Honest Review: Apple Watch Series 3 Review 5 (233)

Apple Watch Series 3 Review
Screenshot 2021 01 14 at 12.00.50 Honest Review: Apple Watch Series 3 Review

The Apple Watch Series 3 is now two generations old, and due to the older, boxier screen shape and display technology, it feels a tad dated.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Series 3 vs Apple Watch SE

Update: Initially published in 2017, this review has been updated to reflect the arrival of the Series 5 and Apple's price drop, plus comparisons to more recent budget smartwatches.

1 Honest Review: Apple Watch Series 3 Review
Apple Watch Series 3 Design

Apple Watch Series 3 key specs
Fits with iPhone only
Accessible in sizes 38 and 42mm
Thick 11.4mm
Sensor optical heart rate
Open GPS and GPS/Cellular versions
Usable only in aluminum
Water resistant up to a depth of 50 metres
Pay for Apple
Battery life of up to eighteen hours
The Series 3 looks boxier and bigger compared to other Apple smartwatches, mainly due to the black space around the edge.

a1 Honest Review: Apple Watch Series 3 Review

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There are no two ways to do it, because of the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5, which offer a more refined design and different case sizes, the Series 3 lags in design against the 2019 competition. It's still better looking and made from more premium products for our money than the competition, though.

Series 3 comes in sizes of 38mm and 42mm, which through Series 4 changed to 40mm and 44mm. That means the Series 3 is the last smartwatch from Apple that you can purchase in the smallest size, which can be a draw for those with smaller wrists.

We had to live with the 42mm model, and it is still a lovely, comfortable fit. There are no wearability concerns, and the smartwatch has always been an incredibly comfortable one.

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Apple Watch Series 3 review: Design

Otherwise, this is the same Apple Watch, as rich as it has ever been, with a respectable 1,000-nit panel. Despite the pixel density boost, the monitor on the newer Series 4 or Series 5 is not significantly brighter or sharper.

However, one thing that it doesn't have is the option of an always-on monitor. That means you will have to lift your wrist in order to wake up (or tap on the display).

In addition to GPS, the optical heart rate monitor, a stunning display and waterproof construction, the Series 3 was also the first time Apple managed to cram in LTE, all without decreasing battery life (with exceptions that we can come across). The Series 3 was the first strong example of that extra connectivity can still be combined with an elegantly designed device – although you will have to buy a more expensive model and foot an extra data bill. That extra edge of connectivity is worth it for some individuals, but we're not hyper-connected enough to feel the need.

In terms of choice of finish, you only have aluminum to pick from, in Silver and Space Grey, while new Watch devices also come in stainless steel, ceramic and titanium options.

This is a slightly more chunky watch that comes without ECG compared to the Series 5, a digital crown with haptic feedback, a display with an always-on mode. If those aren't biggies for you, there's still a whole lot to like about the look of the Series 3.

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Apple Watch Series 3: Features
 

We'll talk more below via LTE, but as far as what's new on the feature front is concerned, there's not a whole lot different from Series 2.

Smartwatch basics are still there, such as changing faces and customizing them with complications, and the Digital Crown also operates the same way, pushing you through the menu of the app and allowing you to scroll through menus and updates.

The button below, too, moves you to the dock, which, like the iPhone, is now vertically oriented rather than horizontally. The Watch feels much more intuitive with these minor tweaks.

 

The S3 processor, which makes the Watch easier to use than older editions, is also helping. Switching between apps is easier on the Series 3 than the Series 2, as is talking to Siri, which becomes a bigger deal with standalone connectivity.

Notifications are still very much at the core of what the Watch does, and it does them really well, moving to the smarts. First- and third-party apps are supported, and in the companion app you can add to or cull your flow.

You can swipe down on the phone to show the most recent ones if you've missed a notification. The slick approach of Apple to notification help remains a key reason we like to wear the Watch.

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Apple Watch Series 3 review

Whether it's reacting to tweets or taking a call when it comes to contact, not much is different from newer ones. As long as the call quality is good, you can still make your best Dick Tracy impression, although you can struggle to listen in noisier environments.

Fortunately, Bluetooth headphones can be combined to assist with that, especially useful when calling over LTE. And using AirPods makes it ridiculously easy.

The built-in microphone can also be used to dictate responses to texts, show your emoji skills and draw letters to type messages.

And Apple still provides the most detailed and efficient ways to do it from your wrist, as far as being able to respond to alerts is concerned.

It should also be noticed that the new watchOS 6 ships with the Apple Watch Series 3. A dedicated app store, women's health monitoring features and new watch faces are supported with the current version of Apple's smartwatch OS.

It also feels like the most refined of the smartwatch operating systems, compared to Wear OS, Fitbit OS and Tizen. It's not fine, but it's the one we probably have the least grip on.

Apple Watch Series 3: LTE availability

 

The LTE edition, which has its own cellular link, is alongside the cheaper, GPS-only Apple Watch Series 3. Series 3 uses an eSIM, which ensures that you do not have to insert a SIM card and, depending on your carrier, also allows you to share your number with your iPhone.

