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You know…People change. This became blatantly apparent to me when I strapped an Apple Watch to my wrist and didn’t immediately burst into flames. A year ago if you had asked me about an Apple Watch I would have told you that for the right person, they are probably great. I couldn’t imagine being that person, however. This was all pre quarantine, before I was working from home, and before I couldn’t go to the Jiu Jitsu gym any longer. I found that I needed something that kept me accountable for how sedentary I was becoming. Working from home while not being able to go to the gym had me really out of touch with my physical activity level. Hard to ignore that with an Apple Watch.
Apple Watches serve a purpose — Are they watches? Sorta. Are they fitness trackers? Yes. Are they productivity tools? They can be. Before we get into this, let’s set a ground rule for this review: An Apple Watch is not for someone who has an unbending fascination with mechanical wristwatches. If you are unable to see past the “iDevice-ness” of an Apple Watch this isn’t for you.
Let’s get some specs out of the way:
- Case Width: 36.4mm
- Case Thickness: 13.5mm
- Lug to Lug: 42.5mm
- Depth Rating: 50m
- Weight: 7.1oz on the rubber strap
- Movement: Apple’s WatchOS powered by the S3 Dual Core Processor
- Lug Width: Proprietary
Unsurprisingly, the Apple Watch wears really nicely. This isn’t a shock because when you have a massive company like Apple trying to design the next product for the general population, a lot of thought must go into size, thickness, and overall comfort.
They make the Gen 3 Apple Watches in two sizes. I’ve heard these referred to the “boy size” at 42mm, and the “girl size” at 38mm. I guess it may all depend on your wrist size, my suggestion would be to try both on and make a decision from there. The watches, however, are not measured like traditional wrist watches. The 42mm measurement is not side to side like we’ve come to expect from timepieces, but rather top to bottom. This means that in reality, the 42mm version is just over 36mm wide, and 42mm long. When actually being worn this seems less problematic than the numbers would suggest.
The watch is thin. It sits nicely on the flat of my ~7” wrist and would easily slip under a sleeve cuff if I was the type to wear such a thing. Honestly the lug to lug size is just about perfect for me with the rubber strap meeting the curvature of my wrist just about perfectly.
Man, how do I talk about an operating system in the same way I would a watch movement? The thing to keep in mind about a smart watch is that you’re not really going to factor in accuracy, obviously. These watches are always on time as long as they have charge and a signal to your phone.
So moving past timekeeping what is there to discuss? Well, I think the first thing I want to highlight is any sort of productivity use. Having access to the notifications on your phone at a glance without needing to remove your phone from your pocket, for me; prevents any sort of deeper diving. For example, if your significant other texts you just to ask a favor or tell you something you can quickly see the message on your wrist. If you were to pull your phone out of your pocket and read the message you might be tempted to then check your IG notifications, what about facebook, ebay? Etc etc… As with everything, your mileage may vary.
Second, fitness or activity monitoring. I think this is a really key part of what the Apple Watch does for people. Everything from being able to track your “rings,” to simple reminders to stand up for a few moments after you’ve been sitting a while. Due to current world events, I have been working exclusively from home. So that’s 8 hours a day (at least) in front of my computer, at my desk, in my home office. Getting a little ping on the wrist every so often suggesting that I should get up and walk around for a couple minutes is a good reminder to unplug from time to time.
Let’s not forget safety. Apple Watches (and iPhones for that matter) have Emergency SOS call features built in. Holding down the side button on either device will initiate a countdown, if you let the timer elapsed the watch/phone will call 911 and send your GPS location to emergency services and your emergency contacts designated in the health app. I’ve seen this used once and it’s a super valuable tool that you hope to never need. Additionally, the newest Gen 5 Apple Watches have fall detection; meaning if the watch detects a hard fall it will ask you if you’re alright and give you the option to call 911 as well.
Apart from these three major use-cases… I think the potential of an apple watch folding itself into your life is somewhat limitless. Perhaps only hemmed in by the apps that have been developed thus far. So it’s worth doing some digging to see how you could best use one.
