watchOS 9 Compatibility: Will Your Apple Watch Get It?
watchOS 9 will release this fall. But some Apple Watch models won’t be able to upgrade to it.
Apple’s watchOS 9 update is now live – but not all Apple Watch models are eligible to get here. Here’s the full breakdown of which Apple Watch models will get watchOS 9 and which won’t…
The Apple Watch is one of Apple’s newest devices. Originally introduced in 2015, at first, the Apple Watch seemed like a product that didn’t know what it wanted to be. Apple positioned it as everything from a fashion accessory to a small computer on your wrist.
It wasn’t until the Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 2 that the Apple Watch truly found its footing. Nowadays, the Apple Watch’s primary focus is on health tracking and connectivity, though the Apple Watch can of course still do other things, like send and receive texts and emails, and more.
The Apple Watch runs an operating system called watchOS. This is basically iOS for the Apple Watch. watchOS gives the Apple Watch its built-in features and also serves as a platform for third-party Apple Watch apps to run on.
In June 2022, Apple previewed watchOS 9 at its Worldwide Developer’s Conference, and later on this year it began rolling the update out to Apple Watch users. Apple’s watchOS 9 includes several software improvements to the Apple Watch, including new workout views, improved sleep tracking, the ability to manage and track your medications, new watch faces, and more.
watchOS 9 is available now as a developer beta and Apple will release a public beta of watchOS 9 in July. The commercial version of watchOS 9 is expected to launch in September. This is the version the general public will be able to download and install on their Apple Watch.
Well…provided they have the right Apple Watch…
watchOS 9 Apple Watch Compatibility
Being the Apple Watch’s newest operating system, watchOS 9 is also understandably, its most advanced. But when Apple announced watchOS 9 this June, it also announced that it was dropping support for the OS from one Apple Watch the company still actually sells.
The Apple Watch Models That Support watchOS 9
- Apple Watch Series 4
- Apple Watch Series 5
- Apple Watch Series 6
- Apple Watch Series 7
- Apple Watch SE
- Apple Watch Series 8
- Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen)
- Apple Watch Ultra
As you can see from the list, you’ll need an Apple Watch Series 4 or later to run watchOS 9. That differs from watchOS 8, which was released in 2021. watchOS 8 ran on all Apple Watch models from the Series 3 on up.
But Apple is changing that with watchOS 9. As of September 2022, watchOS 9 will require the Apple Watch Series 4 or later. This means if you’re running the Apple Watch Series 3 or older, you will not be eligible to upgrade to watchOS 9 which is Apple’s not-so-subtle way of saying it is now time to upgrade your Apple Watch to something more current.
Why Won’t The Apple Watch Series 3 Run watchOS 9?
While it’s slightly disappointing that watchOS 9 will not run on Apple Watch Series 3 models – especially since Apple still currently sells the Apple Watch Series 3 – but it’s also not much of a surprise.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is an old device by today’s standards. It first launched in 2017 – that’s five years ago. A wearable that is five years old is ancient in the tech world.
But Apple just isn’t dropping support for the Apple Watch Series 3 because of its age. Its design and internal hardware have a lot to do with it too. As watchOS becomes more advanced with each iteration, its hardware requirements increase, too.
The Apple Watch Series 4 WILL Run watchOS 9
The Apple Watch Series 3 has an S3 chipset. But the Apple Watch Series 4 has the S4 chipset – a 64-bit chip that is twice as powerful and fast as the S3. It seems Apple just doesn’t think the Apple Watch Series 3 has the CPU to run watchOS 9 tasks to an acceptable degree.
Similarly, the new S8 chipset inside the Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra is 20% more powerful and considerably more efficient than the S5 chipset inside the Apple Watch Series 5. The jump from the Apple Watch Series 7 to the Apple Series 8, however, is more modest. All you get with the Apple Watch Series 8 is a few new features – performance is more or less the same. Ditto battery life.
But the Apple Watch Series 3 also has another limitation – a small, square display. Apple Watches Series 4 and later have a larger display with rounded corners. Apple clearly wants to move away from supporting the older display size and form factor.
And with the release of the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple has done just that. The Apple Watch Ultra is the biggest and most advanced Apple Watch the company has ever released. Designed to go toe-to-toe with sports watches from Garmin and Polar, the Apple Watch Ultra has a larger display, an Action Button, a far more robust design, and incredible battery life – up to 60 hours with Low Power Mode activated.
If you want the best possible performance and features from Apple Watch, the Ultra is the one to go for. If you’re into running, cycling, swimming, and/or hiking (or all of the above), the Apple Watch Ultra is designed with you in mind. It ain’t cheap at $799 but it is a very, very impressive smartwatch – even by Apple’s usual high standards.
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Michael GrothausApple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.
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