supports the previous version of Wear OS, includes health tracking features as well as the SpO2 sensor and is waterproof with an IP68 rating for swimming in the pool. It should be noted that we are always learning more about the new version of Wear OS, including its compatibility with iPhone and what features fitbit are finally making their way into Google’s operating system.

Go refurbished

Another way to get a better Apple Watch and save money is to turn to Apple’s refurbished store, which can offer you a discounted Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5, or Series 6 with a one-year warranty. It’s worth noting that at the time of this writing, the Apple Watch Series 5 in this store is currently at $ 309, which for a bit more than the Apple Watch SE includes an always-on display.

Still, if you’re really looking for the cheapest way to get into the Apple Watch world and still feel like the Apple Watch Series 3 is for you despite the technical limitations, you can just as well. well go around. As Apple has been selling this watch for four years, you can find deals all over the internet. On Walmart, you can buy a Apple Watch Series 3 for $ 140 with LTE support. If you are ready to get used to it, you can find others on eBay between $ 100 and $ 130. If you want to buy it from a store, you might be able to get an open box model from Best Buy, which lists the Apple Watch at $ 165.

But seriously, don’t buy the Apple Watch Series 3 in 2021. With all of these options, there is so much more for the money.

Do you still wear the Apple Watch Series 3? Or do you prefer to use a different watch or activity tracker? Let us know in the comments.


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