Apple has announced the third iteration of the Apple Watch, unveiling the new wearable at its September 2017 event at the Steve Jobs Theatre, alongside the launch of the iPhone X and the iPhone 8.
Apple took the time to tell us that the Apple Watch is now the number 1 watch, so the company is obviously seeing some success, although there's no clarification of exactly what "number 1" means.
Much remains the same as the existing devices, but there are also some important changes. This is the new Apple Watch, and it's more Dick Tracy than ever before.
Apple Watch Series 3 preview: Design
- Design stays the same
- Red dot on digital crown
- New colour options
The design of the Apple Watch Series 3 stays the same, with no noticeable difference to the Series 2 currently available, aside from a red dot on the digital crown. That dot symbolises the new cellular 4G functionality added to this year's version, and will be the badge of honour, with Apple fans able to show that they've got the new features.
In addition to the silver or grey colours available on the Series 2, Apple Watch Series 3 now comes in a new gold aluminium, along with silver or space black stainless steel cases as before.
For those with a bit more money, Apple will now offer a grey ceramic model to sit next to the white version. The grey ceramic model comes across more as a gunmetal grey in the flesh and will certainly appeal to those who feel the white model was a bit to "clean".
Also new is a choice of new bands to go with the new models. There's now a woven Nylon and the bright colours will certainly appeal. With zero design changes to the case the bands you have collected so far will still fit.
Apple Watch Series 3 preview: 4G connectivity
- EE exclusive in the UK
- No need for iPhone
- Will work with your current contract
One of the new stand-out features of the Watch Series 3 is 4G connectivity allowing you to ditch your iPhone completely (apart from the initial set-up of the Watch 3). The new watch features a full 4G LTE and UMTS cellular radio antenna hidden in the display that kicks into action the moment you step away from your iPhone.
Exclusive to EE in the UK at launch - although promised to come to other networks such as Vodafone and O2 as soon as possible - the system works by insisting you share the same number as your iPhone. It's this move that means you don't need to have a second number, but also means the Watch Series 3 doesn't have an interchangeable SIM you can swap out at a whim.
The built-in eSIM is over one-hundredth of the size of a traditional SIM and that's one of the reasons Apple hasn't needed to increase the size of the device. Other 4G-enabled devices, like the Huawei Watch 2 for example, take a nano SIM, so need to give space over to that card and the tray it sits in.
In the UK EE will charge customers an additional £5 a month to enable the connectivity.
In use the 4G connectivity can be used to make calls, to receive messages, stream Apple Music, or access maps. The call interface is basic but easy to use. You'll get a number pad, but the bigger use case is likely to be favourite contacts. We've made calls on the Watch Series 2 before (tethered to the iPhone) and the experience is okay - in desperate moments - but when paired with the AirPods a much better overall experience.
But we also know from using other 4G smartwatches that the freedom to leave the phone at home really makes a difference, to a certain group of people. Granted, it's most useful for sporty types who want to run or ride and still have access to things like messaging and maps. In those situations, this new freedom is really useful.
Apple Watch Series 3 preview: Upgraded power
- New S3 processor
- New W2 processor
- Barometric altimeter
While the design doesn't change, Apple has made plenty of changes inside. Powering Apple Watch Series 3 is the S3, Apple's third-generation dual-core processor. The new upgrade helps app launch times and smoother graphics and brings talking Siri to the watch using the built-in speaker.
The company has also improved the wireless processor too. The W2 chip, says Apple, delivers 85 per cent faster Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and is 50 per cent more efficient, something that will no doubt help the Apple Watch when being used with 4G on. In daily use the Apple Watch Series 2 happily lasts more than a day, so we don't expect battery life to be a problem here, however we will be interested to test this further on review.
The Apple Watch Series 3 also features a barometric altimeter that assists with tracking activity, flights of stairs climbed and outdoor workouts, including elevation gain. The new addition should be really interesting to skiers and boarders or those keen to see how high they've climbed during the day. It's a popular feature on high-end sports watches, like the from Garmin 935 or TomTom Adventurer, giving you more data, ideal for cyclists, for example. We weren't able to test that part in our hands-on demo at the event.
Apple Watch Series 3 preview: Apple Music on your Apple Watch
- Stream Apple Music to the Watch
- Other apps will follow
Those that go for the new "cellular" version of the Apple Watch will be able to now stream Apple Music's 40 million songs on the go without having to use your phone.
There's no word as yet whether this will work with other services like Spotify, but we expect more apps will come over time. It means that you'll be able to get music on the go rather than having to worry about what you've specifically loaded on the device and that's certainly going to appeal to many. New to WatchOS 4 is an improved Apple Music experience with quicker access to playlists and your music.
This will really appeal to the sports set. The ability to stream music means you have plenty of flexibility when it comes to the music you listen to when you're out running. If you want to change the tempo, you can easily switch to something else and again - there's no need to carry your iPhone with you as well.
Apple Watch Series 3 preview: WatchOS 4
- New Watch faces
- Better Heart Rate data
- Improve activity tracking
The Apple Watch will get a number of new software tweaks and features with Watch OS 4 mainly focused on fitness and health with even greater focus on the internal heart rate monitor and the data that it delivers.
The company will now expand the data available to you. Data points will include your resting heart rate, how quick you recover, and if the watch suddenly notices that your heart rate shoots up for no reason, alert you of the fact. Resting heart rate and recovery rate is a common measure of fitness and useful additional data that move the Watch 3 closer to sports watches.
For Atrial Fibrillation suffers, the watch will now help to alert those that suffer and notify users something is wrong, which Apple is hoping should mean the Apple Watch can play a bigger part in identifying heart problems.
On the new Watch face front there are plenty to entertain. A tie-up with Toy Story will see Woody and pals animate their way into your day, while an "Explorer" Watch face will show you your call signal and other "phone centric" shortcuts.
It's faster, quicker, and smoother in its operation, and that's before you add the cellular connectivity to the mix.
Whether you're someone who believes they will benefit from mobile connectivity on the go is something only you can answer. The Apple Watch is still the best smartwatch on the market, and the addition of mobile connectivity on the go only makes that better, especially when you add in the new operating system design tweaks.
Could this be the start of an iPhone free world? Unlikely, but it does mean that you'll be able to ditch the phone in a number of situations, be it on a run, out for dinner, or around the house, and for many that will be a game changer.
The Apple Watch is available in two different case sizes, 38mm and 42mm. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) will be available in gold, silver or space grey aluminium, or silver or space black stainless steel paired with a variety of bands starting at £399.
Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) will be available in gold, silver or space grey aluminium cases with a Sport Band starting at £329.
The Apple Watch Edition's will come in grey or white ceramic will be available starting at £1,299.