Home >technology >gadgets >Apple Watch Series 3 could be a game changer, but has one massive catch

Even before the keynote announced the new iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the Apple Watch. That just goes on to show how important the watch, now in its third generation, is to the company’s line-up of products.

The new Watch, called Apple Watch Series 3, will be available in two iterations—Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi+LTE. Isn’t that how we have always identified the iPads? Yes, the inclusion of LTE mobile data capabilities in the Watch means that it is now even more capable in a standalone capacity. It doesn’t necessarily need to be tethered to your iPhone via Bluetooth all the time anymore.

As it has been the case for a while now, Apple has been constantly evolving the health and fitness tracking capabilities of the Watch. The latest watchOS 4 operating system includes even better tracking features, as well as water resistance for as deep as 50 metres and a new barometric altimeter that measures relative elevation. The heart rate sensor accuracy has been further improved, and the Watch will now show you recovery, resting and workout heart rate data at a glance. Incidentally, if the Watch detects that your heart rate is unnaturally high at a time when you may not necessarily be doing straining activity, you will get a notification that perhaps a call to the doctor may be in order.

In terms of the hardware, there is a new processor, the new Wi-Fi chip is faster than before, and paired with the new software on board, battery life should be better too. Incidentally, WatchOS 4 will be rolling out for existing and new Apple Watch Series 1, Series 2 and Series 3 on 19 September.

But, the biggest change this time around is the LTE feature that you can get in the Watch. Since the Watch will get its own data connectivity with the mobile network, you will be able to use iMessage and FaceTime, make and receive phone calls, stream as many as 40 million songs on Apple Music and use Maps without the Watch having to be mandatorily connected with the iPhone at that time. At present, the Wi-Fi only variants of the Watch use the iPhone’s data connection for apps that run on it. Sounds neat, if you are heading out for a quick morning jog or spend a while in the gym before heading out for work.

For LTE to work, Apple has integrated the LTE connectivity antenna in the display itself, which means that while the Watch is very slightly thicker than the Series 2, it’s a change you’ll barely notice. That is also because the design of the watch remains very similar to the predecessors, which means that anyone upgrading to the Watch Series 3 will be able to use their previous Watch’s straps with this too. The only way to visually distinguish between a Wi-Fi only and an LTE Apple Watch is that the latter has a red color crown.

There is a small problem though. For LTE to work on the Watch as well, there will be a SIM card integrated into the Watch. This means that your phone number will be replicated in a way, on the Watch as well—that is how you will receive and make calls as well as messages from the Watch without your phone. In the US and some other countries where the Watch Series 3 will roll out first with the LTE variant, Apple has tied up with certain mobile service providers to support this feature on the Watch.

What does this mean for India? First, important to get out of the way that Apple currently hasn’t specified any plans for bringing the LTE variant to India in the immediate future. Secondly, if and when it does, the tie-ups with operators will have a huge bearing on your buying decision. Let us take this example—you have a mobile connection from Vodafone. However, assuming Apple ties up with maybe Airtel or Reliance Jio for the Apple Watch, what do you do? You’ll need to essentially port the connection on the smartphone to one of the operators that are ready to provide connectivity to the Apple Watch Series 3 you plan on buying. Secondly, it isn’t entirely clear what the regulations are on virtually adding your mobile number’s connectivity to the SIM card in your Watch—this could be a stumble.

Apple will be rolling out the Watch Series 3 in India with prices starting at Rs29,900. The company has retained the Apple Watch Series 1 in the line-up as well, at a much more affordable Rs21,900 price point, while completely removing the Series 2 for the moment.

Vishal Mathur was in San Francisco as a guest of Apple.

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