Apple Watch series 3 now crippled to not work with iPhone 6

Purchased 2x Apple Watch series 3 for Christmas presents for the family (thanks to ozbargain). Both recipients have an iPhone 6.
Christmas Day and excited children try to pair their new Apple Watch to the phone and it won’t work. Instead they get a message their phone is out of date.
The Apple Watch series 3 has been working fine with the iPhone 6 for 2 years. This isn’t a hardware issue. Instead Apple have simply crippled the Watch with a software update so it no longer will work to force consumers to upgrade.

Is there any way to install watchOS 5 again?
(And before anyone suggests it, no I can not afford another $2000+ to buy them a new model iPhone instead - the iPhone 6 is a good phone and still working well, no need to upgrade)

Alternately I am going to have to try to return them. There was nothing in store about this change in compatibility. I spoke to the salesman at length and he didn’t mention it. The box doesn’t flag this change other than in very small print on the back which has ios13 required buried in the middle of a paragraph about box contents etc.


  • If it's newer stock that shipped with watchOS 6 out of the box, there's not a lot you can do other than return it or upgrade your phones.

    • +3

      You can downgrade to watchOS 5 but need to call Apple support, they need to send it in to IT team in Sydney. They will cover all the cost. It happened to me yesterday.

  • +3

    I'll bite.


    • +5

      Still means buying a new phone.

    • +5

      For all its strengths, Android is not the answer I'd provide for "I expect support for a 5+ year old phone" or "I want a good smartwatch platform"

  • +3

    Buy 2 used iphone 6s's from ebay for about $200 each then sell the iphone 6's for $100 each and for $200 your watches will work. It sucks but its probably your cheapest option.

  • +1

    I would expect that the proportion of people buying Apple watches and running iPhone 6 is quite small, and it was becoming too hard for it all to come together for the software engineers. The iPhone 6 only has one gig of RAM for example.
    I suggest return the watches, if you bought through Apple should be fine with post Christmas returns.
    Then get them an updated iPhone instead. Something with at least an A10 SOC in it.

    Also console yourself with the good run you have had with the iPhone 6, considering its age.

    • +1

      1iPhone 6 is still running very well after 4 years and 2 replacement batteries thanks to a life proof case. It is like new in many respects and really hard to justify an upgrade.
      The other is only 2 years old (bought new) and also is like new. Both get heavy use from teenagers.
      Apple make the phones to last in many respects and then have to kill them with software to get customers to buy new ones (at heavily inflated prices)

      • +1

        Release date of September 19, 2014. I would think the one you bought new, 2 years ago, would’ve been at a, pretty, significant discount.

        To me there are several “issues”.
        a) eventually the hardware can’t keep up with the new levels of IOS. We saw where Apple was hammered over the battery management issues with the older phones and people often complain about degradation in performance with IOS upgrades in older phones.
        b) the phone and watch are very interconnected so you can’t have the watch without the equivalent phone.
        c) running incompatible software in the two devices means that if a bug needs to be addressed it needs to be retroactively installed into an IOS level that is no longer supported.

        I think the real problem here is you weren’t informed at POS; not that Apple has decided to phase out upgrades, and compatibility, for a 5 year old Technology phone. The phone, and existing IOS, still works well for the phone functioning as a phone.

        The heavily inflated prices is an interesting one. If you have a look at what technology cost in the 80s, particularly relative to other items, then the current phone costs aren’t that bad. I just bought the iPhone XS for just under $1000 dollars, and you get a pretty good bang for buck at that. what has happened is technology costs became very cheap, including phones, then the “players” decided their flagships would be premium products.

        I agree that Apple makes quality hardware, but I quibble with you expecting them to maintain backwards compatibility that far. Our current 6 is also going strong, and we bought it within a month of release date, but I don’t expect them to continue to provide current IOS levels on that level of hardware. The changes in functionality are quite large.

        • +2

          On top of that each software release requires testing to make sure it can work with existing hardware, at some point the testing gets too expensive to do, and Apple stops doing it. Plus sometimes certain hardware features are missing as you say.

          Its one reason why $200 phones arent given upgraded software. The cost to test the older phones just isnt viable with the prices being charged.

          So if it works with version X, that the manufacturer shipped with, then if they upgrade to version Y, and it doesnt work, they are responsible. If they just dont upgrade, then no problems for the manufacturer to support.

          Testing and support can be very tedious and expensive

      • +1

        Im sure someone has a 486 PC somewhere in a 'like new' condition, doesnt mean it should be expected run windows 10 however. the guts is too old, its got nothing to do with how well you've looked after it.

        Also, they arent 'killing' them with software to make you upgrade. Apple is and always has been the market leader with regards to OS updates for older devices, but 5 years is usually when they stop supporting it. Your iphones are old and apple is acknowledging that people are keeping phones longer - but they dont sell the 6 any more, and 6S is hard to find new (we buy 6S or 7 for our fleet of work phones).

        Someone who is still using an iphone 6 five years after they hit the market (and therefore not the type of person to make expensive luxury purchases) is probably not who Apple considers to be the demographic for the watch, which whether you like it or not is very much an expensive luxury item.

        Frankly you would have been better spending the money you dropped on the watches on upgrading their phones (with well kept second hand ones, since you arent getting a NIB iphone 6S for $320). The watch itself doesnt do anything that the phone cannot until you start worrying about fitness tracking, of which, there are plenty of other devices on the market for less money.

  • +1

    We almost had this problem but a bit of judicious Googling before purchase highlighted this. My man opted for the iPhone 7 and I went the XS path. He has a watch 3 and I got the watch 5. We have a leg in each camp for the next few years.

  • +7

    This happened to me. I have Apple Watch series 1 , been using it with my iPhone X, but yesterday decided to upgrade my watch to series 3 and give my series 1 to my son who has iPhone 6. Because I already upgrade my series 1 to watchOS 6 , it won’t work with iPhone 6 as watchOS 6 need iOS 13 or later and iPhone 6 can’t be upgrade to iOS 13.

    The solution: called Apple support , they can downgrade watchOS to 5 for you (watchOS 5 is compatible with iPhone 6) but it need to send in to IT support team in Sydney. They will cover all the cost…I am going to send it off today, via Aus Post.

    • +1

      If this option exists it seems like the best for the OP, if arranging newer phones isn't an option.

  • +1

    Go to Apple Store and have them re-install the older version of software.
    There should be a law against this. What next, slowing down your device, surely not.

    • Covered by TheMatrix

      You can downgrade to watchOS 5 but need to call Apple support, they need to send it in to IT team in Sydney. They will cover all the cost. It happened to me yesterday.

  • -1

    Apple up to thier old tricks again

    Just stay well away from Apple.

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