However, don't think that means it doesn't cost money. Despite sharing a telephone number with your mobile, you would still need to sign a contract with a carrier to get LTE connectivity.

So, what's it doing? Along with having all of your other updates, you will take and make calls. You'll still be able to directly access Apple Music from the watch, so you can go out for an iPhone-free workout and still be able to stream tunes without pre-downloading. That, along with taking calls when your iPhone's not around, is the biggest draw for LTE.

Apple Watch Series 3 availability with LTE carrier plans is now reasonably universal, although far from worldwide. It is sponsored, among others, by the likes of Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The likes of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon in the US provide support for Series 3 LTE connectivity. Similar support in the UK is provided by EE, O2 and Vodafone.

Apple Watch Series 3: Living with LTE

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Apple Watch Series 3 review

When separated from your iPhone, just how good is the Apple Watch? Next, let's talk in general about LTE.

This isn't the only cellular networking smartwatch that lets you use it away from your smartphone. Some watches from Wear OS and Samsung got to the mark first.

If you opt for an LTE path, your Watch will turn to its cellular link only if the connection to your iPhone is lost, otherwise Bluetooth will default.

In practice, the pace of the hand-off has varied a little, with the watch almost immediately picking up cellular bars occasionally, and in other cases taking a while longer to lock on.

Because the cell icon in the Control Center will turn orange, you'll know it's connected, and Apple has a new watch face that will show you how many signal bars you have.

You are able to make and receive calls and messages from there. Your number will be shown on the other end as it would usually be for the user, and there should be no giveaway that you contact them on a smartwatch and not a phone.

Is LTE worth it?

 

Will cutting free make the experience of the Watch any better? We went through usual everyday activities without a smartphone to find out, including a shopping outing, an evening out with friends, and a few workouts.

All of which helped illuminate how we really use a smartphone-and where the holes in the cellular smartwatch of Apple still lie.

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Apple Watch Series 3 review

How helpful you find LTE on your Apple Watch may depend on how your phone is being used. The Watch offers an obvious advantage for those of you who are into fitness in that it encourages you to go out without your mobile for a jog, swim or bike ride.

Cutting the cord was pure heaven for the occasions we took it to run and swim, as it was when we had worked out using cellular smartwatches before.

The microphone on the watch is impressive as far as calling is concerned. They said we sounded just like we were using a smartphone when we phoned a friend, and the speaker on our end was also fine.

When we made a call from a busy street, it wasn't so good for us, as the speaker struggled to break through the din, but the person on the other end said we were still coming through crisp and clear.

You'll want to pair some Bluetooth headphones for those cases. You can start a call from your wrist by selecting a contact from your address book, or by using the keyboard.

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Apple Watch Series 3 review

We believe a lot of people are still persuaded that the future is talking to their wrists, but many of the features of the Series 3 feel better with headphones, particularly because Siri can now talk back so that you don't even need to look at the watch to get any details. It is almost as if, in anticipation of all this, the AirPods were released.

All that said, while Siri might be improving, she's still too hit-and-missing her dictation to make us want to answer to watch messages, AirPods or no AirPods. Alternatively, you may scribble out every single letter or use one of the personalized Apple replies, but they're not ideal. Ultimately, before Siri gets there, we don't think these experiences will change.

We had a number of "a-ha" moments during the day when it made sense to focus on the watch away from the phone, but there were also occasions when we came up against walls with the capabilities of the watch.

Maps, for instance, are something we always rely on our phones for, and because of the limitations of Siri and Apple Maps, the experience is compromised on the Watch, making it a little too fiddly.

Another thing is the lack of a camera; as our primary photo takers, we've come to depend on our smartphones, and there were moments when we tried to snap a shot with the Watch and couldn't. It's hardly a critique because we don't think there's an argument for just sticking a camera on the Apple Watch, but it was an interesting observation.

These are stuff that it will ultimately have to think about if Apple wants to keep moving us further to the wrist. In specific, LTE makes a case for better navigation (hey Google, can we get the app back for Maps?).

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Apple Watch Series 3 review

The supported third-party applications are more of an urgent worry. The number of apps that operate with a standalone cellular link is still very limited, and when you're separated from your phone, any app that doesn't have an Apple Watch app, like WhatsApp, won't give you much. That's a massive bummer, because it means you're out of luck if you don't want to rely solely on Apple's services.

All of which is to say, we agree that the advantages of Series 3 would differ significantly between individuals and the reasons they wear a smartwatch. Siri isn't nice enough to be able to rely on Series 3 as much as we'd like without a screen, but there were still some revelatory moments in cutting that tie to the phone, many revolving around fitness or short trips away from our desks at work.

The problem is how, when other smartwatches have not, Apple will make LTE on the wrist convincing. The response largely comes down to the intersection of hardware and software managed so well by Apple, making LTE feel more seamless and better incorporated into the experience of Apple Watch. Did Apple turn it into a must-have? Not yet, but for it, it makes a more plausible argument than we have seen to date.

Apple Watch Series 3: Fitness, sports tracking and heart rate accuracy

Activity tracking

When you need a little boost to reach your target, it's all about filling out those activity rings and giving you a reminder nudge. Sharing activity data, recently added, remains a fantastic tool for this and the fitness tracking experience of Apple as a whole is very solid.

