Apple unveiled its new Apple Watch Series 3 smartwatch at a press event on 12 Sept, alongside new iPhones and the Apple TV 4K. The Apple Watch 3 is now available to buy. (We're already thinking about the Series 4, in fact.)
The Series 3 looks the same as the Series 2 (no bad thing as far as we're concerned), so those dreams of a round watch face have been crushed. But there are some major changes under the hood. In this article we cover the specs, new features, release date and pricing of the Apple Watch Series 3.
The biggest change, of course, is the fact it can now support LTE - though there have been some connectivity issues reported ahead of launch.
The overall design, as we've said, is the same as the Series 2. (It's also water-resistant to 50m, same as the Series 2.) But Apple did mention some new aesthetic options, including new colour options, finishes and straps.
The Digital Crown is now finished in a red accent, which is rather smart. This is limited to the cellular models; the GPS-only models still have the Digital Crown in the same colour as the case.
There's a new gold aluminium finish, along with silver and space black stainless steel, and a new Sport Loop that Apple describes as light, stretchy and breathable; we look forward to trying that out.
There are new Nike Plus colours, and new Hermes watch face styles and bands.
Finally, Apple has supplemented the classic (and rather expensive) white ceramic watch with a new dark grey ceramic model. This is paired with a new two-tone Sport Band.
As expected, the flagship feature of the new Apple Watch is cellular. You'll be able to get a data connection on your watch even if you leave the companion iPhone at home.
It features an LTE and UMTS cellular radio that switches automatically to cellular when you're away from the companion iPhone.
Apple highlighted the following apps and use cases that will benefit from this feature:
- Running: You can go for a run with just your watch and still be contactable, because...
- Calls: You can receive a call with just your watch. The number is the same as your iPhone
- iMessage (note that you cannot send SMS texts without the iPhone, however)
- Siri now works anywhere
- Find My Friends switches to your watch's location automatically when away from your phone
- WeChat works away from your phone
- Apple Music lets you stream 40 million songs on your wrist
Practically speaking, you'll want to know about the SIM and the antenna. Well, there's no physical SIM - it's an electronic SIM or eSIM that's one percent of the size of a traditional SIM - and the display acts as the antenna, both the transmitting and receiving element.
To use cellular features on the Series 3 you need to sign up with one of the small number of providers who are able to offer watch plans in each launch country. In the UK that means EE - which, according to the company, is "the only network with the technology in place to offer Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular capability in the UK".
(You will also need to be using an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE or later handset.)
You can buy the watch from EE on a 24-month unlimited-data contract, which will set you back £25 a month plus an upfront charge of anything from zero to £160, depending on which model you want. Alternatively, you can buy the watch from somewhere else (such as Apple), paying £329 or more for the device up front, and then add it to the EE plan your phone is on; this will add an extra £5 tariff per month, with the first six months free.
Note that EE does not offer roaming for Apple Watch Series 3, and that call minutes and texts are taken from your iPhone's allowance.
Unfortunately, early reports suggest there are some issues with the LTE capability. According to a Reuters report, Apple has admitted its new Watch has LTE connectivity issues when it encounters an open Wi-Fi network, such as those offered in cafes and restaurants.
Poor battery life when using the new watch for making calls has also been criticised - some saying it drops from 18 hours to just an hour.
Apple says the connectivity problems will be fixed and rolled out in a future software update.
iFixit, the popular tech teardown site, has ripped a lovely new LTE Apple Watch apart to see what's inside, and how easy it is to repair. At 6/10, you'll be able to get the screen and battery replaced fairly easily, but other damage might be tricky.
Siri on the Apple Watch can now speak out loud. We're not sure why this wasn't possible before. And Apple says Siri is faster on the Series 3, thanks to the S3 chip, and of course can be used away from your iPhone.
There are still some gaps, but we now know the Apple Watch Series 3's key tech specs.
S3 dual-core processor
Apple says the new S3 processor offers 70 percent faster performance than the last generation - apps opening quicker, smoother graphics. It's also supposed to make Siri faster to use.
W2 wireless chip
This offers a claimed 85 percent faster Wi-Fi, and is supposed to be 50 percent more power-efficient for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
One of the biggest worries about adding cellular connectivity to a smartwatch is battery life. Apple claims we don't need to worry, and that the Apple Watch Series 3 still offers all-day battery life, which the company specifies as 18 hours.
Our experience with the Apple Watch Series 2 was more like two-day battery life, however, so we're not totally convinced this is as good. Stay tuned for battery testing as soon as we've got review samples.
This is a new introduction for the Apple Watch, and enables the device to offer distance climbed (flights of stairs inside, elevation gained outside) in workouts.
