Theis still available in 2021 for $199 (£199, AU$299), making it the cheapest entry point for the Apple Watch. And going into the , the watch is set to get an even deeper discount to , which is low for any Apple Watch. But even if you buy a new model, the Apple Watch Series 3 is now over four years old and showing its age. Even though it will cost more money, a better Black Friday option would be the or, if you're considering a Fitbit, the . The Fitbit Charge 5 in particular has earned a 2021 CNET Editors' Choice Award, with Lexy Savvides calling it the best Fitbit you can buy .
When the Apple Watch Series 3 released in 2017 it was a turning point for the device, as it was the first to include a cellular option that did not require an iPhone to be nearby to work. This let it work for Dick Tracy-style phone calls, and CNET's Scott Stein touted in his review that when combined with Apple Music the watch began to feel like an iPod Shuffle on his wrist.
While this Apple Watch is still getting software updates and is the least expensive way to get access to WatchOS 8 and the world of watchbands that clip into the Apple Watch, there's also a question of whether or not it's a good value at that price. At $199 or less, there are newer competing watches that work with iOS and Android, have modern features that the Apple Watch does not have like an always-on display and will likely get continued support years into the future. The latter point is of considerable note, since there's no guarantee that the Series 3 will see the eventual WatchOS 9 after already receiving four years' worth of support.
With that in mind, let's go over a few reasons why you should be wary of the Apple Watch Series 3, and put those reasons alongside other ways to get a lower-priced smartwatch or fitness wearable at a great value.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is still able to get updated to the new WatchOS 8 operating system, but the process of getting that update installed might be more trouble than it's worth. Apple offers its own support page on what to do if you do not have enough space to update your Apple Watch, which involves having to unpair the watch and set it up as new to make enough space for the update.
That's because the Apple Watch Series 3 includes 8GB of internal space for the version without cellular, while the step-up Apple Watch SE normally retailing at $279 includes 32GB. The cellular version of the Apple Watch Series 3 had 16GB of space, but that was discontinued. We don't yet have technical specifications for the Apple Watch Series 7, but last year's Series 6 also includes 32GB of space.
It's unlikely that most Apple Watch users will ever use all of their storage space, but for downloading and installing an update, the Apple Watch Series 3 clearly does not have enough space to make updating simple. By comparison, when I've updated theor the $180 Fitbit Versa 2 that was released in 2019, I just plop the watch into a charger, fire up the respective app for the watch from my phone and start the update from there. Roughly 10 to 20 minutes later, the process is done.
The Apple Watch Series 3's age also includes its overall specifications, and it's not just a storage space difference as mentioned in the last section. The Series 3 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 563 square millimeter display area. While newer updates do add compatibility with services like Apple Fitness Plus, a software update does not change that many of these specs are showing their age. The Apple Watch SE by comparison 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 includes a 759 sq mm display area that's far roomier than the Apple Watch Series 3's display.
Even though the Apple Watch SE is $80 more than the Apple Watch Series 3's retail price, its feature list further shows off how much more you receive over that Series 3 model. An always-on altimeter can track your elevation, the watch includes fall detection, heart health notifications, Bluetooth 5.0 for better connections with wireless headphones and many other features that are available in the Apple Watch Series 6. The main differences that keep the price $120 less than the Apple Watch Series 6 are the lack of an always-on display and a few health features like no 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 just Apple's watches.
Better options for $199 or less
Once you turn away from just considering the Apple Watch, there are several other options that handle many of the Apple Watch's best features and in a few ways perform even better.
Fitbit is particularly stacked with products under $199 that might do everything you want the Apple Watch to do. The aforementioned Fitbit Versa 2 at $180 has six days of battery life, fitness tracking, sleep tracking and an oxygen saturation (SpO2) sensor. That last sensor is available on the Apple Watch, but only if you pay up for the Apple Watch Series 6 or the upcoming Series 7. If you are willing to trim the battery life down to two days, you can use that watch's always-on display. The weaker points of the Versa 2 are its limited third-party app support, which is unlikely to grow now that Fitbit will be turning its attention toward supporting Google's Wear OS. The Versa 2 is getting its own.
For the same $180 retail price, you can also get the brand new. While this one is more of a fitness tracker, it's stacked with nearly every modern fitness tracking feature (including an ECG sensor and stress tracking) along with GPS. As mentioned earlier, its .
And while we haven't tested it,is slated to be that is codesigned with Samsung. That watch currently supports the previous version of Wear OS, includes health tracking features along with the SpO2 sensor and is for pool swimming. It's worth caveating that we're still learning more about the new version of Wear OS, including its compatibility with the iPhone and are eventually making their way into Google's OS.
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Another way to get a better Apple Watch and save some money is to turn to, which can get you a discounted Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5 or Series 6 with a one-year warranty.
But if you're still looking for the cheapest way into the Apple Watch world and you feel like the Apple Watch Series 3 is for you despite the technical limitations, you may as well shop around. Since Apple has been selling this watch for four years, you can find deals on it all over the internet. On Walmart, you can buy a refurbished. If you are willing to go used, . If you want to buy it from a store, you might be able to get an open box model from Best Buy, which is listing the .
But seriously, don't buy the Apple Watch Series 3 in 2021. There's so much better out there for the money.
Are you still wearing the Apple Watch Series 3? Or prefer using a different watch or fitness tracker? Let us know in the comments.