The first reviews for Apple’s new Apple Watch are out, and the verdict isn’t good.
The new $399 Apple Watch Series 3, which goes on sale Friday, is the first Apple Watch that can work without being tethered to the iPhone, thanks to an LTE connection from your wireless carrier. It’s the one feature Apple Watch users have been asking for since the product launched over two years ago.
But reviewers complained that the Series 3 had issues connecting to LTE, meaning that using Siri, retrieving data, and making phone calls didn’t work on the device when it wasn’t connected to an iPhone. And when LTE did connect, it quickly drained the battery. Some reviewers also experienced dropped calls and other issues related to the cellular connection.
It sounds as though you shouldn’t buy the Apple Watch Series 3 until Apple works out some of these issues. But the Series 3 without the LTE connection ($329) is probably a good option if your main draw to the watch wasn’t the built-in cellular connection.
Here’s a quick roundup of what reviewers are saying:
Lauren Goode of The Verge had problems with LTE data, phone calls, and battery life:
“In one of my initial tests, I went for a walk with the phone on airplane mode, and tried to send text messages and use Siri to initiate phone calls through the Watch. Those didn’t work. I tried asking Siri basic questions. That didn’t work. Siri also wasn’t ‘talking back’ to me, something that’s supposed to be a new feature on the Series 3 Watch.
“Phone calls did sometimes work from the Watch, but I had to manually tap through my contacts or recent calls list on the Watch and initiate the call that way. (Calls through Bluetooth headphones sound good, but the Watch’s built-in audio isn’t ideal for extended conversations.) By 11:42 that morning, after 60 minutes of working out with LTE, multiple attempts to use Siri, and two seven-minute phone calls, the Watch’s battery had drained to 27 percent.”
Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal also said she didn’t recommend the Apple Watch Series 3:
“A cellular device is, sometimes literally, a lifeline. That’s why I can’t recommend the cellular Apple Watch Series 3 until the connectivity is more reliable. Even then, the battery life could be a buzz kill for some.”
Nicole Nguyen of BuzzFeed had a better experience with the Series 3:
“The Apple Watch Series 3 is a decent smartwatch, especially for athletes, as long as you’re willing to accept some of the tradeoffs (battery life for compact form factor, Apple’s own apps vs. third-party offerings). The new cellular feature is great for leaving your phone behind during workouts (then taking an Uber back or stopping at Whole Foods for a refueling snack). It’s also good insurance if you’re the kind of person who remembers to put on a watch every morning but tends to leave your phone behind.”
Brian Chen of The New York Times didn’t like that you had to pay extra for the cellular connection:
“But the cellular version is a luxury that most people probably will not need. The price you pay for those brief moments of respite from your iPhone is steep: at least $399 for the hardware, plus $10 a month for access on your cellphone plan for some carriers. And I seldom found reasons to use the watch without my iPhone to justify the extra cost.”
Apple released a statement about some of the issues reviewers had with the Apple Watch. Here’s what a company representative said about the LTE connectivity problems: “When Apple Watch Series 3 joins unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks without connectivity, it may at times prevent the watch from using cellular. We are investigating a fix for a future software release.”
But Apple hasn’t commented on the myriad other issues reviewers had with the Series 3. It sounds as though you should either buy the noncellular model or wait for Apple to fix the problems with a software update if you can.