Like all of the other early risers who wanted to be sure to get their Apple Watch Series 3 orders in, I got my Apple Watches today. I got both the Black Sport with the new Sport Loop band, and the Gold Sport with the Pink Sand Sport Band. I actually meant to order the Gold model with its corresponding Sport Loop, but I think I got a little punchy and mixed up at 2:05 AM. Oops.
The only reason I got two was so that I could get a look at more than one color to review. I also wanted to know if I would like the new Gold color before keeping it. It only took opening the box to figure that out. I really don’t like the new Gold, which is disappointing. It is much more Rose Gold than traditional Gold, which is understandable since that is currently one of Apple’s most preferred colors. So Black it is, and I’m not disappointed at all, as it looks really good paired with the Olive Sport Loop.
First off, I am coming from a Series 1 for reference. I could definitely tell a difference in speed moving from my Series 0 to it. The difference here feels a little smaller, but I can still tell that it’s faster. As long as you have good signal, apps definitely open faster and the whole UI just feels a little snappier. Scrolling is smoother, and there is less lag between pressing the Digital Crown or Side Button and the corresponding action happening.
If you are upgrading from a Series 2, you may not notice much of an increase in speed since it was a bit faster than the Series 1. I noticed the bump from a Series 1 to the new Series 3 today, but your mileage my vary. If you have a Series 0, the speed will probably put a smile on your face.
I can’t go any further without talking about the new signature feature of the Apple Watch Series 3. First of all, setup was a snap. I was presented with a screen in the Apple Watch app on my iPhone during setup of the Watch. You can skip this and go back to it later, or bypass activation altogether. You don’t HAVE to use the LET radio if you choose not to. Anyway, I was taken to an interface for AT&T, and once I logged into my cellular account, I was able to activate the $10/month plan. Those signing up early on get the $25 activation fee and 2 or 3 months waived (this wasn’t very clear on the AT&T screens). Once you are done, you are taken back to the Watch app interface.
As for function, just know that LTE doesn’t run all the time. It is mainly for use when you are away from your phone, and doesn’t engage when you are connected to you iPhone via Bluetooth, or around working WiFi that you have logged into before with your iPhone. To test LTE on the Watch out, I turned my phone off when I went to pick up my son from school today. I popped my AirPods in my ears and linked them up to the Watch and headed out. I took a couple of calls while I was gone, and the call clarity and was spot on. I used the Watch and AirPods to talk to my wife briefly while dropping by the grocery store after getting my son, and I had no issues at all there, either. Even with the noisy environment, the calls were clear and there was no cutting in or out.
Just make sure you have plenty of battery life left before going rogue with the Watch. I was on the phone for several minutes altogether, and the battery meter dropped at least 5 to 7%. I was testing my toy a lot, but this definitely will drain the battery faster than normal. The Watch’s LTE is perfect in a pinch or for a run, gym visit, or trip to the store. However it isn’t going to last you all day if you are talking a lot of calls on it. In fairness, NO smartwatch can pull that off yet. The battery tech to pull that off just isn’t available yet.
Like the Series 2, the Series 3 is bigger than the Series 0 or 1. I can definitely tell a small difference between this Watch and my Series 1. However, since it isn’t much heavier, it doesn’t really affect the feel on my wrist much, which is good. So while I notice that it’s bigger, it isn’t a problem. I’ll gladly take the extra functionality and speed if this is all I have to give up to get it.
The Sport Loop Band
I really like Apple’s new Sport Loop band. The material is soft and comfortable, and the ability to adjust to any position with the Velcro fastener makes the fit perfect. It isn’t as distinctive as a more formal band like the Milanese Loop, and it also isn’t cheap, but I personally think it is a cut above the base model Sport Band in look, feel, and fit.
AirPods and Music
I really haven’t messed with listening to tunes via the Music app on the Watch directly before today. I use it to control the Music app on my iPhone all the time, and I love the new feature in watchOS 4 that opens up the Watch app that corresponds with the app playing media on the phone. I’ve been using that a LOT during the beta period.
Since I’ve never had an incentive to carry the Watch without my phone before today, I’ve never tried the local music features before today. There are a couple of things to be aware of if you haven’t, either. First off, direct Apple Music integration to the Watch is NOT available yet. You can sync over playlists using Apple Music content, but the music has to be stored locally on the Watch before you can listen to it. Another thing to note is that music only syncs to the Watch when it is charging, so it is best to choose your playlists before bed or another time when you leave your Watch on the charger for an extended period.
Once I got some tunes synced over, my music played clearly from the Watch to my AirPods. This setup truly is the new Apple iPod for today’s mobile world. Add in that Apple Music capability that’s coming soon, and you have a really solid combo that takes the idea of a super-small, mobile music player to the next level.
One issue that I ran across playing music was a little bit of cross-talk between the Watch and my iPhone. I am listening to music with my Watch as I am writing this, and my daughter has my phone in the other room. Evidently I was not only listening on my AirPods, but I was also triggering the same music to play on my phone since the two are still connected via Bluetooth. My daughter, who just turned 11 yesterday, definitely doesn’t have the same taste in music as I do, and was wondering how I was hijacking the phone while she was playing a game.
At some point, somehow, I had switched from the Music app on the Watch to the Now Playing interface of the app, which was commanding the phone to interrupt my daughter’s game to play Nickel Creek. Once I went back to the actual Music app on the Watch, I was able to keep my music playing locally without bothering her. This is just something to watch out for if you are trying to use both independently while they are still connected.
This is all for now. I’ll be back with lots of pictures and more details from testing tomorrow. If you also got a Series 3 today, let me know what you think, so far. If you have any questions or anything you would like me to try out for you between now and then, let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.