Thanks to the weekend, I’ve been using some extra time to test out the new Apple Watch and use it in situations that I might normally not try out if left to my own devices. So far, so good, as my battery life and connectivity have performed as good or better than expected.
If you have owned a Series 0 or Series 1 Apple Watch and skipped the Series 2, you should notice a big improvement in the brightness and clarity of the Series 3’s screen. I have been quite pleased so far, especially when using the new Watch outside. It is much brighter, and the colors seem to pop a little more because of it. Also, this boost in brightness doesn’t seem to come at a cost to battery life, which is even better.
This isn’t a feature I was willing to buy the Series 2 over the 1 for last year, but it is another benefit of upgrading to the Series 3 for other reasons.
The independent GPS is another feature that I bypassed in the Series 2 to go with the less expensive Series 1. I am on my feet a ton these days, and I have started lifting weights again, but I have never been a runner, so I didn’t need this feature when the Series 2 was released. Still, it is another feature that is nice to have, as it pairs perfectly with LTE to make the Series 3 a completely independent device.\ when you need it to be.
I once again used the Watch as my primary communication device for long stretches today, and I was pleased with the fact that I can use Maps on the Watch independently from my iPhone. I already enjoy using Maps with my Watch because it is perfect for getting turn reminders while driving without having to take my eyes off the road, as well as being very handy for getting walking directions in an unfamiliar city.
However, the ability to get these Maps directions independently opens up new possibilities. This obviously makes it possible to leave your iPhone behind for a run, but there are other applications, as well. I used Maps on my wrist extensively when my wife and I went to New Orleans for our anniversary a couple of months ago, but doing it still relied on my iPhone and drained its battery as a result. I was able to work around it, but since I was using my iPhone as my camera on the trip, I was having to pay attention and turn off Maps navigation as soon as I knew where to go. Now, I can keep the Maps navigation going exclusively on my Watch by disabling Bluetooth on my iPhone and forcing the Watch to work independently. This will allow me to save my iPhone’s battery for all those vacation pictures in the future. Again, this alone isn’t a reason to upgrade, but I am happy to have this capability as another bonus.
I never paid much attention to what type of connectivity my Watch was using until I got the Series 3, and I think that is exactly how Apple wants us users to approach it. They have set things up to work in the background so the connection doesn’t have to be managed at all by the wearer. However, the added option of LTE has a way of getting you to think about how the Watch is setup to deal with switching between communication methods. We all know there is a bug affecting WiFi, which I touched on yesterday, and that had me trying to test and see if I could get my Watch’s communication to fail in a similar way.
What I found was that, not only could I not reproduce this bug, but I also couldn’t connect to WiFi at all. I either put my iPhone in Airplane Mode or turned it completely off several times, but even though both my home WiFi network and my parents’ network are set up on my phone, my Watch would bypass them and go straight to LTE. I researched online and asked some questions, but it was good old trial and error that finally got it to work.
Rather than going the Airplane Mode or turning the iPhone completely off route, I left it on and just disabled Bluetooth. This severed the direct connection between the phone and Watch, but it left my phone on the WiFi network that my Watch ultimately connected to. I couldn’t find any explicit information on how to get the connection established the first time, but I think the path I stumbled on here may be the key. That, or my Watch’s WiFi feature was struggling with a bug. What I can say is that, once I did this, WiFi worked at both locations from then on out, no matter how I broke the connection to my iPhone. No matter whether my iPhone is off, in Airplane Mode, or the Bluetooth is disabled, the WiFi connection comes online quickly.
Battery Life Update
I have had a good experience with battery life, so far. Yesterday, I made it to the end of the day with 59% battery left.
I did use my Watch independently several times yesterday, but none of my use was very intense other than one short period when I was trying out apps with the LTE connection. Once I got WiFi working, the battery drain was minimal.
Today, I turned my iPhone completely off after Church and switched over to using the Watch exclusively for several hours. My class at Church had a picnic after services, so I used the Watch for directions to the park, and to make several calls (more than I expected- I’m not a fan of taking calls using my wrist and I didn’t have my headset with me today). We were at the park for a couple of hours, and then I used it for directions on the way home.
Then I went to the store after returning home, and decided to keep rolling with the Watch. I grabbed my AirPods and listened to music while driving and shopping, and used Reminders on my Watch to check items off the list. It all worked very well, and I didn’t have any issues.
At 8 PM this evening, I have my phone back online, and my Watch is back to being connected to it, as usual. As you can see in the screenshot above, I still have 51% battery remaining. So, even though my Watch flew solo for several hours today, and I actually used it a decent amount for ordinary tasks, it held up pretty well.
One thing I can point out after my solo Watch tests over the past two days is that, there is something oddly relaxing about leaving the phone behind in favor of the Watch. I have said before in other articles that the Apple Watch is more tool than toy. It is designed for specific purposes, and isn’t really made to “fiddle with” or continually run apps on the same way that a smartphone is. In this way, when you don’t need the phone, it disconnects you from the distractions and “idle away” time that comes with it. However, you aren’t completely disconnected since the Watch still provides all of the essentials- phone, messaging, GPS, notifications, and some basic apps. It also gives you access to Music and some other nice value-adds, as well.
You won’t catch me going Watch-only during the week because my job demands the faster and fuller access to the Internet and services that my iPhone provides. However, I can definitely see myself doing this on weekends to at least partially disconnect for a while. The Series 3 Watch works well enough and has good enough battery life to pull this kind of use off just fine.
I’ll be back soon, with more. Until then, have a great start to the new work week, everyone. As always, if you have questions or comments, you can leave in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.