It’s like all your childhood fantasies coming alive in one go. How else would you explain a watch that is smart and can connect to the internet and mobile networks on its own. Buying one is like buying into a world where James Bond, Dick Tracy and Richie Rich would feel more than at home. Such are the times we live in.
After the success of its first two generations of Apple Watches, the third generation was launched last year with a new LTE version too. The LTE version, because of the network and service provider integration required, has taken some time coming to India. But as of this week, the LTE version of Apple Watch 3 is available in India for subscribers of Reliance Jio and Airtel. I have been using the watch for a few weeks and here are my first impressions.
Apple Watch 3 LTE first impressions: Set up
The set-up is easy and very similar to that of the regular watch. However, there is one additional step that is needed. Somewhere in the middle, you are asked to set up mobile data, after which the watch app takes you to your service provider’s log in to link to your account. One that is done, the watch syncs like it does in the normal version. About 20 minutes on, the service provider — Airtel in my case — sent messages saying the e-SIM on the watch has been linked to my number. It took a few more minutes before I could see towers on the watch.
The entire process was seamless, except for the flurry of messages to communicate the linking of the watch to your number. The best thing for users in India is that both services provide are considering the data as an add-on to your existing number and you don’t need to pay extra for using data or voice calls on the watch.
Apple Watch 3 first impressions: Design
The LTE version has the exact same design as the regular Apple Watch 3, except for a red dot on the crown. The other changes are on the software side. The quick settings tray now has buttons for network and Wi-Fi. There is a new watch face too with a tap to call option. If the watch is running on data, then you see four dots in the middle, like you have the tower icon on the phone to show signal strength.
Apple Watch 3 first impressions: What is good?
I have been an Apple Watch user since the first generation, switching to other smart bands and watches once in a while. Given my line of work, I can’t really afford to be away from the phone at any time, not even my early morning walk. Since I do lug around my smartphone for these walks, I have developed the habit of reading news while walking and even writing the occasional review on the move. Before your mouth gapes in awe, let me tell you this is not something I am really proud of as my eyes are in a horrible state because of this unnecessary strain. Also, the one time I can truly be cut off is also used up as screen time.
With the new Apple Watch 3 LTE, I was able to go for a morning walk with the phone safely charging up for the rigours of the day on my chest of drawers. But keeping the phone at home, far away from the Bluetooth range of the watch, did not mean I was cut off. I could receive calls and SMSes that were coming on my phone, all well as check mail and FB messages. The audio quality is good for you to speak to the watch in a park and for the other side to understand what you are trying to say. But I would rather use it with a pair of Bluetooth earphones.
Talking of Bluetooth earphones, one great feature of the Apple Watch 3 LTE is that you can now stream music on iTunes directly on the watch. Earlier, you could move your playlist here, but now you can stream playlists directly without saving them on the device. Apple has curated some playlists for you to tap and stream easily. You can also choose to hear stored music or pull in playlists from the iPhone. However, you can’t do this on any other music streaming app at the moment. But then you can play radio directly from the watch on to your ears.
In the middle of the run, if you want to get back home in a hurry, you can call a cab directly from the watch. I am not sure I will use this, but this is a good backup to have given that often when I am out of a plane after a day in another city I am out of juice on the phone with no way to summon a radio cab.
Apple Watch 3 first impressions: What’s not good?
Apple does not foresee a use case where the phone is left at home for a full day just with the watch. So the watch really can’t give you more than three-four hours solely on LTE. The cellular part of the watch is meant to be used at various times of the day, but not for the entire day.
Also, when I was beyond the Bluetooth range of the phone, there were times when the calls did not move to the watch. This is not an issue if the phone is out of network or switched off, but at times when both devices are active, there seems to be an issue switching the call to the watch. But then these are early days when it comes to network optimisation for something that is really new.
Apple Watch 3 first impressions: Should you buy?
If you have a specific use case of day parts when you would rather be away from the phone, then small extra you pay for the Apple Watch 3 LTE version might not be much. For others, the regular Apple Watch 3 should be more than good, you just need to keep your iPhone nearby.
*Expect a longer review soon.
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