Apple first said that the Series 3 is the same size as the Series 2, which is impressive given the additional componentry that it contains - but then conceded that actually the back crystal is 0.25mm thicker. But that shouldn't be noticeable.
Which iPhones are compatible with the Apple Watch 3?
EE has warned that "to take advantage of the Apple Watch 3's cellular capability, it has to be used with an iPhone 6 or later, on an EE Pay Monthly or SIM Only plan". EE has the exclusive data provider contract with the Apple Watch 3, for now at least.
The Apple Watch Series 3 was announced on 12 Sept, and the watches are now available to buy - here's our guide to where you can buy it in the UK.
Many customers received long predicted shipping times when they ordered, frequently stretching well into October. However, reports now suggest that Apple was pessimistic with these estimates, and a lot of buyers have received their watches, or at least shipping confirmations, earlier than expected.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is launching initially in the US, Canada, Australia, China, Japan, the UK, Germany and France. If you're in the UK you'll need to be on EE to use the Series 3 cellular; you can buy it from EE here, but they're only offering it on an expensive plan, so you might be better buying the watch itself from elsewhere.
Here's the Apple Watch Series 3's starting price tags in the UK:
- Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS, no cellular): from £329
- Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + cellular): from £399
It's a straight one-for-one translation of the US prices:
- Apple Watch Series 3 (no cellular): from $329
- Apple Watch Series 3 (cellular): from $399
The Series 1 remains on sale with a price cut, now starting at £249/$249. The Series 2 seems to have been quietly dropped from sale, which is a shame (it's one of our favourite Apple products of all time), but you can get all the benefits of that device at a decent price, plus the new processor and wireless chip, by going for the Series 3 without cellular.
Full UK pricing
Here's the full range. Remember that you can browse all the options and buy on Apple's website.
|Case||Strap||38mm, GPS||42mm, GPS||38mm, cellular||42mm, cellular|
|Silver Aluminium||Fog Sport Band||£329||£359||£399||£429|
|Gold Aluminium||Pink Sand Sport Band||£329||£359||£399||£429|
|Space Grey Aluminium||Grey Sport Band||£329||£359||£399||£429|
|Space Grey Aluminium||Black Sport Band||£329||£359||£399||£429|
|Silver Aluminium||Seashell Sport Loop||n/a||n/a||£399||£429|
|Gold Aluminium||Pink Sand Sport Loop||n/a||n/a||£399||£429|
|Space Grey Aluminium||Dark Olive Sport Loop||n/a||n/a||£399||£429|
|Stainless Steel||Soft White Sport Band||n/a||n/a||£599||£649|
|Space Black Stainless Steel||Black Sport Band||n/a||n/a||£599||£649|
|Stainless Steel||Milanese Loop||n/a||n/a||£699||£749|
|Space Black Stainless Steel||Space Black Milanese Loop||n/a||n/a||£749||£799|
|Silver Aluminium||Pure Platinum/Black Nike Sport Band||£329||£359||£399||£429|
|Space Grey Aluminium||Anthracite/Black Nike Sport Band||£329||£359||£399||£429|
|Silver Aluminium||Bright Crimson/Black Nike Sport Loop||n/a||n/a||£399||£429|
|Space Grey Aluminium||Black/Pure Platinum Nike Sport Loop||n/a||n/a||£399||£429|
|Stainless Steel||Hermès Noir Gala Leather Rallye||n/a||n/a||n/a||£1,299|
|Stainless Steel||Hermès Marine Gala Éperon d'Or||n/a||n/a||£1,199||£1,249|
|Stainless Steel||Hermès Indigo Swift Double Tour||n/a||n/a||£1,299||n/a|
|Stainless Steel||Hermès Fauve Barenia Double Tour||n/a||n/a||£1,299||n/a|
|Stainless Steel||Hermès Indigo Swift||n/a||n/a||n/a||£1,199|
|Stainless Steel||Hermès Fauve Barenia||n/a||n/a||£1,149||£1,199|
|Stainless Steel||Hermès Ébène Barenia Deployment Buckle||n/a||n/a||n/a||£1,399|
|Stainless Steel||Hermès Fauve Barenia Deployment Buckle||n/a||n/a||n/a||£1,399|
|White Ceramic||Soft White/Pebble Sport Band||n/a||n/a||£1,299||£1,349|
|Grey Ceramic||Grey/Black Sport Band||n/a||n/a||£1,299||£1,349|
Podcast: Discussing the Apple Watch Series 3
In episode 71, the UK Tech Weekly Podcast team discuss all the announcements at Apple's 12 Sept press event, including (from 18:15) the Apple Watch Series 3. Listen to their thoughts and opinions below: