The recent launch of the Apple Watch 3 Cellular in India has made many people wonder: What’s really new? This is because people are used to taking voice calls, streaming Apple Music and reading messages on their Apple Watch since the first-generation Watch Series 1 which comes at a starting price of Rs 23,950. So, if Apple now states that with the Watch 3 Cellular (starting at Rs 39,080) you can do the same things, but now through a new eSIM technology, then the question ‘what’s the difference’ is quite obvious. Having said that there’s, of course, a major change in the Apple Watch 3 Cellular that makes it complete and we are definitely talking about the eSIM revolution.
The Apple Watch 3 Cellular is available in two sizes —- 38mm and 42mm. The 38mm Apple Watch 3 Cellular costs Rs 39,080 while the bigger 42mm version costs Rs 41,120. There’s also the Apple Watch Edition (GPS+Cellular) that starts at Rs 1,18,030 with ceramic case and sport band. For those unaware, Apple had launched the Watch 3 GPS in India last year itself at a starting price of Rs 29,900. Both the Apple Watch 3 GPS and Cellular offer the same specifications and features. The only difference is that the Watch 3 Cellular offers 4G LTE, UMTS via eSIM along with Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2 in the connectivity department. On the other hand, there is only Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity in the more affordable Apple Watch 3 GPS.
So, how does 4G LTE or UMTS connectivity via eSIM change the equation? With eSIM, the Apple Watch 3 Cellular can stay connected independently. Even if your Apple Watch and iPhone gets disconnected from Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the Watch 3 Cellular will automatically stay connected via mobile data (via eSIM). You can leave your iPhone at home and stay connected through your Watch 3 Cellular. It is as if the Watch 3 Cellular is ‘mini iPhone’ strapped to your wrists. Note that the Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular supports iPhone 6 and above models only.
The Apple Watch 3 Cellular does all the things it used to do earlier but it does it better. After using the latest Apple Watch 3 Cellular (42mm) for three weeks, here is our review.
Design and Display
There is no difference in the display quality of the Watch Series 3 Cellular and GPS versions. However, when compared to the Series 1 Apple Watch, there is a noticeable difference in brightness -— 1000 nits in Watch 3 series compared to 450 nits in Series 1. However, the display resolution of 272×340 (38mm) and 312×390 pixels (42mm) remains the same.
The design is largely similar of all the Apple Watch variants. The only difference in the Watch 3 Cellular is the Red colour dot on the crown. Until now, all Apple Watch variants offered an aluminum case with Ion-X glass at the back. However, there is Sapphire crystal for the stainless steel and ceramic case editions in the Watch 3 Cellular. The aluminum case of the Watch 3 Cellular continues to offer the Ion-X glass back.
Both the Apple Watch 3 GPS and Cellular edition offer water resistance up to 50 meters. Note, that the Series 1 Watch is just splash resistant.
The display quality of the Apple Watch 3 is one of the best we have seen in smartwatches. Even under direct sunlight, the display is vivid. But if you happen to run low on battery or if you have kept the brightness low (to save battery), then the display will be difficult to use.
There are three connectivity options in the new Apple Watch 3 Cellular — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile connectivity. The Watch 3 automatically configures and decides to switch between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Cellular to provide the best experience. So, that you can always take or make calls, see messages and stay connected.
The mobile connectivity is provided through eSIM technology. Note that there is no physical SIM card or SIM card slot inside the Apple Watch 3 cellular. The SIM card data on your iPhone is digitally transferred to the embedded chip or eSIM inside the Apple Watch 3. For those unaware, the eSIM in question is already provided by Apple and users will not have to take it from Airtel or Reliance Jio. Also, if you want to shift to Reliance Jio from Airtel or vice-versa in future, you just have to reset the Watch 3 and enable the new mobile plan. But, at the same time, this also means that you will have to use the same mobile number and telecom operator on both your Apple Watch 3 cellular and iPhone.
Talking about telecom operators, Reliance Jio and Airtel Postpaid is supporting eSIM technology. This means that Apple Watch 3 Cellular will only work with Reliance Jio and Airtel postpaid connections. Thankfully, both Reliance Jio and Airtel postpaid is offering the eSIM connectivity for free. In the US, users have to pay around $10 extra every month for the same.
Don’t worry about the eSIM setup. It is very easy and can be done on the Watch app itself. Also, Reliance Jio has setup a platinum customer care centre exclusively for Apple Watch 3 cellular customers.
What about call drops and network coverage?
The network coverage of the iPhone and Watch 3 Cellular is not interdependent. This means that if your iPhone is at a location which has good reception and you walk with Apple Watch 3 Cellular into a place that has bad cell reception, then the Watch 3 Cellular will face difficulty in staying connected. Also, as the Watch 3 Cellular depends on eSIM connectivity provided by your cellular operator, the call drop situation will be similar to what you face with your iPhone in a particular location.
