How to identify legacy Apple Watch apps

Legacy Apple Watch apps - A photograph showing Apple Watch Series 3 Nike+ edition packaging

Legacy Apple Watch apps built with outdated watchOS SDKs produce a warning when launched in watchOS 4.3.1. On watchOS 5 and later, legacy apps refuse to open at all.


  • 2017’s watchOS 4.x warned users that legacy apps would stop working in the future.
  • In April 2018, Apple stopped accepting new apps built with the watchOS 3 SDK or older.
  • Legacy apps can be identified and removed to free up storage space.
  • All apps built with the watchOS 4+ SDK do run properly on the watchOS 5+ software.

Apple wants you to remove any legacy apps from your device because they were built with old watchOS SDKs which don’t take advantage of the latest hardware and software.

Getting rid of legacy Apple Watch apps

In November 2017, Apple gave a heads-up that it’d stop accepting updates to watchOS 1 apps. “This app will not work with future versions of watchOS,” read the warning on watchOS 4.3.1.

As of April 2018, the Cupertino technology giant stopped accepting updates to both the existing apps built with the watchOS 1 SDK and new ones built with the watchOS 3 SDK.

Legacy Apple Watch apps - A screenshot of a warning message in watchOS 4.3.1 informing the user that the app needs to be updated because it will not work with future versions of watchOS

A warning upon opening a legacy Apple Watch app on watchOS 4.3.1

2018’s watchOS 5 software completely dropped support for legacy Apple Watch apps because they’re too slow, rely on a connected iPhone and don’t support cellular on LTE watches.

TUTORIAL: How to identify legacy Mac apps

Here’s how you can identify any apps on your watch that haven’t been been built with the watchOS 4+ SDK in order to ensure they run properly on the watchOS 5+ software.

How to identify legacy Apple Watch apps

To see if you have any legacy Apple Watch apps installed, do the following:

1) Open the companion Watch app on your paired iPhone.

2) Tap the My Watch tab at the bottom.

3) Now scroll all the way to the bottom of the list of available apps.

Legacy Apple Watch apps - A screenshot showing the Unavailable Apps section at the bottom of the My Tab in the companion Watch app on iPhone

4) If some of the apps installed or available to install on your watch are outdated, you’ll see the entry labeled Unavailable Apps. Tap it to proceed.

Legacy Apple Watch apps - You can delete a legacy app and its data at will

Any legacy Apple Watch apps built with the watchOS 1, 2 or 3 SDK are listed here

5) Choose an unsupported app from the list, then tap it.

6) From there, tap the option Delete App & Associate Data to do just that.

And that’s how you identify any deprecated or legacy Apple Watch apps that you can now safely remove from the wearable device to free up storage space and improve performance.

“These apps don’t work with watchOS 5 and must be updated to continue using them,” reads Apple’s description. “If no update is available, contact the app developer for more information.”

Great, what next?

You could follow Apple’s advice and reach out to the app’s developer to ask them if they plan on releasing a compatibility update anytime soon. Some apps won’t be updated at all, however.

Some pretty major apps—like Google Maps, Amazon, eBay, Twitter, Twitterrific, Instagram and others—no longer offer a watchOS component because their makers can no longer justify spending time and pouring resources into development and maintenance.

TUTORIAL: How to identify legacy apps on iPhone and iPad

Remember, iOS 10.3 included a similar message warning users about shying away from legacy 32-bit apps. As of iOS 11, Apple no longer supports 32-bit iPhone and iPad apps.

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