Had you asked any self-respecting child in the 1980s what the future held, they would have said watches that you could talk to people through. Instead we had to make do with walkie talkies, or baked bean cans on bits of string, or just yelling really loudly across a field, dreaming of better times.
Well, the future is here: the new Apple Watch has cellular data, digitally cloning the SIM in your iPhone so you can make and receive calls and iMessages independently of your handset. Now you can jog merrily along the road, as naked as a newborn, answering calls as God intended.
Right now, this is only available to EE customers, so if you’re tied into a Vodafone contract, I’m afraid you’re still going to have to wear trousers for the time being (both Apple and rival carriers have remained tight-lipped as to when the watch will unlock, although EE claims it’s a technology issue rather than a commercial one, so it could be some time).
In practice, the use case for a cellular watch probably doesn’t extend far beyond exercising – when else do you leave home without your phone? – but it does mean you can stream from Apple Music while you’re out running (not Spotify, though). Apple has also added a barometric altimeter for tracking how many flights of stairs you have wheezed your way up. This, combined with the existing health monitors and the fact it’s still water-proof, makes the Series 3 a brilliant all-round fitness companion.
Other new additions include a new processor that makes everything run super-fast, and the option to have Siri speak to you. Raise your wrist and sheepishly announce “Hey Siri” and it will happily chat away to you, setting alarms and dispensing facts about the moon. The software can usually detect whether you want Siri to materialise inside your watch or iPhone, but sometimes both will activate at once, filling the room with the echoey voice of the robot that will one day surely kill us all.
All of this is squeezed into a case that’s only a fraction bigger than the last iteration – I have both and I can’t tell the difference – with Apple somehow integrating the new antenna into the display. Clever stuff.
Tim Cook made a big deal about Apple now being the biggest watch brand in the world, knocking Rolex off the top spot. But really, Apple owns a market all of its own, which resides fairly happily a few blocks away from the luxury watch world. You wouldn’t wear a Rolex when you’re doing a triathlon, and neither would you wear an Apple Watch to a Mansion House dinner. They co-exist. The only manufacturers that will be seriously worried are the makers of fashion watches – Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Fossil et al – which is a direct price competitor without all the bells and whistles.
I’ve been lukewarm on the Apple Watch to date, but as a supplement to your existing wrist-wear, I’m now a firm “buy”, so long as you’re on EE (there’s a non-cellular version, but that seems like a foolish downgrade for the sake of £70; EE is offering a contract for device plus unlimited data for £25 a month for 24 months; for eSIM-only, it will be £5 on top of your regular bill).
If you picked up the original Apple Watch all the way back in 2015, then it’s worth upgrading, too – compared to this, your watch is garbage. If you own a Series 2, I’d sit tight while the cellular bugs are ironed out – some users are reporting carrier-end problems getting set up. The Series 2 remains a solid piece of kit and making calls on the go and giving Siri a voice doesn’t justify a £399 outlay. But one thing’s for sure: it sure beats two cans and a bit of string.