What’s New in the Apple Watch Series 3 and Should You Upgrade?
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Apple didn’t only launch three smartphones Apple Announces iPhone X & iPhone 8: Everything You Need to Know Apple Announces iPhone X & iPhone 8: Everything You Need to Know What's so special about the iPhone X? Can you really justify the $999 price tag, or is the refined iPhone 8 a better buy? Read More this week, it also introduced a refreshed Apple Watch in the form of the Series 3. The addition of a new cellular chip means the Watch can operate independently of your iPhone for the first time ever.

The new Series 3 might not be the first example of an LTE smartwatch, but Apple is in a strong position since it currently produces world’s most successful wearable. Earlier this year the company regained the majority market share from FitBit, despite the device’s premium price point and dependence on an iPhone Apple Watch Series 2 Review Apple Watch Series 2 Review It's Apple's busiest time of year. Not only have we had a brand new iPhone, iOS 10 and macOS Sierra; the Apple Watch has had an update too. Read More .

Should you rush out to buy one, and is the upgrade worth it for Series 1 or 2 owners?

Introducing Series 3

To be clear, Apple introduced two models of Series 3: a GPS-only version from $329, and the GPS + Cellular option from $399. Both models still require an iPhone, but the LTE-enabled model doesn’t strictly require an iPhone to remain connected.

apple watch series 3

For the first time ever, your watch needs a data plan. The “big four” carriers in the U.S. have each agreed on a flat $10-per-month fee to provide network coverage to your smart watch. Early adopters can enjoy waived fees for the first three months. You’ll also need to be pick the same carrier you’re currently using for your iPhone plan.

Not all carriers will support the cellular watch from launch, so be sure to check with your own provider before you buy. It’s not clear how this will work on a pre-paid plan, or how soon smaller providers will catch on.

Assuming your carrier and plan are compatible, you’ll be able to use the Series 3 to make and receive phone and FaceTime calls, send messages, make all manner of online Siri requests, receive alerts for appointments and from other apps, and stream Apple Music wherever you are.

apple watch s3 crown

In addition to LTE, Apple has fitted both Series 3 devices with the new S3 processor. This will improve performance across the board, with Siri now able to process commands right on your wrist. A slightly improved heart rate monitor allows for more precise readings, with resting heart rate, recovery time, and elevated heart rate monitoring included (though it’s unclear how much of that is software-based, since the Series 3 also ships with watchOS 4).

Apple also referenced a Stanford study in which Series 3 devices are being used to try and detect abnormal heart beats. While research is still ongoing, it’s an intriguing look into the future of wearables and health technology. It also signals that Apple knows there’s a lucrative market of health-conscious individuals out there looking for technology that can extend or improve their lives.

apple watch series 3

The new device also includes the W2 chip, an improved version of the W1 Apple launched last year AirPods, Beats, and W1: Choosing the Best Wireless iPhone Headphones AirPods, Beats, and W1: Choosing the Best Wireless iPhone Headphones Apple's new AirPods have sold surprisingly well, but are they the best wireless iPhone headphones for your money? That depends. Read More which provides unrivalled sound quality and easy pairing based on proximity. It’s possible we’ll see updated AirPods Why the Apple AirPods May Not Be for You Why the Apple AirPods May Not Be for You Despite all the nice things you've heard about the AirPods, they definitely aren’t for everybody. Read More that take advantage of the new chip before long.

In addition to geolocation services, the new Series 3 watches sport a barometric altimeter for measuring altitude, which is especially useful to cyclists and hikers for recording elevation data. The LTE model features a whopping 16GB of storage space for apps and media, while the regular GPS-only version has 8GB of storage.

As ever, there are a ton of models and straps to choose from. Series 1 watches only comes in aluminium with a sports band, while the Series 3 GPS-only model has both aluminium with sports band and a Nike+ configuration. If you want access to the Hermés or Apple Watch Edition, you’ll need to go for the GPS + Cellular model.

apple watch series comparison

You can compare them all on Apple’s website, or save some money and opt for a third-party band instead.

