Hey everyone, Jimmy with Jim’s Review Room. After testing the Apple Watch Series 2 last year, I loved it. It was hands down one of the best accessories to buy if you owned an iPhone. This year, the nearly identical style comes back with a few new features which we’ll go over. Prices for the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE do start at $329. The one I personally bought is the LTE 42 mm in metal grey, accompanied with the sports band priced at $429. As always, I’ll place my affiliate links up above. Click on my links, and they’ll give you the most updated prices, in real time. You never know when these things might go on sale.
Going over the physical features and what’s new over last year’s model, it’s ever so slightly thicker than the Series 2, but having both on for comparison, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. Apple crams in the new W2 chip inside, I’ll place some highlights about the processor on your screen. But for the very first time, LTE is an option so you can use the Apple watch and have full data functionality without your iPhone. There’s a barometric altimeter that measures how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed, Bluetooth jumps from 4.0 to 4.2, and besides GPS, there’s also GLONASS geopositioning. All of that, and again, only a fractional increase in size.
The Apple Watch looks classy and modern once again. The aluminum casing, the very smooth crown, and the tactile button are all quality. Overall, the Apple Watch exudes what an Apple experience is like: It’s streamlined, everything flows smoothly, it’s minimalist, yet efficient.
No scratches on the Ion-X glass during the time of my testing, and yes, I have bumped the casing into the side of a table and cabinets, thankfully no nicks evident. Bringing this outdoors to test bright light visibility, I was able to read the screen with no issues.
Like the previous generation, Apple graciously offers interchangeable bands, and it’s very straightforward to swap them out. Simply hold the release button on the back and slide the old out, and slip the new one on. I recommend getting the base model if you do decide to do any sport activities, and then purchasing from 3rd party vendors where you get different styles for cheaper, versus purchasing directly from the Apple Store.
Getting into some of the LTE and non-cellular features. You can take phone calls with this, and if you don’t have the LTE version, the watch pairs with your phone and the functionality still works. If you haven’t tried it, it might look weird in theory but don’t knock it… it’s very convenient, I loved using this. People on the other end are able to hear me very clear, I don’t need to yell. It does pick up some background noise, but surprisingly it does a good job of blocking out most of my environment. Testing the LTE function, turning off my iPhone 8 Plus altogether and sitting inside my commercial office building on the first floor, tons of wires overhead, air ducts, metal and brick, I’m shockingly surprised, my Apple Watch Series 3 retains a clear signal while talking to people. Others have mentioned spotty LTE performance, but since the Apple Watch update that was recently released, connection have been going without a hitch. But like any reasonable review, nothing’s perfect, right?
The speakerphone is indeed small, so for times folks are speaking into their phone loud, like my Asian relatives, their voice can get slightly raspy. The speaker can be slightly difficult to hear in busy areas or sometimes when you’re driving on the highway, requiring you to place your wrist closer to your ears to have a listen. When the Apple Watch connects to a phone call, there’s about a one to two-second delay unto the person on the other line hears you say hello, despite the screen showing your phone call is connected. This happened on both LTE and Bluetooth. Overall, although there are issues, I believe they’re minor and I still find myself in frequent use of the speakerphone feature, especially while driving or whenever my hands are not free.
The other addition on why you might go with the LTE model, get yourself some Bluetooth wireless earphones or headphones as Apple Music is available right on your wrist, no need for your cell phone, all 40 million plus songs at your disposal. Sounds great, but, per their website, Apple Music was unavailable at the time of this review for testing. Listing some services that you might use and is available on the Apple Watch are Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Tune-in. Services not available at the time of this review are Spotify, Amazon Music, and Soundcloud.
For those who don’t have LTE, you’re perfectly fine, you’re able to store music right on the Apple Watch – use some Bluetooth earphones, and you have music on the go. This is perfect for those who run or jog and do not want to carry their phones on them.
Notifications come through perfectly with options to respond back to text message either by quick responses provided at the bottom of the screen. Voice recognition works very well and is possibly the fastest for full on sentences, and scribbling which has improved over the Apple Watch Series 2 it seems, finger recognition of letters are much more accurate and I found barely ever needing to go back and fix the characters.
BUTTONS AND FUNCTIONALITY
Taking a look at the home screen, thankfully, you can do most of the screen and setting changes on your watch. Need a new watch face, swipe over from left to right. These can be customized and adjusted within the app, but for quick access like I am doing here, it’s simple and intuitive. Pressing the crown dial on the side brings up all of your apps and something I mentioned last year, it would be nice to see a feature like this on their iPhones or iPads. It may look cluttered for those who are unfamiliar, but you’ll develop muscle memory in about a day or two. Also… you can customize the placement of each app within the Apple Watch app. A long press on that same dial brings up Siri which works great when you want to use voice commands. AND when it’s tethered to your phone. Without your phone and using LTE… there’s a huge delay with Siri telling me to hang on for an unreasonable amount time… and it’s a huge letdown.
The good news… Apple has pinpointed the issue. The Apple Watch tends to connect to WiFi networks around it – which either needs a password to access or has no internet at all, and the watch would bypass your data connection. In Apple’s statement, a software fix should be coming down the road. From my experience, I tell Siri to play music, tell Siri to call someone, tell her to give me turn-by-turn directions for navigation, all through my wrist. It is a handy feature when you don’t have your phone, or your hands are simply tied up. As a side note, you don’t have to press that button, you can use call her up as you would on your iPhone.
