Should You Install the watchOS 3 Beta on Your Apple Watch?

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read


It's tempting to get a little crazy this time of year and install all the betas on your iDevices and Macs, because you want to play with the new cool stuff Apple announced this week at WWDC. I was a big fan of what Apple showed off for watchOS 3, and if you're reading this, you probably were too. Did I install the beta? Yes. Do I think anyone else should? No. Here's why:

1. You can not downgrade the Apple watch. This is critical to understand ahead of time. While you can flash iOS 9 onto your iPhone or Mac OS X El Capitan back onto your Mac if the beta takes a bad turn, there is absolutely no way to go back to watchOS 2 once you install the watchOS 3 beta.

Seriously, if things go bad, you need to bring the watch into an Apple store and hope that they'll fix it for you. And by fix it for you, I mean send it out for about a week to get downgraded.

2. You are committing to never using iOS 9 again on your iPhone. Also consider that watchOS 3 requires your iPhone to be running iOS 10, so if you ever want to downgrade your phone back to iOS 9, your Apple Watch isn't going to work until you upgrade your phone again.

3. Dock apps do launch quicker, but the watch overall is slow. You probably want to get the beta going because you were tempted by those instant-on apps you saw on stage, and it's true that many apps launch much faster from the Dock than they ever did before. However, pretty much every other action on the watch from turning on when you raise your wrist to opening non-docked apps, to general navigation are slower than on watchOS 2. You're getting some speed while losing some elsewhere.

4. Bugs, bugs, and more bugs. This is a first beta and it feels like it. I've had the watch totally lock up for upwards of 1 minute, I've had app crashes, and one app actually turned on my phone's GPS all day. It's not horrendous like the watchOS 2 beta last summer, but it's not nearly as stable as the current version of watchOS.

And really look out for what apps you put in your Dock. I had Strava in there, which is my running app, and it turned my iPhone's location services on all day long. The good news is that Dock apps really are running in the background, the bad news is that they are doing everything they do when they're open, so be weary of putting apps in there that do stuff with GPS or your microphone.

5. Battery life takes a hit. This hasn't been that bad, and I am making it though the day, but I'm definitely burning through battery life faster than I was before. Instead of ending the day with 40-50% battery, I've ended the last 2 days with 10-30%.

I hope I convinced you to steer clear of the watchOS 3 beta at least for now. If I haven't, well, I don't totally blame you, but I hope you at least have an idea of what you're getting into.