Just as Apple’s iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry, Apple’s Watch is changing the watch that millions of people wear, from office workers to fitness buffs to retirees. The Apple Watch is designed to help people stay connected, active, and motivated, and it boasts an industry-leading customer satisfaction rating of 97% worldwide.

Since the launch of the Series 2 device, Apple Watch has experienced significant growth. Apple CEO Tim Cook reported at the company’s September 2017 special event that the Apple Watch grew over 50% last quarter compared to the previous year. Cook further confirmed that the Apple Watch has become the world’s number one watch.

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The Apple Watch Series 3 introduces significant new features that improve functionality. The biggest change, bordering on revolutionary, is the addition of cellular connectivity. Apple Watch users are no longer tethered to their iPhone; instead, they can remain connected, make and receive calls, stream music, send and receive texts, and more without having their iPhone nearby. (Note on Sept. 23, 2018: Check out our Apple Watch Series 4 cheat sheet.)

New Watch Series 3 models pack a faster dual-core processor and barometric altimeter. Series 3 devices also offer new styles and bands, which help owners demonstrate individuality by mating a variety of different band options (types and colors) with Apple’s many Watch case styles.

Several important new watchOS 5 features were announced at Apple’s 2018 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). The new release, expected in Fall 2018, adds improved Siri functionality, new Shortcut customizable Siri-based reminders, more accurate health and fitness tracking, walkie-talkie capability, and podcast support.

This Apple Watch Series 3 cheat sheet has the details you need to know to determine whether this wearable is right for you. We’ll update the guide periodically as new information about the watch is available.

Executive summary

  • What is Apple Watch Series 3? Apple Watch Series 3 is the newest generation of Apple Watch. In addition to telling time across the world, the digital wearable device tracks health and fitness, provides access to iTunes Music, connects to numerous applications, and now offers the option of sending and receiving calls, text messages, and email without needing to have your iPhone nearby.
  • Why does Apple Watch Series 3 matter? Apple Watch Series 3 introduces significant new connecting technologies without requiring an iPhone, which provides greater freedom of movement and mobility. The new devices, thanks to the debut of watchOS 4, will include a significant heart rate monitoring advancement believed to potentially assist the detection of previously undiagnosed health conditions.
  • Who does Apple Watch Series 3 affect? While users who have a compatible iPhone will enjoy the greatest benefits when using an Apple Watch, almost everyone seeking a contemporary digital wearable watch and fitness device is impacted by the Apple Watch Series 3. The wearable also affects IT departments that adhere to BYOD or mobile computing policies.
  • When is Apple Watch Series 3 available? Apple began accepting pre-orders for Apple Watch Series 3 models on September 15, 2017. Most Apple Watch Series 3 orders begin shipping September 22, 2017; Nike+ Apple Watch Series 3 units begin shipping October 5, 2017. (See Apple’s site for pricing and availability details.) Apple watchOS 4 is available on September 19, 2017; it is compatible with all previous generation Apple Watch models and will be loaded, by default, on all Apple Watch Series 3 devices.
  • When is watchOS 5 available? Apple’s new watch operating system entered beta testing following the June 2018 WWDC and was promptly pulled following reports the update was rendering wearables inoperative. Many new features will be introduced when bugs are worked out and the new release debuts as anticipated sometime in the Fall of 2018.

SEE: All of TechRepublic’s cheat sheets and smart person’s guides

What is Apple Watch Series 3?

Apple Watch Series 3 is the newest generation of Apple Watch, which has become the world’s number one watch. In addition to telling time, surfacing customizable news alerts, tracking health and fitness information and reminders, linking to Apple’s iTunes Music, and connecting to a multitude of Apple and third-party applications, Series 3 models also offer customers versions with built-in cellular connectivity.

Integrated full LTE and UMTS cellular networking, along with a built-in eSIM card, combine to constitute a potentially revolutionary feature. With the technology, Apple Watch Series 3 models can send and receive phone calls, text messages, and email without needing to have an iPhone nearby.

Thanks to the S3 dual-core processor, Series 3 watches accelerate device performance up to 70%. Wi-Fi connectivity improves, too, thanks to Apple’s custom W2 chip.

An integrated barometric altimeter provides accurate vertical feet gain, even when exercising or adventuring without an iPhone. And built-in GPS and GLONASS further extend the watch’s standalone fitness, navigation, and adventuring capabilities.

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New models offer fashion-conscious owners new styles and bands. Series 3 devices include many of the mainstay options, including Space Gray, Stainless Steel, Space Black Stainless Steel, and Silver Aluminum cases with a variety of traditional bands, as well as new Gold Aluminum and Dark Gray Ceramic styles, and a comfortable stretchy new Sport Loop Band and a new two-toned Sport Band.

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Specifications for the Apple Watch Series 3

Apple Watch Series 3 models are available in three case materials: aluminum, stainless steel, and ceramic. Four band types are available: Sport Loop, Sport, Leather, and Stainless Steel. Band colors are available in a wide range, including silver, gray, pink, white, red, brown, green, blue, and black.

Series 3 models include GPS or GPS and cellular connectivity.

Four Apple Watch Series 3 models are available: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Nike+, Apple Watch Hermès, and Apple Watch Edition.

As with previous Series 1 and 2 versions, Apple Watch Series 3 models can be purchased in 38mm and 42mm case sizes.

