- Cellular support
- Excellent health tracking
- Same sleek design
- Not much of an upgrade
- Confusing number of models
The third Apple Watch is far from an essential upgrade, unlike last year’s Series 2 wearable, although this is still one of the very best smartwatches that you can buy in 2017.
Apple may have been late to the smart wearable game, launching its original and simply-titled Watch after the likes of Samsung and Sony were working on second or third-generation devices. All the same, the Cupertino company has more than made up for lost time, massively improving on that first smartwatch with subsequent follow-ups.
The Apple Watch Series 2 was a huge and successful leap, in terms of the hardware on offer. Full water resistance and built-in GPS tracking made it much more desirable to fitness fans, as well as the everyday user; after all, we’ve all had that moment where we forget to slip our watch off before tackling the dishes.
There was quite a gap between the first and second Watch models, while the Series 3 has been released a standard twelve months following the previous gen. This time the updates aren’t quite as numerous, or essential. The biggest new feature is its cellular support, via the eSIM that’s packed inside the dinky chassis. This allows you to get online even when the Watch isn’t connected to WiFi or your phone, which can certainly be handy under certain circumstances – although also costs a bit of extra cash.
I’ve had the Apple Watch Series 3 strapped to my arm for almost a fortnight and so far I’m a fan, even if Series 2 owners have little reason to upgrade.
Apple Watch Series 3 Review: Design
If you already own an Apple Watch, there’s not really much to say here; the third iteration is very much business as usual, sporting the same selection of premium finishes and special editions as the Series 2.
I rocked the standard Aluminium 42mm model, which is still as gorgeous as ever. That curved body is a little chunky although not to any serious degree. Neither is it oppressively hefty, so it won’t weigh your arm down. Reassuringly, the glass face and those metal edges are suitably tough too, so you shouldn’t see any scratches even after bashing the thing around by accident. Phew.
Every model is once again water resistant too, and I happily took the Watch for a lengthy swim with no ill effects.
You get a rubber Sport Strap as standard, which is great for exercise as your skin doesn’t get irritated, no matter how much you sweat. However, you can swap out for any other compatible band in just a few seconds, with a massive selection on offer. You can’t beat the leather straps for a night out, which add a touch of elegance; plus, you can pick up all kinds of colour finishes, to suit your mood or dress.
You can of course pick up the Watch Series 3 in stainless steel or ceramic as well, plus a smaller 38mm size. Check out our which Apple Watch is best for me guide to see all of your options.
The only proper change as far as aesthetics are concerned is the red highlighting on the dial, found on the cellular-ready models. This looked a little strange on my space grey model with black leather strap, as the bright hue stands out in stark contrast to the otherwise monochrome finish. You get used to it soon enough, though.
Slick looks and tough design, plus some pretty impressive customisation, means the Series 3 is ahead of the competition for design.
If you want to branch out from the standard aluminium watch, you’ll need to empty your wallet. Plus, with that much choice on offer, we reckon a lot of consumers will be confused about which model to buy.
Apple Watch Series 3 Review: Display
Nothing has changed when it comes to the dinky OLED Retina display, which doesn’t surprise. After all, last year’s Watch panel was bright, crisp and boasted perfect clarity from any angle, handy when you want a sneaky glance of your latest notification without making it too obvious.
The 42mm Series 3 once again sports a 390×312 resolution, which keeps photos and text nice and sharp. You’ll need eyes like an owl to spy any individual pixels here. Colours are reasonably punchy too, without appearing artificial.
If you’re long sighted, you can thankfully boost the text size as usual too.
Crisp and clearly legible, there’s nothing to dislike about the Apple Watch’s display.
Apple Watch Series 3 Review: Features
While the base £329 model of Apple Watch Series 3 comes packing WiFi support only, the £399 model offers full support for cellular connectivity. To use this you’ll have to be on EE in the UK and adding the Watch to your contract costs an extra fiver per month.
Is it worth that extra outlay, both up-front and on a regular basis? Well, that depends on what you want to use this wearable for. If you own one of Apple’s bigger iPhones (pretty much any recent model) and want to leave it behind when you hit the gym or pound the pavement, that connectivity is certainly reassuring. You can keep on receiving notifications, make and receive calls and so on, even without that tethering. And as it all works through your standard number, things are kept nice and simple.
If you never leave your phone behind, then that connectivity isn’t going to add any real value. If you lose signal on your phone, your watch won’t be able to get connected either, as they both run off the same EE network.
One of the other new features is the built-in Altimeter, which ties nicely into the Watch’s health tracking. You can now see how many flights you’ve climbed over the course of the day, using just the wearable’s sensors. As I work on the top floor of my office with only a single super-slow lift on offer, it’s always gratifying to see my countless stair climbs being recorded (especially on those days where I don’t manage to escape from the building).
The Watch Series 3 can of course monitor your other vital stats, such as how far you’ve walked and any exercise you indulge in. Apple’s Workout app is better than ever, with the ability to quickly swap between two types of fitness tracking without backing out and starting a whole new session. And heart rate monitoring is now constant, so you can see exactly how your pulse changed over the course of a day.
That last feature is now trained to detect any abnormalities, to alert you to any issues you might otherwise not even know about. Possibly a life saver, alongside the nifty SOS feature. Meanwhile the Watch can also track your recovery rate over time, to see if all of your hard work is paying off.
In addition the Watch has plenty of other smarts, all packed inside of Apple’s own WatchOS 4 software. This isn’t quite as satisfying to navigate as some rivals, such as Samsung’s own wearable UI, but we can’t fault it for functionality. We especially approve of the new Siri watch face, which offers all of your useful info at a quick glance and can learn your daily habits to improve what’s shown. You can now call up Apple’s smart assistant at any time and get a spoken response too, which is handy when you’re rushing around and can’t glance at the screen; such as when you’re driving, for instance.
Check out our full WatchOS 4 tips and tricks guide to see more about the software side of things.
You get a full range of smart sensors, intelligent health monitoring and lots of third-party app support. Apple is constantly updating the WatchOS as well, to improve and add new features.
The Apple Watch UI could use some work as it’s not as intuitive or satisfying to navigate as some rivals. Plus, Series 2 owners have little incentive to upgrade, with the addition of cellular support proving the only significant change.
Apple Watch Series 3 Review: Battery life
Even with that bonus connectivity, the Series 3 Watch manages to maintain the respectable battery life of the previous generation. On a full charge, this wearable always lasted me from around 6am to bedtime the following evening. You’ll only need to charge it up every other night, even with a fair bit of activity tracking and app play.
The battery powers up pretty quick using the magnetic charging cable too. Even a quick 30 minutes at the plug is enough to give you around half charge, when needed.
You’ll make it to bed every day without running out of charge, even with plenty of activity tracking.
As ever, we’d like a smartwatch that can last a long weekend (i.e. a minimum of three days) without needing a charge. You won’t find something this smart with that kind of longevity just yet, however.
Apple Watch Series 3 Review: Verdict
The Series 3 Watch isn’t an essential upgrade for Series 2 owners, unless you’re desperate for that cellular connectivity to free you from your smartphone. However, for owners of the original Apple Watch and anyone who’s yet to make the jump to smartwatches, this is a solid purchase.
Smart activity and health tracking, premium design work and loads of helpful features make this a great device, and a handy iPhone companion.
You can pick up the Apple Watch Series 3 in a variety of models right now. Check out our ‘which Apple Watch is best for me’ comparison to work out your ideal wrist rocket.