Apple Watch Series 3 reviews: Freedom from iPhone great, but battery-life and connectivity issues

The first Apple Watch Series 3 reviews are out, and while the device is generally well-received, it also seems the LTE model is not without issues.

The headline feature of the LTE model – the freedom to leave your phone behind while jogging, working out in the gym or heading to the beach – is what’s selling it to most reviewers. The snappier performance is also appreciated.

But some are also reporting short battery-life and connectivity issues, with Apple acknowledging one problem currently affecting the device …

Author Ad Placeholder
Will only appear on redesign env.

Several reviewers reported that the LTE model would attempt to connect to unknown wifi networks instead of using the cellular connection, losing both voice and data capabilities as a result. When The Verge experienced this with both its original review model and a replacement device, Apple acknowledged the issue and promised a fix.

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. We are investigating a fix for a future software release.

Between pre-orders and shipping is not the ideal time to discover a bug, so hopefully this is one Apple will quickly resolve.


In our own review, Zac didn’t experience any connectivity problems, and noted that untethered operation was about much more than phone calls and texts.

Apple Watch Series 3 finally lets you make phone calls without carrying your iPhone thanks to optional LTE, but calling is only a part of what cellular enables for the watch. Apple Watch Series 3 can be your dedicated tour guide on your wrist with Maps, your connection to friends and family with Messages, and your always-present personal assistant with Siri […]

I found myself giving Siri commands with more confidence and less awkwardness and frustration thanks to the new found responsiveness. (I only saw one ‘I’ll tap you when I’m ready’ message from Siri on Apple Watch Series 3, and it processed in a split second.) […]

Apple Watch Series 3 feels like a major leap forward from the original Apple Watch, and both cellular and the dramatically improved Siri experience enables new uses over Series 2. Apple Watch has shifted from its experimental infancy to securing its place as an extremely motivating fitness coach and a practical escape from always being plugged in.


CNET says it’s the best smartwatch on the market, but battery-life and usage costs are the downsides.

The Good: Cellular connection works well for phone calls, email, Siri and messages. Music now syncs more easily. Improvements in fitness tracking and added watch faces. Adds barometer to GPS and swimproofing. Same overall size as last year’s watch.

The Bad: Battery life takes a major hit when making calls or during GPS workouts. 42mm cellular model is expensive, and that’s before monthly wireless service and Apple Music fees. Still requires an iPhone to set up and pair with.

The Bottom Line: The Apple Watch Series 3 is the best overall smartwatch you can buy, but battery limitations and add-on fees keep it from being a must-have upgrade.

Daring Fireball

John Gruber was impressed by the hardware, but not the carrier cost – and not the red dot.

With the addition of cellular networking in Series 3, Apple Watch gains something essential: independence. It’s not just a cool feature. It’s aimed smack dab in the middle of the two things people like best about Apple Watch: notifications and fitness. When are you separated from your iPhone? When you’re exercising. What do you miss most when you’re away from your phone? Messages and phone calls […]

Audio quality for phone calls on the watch is very good [and] Siri sounds great on the watch, too: crisp and clear […]

AT&T and Verizon are both charging $10 a month per watch. I don’t expect it to be free, but $120 a year feels like too much for a device that I’m using instead of the iPhone I’m already paying (a lot) for […]

I don’t get [the red dot]. It’s not that it looks bad in and of itself, but it draws unnecessary attention to itself. I would much prefer this watch if it were black. Also, red doesn’t go with everything, and a huge part of the fun of Apple Watch is swapping bands. Apple sells a lot of watch bands that clash with the red dot.


Forbes said that both responsiveness and LTE connectivity transform the Watch, but notes that it doesn’t support roaming.

It’s the arrival of the latest model, Series 3, that suddenly makes the Apple Watch a real contender, I’d say […] It means, at last, that you can use your Watch to make calls, send texts, get directions in Maps, talk to Siri even if your iPhone is nowhere nearby […]

I found making calls was easy and that call quality was much better than I’d experienced on previous Watches where you are dependent on the strength of wireless connection between iPhone and Watch as well as iPhone signal strength […]

Furthermore, for now at least, the Apple Watch only works in the country you bought it in, there’s no roaming possible. This looks like it’s a technical issue – it’s certainly not something the carriers have introduced. And as such it may change in time. For now, though, don’t buy and Apple Watch overseas, even if it’s cheaper, unless you plan to use it there.

The Independent

The Independent says that if you’ve been holding off on buying the Apple Watch, this might be the time to do it.

The LTE connectivity has changed the functions of the Watch hugely. Now, you can go running with your Watch, without your iPhone weighing you down, and when you’re done, make a phone call to hail a ride to get home. You can send a text, command Siri, navigate using Maps and more, all without your iPhone […]

Call quality has been consistently good – better than making calls before which relied on the strength of the connection to the iPhone nearby. There’s also the simple interface and the freedom of having my hands free which has made this a very good experience, even when I’ve felt self-conscious […]

The processor this time is lightning-fast. Apple claims a 70 per cent speed uptick compared to last year’s processor. Whatever the figures, this is a fast, responsive gadget […]

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to buy one, the addition of cellular connectivity means this may be the right moment.

The Loop

Jim Dalrymple said that the audio quality was astonishing, freedom from the phone is great but notes that it can’t yet stream Apple Music.

