If you rewind history back about almost 70 years and look at what Science Fiction writers were predicting technology would bring you would see Jet Packs, flying cars, moon colonies, and colonizing other planets and much more beyond that. While we do not have those yet, they may still be coming in the future. However, back in 1946 there was something that was introduced that many thought may not be possible for a while. This item was coveted by all sorts of people. That item is the “Dick Tracy Watch”. While some may have scoffed at this never happening, particularly back then, it has become a reality.
When Apple began its foray into consumer devices, it was 2001, and the item that was introduced was the original iPod. What nobody would be able to really predict is just how important consumer devices would become not just to Apple, but individuals as well. While the iPod and its successors were successful, by all measures, it was nothing compared to what was to be released in 2007, the original iPhone.
The iPhone has set a new benchmark for not just success, but also how important and transformational a piece of technology can become. The iPhone has changed the entire direction for Apple. While an iPod may by some be considered personal, an iPhone is considerably more personal and contains even more information than an iPod, or even a Mac can. There is an even more personal device that Apple has, the Apple Watch.
While an Apple Watch may not contain nearly as much personal information as someone’s iPhone, the Apple Watch is an even more personal device due to it inherently wearable nature. Apple’s latest iteration is the Apple Watch Series 3. The Apple Watch Series 3 has made some improvements over its predecessors, the Apple Watch Series 2 and the original Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is the third release of the Apple Watch. The original Apple Watch, retroactively dubbed Series 0 by many, was released in April of 2015 and the Apple Watch Series 2 was released in September of 2016. In the last year, it has seen a significant set of upgrades. The first of these improvements being a speed increase.
The actual speed of the Apple Watch has been improved, not just compared to the original Apple Watch, but also over the Apple Watch Series 2; which itself made significant gains over the original Apple Watch. The biggest speed increase is not just in the responsiveness of the operating system, but also in the applications themselves. The speed comes from the new dual-core S3 processor.
The responsiveness of the applications is immediately apparent when you first use the Series 3. Part of the new S3 processor includes the new W2 wireless chip. While there are no other products that use the W2, it is likely designed to improve battery life, which is needed for the Series 3, not just because of the faster speed, but because the Series 3 also comes in a Cellular model.
The biggest change to the Series 3 is the inclusion of an LTE chip, in one of the models. The inclusion of LTE allows for more possibilities for the Apple Watch. The biggest benefit of a Series 3 Apple Watch with LTE is that it can be completely independent of an iPhone. The LTE model of the Apple Watch Series 3 requires carrier support. The way it operates, at least through AT&T, is by creating an additional line on your account, and then the carrier will send any message, phone calls, or other items to both your Apple Watch and iPhone simultaneously.
One of the benefits of the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE capable of being independent is that you can go off and perform errands, go perform some exercise, or just about anything else. The LTE connection on the Apple Watch with Series 3 is a full-fledged LTE connection. What this means is that the Apple Watch Series 3 is able to stream Apple Music directly from the watch. What this means is that you now stream any of the 40 million songs within the Apple Music catalog. As a note, this requires watchOS 4.1 in order to work, which should be coming within the next few weeks.
Since an LTE radio takes up more power than wireless. In order to maintain battery life the LTE radio will not be used when the Apple Watch is near its paired iPhone nor when it is connected to a known wireless network, even without your phone present. This behavior should result in all of your Apple Watch applications being capable of operating normally without your iPhone. However, in practice, this is not always the case.
The synchronization of numbers between your iPhone and Apple Watch is the final piece of the puzzle for the Apple Watch to become the “Dick Tracy Watch” that was so desired in the past. Yes, you can actually make phone calls on your Apple Watch. While this was possible with previous Apple Watches, the non-LTE versions require your iPhone in order to do so. This is not the case with the LTE version. The LTE version can make standalone phone calls without the need for a phone.
Imagine being able to travel back in time to let a child of 1940s and 1950s and say “Hey kid, you know how Dick Tracy can call people and do all sorts of things with his watch? Give it some time, you can be able to do that too”. If the kid had any imagination, I am sure the kid’s eyes would bulge and their imagination would run wild.
Despite all of the benefits of LTE, there are a couple of caveats regarding it.
One of the current downsides of LTE being new is that many of the applications on the Apple Watch are not designed with LTE in mind. This is due to many applications looking for the iPhone. The reasoning for this is likely due to many applications requiring information from the parent application on an iPhone. The only way for these applications to be fixed is for the developers to make adjustments to their applications to take into account the possibility that an Apple Watch will not be near wireless nor near its parent iPhone. The method that this takes will depend on the application.
