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Apple Watch Series 3 LTE already hit by issues

Problems with the 4G connectivity and battery life could frustrate early adopters

The Apple Watch Series 3 LTE shipped on Friday. But even before launch, it was plagued by reports of problems with the brand new LTE capabilities and battery life.

At £399, you’d expect your Apple Watch Series 3 LTE to be a premium device right out of the box. But initial reports suggest the smartwatch giant is experiencing a few teething problems with the 4G-connected version of the Series 3.

Here we take a look at what the issues are, whether there are any fixes on the horizon, and whether you should still be tempted by the Series 3 LTE. If you want to know more about the new Watch, head over to our Apple Watch Series 3 LTE first look review for our initial impressions.

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Apple Watch wi-fi

One of the main selling points of the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE is the built-in 4G connectivity. This means you should be able to send and receive messages and calls from your wrist, without your iPhone nearby.

But, as first reported by The Verge, there are a few connectivity issues with the new Series 3 LTE. When separated from an iPhone, the 4G connectivity should kick in so you can keep up with your calls, texts and social media. However, when the Watch is near to an unknown wi-fi network, it will try to connect to that instead, and the cellular connectivity will cut out as a result.

In an unprecedented move, Apple released a statement prior to launch regarding the issue. An Apple spokespeson said:

“We have discovered that when Apple Watch Series 3 joins unauthenticated wi-fi networks without connectivity, it may at times prevent the watch from using cellular. We are investigating a fix for a future software release.”

An unauthenticated wi-fi network refers to wi-fi spots that use captive portals, for example coffee shops such as Starbucks, which require you to sign in to the network. There’s no word on when this future software release is expected, though, so this is likely to be an issue for those who queued up eagerly on the day of launch to get a new Watch Series 3. We’ll keep an eye out for a fix, and update this story when one is issued.

Battery-life problems

Apple claims that the Series 3 LTE will still give you 18 hours of battery per charge. As with all wearables, though, there is a large caveat to that – it depends entirely on what you do with it. The 4G connectivity should give you freedom from your iPhone, but how useful is the ability to make and receive calls on your wrist if it reduces the battery life to less than half a day?

Initial reports are that roaming while using 4G connectivity does just that, with some reviewers getting even less – meaning that your £399 device will quickly be just a blank screen. We’ve seen the battery life of some devices improved by software updates, but there’s no word on whether Apple is planning this. For now, you’d be wise to keep your charger handy.

We’ll put the battery life of the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE to the test in our labs, and check how long it lasts while unpaired from an iPhone.

Should I buy an Apple Watch 3?

We’ll have a full review verdict for you soon, including how easy the Watch is to use and the accuracy of the fitness-tracking data. But it looks as though there are going to be several teething issues, and no deadline for a fix.

As with many products that add a new or unusual feature, we’d recommend holding off a while before buying. It’s a good idea to wait for any initial bugs or glitches to be ironed out first, so you don’t become frustrated by your shiny new device.

If you simply can’t wait for later software version roll-outs, then what are your options? You could plump for the GPS-only version of the Series 3 – it doesn’t have the same connectivity without your iPhone nearby, but costs £70 less and shouldn’t have the same battery-life issues.

You could also consider the older versions of the Apple Watch. The Series 2 has built-in GPS and, as it will be phased out later this year, may soon be available at a discounted price. The Series 1 will continue to stick around and, while it doesn’t have built-in GPS or 4G, the price has just been reduced by 20 quid to £249.

You can find out what we thought of these previous iterations by heading over to our Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 reviews.

Tempted to look elsewhere? The best place to start is our guide to how to buy the best smartwatch.

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