In one major area, however, Apple is behind: sleep monitoring. Some years ago, with Apple's acquisition of Beddit, we hoped to see native sleep tracking features surface. Even with the launch of Series 5, despite supposed knowledge of Apple's sleep monitoring features seemingly leaked out, it still hasn't turned up.

Battery life is the obvious obstruction here, and it seems unlikely it would want to sell us on a feature that would be too compromised before Apple can stretch that out.

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Apple Watch Series 3 review

We wore it with the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch as far as precision is concerned, and although both pack in comparable sensors, they work to measure distance and steps using their own different algorithms. Despite that, there was a gap of 500-1,000 steps in total, although the distance covered was almost spot on.

Notifications of inactivity and milestone markers have also come up at the same time. We never expected the two to be the same, but there seems to be no need to sound the alarm that the Watch Series 3 does not do a good tracking job.

Apple does a very good job, but in order to have the kind of incentive that will pay off in the long run, it might be time for a more actionable approach to the data it records.

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Running
We got the built-in GPS we needed on the Series 2, and on the Watch Series 3 it's as easy as it was on the now-retired predecessor to pick up a signal. Performance-wise, things have not, luckily, changed all that much, although the Watch now monitors the rise in elevation. We still think there's some work to be done from a tech perspective, though.

The Fitness app is still your call port to track a run, but you have the option of a host of third-party apps and you're definitely going to want to explore those choices. A newly announced collaboration means Strava works with Apple Healthkit, so you can use the Fitness app and still get the best of both worlds with your Segments results. A good third-party Strava app is also available, which demonstrates how flexible the Apple Watch can be.

 

We put it up against the Garmin Forerunner 935 and the Polar Beat iPhone app for many runs to compare GPS monitoring and running metrics accuracy and were typically satisfied with what it delivers.

As you can see from the screenshots above, Garmin and the Polar app are pretty much in line with distance and average speed.

Is this a ready-made substitute for a watch for running? We will say yes... as long as you don't get too serious. Battery life and metrics are the main drawbacks. More data to dig into and boost battery life will be provided by a dedicated running watch. Series 3 is about completing a marathon, but you can need to turn off features to make sure you get there. Weekend runners doing the occasional half marathon or 10K are not going to have a problem at all.

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Swimming

The Series 2 Apple Watch was excellent at counting distances, and we are pleased to say that the Series 3 is also impressively precise. The trick is to make sure that before your workout, you set the pool length correctly so that the watch can calibrate.

The Apple Watch was bang-on in detecting our multiple stroke forms in a test against the Fitbit Ionic. One lap was missed, but the Fitbit still matched the yard, so we weren't stolen from the effort. This was in a busy pool, with plenty of water treading between laps, so it did a fine job of keeping up and nailing those strokes at a distance.

Green optical sensors and water do not mix well, so do not rely on the Watch for heart rate readings, although it does try, and even if they were a little spotty, we could still see our readings during our swim. Hard to say, though, how accurate all of this is.

There is another advantage to the pool that Series 3 brings, and that's the LTE. Although in the pool, we were always able to receive messages, which was weird, but in a good way. You may want to switch off in those times, and there's nothing to stop you from turning off your mobile phone at any moment, so you should put the fear to rest for people who can't suffer from being disconnected from their alerts for too long.

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Heart rate accuracy

 

Apple approaches heart rate on the Watch Series 3 in two ways. The first is still highly geared to exercise and offers you a better workout strength measurement, and it can now calculate restful heart rate during the day as well. That's a good piece of knowledge because it's a powerful predictor of your current health condition. In case you were curious, a lower resting heart rate is certainly a positive thing.

The design of the sensor that makes this monitoring happen is almost similar to the one on the Watch Series 2, so the results should be almost the same. Nice and efficient, not ideal, though. The statement may, however, refer to several wrist-based heart rate monitors. Apple has introduced an improved optical sensor on the Series 5, but there is not a huge improvement in efficiency in our time testing it.

What we find is that another solid performer is the heart rate monitor, whether it's checking in during a treadmill session on your resting heart rate or real-time results. In general, average heart rate readings appear to be higher compared to the Polar H10 chest strap we use, tested it against, roughly 5-6bpm.

It provided readings that were only 1 or 2 bpm off the H10, for max heart readings. So, it's one of the best optical sensors we've tested overall. However, we still have doubts about its ability to manage exercise sessions of very high intensity in short bursts. It still seems fairly stable over longer periods, but HIIT fans could be left a little disappointed.

Apple Watch Series 3: Battery life

As we said, Apple doesn't drastically sacrifice battery life with the Series 3, and we've still got over a day of use while testing a combination of cellular and non-cellular functionality.

Apple quotes 18 hours, and with moderate use, you can possibly reach that easily enough, but when you begin hammering the LTE, you will find a faster drain.

Calling is extremely battery-intensive, and by using the Watch as a single phone, you'll only get an hour of talk time; up to three if it's combined with the iPhone.

So this isn't meant for your Auntie Nora's long catch-up calls, or just a few minutes here and there.