What about international roaming?
So, if the Apple Watch 3 Cellular can make calls and stay connected via a mobile plan without the requirement for having an iPhone nearby, an obvious question arises. Will you be able to save money by not subscribing to an international roaming plan from Airtel or Reliance Jio by simply carrying your Apple Watch 3 abroad while keeping your iPhone at home? The answer is no. You will have to subscribe to an international roaming plan to use the Apple Watch 3 Cellular outside irrespective of whether you carry your iPhone with you or not.
Speaker and voice calls
Like earlier, you can always connect to any Bluetooth earphone (or Apple AirPods) to make voice calls. Additionally, the speaker and mic on the Apple Watch 3 enables you to take calls without a Bluetooth earphone as well. Over the earphones, the call quality is equivalent to what you experience when your iPhone is paired to the Bluetooth headset. On speakers, it is difficult to have a conversation outdoors and in busy locations. But indoors the voice call quality is decent and you can easily manage to talk.
The Apple Watch 3 Series (both Cellular and GPS-only variants) is powered by a S3 dual-core processor along with W2 wireless chip. The hardware specifications have improved greatly when compared to the Series 1 Apple Watch to make the device more productive. You can expect a smooth performance overall and there is no lag or app freezes on the new Apple Watch 3 Cellular. This wearable does everything perfectly -— be it voice calls, fitness tracking, Siri voice assistant, music and messages. The Cellular variant ensures that you can actually afford to forget your iPhone at home.
Apple Watch Series 3 comes with a barometric altimeter that makes fitness tracking more accurate by providing data on steps climbed and outdoor workouts, including elevation gain.
The wearable is powered by watchOS 4 and will receive the latest watchOS 5upgrade. The OS features an updated Heart Rate app and shows measurements during resting, workout, recovery, walking and ‘Breathe’ sessions. One of the most useful offering of the Apple Watch 3 Series is the ability to receive a notification when the user’s heart rate is elevated above a specific threshold while inactive. This feature is claimed to be life-saving.
The Siri watch face on watchOS 4 is more useful now. The Workout app offers custom High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and auto-sets for swimming. GymKit also allows users to connect to a cardio equipment to get better fitness data during their workout. To keep you motivated during your workout, you can stream songs from Apple Music on your Bluetooth earphones directly from your Apple Watch 3 Cellular. You can also connect to a Bluetooth speaker from your wrist.
New watchOS 5 update
Apple will soon release watchOS 5 update to the Apple Watch 3 Series and other Apple Watches. Note that the watchOS 5 update will not be available on the original first-gen Apple Watch. The new watchOS 5 adds features including Activity Sharing competitions, auto-workout detection, advanced running features, Walkie-Talkie, Apple Podcasts and third-party apps on the Siri watch face. Here are the key features of watchOS 5 that will make the Apple Watch 3 Cellular more productive.
* Activity sharing: With watchOS 5, user can invite another Apple Watch user to compete in a seven-day Activity competition.
* Auto-Workout detection: Auto-workout detection provides an alert to start the correct workout and gives retroactive credit. This feature also offers a reminder to end workout sessions after a period of inactivity if the user forgets.
* Yoga and hiking activities: Apple Watch will track yoga and hiking sessions accurately. Note that the Apple Watch 3 Series already tracks skiing and snowboarding activities.
* Walkie-talkie: The new watchOS 5 comes with a “Walkie-Talkie” app through which you can send short voice messages. The Watch-to-Watch connection works with both GPS and Cellular version of Watch 3.
* Podcasts: Users will now be able to stream Apple Podcasts by using Siri.
* Siri on watchOS 5: The Siri watch face will now show actionable content from third-party apps such as Nike+ Run Club, Glow Baby and Mobike.
* Actionable notifications: Notifications from third-party apps can now have interactive controls and be used without needing to open the app.
The Apple Watch 3 Cellular is claimed to provide up to 18 hours of battery life. Yes, you can get 18 hours battery life when you keep the Apple Watch 3 Cellular idle. But if you actively use the Apple Watch 3 Cellular, be prepared to charge it every night. Also, the battery life of the Apple Watch 3 Cellular depends greatly on the amount of voice calls you do. So, it’s always recommended to keep the charger handy.
The Apple Watch 3 Cellular version feels like a complete device in itself. The experience is evolved and totally unmatched when compared to Android Wear OS wearables. It has the ability to function as a ‘mini iPhone’ on your wrist. The true benefit of using an Apple Watch 3 Cellular will be for those users who are deeply rooted to Apple’s iOS ecosystem. For someone who has just bought his/her first iPhone, it may take some time to realise the true potential of the Apple Watch 3 Cellular. Overall, the Apple Watch 3 Cellular is in fact the only ‘smartwatch’ in the true sense. Of course, it’s a luxury to own an Apple Watch 3 Cellular, but it’s completely worth it for Apple fans.