Faster S3 dual-core processors and W2 Apple wireless chips power the Series 3 models, which also feature all the following:

  • Built-in GPS and GLONASS
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Water resistant to 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010
  • Heart rate sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Siri speaks
  • 16GB capacity
  • Ceramic back
  • 2nd-generation OLED Retina display with Force Touch
  • 1,000 nits display
  • Ion-X glass (on aluminum case models)
  • 272 x 340 pixels (38mm cases)
  • 312 x 390 pixels (42mm cases)
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Up to 18 hours battery life

The owner’s Apple Watch Series 3 and iPhone must both be on the same cellular provider’s network for the watch to function properly.

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Why does Apple Watch Series 3 matter?

Apple has a track record of revolutionizing numerous industry segments, including the Mac and personal computing, the iPhone and smartphones, the iPad and tablets, and now the Apple Watch continues that streak.

Apple Watch Series 3 introduces significant new connecting technologies without requiring an iPhone. The benefit is greater freedom of movement and enhanced mobility.

The new devices, thanks to the debut of watchOS 4, will include a significant heart rate monitoring advancement believed to potentially assist the detection of previously undiagnosed health conditions, such as atrial fibrillation. New workout options, including auto-sets for pool swims and high-intensity training, also debut with the new models.

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Who does Apple Watch Series 3 affect?

Watch Series 3 models connect and synchronize with compatible iPhones–Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular models require an iPhone 6 or later running iOS 11–thereby further extending the iPhone’s existing applications and functionality. Users with compatible iPhones will benefit most from using an Apple Watch, though almost anyone seeking a contemporary digital wearable watch and fitness device is impacted by the Apple Watch Series 3.

Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 owners are minimally impacted, although that changes with the anticipated Fall 2018 release of watchOS 5, which will not be supported on 1st Generation devices. However, the legacy devices are compatible with watchOS 4, the release with which Watch Series 3 models are loaded upon launch.

The Apple Watch also impacts business professionals. In addition to using the device to track calendar information, email notifications, news alerts, phone calls, instant messages, and common reminders, owners can leverage cellular-connected Series 3 devices to remain connected to their office when not carrying iPhones. This benefit poses a potential problem for tech administrators.

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IT departments must review the new device’s capabilities and determine what corresponding policies the organization might need to implement in response. For example, with Apple Watch Series 3’s introduction of standalone cellular connectivity, the devices possess internet connectivity without the presence of a standalone iPhone, so long-standing corporate policies that protect the organization by precluding personal phone possession or operation in the workplace may require updating to address the Series 3’s new cellular feature.

Health and fitness users are specifically targeted, too, with planned watchOS 5 innovations that include more accurate health and fitness measurement and tracking. In addition to a new competition mode, which includes personalized coaching and permits Apple Watch users to challenge friends to fitness competitions, new yoga and hiking modes will be supported. New running features add pace alerts, cadence rate tracking, and mile pace alerts. Users no longer need to remember to start and stop workouts, either, as watchOS 5’s automatic workout detection performs that task for them.

Plus, the device’s new connectivity feature profile will press competitors to maintain pace or fall behind.

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Competitors to the Apple Watch Series 3

While competing fitness devices and digital wearables don’t provide such tight iCloud and iPhone integration, and few others offer cellular data networking, several products strive to compete with the Apple Watch Series 3, including the following.

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When is Apple Watch Series 3 available?

Customers could start placing orders for Apple Watch Series 3 devices on September 15, 2017. Apple Watch Series 3 orders, with the exception of Nike+ models, began shipping September 22, 2017. The Nike+ Apple Watch Series 3 units began shipping October 5, 2017. See Apple’s site for specifics about Apple Watch Series 3 pricing and availability.

All new Apple Watch Series 3 models ship with watchOS 4. Apple introduced the latest version of its watchOS on September 19, 2017.

As is common with many new technology products, Apple’s Series 3 launch wasn’t without hiccups. Multiple media reports confirmed the new device encountered glitches making calls and accessing data when an iPhone wasn’t nearby. An Apple spokesperson admitted the watch can experience cellular connectivity issues when connected to open Wi-Fi networks lacking connectivity and announced it was exploring fixing the issue via a software update.

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When is watchOS 5 available?

The next big Apple Watch event is the release of watchOS 5. The beta was released the same day as Apple’s 2018 WWDC keynote: June 4th, 2018. The beta, however, was quickly pulled from the developer portal after reports it was rendering wearables inoperative. Apple scrambled to address the issues and re-released the first beta one week later. Those seeking to download the watchOS 5 will find complete instructions on Apple’s development site. Once any final bugs are worked out, the new release should be available in Fall 2018.

watchOS 5 introduces many new features. In addition to the health and fitness improvements mentioned earlier, a new Walkie-Talkie feature permits instant voice communication with friends and contacts possessing compatible Apple Watches.

Siri operation and performance is tweaked, too. In addition to providing third-party applications with access to Siri, new Siri Shortcuts permit creating customized shortcut alerts and reminders, while Siri’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities will help the virtual assistant better surface predictive alerts, notifications, and recommendations based on the user’s habits and routines.

watchOS 5 will also provide support for Weblinks. Users receiving News alerts, notifications, and messages that contain web links will now be able to tap those links and view mobile versions of those web pages directly on the Apple Watch.

SEE: Video: Apple focus on fitness with new watchOS 5 (CNET)

watchOS 5 packs a new podcasts app, too. Cellular model users, in particular, will likely find that enhancement helpful, as they’ll now be able to listen to podcasts without having an iPhone present (such as when walking, hiking, cycling, or running).

There is one significant watchOS 5 drawback: 1st Generation Apple Watch owners will be staring down forced upgrades if they wish to take advantage of the new features, as 1st gen Apple Watches (model numbers A1153 and A1554) will find their devices incompatible and unable to support the upgrade.

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