We'd hesitate to guarantee four hours of GPS without using power-saving modes in terms of running monitoring.

Apple Watch Series 3 v Series 4 v Series 5

For prospective Apple Watch buyers, maybe the hardest decision out there now is which one to actually buy-a tantalizing Apple Watch Series 3 offer should be of interest to a lot of people.

The Series 3 comes with WatchOS 6, GPS, and LTE support if you need it.

Only those who favor the Apple Watch Series 4 modified design or the Series 5 always-on mode or ECG technology should ignore a respectable Series 3 agreement that competes if it does not boost what else is available at this price.

Apple Watch SE Review: Honest Review 5 (4644)

Apple Watch SE Review

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For less money, with few sacrifices, the Apple Watch SE offers all the company's core smartwatch features.

It's the first deviation we've seen since the 2014 launch from the usual route of Apple smartwatches.

It falls beyond the basic 1-6 generation sequence we've seen so far. The Apple Watch Series 6, of course, still exists, and the Apple Watch Series 3 remains. This means there are now officially three versions of Apple Watch to choose from.

But don't call it the 'cheap Apple Watch,' as before the launch it was widely touted.

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch SE vs Series 3

While the Apple Watch SE does undercut the fully-fledged Series 6, it’s still a fairly costly $279.99 for the smaller 40mm model.

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But perhaps the better way to think of it is the mass-appeal Apple Watch. The greatest hits album, that everyone can enjoy. A true contender for the best smartwatch money can buy, in terms of price and experience.

While ECG and SpO2 have been exciting additions in terms of advancement, we feel many people will happily forgo them to save 1/3 of the price tag. And the Apple Watch SE offers them that chance.

But is it right for you? Read on for our full review.

Apple Watch SE price, rivals and context
Apple Watch SE showing the new Typographic watch face

Let’s put the Apple Watch SE in context. It’s cheaper than the Galaxy Watch 3 which challenges the Apple Watch Series 6 with ECG and blood pressure monitoring, but it’s still more than almost every Amazfit, the Huawei Watch GT2e and Fitbit Versa 3.

But it fills the yawning gap between the $199.99 Series 3 and $399.99 Series 6.

And at just $80 more than the Series 3, for us it’s a no-brainer given the design improvements and significant increase in features.

Design

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Apple Watch SE from the side showing aluminum materials in grey

This shouldn’t take long, as the Apple Watch SE is physically identical to the Series 6 and Series 5.

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We're fans of the Apple Watch design, and it's a statement that you buy into, just as you do for Rolex or Tag Heuer. We totally understand those that prefer round watches. But it's personal taste.

While the Series 3 uses the older, boxier shape with the smaller display, the Apple Watch SE comes with the shape introduced with the Series 4. It’s a better-looking device in pretty much every respect, and we’d recommend paying the extra for the Watch SE over the Series 3 on looks alone.

The larger screen enables more complications on watch faces and more information on screen – and it comes in both 40mm and 44mm models.

You do get a smaller choice of finishes with the Apple Watch SE. You can only get aluminum in either gold, space grey or silver. The new colors are reserved for Series 6, and you won’t get stainless steel.

The Watch SE uses the S5 processor, which was engineered for Series 5, so the whole thing is quick and snappy. It’s twice as fast as the Series 3, although we’d say you’d only notice this when using more cumbersome apps.

Apple Watch SE showing new watch face, blue strap

There’s no always-on display here; only the Series 6 gets that. We got used to the always-on display with the Series 5, and it does feel like a backwards step. Having a dark screen on your wrist feels a little old school, even if the Apple wrist raise is nearly seamless. This is probably the compromise people will feel most keenly.

Again, you get more storage on the Apple Watch SE than Series 3, with 32GB available for music and media, up from 16GB.

The number of watch faces has again increased in watchOS 7, and there’s more choice than ever before. Apple still takes a less-is-more approach, but lets you customise most faces with first and third party complications. These are small pieces of information or quick links to apps, right from the watch face, such as seeing your fitness goal progress or battery info.

Health and fitness features

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Apple Watch SE and the workout app

What you don't get is where the Apple Watch SE varies from the Series 6 (and Series 5).

There is no ECG or SpO2 sensor, so the Watch SE comes up short if you are trying to max out on health info.

But it's always an outstanding watch for fitness.

For starters there are the three workout rings – calories, exercise minutes and standing time – which are a strong fitness motivator. And if that wasn't enough, then in weekly challenges, you can fight with friends.

In every watchOS update, there is a built-in GPS that locks on automatically when you start an exercise, and the workout app continues to expand. It tracks most of the disciplines of running and cycling, plus swimming, and now includes tennis, yoga, training for physical power and more.

In its own right, it has become a versatile app and, if you like, can send data out to Strava. We're also fans of the Strava dedicated app from the Apple Watch App Store, though, for racing.

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Apple Watch SE showing resting heart rate

Of course, there's also a heart rate monitor and that offers plenty of health statistics. It measures your workouts, as well as keeping track 24/7. On the Watch and in the Apple Heath app, it populates resting heart rate data, which is an important statistic to track.

