watchOS 11 compatibility — Apple just killed support for 3 watches

Apple Watch Series 8 shown on wrist
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We have bad news for people with Apple Watch Series 4,  Apple Watch Series 5, and the original Apple Watch SE (2020). Apple has just revealed that OS software updates will no longer be supported for either watch, taking effect with the release of watchOS 11.

While watchOS 11 is set to bring some exciting new features to Apple Watch, those with Series 4, Series 5 and first-gen SE models will not be eligible to enjoy them. Instead, only Apple Watch Series 6 and newer will support the watchOS 11 software update, which is set to arrive later this year. 

The Series 4 and Series 5 launched in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Though we perhaps felt the Series 4 had aged out, we didn't group the Series 5 with its predecessor in that regard. Then the Apple Watch SE only launched in 2020 alongside the Series 6, so it's not even 4 years old. That's to say, 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.

Ending OS updates won't render the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch SE (2020) completely useless. But you will miss out on updates to patch bugs or other features that aren't working properly. As with any device, installing the latest software versions ensures you're getting the best experience possible. 

If yours isn't watchOS 11-compatible, you may want to plan to buy a new Apple Watch. You can wait until the Apple Watch Series 10 is announced in September to get the newest watch, or you can purchase an Apple Watch Series 9, Apple Watch Ultra 2, or Apple Watch SE (2022) now. There are currently some excellent Apple Watch deals, plus you can trade-in your current Apple Watch for further savings.

Apple Watch Series 9: was $399 now $299 @ AmazonPrice check: $299 @ Walmart | $399 @ Best Buy

Apple Watch Series 9: was $399 now $299 @ Amazon
The Apple Watch 9 features a faster S9 chip for better performance, 4-core neural engine, and an 18-hour battery life. It also supports Apple Double Tap, a new gesture that can be used to answer/end a call, stop a timer, play/pause music, or dismiss an alarm.
Price check: $299 @ Walmart | $399 @ Best Buy

Your iPhone also plays a role in whether your watch can install watchOS 11. Be sure to check out our guide to iOS 18 to learn more about the supported devices. 

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.