Don’t Get Too Excited

Wireless communication is thirsty business — just look how much longer your iPhone lasts The Big iPhone Battery Guide The Big iPhone Battery Guide Everybody worries about their smartphone batteries, so let's dispel a few myths and settle a few scores. Read More when you enable Airplane Mode. LTE on the new Series 3 is likely to put quite a bit of strain on its petite battery, though Apple rates the device for 18 hours (the same as its non-cellular models).

It’s likely that some power efficiency gains have been achieved with its new processor, and maybe there’s a bigger battery inside given the new Watch’s slightly thicker body. Even with these advancements, your own real-world usage is going to have a pronounced effect on that “18 hour” estimate.

Fortunately, Apple published their battery test criteria and results:

“All-day battery life is based on 18 hours with the following use: 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 30-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth, over the course of 18 hours.

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) usage includes connection to iPhone via Bluetooth during the entire 18-hour test. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) usage includes a total of 4 hours of LTE connection and 14 hours of connection to iPhone via Bluetooth over the course of 18 hours.”

While that sounds pretty good, individual tests aren’t so rosy. The same article quotes “up to 4 hours outdoor workout with GPS and LTE” for activity monitoring and a talk time of “over 1 hour connected to LTE.” That last number is a little concerning since it suggests even a 15-minute phone call over LTE could eat as much as 25 percent of your battery life.

By our own tests, the Apple Watch Series 2 could manage around two days of life Apple Watch Series 2 Review Apple Watch Series 2 Review It's Apple's busiest time of year. Not only have we had a brand new iPhone, iOS 10 and macOS Sierra; the Apple Watch has had an update too. Read More on a single charge with moderate to light usage. If you’re using the cellular capabilities on your Series 3, you’re not going to beat this. You could drain your entire Watch battery with a few hours at the gym and a couple of phone calls.

It’s worth remembering that the Series 3 isn’t going to be utilising LTE all the time. When you iPhone is in range, it will bridge wirelessly as every Apple Watch has done before it. So while the Series 3 with LTE is essentially Apple’s first smartphone on your wrist, the technology isn’t ready to stand on its own yet.

Your Other Option

The other thing Apple announced was watchOS 4, the next version of its wearable operating system. It’s not clear whether the first generation “Series 0” Watch Apple Watch Review & Giveaway Apple Watch Review & Giveaway The new Apple thing is finally out, but everyone was talking about the Apple Watch long before it was officially announced. Starting at $349 - we take a look, and have TWO to give away! Read More will be supported (though it’s likely, given the device’s age), but Series 1 and Series 2 owners will get a free update that adds some nifty new features.

These include a new Siri watch face with machine learning to provide useful information based on your habits, enhanced workout with GymKit, better health data management 5 Things You Aren’t Using the Apple Watch For (But Should Be) 5 Things You Aren’t Using the Apple Watch For (But Should Be) Are you making the most of your Apple wearable? Here are five of our favorite Watch features you probably forgot about. Read More , and general tweaks to the user interface. You might want to wait and see how the update affects your old Watch before reaching for your wallet.

If you’re still deciding whether or not to buy an Apple watch Apple Watch Sales Might Have Dropped, But It’s Far From a Flop Apple Watch Sales Might Have Dropped, But It’s Far From a Flop We won't know the true number of sales until Apple releases official data in the Fall, but even if recent poor sales figures are correct; the Apple Watch is far from a flop. Read More , consider saving some money by opting for a Series 1 device from only $249, or the cheaper Series 3 from $329. If you go for the cellular option, don’t forget to factor in the extra $10 per month you’ll be paying your carrier for the pleasure.

What do you think of the Series 3? Where is the future of wearables heading? Post your reactions to Apple’s Series 3 in the comments below.

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