You also get warnings of high/low heart rate, which have shown themselves to be a life saver.

And some other potential lifesaving features also come with the Apple Watch SE.

Thanks to the advanced accelerometer which was added, Fall Detection comes from Series 5. The Apple Watch will call emergency services for you if you take a fall and don't get back up again.

And there are noise alerts, too, that will alert you if your hearing could be affected by your climate.

And while it's not a life-saver, it's made from Series 6 by the always-on altimeter, so when you run or hike, you can see live ascend/descent.

For health and wellbeing, the Apple Watch is an outstanding all-rounder. If you're a marathon runner, or if you're really pushing your body through preparation, then poor battery life and a lack of top-level sports science metrics will mean that Garmin or Polar will be better served. But the Apple Watch SE provides an inspiring and reliable experience that is recommended for most individuals.

Sleep tracking

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Apple Watch SE sleep tracking

Sleep monitoring was recently implemented via watchOS 7 for the first time, so that makes an appearance here, naturally.

As you'll find on Fitbit or other rivals, it's nowhere near as comprehensive or data heavy. But enough is there to boost your sleep.

For any time you wake up in the night, Apple's sleep monitoring would include a rundown of how long you slept, displaying dark and light times.

There's a greater emphasis, though, on continuity, time in bed and time asleep.

Consistency is important for sleep enhancement, and the iPhone bedtime feature goes hand-in-hand with the monitoring of the Apple Watch. That puts your iPhone and Apple Watch before bed in a state of no interruption, reminding you that it's time to hit the hay.

And it displays your preferred bedtime as a baseline to the time you actually fell asleep in the Apple Health study.

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Apple Watch SE review: the people’s smartwatch

A wake-up alarm may also be mounted, which uses the haptics on the watch to rouse you.

It's not a smart wake feature like you'll find on Fitbit and Withings, which will wake you gently using your sleep cycle. The advantage of these features, however, is debatable, while the Apple Watch strips things back to being basic and necessary again.

It does do enough to be beneficial, but it seems lightweight if you're used to the level of data on sleep cycles, stages and scores elsewhere.

Of course, since its App Store is filled with sleep trackers that offer all that level of information, should you want it, the Apple Watch manages to swerve these kinds of criticisms again.

Smartwatch features

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Apple Watch SE showing a notification

With the Apple Watch's exercise, sports and wellness features, it's easy to get carried away and forget that it's a perfect wrist companion.

And it is the versatility that makes it the best out there smartwatch.

I'm not keen on getting loads of wrist updates personally, so it's easy to get them down to the core essentials.

Similarly, I also keep the number of apps down. But the range of the Apple Watch App Store is unrivalled. Basically, on your wrist, the Apple Watch can be as active or passive as you need it to be, and that is one of its greatest strengths.

Of default, on your wrist, you get Apple Pay. And if you want a data connection for streaming music and podcasts, receiving calls away from your iPhone and all that jazz, there are LTE options for the Apple Watch SE.

Battery life

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Apple Watch SE battery life

In terms of battery life on the Apple Watch SE, there is no real improvement, and despite the lack of always-on display, according to Apple, you can still get about 18 hours.

This was always the biggest concern about the Apple Watch, and you now have the likes of Fitbit, Garmin and Huawei providing it for those who need more.

In our testing, however, we got more than 18 hours. We will easily have more than 24 hours, moving into a 36-hour period rhythm. And that included about 30-60 minutes of exercise monitored by GPS.

Thanks to fast nightly charging, we've never had a big problem with Apple's single day battery life, but sleep monitoring poses an issue.

That's because there isn't a normal point in the day for charging now.

Now you need to make sure you grab time either as soon as you wake up (our preferred time) or before you go to bed on the charger. It's a bit annoying, and charging requires active thought, unlike before.

The good news is that the charging process is quick. The charging time for the Series 6 was reduced to 1.5 hours, and the Apple Watch SE is not far from that either.

The main factor for iPhone users to look at Apple Watch alternatives is still the battery life and we felt the strain even more with sleep tracking.

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Honest Review: TicWatch GTX review 0 (0)

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Compared to Mobvoi's rivals, the TicWatch GTX could be a simple smartwatch

Mobvoi has switched from Wear OS to the TicWatch GTX's own in-house operating system, which has allowed it to push down the price and offer great battery life.

You can display updates, track your health, sleep and workouts with the Ticwatch GTX. A heart rate monitor is also available, and it promises to give you a week-long battery life.

So, may the TicWatch GTX knock its perch off the Bip S?

To find out, we've been living with the budget watch option. Our thorough verdict here.

TicWatch GTX: Design and screen

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When you pay a little over $50 for a smartwatch, it is normal to think about the standard of construction.

With its most affordable watches, Mobvoi has already proven it can make something durable and well-built, and that's what we'd say about the GTX.

While the round, black metal case and removable 22mm TPU band are not the most exciting smartwatch to look at, they are a good match and it definitely doesn't feel budget or cheap in any way.

It's a pretty wide one, with a 48mm case that even broad wrists can dominate. This is going to please a lot of women, but it's definitely not unisex.

