Review: Apple Watch Series 3 | iLounge

Review

Review: Apple Watch Series 3

A-
Highly Recommended
Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)

B+
Recommended
Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

Company: Apple

Model: Apple Watch Series 3

Price: $329 – $1299

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Jesse Hollington

Pros: Series 3’s cellular capabilities untether the Apple Watch from the iPhone in a significant way. The addition of a barometric altimeter fills in the workout tracking gap from last year’s Series 2. New processor offers a 70 percent performance boost over Series 2 and enables Siri to offer voice responses. New W2 chip increases Wi-Fi performance by 85 percent while cutting power consumption in half and resolving former issues with some Bluetooth headphones. Cellular plan can be activated directly from iPhone in seconds without even requiring a call to your carrier in most cases. Provides almost two-day battery life when kept in range of iPhone.

Cons: Cellular data is only available on a limited number of carriers at launch, and will add $5 – $10 to your monthly phone bill. Significantly shorter battery life when used away from iPhone in cellular-only mode. Non-cellular Series 3 not available in stainless steel version. Many third-party apps don’t yet provide untethered internet connectivity. Despite cellular capabilities, Apple Watch still remains an extension of your iPhone rather than a standalone device.

Although the Apple Watch Series 3 still promises the same 18 hour battery life as its predecessor, we suspect that Apple is now basing its eighteen-hour estimate on a combination of cellular and Bluetooth use. In our testing we actually found that when used exclusively with your iPhone nearby, the new Apple Watch actually handily exceeds those estimates — we’ve been wearing the Apple Watch Series 3 for two weeks now, and on 14–16 hour days we never went to bed with less than 50 percent battery remaining on days that we didn’t use cellular connectivity. Since the Series 3 packs in a nearly identical battery as the Series 2, the improved battery life is clearly the result of improved power efficiency with Apple’s new dual-core SoC and wireless W2 chip.

On the other hand, using cellular data will drain the battery considerably faster, especially if you combine that with working out and listening to music. We consistently lost about 15 percent when we took half-hour walking workouts without our iPhone, as compared to about a 5 percent drop doing the same type of workout with the iPhone in our pocket. The higher power consumption suggests to us at this point that the cellular features should definitely be considered more of a fall back feature than something users should realistically expect to use throughout the day.

The Apple Watch Series 3 also boasts a new dual-core CPU that Apple promises boosts its performance by up to 70 percent. Although we really didn’t consider the Series 2 to be particularly sluggish, it’s still a noticeable increase even over that model; if you’re upgrading from an original Apple Watch or even a Series 1, however, it’s a signifiant boost that will make the Apple Watch feel significantly more usable.

With this new horsepower also comes the ability for Siri to actually talk back from your wrist, in much the same way as the iPhone. This can be especially useful when asking Siri math questions, looking for unit conversions, or even inquiring about the weather. For those who would prefer that Siri remain quiet, however, a new option in the watchOS Settings app lets you choose to turn Siri’s voice off entirely, or tie it into the silent mode button found in the Control Center.

One thing we did note as a pleasant change from last year is that the Apple Watch Series 3 had no issues with any of the Bluetooth headphones we threw at it. We suspect this is probably another advantage of the move to the new Apple-designed W2 chip. It’s also worth mentioning that the non-cellular Apple Watch Series 3 only packs half the storage — 8GB vs 16GB — of its cellular-capable sibling.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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