watchOS 11 Unprecedentedly Cancels Support For 3 Apple Watches, Confirmed

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Apple announces new software for its devices once a year, at the World Wide Developers Conference. That took place on Monday, June 10 and it confirmed precisely the reports that had leaked ahead of time. But while there were many new features announced, all of them newsworthy, there was also a sting in the tail for some Watch users: the number of Apple Watches to lose support for the next OS is more than it has ever been: three Watches won’t get the benefits of watchOS 11. To understand why, it’s worth looking at how advanced the updates are going to be.

Updated June 12 with details of new features that contributed to the canceling of support for so many Watches.

The Watches that will have to do without are the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch SE 1st generation. And further information has come to light about why these Watches will find support discontinued.

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First of all, there’s an all-new app coming to watchOS 11, called Vitals, which shows your health metrics in a snapshot. Apple describes it like this: “The new Vitals app surfaces key health metrics and context to help users make more informed day-to-day decisions, and the ability to measure training load offers a game-changing new experience when working out for improved fitness and performance.”

To me, this sounds like the next step on after the introduction of Trends, which looks at health metrics and lets you know if you’re gaining weight, or losing it, over a period, for instance. It means you can get insights on key metrics like heart rate, wrist temperature and respiratory rate, measured while you’re asleep. Of course, you need to wear your Watch at night to get at this information.

Then there’s the one that I’m most looking forward to: Translate. I already use it on the iPhone but it will be more convenient on the Watch. As Apple says, “Users can access translation for one of 20 supported languages directly on their wrist. With the new intelligence of the Smart Stack, Apple Watch can automatically offer a suggested Translate app widget when users are traveling to a location with a language that is different from their Apple Watch.”

There’s also Check In, that reassuring feature that lets a friend, for instance, know you’re safe home. That’s going to be useful if you’re heading out for a walk or run in tricky terrain, for instance, assuming you have cellular connection on your Watch. But it’s also accessible within the Workout app so, as it’s described, “A friend or family member can keep an eye out for their workout to end.”

Having the capabilities for these features, not to mention improvements to Maps with hikes for U.S. national parks, Tap to Cash and more, the draw on the processor is going to be significant. With such a big update, perhaps we should be surprised that it’s only three Watches that lose support.

Tom’s Guide pointed out, in a report subtitled “We didn’t see this coming,” that “The compatibility details at the bottom of Apple’s watchOS 11 Newsroom announcement took us by surprise. Although the move makes sense when you give it some context. Prior to the Apple Watch Series 9, the Apple Watch Series 6 was the last Apple Watch to welcome a performance-boosting processor. With the kinds of new Apple Watch upgrades baked into watchOS 11, it’s very possible that earlier chips can’t properly handle the processing demands. More watch features and apps than ever use machine learning, after all.”

And there are plenty of new features coming to watchOS 11, such as the capability to pause your Activity Rings, to avoid annihilating your long-built-up streak because you need a day off, for instance. There are also new insights into your workouts with Training Load.

According to MacRumors, the report comes from a private X account with a solid track record for these kinds of details.

Joe Rossignol says, “The leaker who revealed this information has a private account on X, so we have elected not to share its name or link to it, but they have shared accurate compatibility information and build numbers for Apple’s software updates in the past.”

So, which three Watches won’t be supported? Unsurprisingly, it’s the ones which were released soonest in the current compatibility list.

That’s a lot of Watches to lose from the list at one go, right? But on closer examination, it’s not quite as surprising as it sounds. Series 4 was powered by the S4 chip while Series 5 includes the S5 chip. But while they are different, both have the same processor at their heart, so performance is deemed to be similar. And the first-generation Apple Watch SE uses the same S5 chip, too.

In other words, the processing power in all three is about the same, and was first released in September 2018 on Apple Watch Series 4, so, almost six years ago.

As always with OS updates, it’s important to note that the Watches will all keep working, keeping time with fiendish accuracy, but they’ll stick with the current watchOS 10 software.

While no new features will be added, if there are security issues, Apple can still patch those, with new watchOS 10 security updates.

All Watches with the S6 chip or later will access watchOS 11 when it’s released. These are: Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch Series 7, Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch Series 9, Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch Ultra 2. The second-generation Apple Watch SE is also on the list, as it is powered by the S8 chip.

You need to pair the Watch with an iPhone running iOS 18, but that looks like it’s all iPhones going back to the iPhone Xr—full details here.

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