There's a good black bezel around the touchscreen and it's a millimeter thinner than Mobvoi's TicWatch Pro 3 at 11mm wide.

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On the right side of the case, you have two physical buttons which will drive you into the main menu. The bottom one provides a shortcut to the monitoring of workouts or other modes to which you want easy access.

Your optical heart rate monitor that can be used for exercise and ongoing tracking is around the back. As a kit, it's been slapped with an IP68 water resistance ranking that Mobvoi finds safe to go swimming with.

When it comes to the computer, things feel a little more expensive, although it's not as bad as we planned. You get a TFT monitor with a 1.28-inch, 240 x 240 resolution, so you'll notice a bit of a departure from the displays on most TicWatches.

It's washed out a little and there's still a little screen lag to deal with. Overall though, it's been a good enough experience. In general, outdoor visibility was perfect and you still get a good pop of color on data screens and watch faces in particular.

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TicWatch GTX: OS and smartwatch features

 

We're having something Mobvoi calls freeRTOS instead of Google's Wear OS to take care of all things tech. It's an operating system which is also not Android-based. The best way to explain the app is to say that it is all the bits applied to WearOS by Mobvoi.

Some components that sound like WearOS are still there, but now the TicWatch app is front and center. You can swipe down from the watch face to access settings or swipe up to see your notification stream. For stuff like heart rate monitoring or exercise tracking, you can swipe left or right to see widgets.

You also get into the main menu screen with the top physical button where you can find access to applications that we've seen on TicWatches before. So TicExercise, TicPulse, TicSleep and TicHealth are here. Music sensors, a stopwatch, timer and weather alerts are also found.

 

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The fundamental category is core features such as notification support, allowing you to access alerts and then remove them after read. We found that mid-sentence notifications will split, so they are not perfectly designed for the display.

While they can not be accessed during a workout or added as a widget, music controls work fine.

We'll dive into the health and fitness-centric apps below, but from the Mobvoi companion app, you can also tinker with watch settings. It's here that you can add new watch faces, but having them synced over to the watch is quite a slow process.

Unsurprisingly, on the GTX, Mobvoi has stuck to the fundamentals. It seems that what makes the cut is in working order. You'll probably get on with the GTX if you are able to survive without games, purchases, more actionable updates, a microphone or speaker and richer music features.

TicWatch GTX: Fitness and sports tracking

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Many of the applications on the GTX are based on fitness tracking, and Wear OS TicWatch devices are familiar with them.

There are only two sensors fueling those applications. To count steps, allow sleep tracking and track outdoor activity, there is an accelerometer. There is no GPS or linked GPS built-in, which means that you do not expect precise distance monitoring.

You get a heart rate monitor as well, with a dedicated widget on the watch. You can't take measurements on the spot, so when you're working out, you can see it in real-time.

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You have a handy widget to view your progress for everyday exercise and fitness monitoring, and you can venture into the phone app to see your steps mapped out during the day alongside distance traveled and 24-hour heart rate readings.

In general, regular step counts over the same distance were around 1,000 steps below another exercise tracker.

Continuous heart rate readings, along with a chest strap sensor, were significantly higher than the Garmin and Polar watches we compared with.

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Step tracking compared: TicWatch GTX (left) and Polar Vantage V2 (right)

We want to tell you about sleep monitoring, which promises to break down the phases of deep and light sleep and track the heart rate. We actually never obtained any valuable information. We didn't get any sleep data on most nights or very small segments of sleep data. If/when this is resolved, we'll update, but at the moment, we have nothing.

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You need to go to the TicExercise app when you want to track your workout, where you can find a list of activities like outdoor running, cycling, jump rope, swimming, basketball, rowing and climbing.

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Run tracking compared: TicWatch GTX (left) and Polar Vantage V2 (right)

We expected precision on the GTX to be fairly inaccurate with no GPS, and that's exactly what happened. Every run we did came up short on it.

On the watch itself, the exercise monitoring experience is also fairly easy. You will see the length of the exercise, heart rate and burning calories. Your lot is that. During the race, you can't even see the distance you traveled. You will be able to see the distance when you sync it to the smartphone, but that's just about it.

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HR tracking for indoor rowing compared: TicWatch GTX (left) and Polar Vantage V2 (right)

The heart rate monitoring accuracy was not perfect for us either, along with distance accuracy problems. It reported substantially lower average heart rate and maximum heart rate readings during runs and indoor rowing exercises.

Bottom line, you'll be left frustrated if you're hoping you can rely on this sensor to keep tabs on effort levels during workouts.

As compared to a sports watch, its power here is as a fitness tracker, simply because it doesn't have the sensors or the accuracy to do the latter. The issue is that the lack of sleep tracking and slightly off phase tracking also make the GTX difficult to recommend on that front.

TicWatch GTX: Battery life

The GTX has a battery life of 200mAh, which promises to deliver up to seven days of daily use and ten days of switching on to power saving mode. We would conclude that those numbers seem accurate.

We didn't see any particularly alarming battery drop off day-to-day, but battery life status is not shown with a number annoyingly. So having a sense of knowing how much you have to play with can be challenging. With alerts on, the computer at near full brightness and monitoring three or four workouts a week, we got those seven days.