Case & Crown
As with most Apple products the Apple Watch is available at several different price points. These prices are directly tied to the case material (and crystal) used by Apple, the rest of the watch is pretty much the same. The most accessible version would be the Aluminium or ‘Sport’ version. Apart from that Apple also offers the Apple watch in Stainless Steel, Titanium, and Ceramic.
The ‘Digital Crown’ will be your primary interface with the Apple Watch. It’s a free spinning textured button on the side of the apple watch. When you are scrolling text it will have a haptic feel to it that replicates a tactile clicking. Pressing the crown in either takes you back to the face of the watch, or into the app list for you to choose from. I don’t want to get too off track here because the Digital Crown doesn’t function at all like a traditional crown, but for what it’s designed for it works great. The inputs on the Apple Watch in general seem really well thought out and really allow the device to seamlessly integrate into your daily life without too much fiddling.
Dial and Crystal
The thing to keep in mind about these devices is that they are essentially little computer screens intended to display information formatted to fit them. Apple has cleverly designed the WatchOS interface to be primarily vertical so when you’re reading a text message or push notification it fills the 36x42mm display nicely. Any wider and you’d get into having a square display on your wrist that I think would make the information formatting a little trickier.
That being said the Series 3 Apple Watch has a 312 x 390 pixel OLED display. For a wrist-mounted computer screen the display looks sharp and is very responsive to touch. The OLED gives it rich deep blacks, and the colors pop right off as you move through the different screens.
This display is settled safely underneath an “Ion-X Strengthened” glass crystal. The stainless steel or higher versions of the Apple Watch use sapphire crystals. But…what is Ion-X Strengthened Glass and how strong is it? Well, instead of waxing poetic about something I don’t fully understand I’m gonna let unbox therapy do that in this video: https://youtu.be/ORIQXujC2v8 — What this video DOES show us is that this material from Apple holds up to nearly everything they throw at it. Just keep your sandpaper away from it eh?
So…I’m not going to say that Apple “Stole” IWC’s strap mechanism…but they are strikingly similar. It’s pretty simple, you press a button on the underside of the watch and slide the strap out of the lug. This is proprietary… but folks have made adaptors that accept traditional 22mm straps. One little point I want to make: For obvious reasons you can’t use a traditional NATO strap on an Apple Watch. The underside of the watch itself is how it monitors your heart rate so that needs to be in contact with your skin.
Apple has some really solid OEM options for these watches though. I love their rubber “Sports bands,” and I wouldn’t mind getting one of their “Sports Loops,” which would most closely resemble a nato strap. They also have several leather options and an, in my opinion, very expensive bracelet option.
Apple Watch Series 3 Review – Final Thoughts
Well here we are. I’m an Apple Watch owner, and frequent wearer. I really believe that if you begin to look at some of the things these devices can do apart from telling the time or pushing your IG notifications to your wrist; you’ll begin to see some real value in their potential. On my wrist it serves as a reminder to keep active. It helps me to read a quick message without getting lost in my phone. It tracks my adventures when I am biking or hiking.
Is my Apple Watch something I’d wear out to a nice dinner? Of course not, but for daily use it seems like a great addition to someone’s EDC. I think real watch nerds are gonna roll their eyes, but honestly… I think they’re missing out.
The cost of entry is low enough today with the Series 3 Apple Watches sitting at $199, I say give one a try.
- Retina display
- Optical heart sensor
- Stores music, podcasts, and audiobooks
Editor: I recommend purchasing the Apple Watch Series 3 at Amazon. Thank you for reading.
Great review! I really like the Apple Watch once I got used to it. Fall detection is one of the greatest safety features IMO and it was introduced in series 4. I’m not sure if it’s possible to get a series 4 watch any longer since they discontinued it when they introduced series 5.
The heart rate calculation seems accurate enough for doctor’s offices. In a recent virtual doctor visit they wanted my heart rate and when I asked they said if I could provide it via my Apple Watch it’s accurate enough.
Dan Jackson says
John, Thanks for checking out the review. An Apple watch has kicked the Rolex off my dad’s wrist. They are definitely practical pieces. Enjoy yours.