Apple Watch Series 3 Review

I have been watching the Apple Watch for a couple of years now debating about whether I should get one or not. Initially they looked too limited. The battery life on the initial model was very short and then there was the whole lack of being able to get the watch wet, among other limitations. I decided to sit back and wait a few years and see how it evolved.

The Series 2 started looking interesting, but I still didn’t find it compelling enough to give up the freedom of nothing on my wrist. Finally they announced the series 3 last fall and it started to sound like something that might potentially work for me. First it is setup for swimming with. While I don’t swim very often, for me having a watch on in the pool was always a nice way to keep track of the time. Then factor in the ability to track your workout and get texts and take a call without having to get out and dry off, it starts to look really good for someone who is more active than I am.

I decided to buy a 38mm Series 3 for my wife for Christmas. It sounded like the battery life was getting decent and many of my initial complaints were addressed. My thinking was she doesn’t always have her phone on her when dealing with the kids, so with the watch she would always get my texts or could answer the phone if she wasn’t near her phone.

She used it for a bit, but in the end she found that the battery life still wasn’t quite long enough for her that she would forget to charge it and it would be dead, or if a call came in she couldn’t answer it on the watch anyway as the baby was napping, etc. Given this she decided that we should sell it and she would do something else with the money, so I was thinking well before I sell it I should try it out for a couple of days just to see if I found it interesting enough to get one for myself. Obviously if I were getting one I would go for the 42mm as I find the screen on the 38mm a little bit small, but for testing purposes it would work perfect for me.

In my use I found that I could get about 20 hours out of the battery. That isn’t terrible as it should keep going on your longest days, but in a perfect world I would really like to see the thing last about 3 days. Normally you can just charge it every night so the current battery life isn’t really a deal breaker, but if you wanted to use the watch for sleep tracking, you would have issues with the current battery life. That being said, I don’t think I would use it for sleep tracking as I think having the thing on when I was trying to sleep would just annoy me. I think if I decide to go that route I would rather look at something like the Nokia Sleep¬†which looks much less invasive than wearing a watch all night. At this point with an infant I don’t think really want to track my sleep though as I think ignorance how much many interruptions I have at night is probably bliss at this point.

The integration between the watch and my iPhone X is pretty amazing. You start the music or podcast app and immediately have controls on your watch for what your phone is playing. So when I am out walking the dog, I don’t have to pull my phone out of my pocket to skip a song or to adjust the volume it is all right there on the watch. When I glance at the time on the face I have a watch face that shows me my next calendar event, so I can immediately see when my next meeting is without having to check my phone. All the health metrics (activity and heart monitoring) automatically show up in your health app.

Basically it does what I feel Apple does best, which is to erase the boundaries between their different products. A perfect example of this, is I have a Honeywell Lyric T5 Thermostat. One of the reasons I went with that model instead of a Nest or something else was that it supported Homekit and I wanted to play around with the native integration on my phone. Then when I bought an Apple TV 4K suddenly you can program automations on your Homekit stuff as it just hooks in with the other devices it finds on your network. Granted I could do that before with the Lyric T5 App, but now it is integrated natively in my phone.

The watch is the same way, it gives you tight integration with your phone, and removes more boundaries. The model I have is the Wifi only model. The LTE sounds interesting, but not at the price that AT&T charges for it. I don’t think it adds enough value in my life to justify $10 a month for the service. At $5 a month it could get interesting. My neighbor has one of the original watches and he said he likes how well it works with his airpods as well. So when he is walking he can be playing something through his phone controlling it on his watch all going to his ears with no wires involved and everything just works. If you had the LTE model and a subscription to Apple Music you could even leave the phone behind as you don’t need it anymore. But again I don’t see myself going that route. I own over 4,000 songs, so the idea of renting music doesn’t sound interesting to me as I mostly own everything I want.

The workout app is interesting. I don’t really work out, but I am trying to be a bit more active for health reasons. Most of my activity consists of taking my dog for a walk in the evening. There is an outdoor walk as one of the options in the workout app. Typically I track my walks by having my phone in my pocket and checking Activity under the health app. I usually check how many steps I have at the start of the walk and then see how many I have after my walk to have a rough guestimate of how many steps I walked. The watch still gives you all that, but in addition to that it will also give in real time your distance in miles as well as the time you have been doing that working and what your heart rate is. I find that when walking the dog if I am nearing the end of the walk and I am at 1.5 miles I will push myself a bit and make sure we go for more than 2 miles. I also found it to be useful to sort of push your pace and get your heart rate up, as opposed to just tracking steps, without tracking your speed. Once you end the workout it will also give you the average time it took you to go a mile, and some other stats like average heart rate.

Many of the apps I have automatically have a watch version. I found most of these I have no interest in having on the watch and removed almost all of them. I left the Nokia Health app on there though and it was cool that when I earned a new badge exercising one night on there that it showed the achievement on the watch as well. One thing I disliked is that to remove some of the apple built in apps you have to remove them on your phone. A perfect example of this is the News app and the Stock app. I want neither on the watch, I want the watch to be really focused and just do 3 or 4 things, but to remove those apps from the watch I have to delete them from the phone. Apple doesn’t give me an uninstall option like it does with 3rd party apps. That is pretty annoying as perhaps I want to check my stocks every now and then on my phone I just don’t want it cluttering up my watch app screen, yet I can’t use it in that way.

One of the things I most enjoyed about the watch was getting text notifications on it (you can also get facebook messenger and slack messages there too if you want them). Mostly for when I was driving and I feel a text come in. You can just glance at it quickly at a stop light without having to pick up your phone (or miss the message until later as I do many times now).

So after using it a couple of days do I find it interesting enough to buy? At this point the answer is no. I don’t quite see what the killer app is. It is nice, and somewhat useful, but mostly it just feels like a fun toy at this point. The heart monitoring I must admit I do like. I also like the activity app that sort of nudges you to stand some and be more active. Those are all good things for me. But ultimately it isn’t enough to justify the price.

So what would get me to buy one. Well if I got a gym membership and was swimming regularly I could see myself getting one to track that workout. I think a real killer feature for me would be if the thing could some how do glucose monitoring. I would love to have like real time monitoring of that so that when I ate food I could see how it spiked my blood sugar. I think that kind of tracking would nudge me into eating healthier and would ultimately be the killer app for me. I could also see the watch being a game changer for my friends that are serious about running. The way it gives you the altitude change, average time per mile, weather, and heart rate, would be pretty useful for tracking how your runs are going. My sister does a ton of cardio and I could see her getting a lot out of the watch as well. And with the activity sharing if all your friends are in the Apple Ecosystem it could be useful to try to get a little competitiveness to encourage you to go out and be more active. But in my case it is about 50/50 between the Apple and Android eco systems so maybe some of the people that you want in your activity group you couldn’t get.

Maybe the series 4 will finally deliver the killer feature that will get me into one, but for now I will remain on the sidelines. (There is a rumor that the 4 will offer an even larger screen than the 42mm which sounds nice as well).

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