The Bip S offers up to 15 days of normal use and 40 days of simple use to bring it into perspective with other notable smartwatches in this price range. With the Bip S, we seemed to get about a week, so based on our research, the GTX seems to fit that.

It takes about two hours for you to get back to 100 percent when you run out. So when you need to power up, it is not a fast charger.

Honest Review: Amazfit GTR 2 Review 5 (435)

Amazfit GTR 2 Review

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The Amazfit GTR 2 gives you a lot of cash for your smartwatch. It looks fantastic, provides great fitness tracking, and has now improved its ability to perform with two smart assistants and a music player outside of tracking steps or sleep. It will also give you more battery life than its tight-priced competitors. It's definitely not ideal, and its sports monitoring is just for casual folk practicing. It is one to try out if you like the concept of a good-looking smartwatch that does the basics correctly.

PRO

  • Sleek, appealing style
  • Show of great quality
  • Handy voice assistant offline, handy

CONS

  • Sports monitoring for Iffy
  • Missing assistance from Amazon Alexa

Two-minute review

The Amazfit GTR 2 is a smartwatch that is both Android and iOS compatible and costs considerably less than purchasing the newest Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch.

It contains many of the features you would expect to spend more cash on. This requires a high-quality material design, a high-quality AMOLED touchscreen monitor and straps that you can cut to change out and find new ones.

It comes with two design choices, both of which provide the same functionality for both fitness and non-fitness functions. You will get built-in GPS and a heart rate monitoring sensor 24/7 and during exercise. For an extra hit of fitness info, it may also take blood oxygen measurements. It also serves as a fitness tracker, and that is ultimately where one of its main strengths lies. It is a good match as opposed to extreme sport tracking for step tracking and sleep monitoring.

It does well with simple notification support for smartwatch features and is designed for its great touchscreen AMOLED display. In the form of Amazon Alexa and Huami's own offline voice assistant, we have two smart assistants. We only got the latter to work properly though. You also get a built-in music player to transfer your own music with 3 GB of storage. It doesn't work for streaming services, however.

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It has the potential to go for 14 days and as long as 38 days in more basic usage to power all of those functions. You're likely to get closer to seven days if you use anything that's available daily. Switch off stuff like the tracking of the always-on display and heart rate and it will probably go further.

It offers a decent mix of health monitoring and smartwatch features bundled up with better battery life than its closest priced rivals in a stylish round watch style. There's still a lot to like about the GTR 2 if you can live without it being the whole sports watch and like the thought of having voice smart assistants and a music player for a decent price.

Amazfit GTR 2 Review: price and release date

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That puts the price of a Fitbit Versa 3 and Garmin Venu Sq edition without a music player in and around it. It's also in the same price bracket as the Series 3 Apple Watch.

Amazfit GTR 2 Review: design and display

  • Comes in Classic and Sport models
  • AMOLED 1.3-inch, always-on show
  • Waterproof up to 50 meters
  • Straps of leather or silicone

You get a really attractive smartwatch with the GTR 2 for not much money. It has a much cleaner feel to it than the first GTR and on the wrist it also rests much better.

Sport and Classic options are yours to choose from, offering you either an aluminium (Sport) or stainless steel (Classic) case. With two physical buttons and a fully-round touchscreen monitor, both deliver 46mm cases. The sport we had to test carries less grams of weight and did not feel awkward or irritating to carry in any way in general.

The case is matched with 22 mm straps that come with either silicone (which we had) or leather options and have a fairly regular watch buckle clasp to hold it in place. The good news is, if you're not a fan, it's nice and simple to take them out, while we were pretty happy with our silicone band. However, it's always good to know you can change things up.

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 However, the real star here is the monitor, as Huami continues to place on its wearables the kind of displays that you would expect to see on more expensive watches and trackers. With no hint of an ugly bezel, you're having a clean, 1.3-inch, 454 x 454 resolution AMOLED monitor as it reaches all the way to the watch case and it's lovely to look at. The colors are amazing, and there are some very cool watch faces and widgets that illustrate it.It's also light, though you probably won't need it at maximum brightness, which is a good thing as it will knock down the battery life. You still have an always-on display option, but that will have a noticeable effect on how much battery time you get. 

Although it might not look like the kind of watch you'd like to jump with in the pool, Huami makes sure it's safe to do that. It has been slapped with a ranking of 5ATM, which means that it can be submerged in water up to 50 meters deep. That also implies that this is one you can also go into the shower with.

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  • 24/7 activity tracking
  • SpO2 sensor
  • PAI Health scores
  • 12 sports modes

The sensors and features are concealed under the stylish exterior to make the GTR 2 a fairly competent fitness tracker and sports watch.

To track motion and activate staples such as 24/7 activity tracking and sleep monitoring, you get an accelerometer and gyroscope sensors. A 3-axis geomagnetic sensor and air pressure sensor are combined to provide additional information while you are going out for some trail running or climbing action.

Huami's BioTracker PPG sensor gives you continuous monitoring of your heart rate and the ability to better assess your level of effort during exercise. It is often used to create reasonably accurate measures of blood oxygen that are intended for fitness and wellness purposes, as opposed to serious health purposes.

