The first was when I bought my first cell phone back in the mid-nineties. I still remember calling my wife from Walmart and after hanging up the phone I felt like I was living in Tomorrowland. I instantly knew that this was going to be very useful on a regular basis. The second was after I bought my first iPhone and could check Facebook from a moving car. Surfing the web while on a long road trip seemed unimaginable only a few years prior.
On September 22nd I had that feeling again. I strapped on Apple’s newest LTE Stainless Steel Apple Watch and AirPods and I went out for a five mile run without my iPhone. I received and answered text messages, added items to my reminder lists, checked on my kids whereabouts, and all without breaking my stride. Even as jaded as I am in 2017 by an endless parade of products I was truly left feeling like a kid who’d just received the most amazing gift of all time on Christmas morning. This new Apple Watch is so cool.
A few observations on my part after a little over a week.
I thought the Series 2 Apple Watch was pretty good when it came to battery but this Series 3 has made some serious improvements. If you don’t use the LTE part that is. Without LTE I’ve actually made from 6am to 11pm and still had 71% battery left. The battery is slightly bigger but that doesn’t account for all the improvements. This processor must be a lot more efficient.
But the battery life story has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quality to it. Because using LTE will take a serious bite out of your remaining time. It’s no big deal if you’re going out for a one hour run or your daily gym workout. In fact, with 1 hour of LTE use this watch will equal my Series 2 in overall battery life.
This has been an unexpected pleasant surprise. I rarely ever tried to load music or podcasts onto my Series 2 Apple Watch because it just took way too long. A 60mb podcast file took well over an hour to transfer. I don’t know exactly how long because I resorted to transferring at night when I went to bed. My Series 3 can handle a 60mb file in about 12 or 13 minutes. I know that isn’t exactly speedy but compared to the Series 2 it is only a fraction of the time. It’s just sneaking into the territory where I can start to transfer a podcast and go get dressed for a run. By the time I lace up my shoes, voila!, it’s ready to go. Podcasts on your wrist are now a reality.
The Series 3 was upgraded to Bluetooth 4.2 from the Series 2 which used 4.0. That means when you’re using an iPhone 6 or newer which also has Bluetooth 4.2 you benefit from the faster transfer speeds. I still doubt that we’ll see any official podcast support any time soon though. Only true podcast diehards are going to put up with waiting over ten minutes for a file to transfer. I would guess that Apple won’t offer any kind of podcast support until the Apple Watch and iPhones support Bluetooth 5.0 which is much faster than 4.2.
First, the extra processing power seems to really shine when it comes to Siri. Responses from Siri are much more prompt and you don’t get the spinning circle near as much as on the Series 2.
Also, I like getting vocal responses from Siri. I don’t want to keep looking at my wrist while I wait for a response, no matter how quick that response is. It’s nice to ask a question, go back to what you’re doing, and listen for the response. It really feels like an intelligent assistant now.
I wondered if I would feel self-conscious about a talking Siri on my wrist. But it turns out that’s not an issue. If I feel comfortable enough to speak to my watch then I’m in a setting where I don’t mind getting a vocal response. There are situations where I wouldn’t want Siri to speak back to me, but in those cases, I wouldn’t ever initiate a “Hey Siri” in the first place.
Siri makes the most sense on the Apple Watch. It’s more convenient than your iPhone and you don’t need to use your hands to see the screen. And unlike a HomePod or Echo, Siri can trust that you, are you. She is completely your assistant and no one else’s. So when you need to add something to your calendar or ask her to pull up your grocery list there is no confusion. Adding vocal feedback and the always-on capability of LTE is going to make Siri on the Apple Watch reach a whole new level.
I was never that impressed with the speed pickup of the Series 2. Since I’m a runner, I kept my original Series 0 watch to use for my workouts and alternated between the two watches on an almost daily basis. If it wasn’t for the different band, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two. All of Apple’s apps like iMessage, Mail, Music, etc worked equally fast between the two watches. The Series 2 animations were smoother, but not any faster. Where the Series 2 picked up speed was in using Siri and 3rd party apps not local to the watch.
Now the Series 3 is faster everywhere. The Series 2 cut launch speeds for 3rd party apps down from 20-30 seconds to about 5-10 seconds. But compared to phones that still felt so slow. The Series 3 cuts launch times down to 1-2 seconds. Now, we’re talking.
This is the best part about Apple’s new watch. Today I stepped out for lunch and for the first time in a while, I accidentally left my iPhone in my bedroom. I didn’t realize it until I was sitting in the restaurant and reached for my iPhone to see if my wife and son had made it back yet from an away cross country meet. No worries, I just opened the Find My Friends app on my watch and could see that they were already at my house. I could still text my wife and let her know I’d be home soon.
The main benefit of LTE on my watch has been for my daily workouts. I haven’t taken my big 7 Plus with me on a run since I’ve received my new watch. The 7 Plus is too large for me to carry in an armband strap so I’ve always used an elastic workout belt that I could put it in. But running without the belt is much more comfortable. So now if I need some kind of emergency help I know that I can still make a phone call.
As I mentioned before, this is only the third time in twenty years that a product has filled me with child-like wonder. I had seen the crew on Star Trek with their tricorders and when the iPhone came out I felt like I had one of my own. We’ve seen Captain Kirk’s crew communicate through a little triangle worn on their shirt. Now enters the LTE Apple Watch and I feel like I have one of those too.
The Apple Watch has crossed a barrier that few people thought that it could this soon. Even now, most journalists are unaware how significant of a threshold has just been crossed. Android watches that attempted independent cellular were all huge or uncomfortably hot. Apple did it, and with almost no drawbacks. So where is this headed? I think, just like in Star Trek, the tiny wearable is destined to one day being the primary communications hub.
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