I had the watch about chest high when I was speaking, but he said he could hear me “clear as day.” I could also hear him clearly from the Apple Watch speaker.

Next, I dropped my arm and started walking, but continued my conversation with him. He said he could still hear me just fine, even though my arm was down by my side and I was walking at a normal pace. To be honest, I wanted to see what I could do so that he couldn’t hear me, but he kept saying it sounded fine […]

In the past week, I’ve gone out multiple times without my iPhone and still received messages, emails, and phone calls. I was still in touch with people, but I felt a little free not having my iPhone with me […]

I was disappointed that I couldn’t try out Apple Music streaming on my Apple Watch—it will be available in about a month with a software update. However, Apple intelligently adds a couple of your most listened to playlists to the watch so you always have some music with you, even if you leave your iPhone at home. I use this a lot. You can choose different playlists if you want using the watch app on your iPhone.


Mashable says it will appeal most to those who frequently want to leave their iPhone behind, but notes that many apps aren’t yet ready.

Apple’s small change basically transforms the Apple Watch into a tiny smartphone.

Think about it. The Apple Watch Series 3 can perform many of the same skills as your iPhone, including email, messaging, phone calls, maps and directions, smart home control, health and fitness tracking, weather, Find My Friends, gaming, access Siri, and much more […]

Apple told me that any app that was updated for Apple Watch Series 2 should work with the watch-supplied data. Some, like Siri, Weather, and CNN did, but others like Slack, AP news and Twitter made it clear that the still needed that phone connection.

Realistically, I can only stare at that tiny screen for so long. That’s the main reason the Apple Watch Series 3 will never fully replace a phone, but with built-in LTE, it can do more on its own. Now Apple and app developers need to finish the vision.

The New York Times

The NYT says that the cellular version is a luxury that most won’t be able to justify, but it’s still a great watch without LTE.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless, for example, charge a network access fee of $10 a month to share your phone plan’s texts, minutes and data with an Apple Watch. That’s about the same as a Spotify subscription, but with the exception of avid joggers and gym rats, people may not use the cellular features frequently enough […]

Although I think most people can skip buying the cellular model, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smart watch I can confidently recommend that people buy […] The new Apple Watch is a well-designed, durable and easy-to-use fitness tracker for people who want analytics on their workouts and general health.

Important features like the stopwatch, calendar and Siri work quickly and reliably. And unlike its predecessors, the watch has impressive battery life — on average, I had more than 40 percent battery remaining after a full day of use.

So the final verdict? The Apple Watch Series 3 is the first sign that wearable computers are maturing and may eventually become a staple in consumer electronics.

The Verge

The Verge’s review focused on the connectivity problems experienced.

An Apple Watch with built-in cellular capabilities, should, in theory, prompt existential questions about what a smartwatch can be. Is it no longer just an accessory to the iPhone? Is it still an accessory to the phone, but a much more independent gadget? Is a cellular modem on the wrist something that could eventually replace the cell service we have on the phone? […]

You can’t rest easy with the Apple Watch 3 yet, because that seamlessness, that so-called magic, isn’t there. The stutters during the handoff from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi to LTE shouldn’t happen. The music streaming? It isn’t there yet. A built-in podcast streaming option? Also not there. A reliable Siri? Nope, not in my experience […]

Considering that my Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE (both first and second review units) didn’t function like it was supposed to, I can’t recommend buying it — and paying the monthly cell fee — based on promises. I know I’m not.

The Wall Street Journal

The WSJ had the same issues, and also complained about poor battery-life.

Apple’s latest has all the ingredients of the future we were promised. Crammed inside that familiar flattened-marshmallow rounded square is the power to make calls from anywhere, connect to an always-listening personal assistant and check in on your health with biometric sensors—all without depending on an iPhone for connectivity.

Except, after I spent a week testing these new models—denoted by a red dot on their dials—the future feels even further away. You’re lucky if the battery allows you to roam on cellular for longer than half a day—especially if you’re making calls. 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.


Wired says this is the first smartwatch that earns its place on your wrist.

Almost nobody will ever know you’re wearing the new one, unless they spot the little red button on the side. And yet, this is a completely different device. It now has LTE built in, and connects to the internet without needing your phone or even a Wi-Fi connection. For two years, the Watch was an iPod Touch. Now it’s an iPhone […]

The Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smartwatch I’ve ever used that felt like something more. Paired with a set of Bluetooth headphones (AirPods or otherwise), it becomes an awesome evolution of the iPod. Once you spend a few minutes culling your notifications, it’s a useful way to stay connected without being distracted. It hasn’t made me throw my phone out, but now I walk the dog and run out for coffee without it, because I can even pay from my wrist. I go to the gym without my phone, which means I actually work out now instead of just sitting on the bench staring at Twitter. The Watch finally does free me from my phone, at least sometimes.

That said, it’s still not a perfect device. The battery remains the biggest limitation, and the Watch still needs more and better apps, and a simpler interface. And, for the love of everything holy, Apple needs to make a Watch with a screen that’s always on. But whether you’re a hyper-connected hyper-marathoner, or just looking for a few minutes away from the attention-sucking din of your iPhone, this is the first Watch that really works.

The tl;dr, then, seems to be that it’s great to have independence from the iPhone, but at a hefty price; the audio quality is great; the speed of the device is worthwhile even without LTE; but don’t expect too many calls from the battery, and expect some connectivity glitches until Apple issues a software fix.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel



Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear