Reviews: Wearables

Apple Watch Series 3 sees significant upgrades

With watchOS 4, the Series 3 can track multiple types of exercises in a single workout. WatchOS 4 also provides deeper insights into your heart rate.
With watchOS 4, the Series 3 can track multiple types of exercises in a single workout. WatchOS 4 also provides deeper insights into your heart rate. PHOTO: APPLE

Its processor is 70% faster, the wireless chip more power efficient - and Siri even speaks

The Apple Watch Series 3, as its name implies, is the third generation of the Cupertino tech giant's smartwatch series.

It replaces the Series 2, which has been discontinued.

DESIGN

The Series 3 looks exactly like the first-generation models. The watch face remains rectangular with a Digital Crown and a Side Button on its right. No round watch face - yet.

It still comes in two sizes, in 38mm and 42mm cases. All of your previous Apple Watch straps will still work with the new smartwatch. So that's a plus.

The improvements come from the inside. The Series 3 now has a faster S3 dual-core processor, said to be 70 per cent faster than its predecessor, and thus enables Apple's voice assistant Siri to speak instead of just giving text responses.

The Series 3 also features an Apple-designed W2 wireless chip, which makes it 50 per cent more power efficient and has 85 per cent faster Wi-Fi performance than the Series 2.

In addition, Series 3 is now equipped with a barometric altimeter that measures elevation so it can count the flights of stairs you have climbed.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: From $498

    CASE MATERIAL: Anodised aluminium

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, GPS

    WEIGHT: 63g (42mm aluminium case with M/L silicon strap)


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

GPS AND GPS + CELLULAR

The Series 3 will be available in two connectivity options - GPS and GPS + Cellular.

Thanks to a built-in embedded SIM, or eSIM, the Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) models will be able to stream music as well as make and receive calls on its own, without being paired to your iPhone.

The bad news: The Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) models will not be available in Singapore when the watches are launched here on Friday. Only the GPS models will be available in Singapore.

Apple still has to work with local telcos to roll out the Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) models, due to the use of eSIM. But the technology is already here - the Samsung Gear S3 frontier (LTE) smartwatch uses Singtel's or StarHub's eSIM. Apple did say the GPS + Cellular models will be coming soon but did not provide a timeline.

I have tried many cellular smartwatches before and never warmed up to the idea of talking like Dick Tracy. Plus, having an additional subscription fee just for your smartwatch might not be everyone's cup of tea. The only benefit I see is streaming music during runs.

But, with the delay of the Series 3 (GPS + Cellular), it means that the stainless-steel-case Series 3, the high-end Apple Watch Edition and the luxury Apple Watch Hermes will not be available as well. These models come only in the GPS + Cellular version.

Personally, I am more disappointed that I can't buy any of the above-mentioned models than not being able to get a cellular version of the watch.

So, for now, you are limited to buying only the gold, silver and space-grey aluminium case versions in Singapore. We reviewed the 42mm black aluminium model (GPS) with the grey sport band.

PERFORMANCE

The increase in performance is evident when you first pair the Series 3 (GPS) with your iPhone. With my first Apple Watch, I could brew a cup of coffee while waiting for the pairing and installation of all the apps, which takes over an hour.

Now, it all takes no longer than 30min. Tapping on an app in Series 3 and seeing it coming to life immediately is especially fulfilling.

Like the Series 2, the Series 3 (GPS) can track distance and speed for walks and runs without the need to take along your iPhone with its built-in GPS.

It is also water-resistant to a depth of 50m, so it can track your pool or open-water swims.

In my tests, the new smartwatch was spot-on in tracking the distance of jogs as well as the laps and distance of my swims.

You do need to input the length of the pool first before you start swimming. But it will automatically detect your stroke type, swim distance, number of laps done, lap times, calories and even your average heart rate. The nice thing is that it knows when you take a rest during laps and will not count your rest time when computing the pace.

With watchOS 4, the Series 3 can track multiple types of exercises in a single workout. For example, if you are running and decide to take a fast walk, swipe right on the watch screen and you will see a New option in the resulting window. Tap on New to add a new workout, such as Outdoor Walk. I tried doing multiple exercises, including runs, walks and bikes in a single workout, and the Series 3 tracked all of them without any issues.

In addition, watchOS 4 provides deeper insights into your heart rate. It is able to measure your resting and walking heart rates, so you know how healthy you are.

You can even set the Health app to send you a notification if the smartwatch senses a heart rate that is above a certain level (like 150 beats per min) despite being inactive for 10min. This can potentially save your life.

BATTERY LIFE

As a smartwatch, the Series 3 will probably last you a day and a half with the watch connected to your iPhone and with notifications enabled. I would still charge the smartwatch every night.

During outdoor workouts with GPS turned on but not connected to an iPhone, the battery life can drop to 80 per cent within an hour.

• Verdict: If you bought the Series 2 last year, you can hold the upgrade by just installing watchOS 4. But if you are still using the original Apple Watch, you might want to get the Series 3 as the features and performance upgrade are significant - unless, you want to wait for the cellular version.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Apple Watch Series 3 sees significant upgrades'. Print Edition | Subscribe