Apple Watch 3: First reviews report that biggest new feature of smartwatch doesn’t work properly


The first reviews of the third Apple Watch are out. And there appears to be a problem.

The biggest feature of the new watch – officially known as series 3 – is its brand new cellular connection, intended to allow people to go out without their phone and still receive texts and listen to music. Apple showed off those features as the centrepiece of the introduction of the new watch, and charges people $70 extra for the feature as well as a charge that must be paid to phone networks.

But initial reviews suggest that there are problems with that feature. The phone tends to have trouble connecting, a number of critics have said, and the battery is drained quickly when the watch is without its phone.

All note that the rest of the new features of the phone, including its increased speed and extra sensors, work very well. And they all note that the cellular connection seems useful – it could literally save your life if you’re on a run and get stuck needing to contact someone but don’t have your phone with you, for instance.

But a few also say that the promise is not the same as the reality, and the data connection on the phone doesn’t actually live up to the possibilities.

“It became apparent after my first full day using the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE that something wasn’t right,” wrote Lauren Goode on the Verge. “My review Watch was paired with an iPhone 8 and was on an AT&T wireless plan. 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 wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the new Watch seemed to live up to the promise of Apple’s marketing – but only for a short while.

“You’re lucky if the battery allows you to roam on cellular for longer than half a day—especially if you’re making calls,” she wrote. “And only a limited number of third-party apps work without the phone close by. (No Instagram, Twitter , Uber.)

“Most worryingly, my colleague Geoffrey Fowler and I experienced cellular connectivity issues on three separate pre-production models, in two different states, on two different 4G LTE carriers.”

Apple responded to the problems before the reviews came out today.

“We have discovered that when Apple Watch Series 3 joins unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks without connectivity, it may at times prevent the watch from using cellular,” the company said in a statement provided to The Verge. “We are investigating a fix for a future software release.”

Other reviews, including The Independent‘s, did not mention the connectivity problems. All praised the other features of the phone, including the cellular connection while it was working.