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Apple Watch Series 3 first impressions: No LTE issues, battery life is surprising

Three days into testing the Apple Watch Series 3, my experience has been more or less consistent with that of my older Series 2. With the most notable difference is the liberating feeling of not having to take my phone to the movies, or even into a restaurant for dinner, out of fear of missing an important text or phone call.

Here are some quick thoughts about using the new, always-connected Apple Watch over the course of a weekend.



A new cell tower icon is present on the Apple Watch Series 3’s control center.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

When early reviews of the Apple Watch Series 3 were published, there was some concern that LTE connectivity was flaky. Apple admitted there is an issue with how the watch’s software handles Wi-Fi networks when away from an iPhone that consequently caused issues with LTE, and that it’s working on a fix.

In my limited experience thus far, I have had zero issues with my watch connecting to a cellular network. There is about a 30-second delay from when the watch first disconnects from my iPhone until it fully connects to AT&T’s network, after which it works just as it should.

Notifications arrive, calls ring on my wrist, and messages are sent without a hiccup. I’ve tested LTE around my rural home where Wi-Fi congestion isn’t a big deal and is a city environment where open Wi-Fi is common. LTE worked in both scenarios.

I have extensive travel planned as I continue to work on my full review, and I’ll surely keep an eye on just how well the cellular portion of the Series 3 works, but so far so good for me.

Battery life

Thus far, the battery life of the Series 3 has been nearly identical to what I experienced on the Series 2. On Saturday I woke up around 7 am, and immediately took the watch off the charger.

I used the cellular portion of the watch for four hours total over the course of two days to place a couple quick test calls, and send a couple messages, and complete my daily workout. The rest of the time my iPhone was nearby, and the watch mirrored notifications and tracked steps and health data as it normally does.

The battery died Sunday afternoon, roughly 30 hours after taking it off the charger. I have zero complaints about that.

That red crown


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The inner portion of the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular connectivity no longer matches the color of the housing. Instead, it’s bright red. This red seemingly serves the lone purpose of being a clear indicator to others that your watch is different: It can connect to a cellular network.

Other than potentially being a method for second-hand buyers to verify a listing is indeed for a watch with cellular functionality, the red dot serves as nothing more than a status symbol. And I wish it didn’t have it. Naturally, someone came up with stickers you can purchase to place over the red dot if you don’t like it, but I won’t go that far.

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