Apple Watch Series 3 Review: The Perfect Companion for iPhone X
The latest Apple Watch edition in India does not support LTE connectivity, the best feature of the device.
It’s been a little over two years since Apple launched its most personal gadget, the Apple Watch, and in one fell stroke gave legitimacy to the somewhat floundering smartwatch market.
You may still question the need for a smartwatch – that question still remains – but it is unquestionable that Apple’s run away with this segment, displacing analog stalwarts like Rolex in the process to become the #1 watch brand in the world.
With the launch of the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple’s tweaked the winning formula to add in LTE data connectivity, so that your watch is no longer a slave to your iPhone when you step out sans iPhone for a quick run or an errand!
Pity then that thanks to the regulatory approvals that are needed before the Watch Series 3’s eSIM gets operator support, buyers in India will have to skip the headlining feature and settle for the GPS only variant of the Series 3. I went hands on (er, wrists on) with the latest wearable from Apple to figure out what makes it tick.
- Bright, vibrant display
- Blazing performance
- Improvements on heart rate and workout tracking
- Improved battery life
- Un-flaunt-able, with the unchanged design
- No sleep tracking and always-on mode
- LTE variant not launching in India
With the design unchanged from the previous two generations, it’s clear that if you already love or hate this look, you’re not going to walk away changing your mind after seeing the Series 3.
The design is quintessentially Apple – a rectangle screen with curved corners – and no, Apple’s unlikely to bend to the demands for a circular watch, since the current form factor works better for reading large amounts of text and displaying app notifications.
The design wins from the Watch 2 – 50 metres water resistant, wireless charging, the satisfyingly smooth Digital Crown and backward compatibility with all straps right from the first gen watch – are all here.
Crucially, it still retains the same 1000 nits of brightness – bright enough to easily use the Watch even in bright outdoor sunlight – which sets it apart from its rivals.
As much as it looks unchanged from the outside, under the hood Apple has been tinkering away at both the watch’s processor and wireless chip, and both have received big performance boosts this time around.
The new S3 dual-core chip gains 70 percent more performance on its predecessor, and performance is exceedingly snappy, apps launch instantly and there’s a sense of fluidity about using the watch that’s rare to see on any other wearable, save for maybe the Gear S3 series from Samsung.
The big beneficiary from the performance boost is Siri, which is now able to speak its answer through the watch’s speaker instead of merely showing the answer on screen.
Of course, even though Siri has gotten better in recent months, frustrations remain, so your mileage may vary with the nature of information you’re seeking from the digital assistant on your wrist.
Siri is also surfaced as a new watch face on Watch OS 4, to show you context sensitive cards on your screen – anything from news stories, calendar events, weather and stock alerts – arranged in a timeline format you can scroll through.
The new W2 wireless chip for faster Bluetooth and Wi-Fi consumes up to 50 percent less battery than before, which means the watch lasts a full day and then some, so you really don't need to charge the watch every night – a quick splash and dash in the morning suffices.
WatchOS 4 adds a number of useful tools, including much improved Activity and Workout apps which benefit from machine learning-based personalisation. This means the Activity monitor is now able to remind you to do things to keep your activity levels up (and close out those all-important rings!).
There’s even a new heart rate notification that warns you if your heart rate is above a predefined threshold when you are ostensibly ‘resting’.
Coupled with the new sensor, a barometric altimeter, which tracks elevation changes (previously tracked by the iPhone) for a more accurate measure of your calorie burn and the additional tabs it keeps on your resting, walking and workout recovery heart rate, the Watch Series 3 meets its fitness goals (and hopefully yours as well)!
For all its fitness skills, the Watch still doesn't track your sleep patterns, which I find is a vital piece missing in the overall health equation for any fitness tracker.
That aside, the rest are minor quibbles. For a touchscreen display as vibrant and crisp as this, it lacks a low power always-on mode, something that rivals have long implemented.
Folks who would want to show off their new Series 3 purchase don't really have a way to do so – it looks identical to previous generations, and the premium stainless steel variant isn’t available this time around (only Aluminium is). It still only works with the iPhone, which limits the audience and sales for what is arguably the best smartwatch around.
And yes, I know the LTE variant can’t be launched due to the eSIM requirement – the Watch Series 3 LTE uses an electronically ‘cloned’ copy of the SIM in your iPhone – which isn’t something the regulators or operators support in India, but LTE is the true differentiator for the Series 3 and I hope there’s a way around this issue in the future.
Why Buy It?
On the face of it, Apple seems to have taken the “if it aint broke, don't fix it” approach with the Watch Series 3 GPS variant. Behind the scenes though, there are a number of discernable improvements that just serve to stretch its lead over the rest of the smartwatch segment.
If you’re lining up for a new iPhone X this week and want the perfect wrist accessory for the new purchase, this is it.
(Tushar Kanwar is a technology columnist and commentator and has been contributing for the past 15 years to India’s leading newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at @2shar.)
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