When Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook introduced the new Apple Watch Series 3 at Tuesday’s press event launching the company’s new products, he noted that Apple Watch sales grew 50% year over year and that it is now the best-selling watch in the world. Cook didn’t offer a source for those claims.
In any event, the new Watch Series 3 did add one feature that sets it apart from other smartwatches on the market: a cellular chip that lets the watch connect directly to a 3G or LTE network without depending on an iPhone to make the connection. That connectivity comes at a cost, however, and battery life pays the cost.
According to Apple’s battery information page, talking on the phone is expensive, at least in terms of battery life. Connected directly to a mobile network through LTE, the Apple Watch Series 3 owner can expect to talk for “over 1 hour.” Using the Bluetooth connection to an iPhone gives the new watch owner up to three hours of talk time.
This sounds like a big problem for the new watch, but is it really? While a firm number is hard to calculate, it is certainly safe to say that an average American mobile phone owner spends more than four hours a day using that device and nearly two hours of that time is spent on social media apps. Email and texting account for nearly 20% of mobile phone usage, or about 50 minutes. That remaining hour or so is spent talking on the phone.
Using the new Apple Watch’s LTE connectivity, a user can expect four hours of LTE connection time and 14 hours of GPS connection to an iPhone using Bluetooth, according to Apple. But using the LTE connection to talk really cuts down on battery life.
Apple also claims that the Series 3 watch gets up to all-day (18 hours) of life from a single charge based on test usage that included 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use and a 30-minute workout with music playback from Apple Watch via Bluetooth. That includes using the Series 3 GPS connection to an iPhone using Bluetooth.
What these numbers add up to is that the Apple Watch, while certainly a leap forward, is not yet ready to replace the iPhone as the most essential mobile device. The real conundrum for Apple comes when a $399 Watch gets a battery that lasts as long as a $999 iPhone X.
The Apple Watch Series 3’s price starts at $329 for a non-cellular version and $399 with cellular. Apple will begin to take orders on September 15 and the watch will begin shipping on September 22.