There are 12 sports modes in total for sports monitoring, which, interestingly, includes running, cycling and swimming. Having an open water swimming mode on a watch at this price is surprising and there is even tracking support for skiing. To do a better job of mapping and monitoring certain outdoor activities, you also have built-in GPS.

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As a fitness tracker, on the accuracy front and presenting the data on and off the watch, it does a pretty good job. It largely fell in line with the regular step counts that we reported on a Garmin activity tracker, and it would let you see those step counts as they happened to see when you were most involved during the day.

Huami also provides its PAI Health ratings, which look at heart rate instead of measures to help you think more often about staying active. The problem is that it feels very distinct from the entire method of monitoring.

It did a solid enough job of understanding sleep period for sleep monitoring, and when we fell asleep, which is something we would claim pricier watches are failing to do. One problem we found was that heart-related REM sleep monitoring information was sometimes not documented at all.

In general, this leads us to heart rate monitoring, which is a better match for continuous daytime monitoring and power features such as stress tracking as compared to tracking exercise. It simply felt unreliable with its randomly high HR spikes against a chest strap sensor, even with the watch securely worn in the activities in which we put it to the test.

Similarly, that's how we feel about its success as a sports watch. For GPS-based distance tracking on most of our runs, it came up a little short precision-wise, though using the free training mode for our indoor workouts kept things simple and struggled to provide accurate heart rate data as well.

Amazfit GTR 2: smartwatch features

  • Works with Android and iOS
  • Built-in music player
  • Amazon Alexa

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On the GTR 2, with smartwatch features, you get a lot more than you get on the GTR. It also operates on Android and iOS devices and can handle warnings that are not actionable but are well built for the broadcast. There are music controls, the ability to make Bluetooth calls, record updates of the weather and set up event reminders. You also have a nice range of watch faces to choose from to show your fitness information or keep it simple and display the time only.

Not one, but two clever assistants have it now. The first is that Amazon Alexa joins Fitbit in taking the smart assistant to your hand. Though we were able to set up Amazon's assistant in the companion app, we didn't have much luck getting it to actually run on the watch itself. It could be a situation where support has not been fully rolled out here yet.

With the other smart assistant, which operates without having to be linked to the phone, we had more success. First, this offline voice assistant needs to be set up in the app and then a small icon will drop on your screen as you lift it to wake it up when activated. You can then tell your watch to open the music controls, go to the weather widget, or start monitoring your watch. For us, it was sensitive and it's quite a helpful addition once you familiarize yourself with the commands.

A built-in 3GB music player with enough space for anything from 300-600 songs in MP3 format is the other major new feature. You'll need to connect them via the Zepp app and then sync them over in order to get the music on the watch. You can pair some Bluetooth headphones after the music is uploaded, and you're good to go. It worked for us without any big issue when combined and tested with an Android phone. There is no support for any music streaming services here, so if you own a lot of your own music, it is really just a useful function.

It's a professional artist, like a smartwatch. It does these basics well enough, although it's not the most full experience. The music functionality will hopefully be enhanced, and Alexa is up and running properly and it will be an even better smartwatch companion.

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Amazfit GTR 2: battery life

  • Up to 14 days battery life
  • 38 days in basic mode

One of Amazfit smartwatches' most attractive aspects is that it won't have you charging it every day. With GTR 2, that doesn't shift.

There is a battery with a capacity of 471mAh that should deliver 14 days in regular usage and 38 days in simple use. The standard use is based on using features such as listening to music, using GPS, keeping the display in always-on mode, and tracking your heart rate continuously.

This simple mode includes disconnecting the Bluetooth link used to pair it more sparingly with your phone, as well as items such as heart rate monitoring and using other features such as GPS.

In that typical case, we found this smartwatch is good for seven days and has the potential to go further. Apps such as tracking the heart rate, playing music, turning on the sleep assistant and keeping the display always on would have a significant effect on the output of the battery.

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We also spent a few days in that basic mode as well and it’s a watch that retains its battery in a way that tells you it has the ability to go for weeks in much lighter use.

If you’re willing to juggle what you use and you don’t care as much about keeping tabs on your heart or richer sleep insights, then there’s every chance you can get those couple of weeks out of it.

When it does run out, you’ll need at least 2.5 hours to get from 0-100%. There’s no rapid charging support to get back to full battery any quicker than that.

Buy Amazfit GTR 2 if...

You want a smartwatch that is fashionable, affordable,
It may not cost a lot, but a stylish smartwatch with a great quality screen is what you get for your cash.

You want a player for music
It's hard to find such an affordable smartwatch that will give you an integrated music player to leave your phone behind.

You want a gym tracker on a watch,
The GTR 2 provides rich monitoring features for wellness, including some informative sleep that can be fully accurate.

Don't buy it if...

You want to have a smartwatch monitoring your workouts
While all the features are on board to make it a good running or gym companion, to make it a good match, it does not quite deliver the precision.

You want a watch that Spotify fits with,
Although the GTR 2 has a music player, to make the most of it, it has to be your own acquired music and audio.