Moving on, the button below the crown allows you to close apps or select which ones to bring forth that are already opened. Holding down this button has the ability to auto-call your emergency services. Loved this for peace of mind if I’m getting mugged or say my car flips over and my phone has flown out the cup holder… I hold this down and the SOS function shows up. I do wishlike my Samsung Gear S3 I had reviewed some time ago, that activating SOS would also send a text message to a person of contact and provide them with my coordinates. I didn’t see that option here.
HEALTH AND FITNESS
Touching base on health features. I’ve reviewed tons of fitness bands over the years, from Fitbit to Garmin, Jawbone when they used to be relevant to Polar and Mio. Although the Apple Watch falls more into the Smartwatch category, it’s a very capable fitness band. On the daily, it keeps track of your steps, total distance, mentioned earlier in the review is the altimeter being added, to count how many flights of stairs climbed. With Apple’s famous colored wheel, this measures activeness, moments of exercise, and how much time you spent standing versus sitting. You can swipe down and see a timeline for the day of when these activities occurred. You have the ability to start a recorded workout. From running, cycling, walking, elliptical workouts, stair stepping, high-intensity interval training which many ask me about, down to swimming. There’s a lot. But showing off running and seeing how accurate this thing is, when you initiate a run – you, of course, have your time, average pace, (although I do wish real-time pace was showing) beats per minute from the heart rate tracker and your elevation.
Swiping right gives you options to control your music, and remember, there’s onboard storage or Apple Music via LTE when available. Swiping all the way left reveals your start and stop options. When you’re finished with your run, calories burned and other generic health data are revealed. With GPS and keep in mind, Glonass which should help with finding a signal faster and provide better accuracy, I ran at a location which I’m most familiar with and the distance was identical to my phone’s GPS. I also tested the heart rate tracking against my chest strap, and I don’t believe it samples your heart rate every second as shown on your screen as proof, you see these jaggy lines…
I could be wrong, but my chest strap data is overlayed, much more fluid, dynamic and shows up to the minute response. Although it might not be as dynamic, it is indeed accurate in over readings. Here’s another chart for reference, this time doing random interval runs where I go and stop… the Apple Watch is reasonably close for a wrist-based tracker, performing as good as some of the best ones out there. Like every wrist-based tracker I’ve tested, there’s usually some deviation and with Apple Watch, most of the time, it’s 1 to 2 off, which is very reasonable. Rarely it’s off by 3 or 4 when your heart rate fluctuates as shown with the interval run. Either or, for a wrist-based HR tracker, again, very good results.
For times you’re not working out, the heart rate sensor does take a reading throughout the day and provides you with resting heart rate, essentially a measurement of your heart health. The only app directly from Apple that was not available at the time of this review is Apple Heart Study, where the Smartwatch is able to identify irregular heartbeats and can alert you to potential heart issues. I’m sure it’s much more involved than that, I’m somewhat dumbing it down, but since they’re working in conjunction with Stanford University, I would assume the data is accurate enough, possibly making this ideal for even my 68-year-old mother to wear.
Moving on, although the Apple Activity and Apple Health apps measures a pretty good amount of data, I would say more than what the average consumer would be aware of, for those who want something more serious or something they are currently using, Stava, Runkeeper, MapMyRun, and Endomondo to name a few dedicated apps are available for the Apple Watch.
So last but not least here, Apple claimed up to 18hrs of use which sounds like crap, but with the series 2, I was able to achieve 1.5 to 2 full days. With the Series 3 and this is why my review was a bit delayed, I tested this with LTE off and it did phenomenal. I put this on at 7 am, wear it the entire day until 11 at night and on average have 67 to 73% of battery life remaining. Overnight, the watch drains 7%, leaving me about 40% battery drain in a 24-hour cycle. On the other hand, with LTE on and not carrying my iPhone around, I’m getting about a day worth of life. LTE drains a significant amount more, but, but I can’t knock on Apple since it’s still within that 18-hour battery window. For those who are running, I did a quick 30-minute run which turns on continuous Heartrate tracking and GPS, plus I left LTE on, in those 30 minutes, the Apple Watch Series 3 drained by 10 to 15% each time. You can estimate the math and see how much it would drain from your personal workouts. Regarding recharging, I timed this and it takes 2 hours and 15 minutes from 1% battery life remaining.
So, with everything being discussed so far, if you have the Apple Watch Series 2, it’s still a stellar watch, keep it, do not get the Series 3 unless you want the LTE version. For those who don’t own a smartwatch with your iPhone, definitely buy it. This has all the bells and whistles, it performs great, the features are robust, practical yet informative, intuitive, and with Apple’s line apps and experience, a smartwatch isn’t gimmicky anymore, it’s a serious extension of your smartphone. If I were you, I highly recommend this if you’re in the Apple ecosystem. I’m Jimmy with Jim’s Review Room, and the work we do here is to help you make that purchase decision. You guys take care.
[table id=5 hide_columns=”all” show_columns=”a,b,c,d,h” /]