The Apple Watch sits solitary on your wrist, but it’s never been entirely alone. Every model since the beginning has relied heavily on the wireless Bluetooth connection to an iPhone for most of its smarts: running apps, looking up weather, interacting with Siri, and more.
Starting with the just-announced Apple Watch Series 3, that invisible tether can be snipped—mostly. The new models incorporate a radio chip that enables the watch to communicate with LTE cellular networks on its own. You can go for a run and leave the phone behind without worrying that you’re incommunicado.
A cellular Apple Watch has a few advantages: Siri is apparently faster, according to Apple, because the request isn’t being routed through the phone first. You can place and receive phone calls directly (although doing so drains the battery significantly, to the tune of about one hour of talk time). If you have an Apple Music subscription, you can stream Apple’s entire catalog via the watch (presumably to a set of AirPods, although the speaker will work, too).
Personally, I’m geeking out at the fact that Apple is using the entire OLED screen as the cellular antenna, which means the watch remains the same size and design as previous models. There’s a lot of sophisticated circuitry under that water-sealed case.
The Series 3 watches (which are also available in non-cellular configurations) boast improved performance thanks to a faster dual-core processor and elevation sensing via a new barometric altimeter. For more details, see Apple Watch Series 3 Goes Cellular.
Of course, Apple also offers a bunch of new bands (although I’ve found perfectly good alternatives that cost decidedly less online), and if you’re looking for something different in terms of style, a new gray ceramic model is now available.
All of the Series 3 watches are available for pre-order now starting at $349. They start to ship Sep. 22.
This round also includes watchOS 4, which adds a few more faces, more fitness options, smarter heart rate monitoring, and more. See “watchOS 4 Focuses on Fun and Fundamentals” for a good rundown.