Apple Watch Series 3 Review Roundup: watchOS 4 Stands Out Even With Spotty LTE Reliability


One of Apple’s biggest announcements from this year’s September event was the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE, which, as the name suggests, packs in a cellular connection.

With an electronic SIM card embedded inside, the Apple Watch Series 3 should help alleviate some of the requirement that your smartwatch must be connected to your smartphone, but in reviews for the wearable it looks like that may still be a requirement, as the cellular connectivity on the Series 3 with LTE seems to be spotty for many people who have tried it ahead of the public launch later this week.

We’ve compiled several different snippets from reviews from some of the largest publications out there, with links to each of the full reviews below. If you’re on the fence with the next big upgrade to Apple’s smartwatch lineup, it’s certainly worth taking a look.

The Verge

“There is one new aspect of the Apple Watch that’s worth two thumbs up, and that’s the new watchOS 4 software. Luckily, this is something that will roll out to all Apple Watches, not just Series 3 Watches. If there’s one thing that can be said about the Apple Watch, it’s that Apple has consistently upgraded its software each year to make this tiny touchscreen a lot easier to use. And this year is no exception.

An Apple Watch with built-in cellular capabilities, should, in theory, prompt existential questions about what a smartwatch can be. Is it no longer just an accessory to the iPhone? Is it still an accessory to the phone, but a much more independent gadget? Is a cellular modem on the wrist something that could eventually replace the cell service we have on the phone? Does any of that even make sense considering that you still have to have an iPhone to set up an Apple Watch?

But in order for that philosophizing to occur, something else has to happen first: the thing has to work. Apple promises magic over and over again with its products, and in this case, that magic is supposed to happen when you step outside without your phone and can rest easy knowing that important calls and messages will still go through.”

TechCrunch

“As for LTE, if I were buying a new Apple Watch right now, I’d have to give the whole thing a serious deliberation. The price gulf between $329 and $399 isn’t insignificant for most of us. But more to the point, the additional $10 a month you’ll be adding to your plan definitely adds up. Granted, it’s a couple of cups of coffee, but these days, $10 a month service fees are starting to consume a pretty sizable portion of our paychecks.

But if that’s the one thing standing between you and a little more phoneless freedom in your life, perhaps it’s worth the price of admission. We can all probably benefit from cutting our caffeine intake.”

The Wall Street Journal

“Most worryingly, my colleague Geoffrey Fowler and I experienced cellular connectivity issues on three separate pre-production models, in two different states, on two different 4G LTE carriers.

On the AT&T-connected models, the cellular connection dropped, calls were often choppy and Siri sometimes failed to connect. On the one that ran on T-Mobile, I experienced several dropped connections.”

Daring Fireball

“With the addition of cellular networking in Series 3, Apple Watch gains something essential: independence. It’s not just a cool feature. It’s aimed smack dab in the middle of the two things people like best about Apple Watch: notifications and fitness. When are you separated from your iPhone? When you’re exercising. What do you miss most when you’re away from your phone? Messages and phone calls.

Audio quality for phone calls on the watch is very good. People I called via the watch said I sounded great, and I could hear them loud and clear. And all of my testing of phone calls on the watch took place mid-day on busy city streets — full of traffic and pedestrians — here in Philadelphia. People won’t know you’re calling them from your watch if you don’t tell them.”

New York Times

“The value of the cellular capabilities on the Apple Watch is questionable considering the price you pay each month.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless, for example, charge a network access fee of $10 a month to share your phone plan’s texts, minutes and data with an Apple Watch. That’s about the same as a Spotify subscription, but with the exception of avid joggers and gym rats, people may not use the cellular features frequently enough. Hopefully, over time, Apple will negotiate with carriers to bring the monthly rate down.

Although I think most people can skip buying the cellular model, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smart watch I can confidently recommend that people buy. While I don’t personally find it attractive enough to replace my wristwatch, the new Apple Watch is a well-designed, durable and easy-to-use fitness tracker for people who want analytics on their workouts and general health (R.I.P., Fitbit).”

WIRED

“The Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smartwatch I’ve ever used that felt like something more. Paired with a set of Bluetooth headphones (AirPods or otherwise), it becomes an awesome evolution of the iPod. Once you spend a few minutes culling your notifications, it’s a useful way to stay connected without being distracted. It hasn’t made me throw my phone out, but now I walk the dog and run out for coffee without it, because I can even pay from my wrist. I go to the gym without my phone, which means I actually work out now instead of just sitting on the bench staring at Twitter. The Watch finally does free me from my phone, at least sometimes.

That said, it’s still not a perfect device. The battery remains the biggest limitation, and the Watch still needs more and better apps, and a simpler interface. And, for the love of everything holy, Apple needs to make a Watch with a screen that’s always on. But whether you’re a hyper-connected hyper-marathoner, or just looking for a few minutes away from the attention-sucking din of your iPhone, this is the first Watch that really works.”

While many reviews point out that they had issues with calling in general from the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE, others don’t seem to have any issues at all. Some believe that the battery life is going to be an issue for a lot of future owners, and even Apple confirmed the wearable has only one hour of talk time, but talking on the phone, let alone from a smartwatch, for an hour might not be a big deal for most.

Still, Apple has also confirmed it is addressing LTE issues in its newest smartwatch, so those issues that reviewers have had so far should be fixed soon.

Are you planning on picking up an Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE or without LTE?