lot of the improvements Apple has made over the years are in the Watch’s software, and watchOS 4 is the best version of it yet. Apple has removed many of the unorthodox ideas, such as using the crown to scroll ahead in time or tapping the side button to see a list of favorite contacts, and replaced them with more obvious actions that mimic how the iPhone works.
Pressing the side button brings up a vertical carousel of recently accessed apps, while swiping up from the watchface opens toggles for connectivity, sound, and other functions. Swipe down from the top and you can see all of your notifications, or you can swipe left or right across the screen to quickly change watchfaces. Pressing the crown’s button still brings up the weird constellation of app icons, but I’ve found that I don’t need to dive into that very often because I just set my most-used apps as widgets on the watchface itself.
WATCHOS 4 DOES A LOT OF THE HEAVY LIFTING TO MAKE THE APPLE WATCH A BETTER PRODUCT
WatchOS 4 also brings a much improved Siri experience that’s faster and allows Siri to talk back to you for a fully hands-free / eyes-free experience. There’s also a new Siri watchface that shows upcoming appointments, weather, news, and more, but it’s not something I found particularly useful in my day to day.
The upside of all of these software improvements is that they are available on any generation of Apple Watch; you don’t have to buy the latest and greatest model to take advantage of them. If you do buy a Series 3 model, you will benefit from faster performance over earlier models, but the difference between a Series 3 and last year’s Series 1 or Series 2 is not going to be significant enough to warrant an upgrade for the increased speed alone. (If you have a first-generation Apple Watch from 2015, you are much more likely to see a performance difference with a Series 3.)
My takeaway after two-plus weeks with the latest smartwatch Apple has to offer is that it isn’t trying to convince the world that everyone needs a smartwatch. Instead, the improvements here make the smartwatch experience better for those that have already converted.
THE APPLE WATCH IS WITHOUT A DOUBT THE BEST SMARTWATCH FOR THE IPHONE
If you’re like me, and are into the concept of managing notifications and checking small bits of information on your wrist, the Apple Watch Series 3 does those things very well, with fewer headaches than earlier models. It’s better than using an Android Wear or Samsung Gear watch with an iPhone, simply because of its deeper integration with iOS and support for far more third-party apps and services. I would recommend skipping right past the LTE model and saving $70, which you can then spend on getting a different strap than the default silicone option that comes with the Watch.
There’s also a good argument to be made that the best Apple Watch for those that don’t care much about fitness tracking is the Series 1, which Apple still sells for $80 less than the Series 3. It is able to take advantage of all of the new improvements Apple has made in watchOS 4 and can provide a very similar experience to the Series 3. But unless your budget is really strapped, the Series 3 model will provide longer battery life and faster performance, and will likely be supported by future versions of watchOS for longer.
The Apple Watch may not ever be the promised device that liberates us from the shackles of our smartphones, but three years into its existence, it is a very competent and capable smartwatch. Now if only it would show me the time all of the time.
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