While being able to listen to music while out exercising, and to be clear this is likely a significant percentage of the Apple Watch user base. Yet there is another percentage of Apple Watch users that would prefer to listen to podcasts. Right now, this is not easily possible. This means that Apple will have to make some software improvements in order to allow software developers to make podcast applications that work reliably work on the Apple Watch in a standalone manner. It is likely that Apple is working towards this and the ability to stream music is just the beginning of making the Apple Watch completely standalone.
The Red Dot
When anyone begins to imagine and design things, they tend to look at and refine every aspect of their design. One of the design aesthetics of the LTE version of the Apple Watch Series 3 has been contentious. The choice is the red button on the digital crown. Some of the arguments are that one does not want to be “advertising” the fact that they have a distinct version. Another is that it does not match any of the watches. To me, it makes no difference. In my use of the Apple Watch Series 3, it is not really noticeable. The only way that I even notice is if I am holding my hand up and happen to look down towards my watch.
I think that the red button on the Digital Crown actually serves two purposes. The first is to actually distinguish it as an LTE version, not only to Apple Watch users but also to Apple itself. Knowing that an Apple Watch is an LTE model with just a glance will help when it comes to diagnosing and repairing an Apple Watch.
If you do have an Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE and you really do not like the red button on the Digital Crown, there is a solution. A company called WatchDots has created some decals that can cover both the side button as well as the Digital Crown. You can get these in a variety of colors for $9.99 each. There have been some other improvements as well.
There is one last distinctive feature of the LTE version of the Apple Watch Series 3. The LTE models have 16GB of storage in them, instead of the standard 8GB. The internal storage difference is needed to be able to cache songs that are streamed. This will not only save on data usage, but also on battery life. It is much less battery intensive to stream from local storage than it is to download a song over cellular. This is because the cellular radio is not needed if it is already local.
One of the techniques that Apple employs to save battery life is to sync over music that you listen to most often. This is done while the Apple Watch is on the charger and on wireless. You can opt to automatically add music to Apple Watch and it will fill up the storage capacity of the watch. Alternatively, you can manually decide which playlists are copied over to the Apple Watch. I opt to have the 30 most played songs, the songs that are heaviest in my latest rotation, as well as the three Apple Curated playlists: Chill Mix, Favorites Mix, and New Music mix. When you synchronies music over to your Apple Watch, you will be able to play these songs even if you do not have your iPhone nearby. This will make it quite convenient if you are out on a run or just going out without your phone.
One of the huge benefits to an Apple Watch is to be able to use the “Hey Siri” feature. “Hey Siri”, in case you are not aware, is an option that will allow you to ask the Apple voice assistant, Siri, to bring up Siri using just your voice. This is particularly useful on the Apple Watch if your hands are full and you need to turn on a light, or have Siri perform some other action for you.
The Apple Watch Series 3 enhances Siri in a way that has not previously been possible on an Apple Watch. Siri can now reply via voice. In the same manner that LTE changes the Apple Watch, having Siri respond via voice also changes the dynamic of Siri. With previous version of the Apple Watch, Siri was limited to providing on screen feedback as well as via haptics. On a device that does not include a web browser, Siri cannot bring up a webpage. However, now that there is voice feedback, it is possible to get the information you need, when you cannot look at the screen.
Besides the times when you are not able to look at a screen, this also has significant implications for those who have difficult seeing in general. Having voice feedback can provide invaluable information particularly when you only have an LTE Apple Watch and do not have your phone handy.
The Apple Watch LTE makes some noticeable improvements. The biggest of these improvements is in the overall speed of the Apple Watch. This is directly attributable to the internal processor as well as watchOS 4.The addition of LTE will be a game changer going forward and is likely the device that Apple wanted to unveil in September of 2014, but could not because the technology was not in place. The addition of LTE is the start of a new phase for the Apple Watch. The improvements in the hardware has outpaced the software improvements, but that is not to diminish the streamlining of features available on the Apple Watch. After all, it is primarily used by many as a notification and health device. If you are on the fence of whether or not to get the LTE version, it may be best to get the LTE version but not activate the cellular. If you do opt for the non-LTE version of the Apple Watch Series 3, you will not be disappointed by the upgrades, particularly if you are coming from an original Apple Watch.