While all wearable-wearing eyes on the Apple Watch 6 and all-new Apple Watch SE during yesterday’s Apple event, the company behind some of the best smartwatches quietly killed one of its most pivotal products off — and it’s not the Apple Watch 5.
When shopping Apple Watches on Apple’s website, you’ll notice the Apple Watch Series 3 is limited to $199 GPS models. The $299 LTE-capable Apple Watch 3 is no longer listed for sale. The lineup’s entry-level model for a watch with cellular connectivity is the $329 Apple Watch SE.
Though $30 isn’t a premium worth losing sleep over, the legacy of the bygone model is worth our attention one last time.
Back in 2017, few saw a need for an Apple Watch that worked independently of their iPhone. We went so far as suggesting you skip the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular in our original review, despite it being first major smartwatch with the feature.
But times have changed, and there are more instances where LTE on your wrist comes in handy. With many gyms and fitness classes operating at limited capacity (or on hiatus all together), outdoor activity is convenient. Bringing a phone along is not.
And with the ever-growing adoption of contactless payments, the Apple Watch’s NFC chip means you can literally walk out of the door without your wallet or phone to pick up groceries or toiletries and still be reachable. On-board music storage, step-by-step map directions and Siri integration add to the Apple Watch’s case for autonomous use.
Then there’s the introduction of Family Setup, which Apple added this week. The new Apple Watch setting is intended for kids and older users who might not have iPhones. Instead, a single iPhone-owning family member can assign controls to several Apple Watches, with the catch that those peripheral Apple Watches must have LTE.
Family Setup only works with Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5, Series 6 and SE. So perhaps Apple removed the Series 3 with LTE to avoid confusion for shoppers looking to take advantage of the multi-watch control feature.
Or perhaps that Series 3 watch’s internals are just too outdated to keep up with the standards of newer flagship models, and the pricing would be out of whack. The Apple Watch 3 with LTE costs more than the the starting price of the Apple Watch SE, which features a newer S5 chip, fall detection, always-on altimeter and larger display.
Whatever the true reason, let it be known the Apple Watch 3 with LTE walked so all LTE-capable smartwatches can run. We might not have given it enough credit back then, but that first cellular-connected Apple Watch created an irreversible expectation for the inevitable evolution of independent wearables.