An honest review of the Apple Watch Series 3
I’m convinced the brand new Apple Watch Series 3 outsold the iPhone 8. While I have absolutely no hard evidence of this and it may be completely wrong, I think it’s the case based on how quickly pre-orders for the Watch and iPhone 8 slipped back from delivering on launch day. And then of course, you have the 800 pound gorilla in the room that will be available for pre-order later this month, the iPhone X, that I believe most people are waiting for. Nonetheless, I waited in line at the Apple Store in SoHo (New York City) a couple Friday’s ago–not for the iPhone 8 but for the Apple Watch Series 3.
As you know I am a big fan of the Apple Watch. Up until I bought the Series 3 recently I had been using the original Apple Watch every day.
Launch day issues
The launch of the Apple Watch Series 3 didn’t go completely as planned though, but that was in no part due to Apple but rather wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon which had issues activating watches that weren’t bought directly from them–in other words–watches bought from Apple. Those activation issues seemed to be resolved within a day as I was able to activate the cellular service on my Apple Watch Series 3 on Saturday morning. Annoying and slightly frustrating, but these things can and do happen.
The biggest new feature of the Series 3 is of course, cellular service. Your watch will share the phone number associated with your iPhone, however, it doesn’t need to be tethered to your iPhone to work. In fact, the Apple Watch Series 3 can make and receive phone calls without you having your phone with you. Having cellular on the watch also means you can send texts, receive notifications from your favorite apps, and soon stream music directly on the watch via Apple Music.
On average most wireless carriers are charging around $10/month extra per Apple Watch you add to your plan, which does feel like a bit of a ripoff, I think $5 tops would be more fair.
In terms of call quality, in my testing, it was adequate for what it is. I didn’t experience any issues with dropped calls or people cutting in and out in my tests. However, when using the watch speaker as opposed to a pair of Bluetooth headphones (e.g. AirPods) I found at times (even within my own apartment) that it was difficult to hear the person on the other end of the call. Basically, I wish the speaker was a bit better and louder, but when dealing with a device as small as a watch I understand you need to make some compromises.
The best part about having cellular service on your Apple Watch is that there’s no need to worry if don’t bring your phone with you when you go for a run or go to the park to play basketball. In my opinion, less things to carry = better.
I read all the reviews of the Series 3 before it was officially released and I just didn’t experience the same issues with battery life that people claimed. In fact, in one test (with my iPhone turned off), I had a 40 minute call on my watch and when I hung up, the battery was only down to 82 percent (started at 100 percent). In every day usage so far I have yet to need switch the watch into reserve power mode, even after long days. For example, waking up at 3AM for a flight and then not plugging my watch in until much later that night. So in my experience the Series 3 battery life is phenomenal.
Some additional perspective: it’s currently 2:30 PM and I’m sitting here typing this review and my watch is at 77 percent battery (I’ve been wearing it all day).
According to Apple, the Apple Watch Series 3 has a water resistance rating of 50 meters (around 164 feet), meaning that it can used for shallow-water activities like swimming in a pool or ocean. Based on my experience, I went swimming in a pool twice with the Series 3 and can confirm it still worked perfectly after both sessions. I also noticed there’s a feature if you swipe up, you’ll see a water droplet icon, which if you tap on and then turn the digital crown, it makes the watch play some sounds that I assume help push out any water that may be in the device.
I also have showered several times with the Series 3, something I really wished I could do with the original Apple Watch so I’m very happy about that.
Last thing of note with regard to water resistance, Apple has stated that the Apple Watch Series 3 should not be used for scuba diving, waterskiing, or other activities involving high-velocity water or submersion below shallow depth. Just something to keep in mind.
Going from the original Apple Watch to the Series 3 provided a huge performance boost. Apps load much quicker, everything feels snappier overall. I remember thinking to myself how I felt like loading an app would literally feel like it was taking forever on the original Apple Watch, now it’s pretty much instant.
Health and activity
Of course, like the models before it, the Series 3 offers the amazing capabilities built-in to watchOS such as tracking workouts and activity. But one new feature in watchOS 4 on the Series 3 is its ability to measures your heart rate throughout the day — while you’re resting, walking, or in the recovery phase after a workout. The Heart Rate app also notifies you if your heart rate rises above a set threshold when you’ve been inactive for a 10-minute period–this is a super important feature that could potentially help save lives I think.
Plus, soon Apple will be launching the Apple Heart Study which will use data from Apple Watch to identify irregular heart rhythms, including those from potentially serious heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation. The company plans to roll it out later this year in collaboration with Stanford Medicine and with helpful guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
So should you buy the Apple Watch Series 3? I think so, especially if you’ve either been holding off on buying an Apple Watch or have an original. The Apple Watch Series 3 is one of the best (if not the best) smart watches on the market.
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