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As Smart As It Gets

The core Watch experience doesn’t change – you get the same fitness tracking and comprehensive app support that the Watch ecosystem is already well known for

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For a product that was  meant to free us from the litany of smartphone and laptop screens that dominate our lives, the Apple Watch still felt a bit shackling, relying heavily on your iPhone to do all the heavy lifting, either directly over Bluetooth or connected to a known Wi-Fi network. All that is set to change with the Series 3 GPS + Cellular, Apple’s first smartwatch with a cellular radio built-in. With its ability to connect to 4G networks independent of your phone, the Apple Watch takes a big step forward as a wearable, but is it worth the added premium?

If you are familiar with the design of the Apple Watch, there is little to tell the Cellular version apart from the regular Series 3, save for the bright red dot on the crown. Even the inclusion of a SIM doesn't mar the design, since Apple uses an electronic “virtual” SIM to ease the setup process, albeit at the cost of limiting you to its two telecom partners – Airtel and Jio. The only difference during the setup process is that you are directed to log in with your operator to pair the Watch with your phone number, and from there on, even though the Watch is an independent device, your number for this SIM (and bill plan, nothing extra) is the same as the one you have in your iPhone.

So, what does 4G connectivity bring to the Series 3, which in my opinion is still the wearable to own if you are on an iPhone? Well, it is still not meant to replace your phone, even though it does give you the freedom to leave your phone behind if you are out for a jog or a swim. The Watch toggles between using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for data, depending on where you (and your iPhone) are, but in instances where you are out and your phone isn’t around, it latches onto the data network and lets you make or receive calls and messages, and use data on your apps to read e-mails, check Facebook or your news briefings, book an Uber, etc. The core Watch experience doesn’t change – you get the same fitness tracking and comprehensive app support that the Watch ecosystem is already well known for. The audio quality is sufficient for the odd call when you are out or in the car, but you would much rather pair it with Bluetooth earphones. Speaking of which, the user will love the ability to stream music on Apple Music directly to the Watch without actually having to store the music on the device.

Just be mindful that the cellular connectivity will not work if you travel abroad.  

Yet, you are probably not going to want to leave the iPhone behind at home for a full day out solely with the Watch – the four-hour battery life on LTE suggests that this is meant more for mixed-mode use, with data as the fallback when you need to leave the phone behind. You also can’t switch calls from the Watch to the iPhone when it is back in proximity, but this is a minor issue.

The cellular version of the Watch remains an indulgence, one that is hugely liberating for fitness enthusiasts and for those who appreciate the moments where they can stay connected without carrying their phones, but most folks could save the extra cash and pick up the regular Watch instead and not regret it one bit.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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magazine 26 may 2018 apple watch gadgets

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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